The global rise of ecotourism and responsible travel

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Tourism as a whole is a 7.61 trillion-dollar industry, and ecotourism is a rapidly growing category under it. The year 2017 was designated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, promoting different trends and movements centered on sustainability across the industry.

As the growing effects of global warming threatens the world’s most pristine travel destinations, the international travel community has realized the urgency to make their move especially after Sustainable Travel International revealed that the industry is responsible for the 5% of the global carbon emissions.


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Sustainable tourism, now termed as “ecotourism,” doesn’t have a clear definition but it focuses on an important aspect: advocating transformative and responsible travel. In addition, it can’t be categorized as just one type of travel, but it’s a form of tourism that enables participants to not only explore natural destinations but to help protect these environments.

The movement has transformed many travel companies as they shift to what is called as “experiential tourism,” which highlights experiences that help travelers understand the environment including the ecosystem that live in it.


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Guided by the measures set by the industry, many ecotourism companies and organizations have reached several milestones in reverting the effects of irresponsible tourism. The results of the early years of this growing movement have brought positive impact to the several travel destinations, with activities that help preserve the environment through education. Accommodations range from eco-friendly resorts, glamping, to all-out backpack camp out adventure.

Some experts believe that the immediate rise of ecotourism can be credited to the digital revolution and how it inspired millions of people around the world to help make a change not only as enthusiastic travelers but as environmentally-responsible human beings.

REPOST: Erupting volcano is suffocating Bali’s economy

Mother Nature can heavily influence a region’s economy, especially when the likes of earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions are at play. Top tourist destination Bali is one such case, as the island struggle to address the chaos caused by erupting Mount Agung. Read the full story on CNN:

HONG KONG (CNNMoney) — A volcano spewing clouds of ash has plunged one of the world’s top tourist destinations into crisis.

The Indonesian island paradise of Bali, which welcomed almost 5 million foreign visitors last year, is struggling to deal with the chaos wrought by Mount Agung in recent days.

Officials say as many as 100,000 people need to urgently leave the danger zone around the volcano, which started belching ash on Saturday. The eruptions have prompted the closure of Bali’s main airport, leaving more than 50,000 travelers stranded.

The disruption is hurting businesses ranging from international airlines to street vendors. Tourism is the biggest industry on Bali, which was ranked as the world’s best destination this year by travel site TripAdvisor.

Local authorities estimate that as many as 15,000 tourists have already canceled their vacations to Bali as a result of the disruption caused by the volcano over the past three days.

Every day Bali’s main airport is closed costs the local economy about $18 million, according to Keith Loveard, senior analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting. He expects the island’s economy to take a major hit over the traditionally busy Christmas and New Year period as tourists rethink their travel plans.

“There’s a very strong chance that many would-be tourists will decide to go elsewhere,” he warned.

Tourism in Bali has suffered in the past. It declined significantly after deadly terrorist attacks In 2002 and 2005, which resulted in “a dramatic drop” in local residents’ incomes, according to Loveard. Volcanic activity in the region has also disrupted air travel to the island in previous years.

The current turmoil could hamper the Indonesian government’s goal of attracting 20 million tourists annually by 2019. Bali makes up more than 40% of all tourist arrivals into the country, according to analysts at Nomura.

Mount Agung’s eruptions have prompted the evacuation of 30,000 people.


Indonesia has been trying to cultivate alternative tourist destinations like nearby Labuan Bajo. But these could also be affected by Mount Agung’s ash clouds and by a prolonged closure of Bali’s main airport, which is a hub for other parts of the country, according to Loveard.

The crisis is already eating into the profits of airlines across the region.

Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda is the most heavily exposed. Corrine Png, an analyst at research firm Crucial Perspective, estimates that Garuda has a 30% share of traffic at Bali’s main airport and stands to lose $300,000 for each day that it’s closed. The company’s shares sank 1.8% on Tuesday.

The disruption is costing AirAsia, the Kuala Lumpur-based budget airline, around $250,000 per day, according to Png.

Neither Garuda nor AirAsia immediately responded to request for comment on those estimates.

“The worst outcome is if Mount Agung continues to spew volcanic ash intermittently for many months,” Png said. That would result in repeated closures of the airport and significant numbers of flight cancellations.

However, the volcano chaos may not have any major implications for the Indonesian economy as a whole. Bali only accounts for 1.5% of the country’s total gross domestic product, according to Nomura.

Still, President Joko Widodo wants tourism to account for 8% of the Indonesian economy by the end of 2019, up from 4% last year.

“Mount Agung could frustrate those ambitions,” Loveard said.

Gems of the tropics: Top islands for year-round luxury travel

To travel is sometimes costly, often a bit daunting, and always tiring. But the memories and experiences you will be creating along the way are more than enough to compensate for travel’s inherent costliness and inconvenience. However, with luxury vacation, all the aforesaid dilemmas may not be a problem at all. Wealthy, fun-loving individuals can enjoy top tourist destinations without needing to worry about logistics, comfort, or even quality selection of food as everything will be taken care of. Below are four of the world’s most luxurious destinations every luxury traveler must visit:


  1. Maldives

The Maldives is a very well-known tropical country for picturesque and scenic seascapes peppered with the finest hotels in the middle of the Indian Ocean. If this place is on your travel bucket list, staying at Six Senses Laamu resort might be the best accommodation for your perfect holiday escape.

Set in a remote and exquisite island of Laamu, an epitome of barefoot luxury, Six Senses hotel is a combination of over-water and on-land stunning villas that are placed around the palm-fringed paradise. If you want to experience what it’s like to be in a rustic yet luxurious island, the resort offers a wide range of exciting land and water activities like surfing, diving & snorkeling, private picnics, and amazing excursion adventures.


  1. Palawan

Spectacular karst scenery, pristine beaches, enchanting lagoons, hidden lakes, magnificent reefs, and crystal clear waters are some of the characteristics of Palawan, probably the Philippines’ most picturesque island. In fact, it was named as the World’s Best Island for two years in a row by Conde Nast Traveler. For those looking for a luxury island getaway while having a taste of extreme adventures, Busuanga Bay Lodge is your key to realizing that dream.

This Caribbean-inspired hotel has 41 units in total including its modern guest rooms, private rooms, and breathtaking villas which have panoramic views of the mountains and the oceanfront. Within the hotel, you can enjoy such luxury experience at their in-house wine cellar, fitness center, pavilion restaurant that serves the best quality salads and fresh seafood. Yearning for an outdoor adventure? BBL has a lot to offer–experience Busuanga-Coron island tour: fishing excursions, kayaking, jet skiing, wreck diving, island hopping, beach bumming, buffet luncheons, and more.


  1. Tahiti

If you’re a fan of diving and snorkeling, then you should visit the alluring French paradise of Tahiti. Because of its relaxing black and white sand beaches, splendid over-water bungalows, and the opportunity to experience the local Polynesian culture, Tahiti receives a great number of foreign tourists each year and thus, one of the most exclusive destinations in the world which you don’t want to miss out.

When it comes to selecting accommodation in this Pacific archipelago, Le Meridien can be a perfect choice to spend your holiday. The resort provides visitors with world-class water sports, traditional Tahitian cuisine, and luxurious huts built over cerulean lagoons.


  1. Bahamas

An archipelago of 700 islands and over 2,000 coral cays, the Bahamas is largely considered as the best and most unique diving destination in the Caribbean. One of their famous tourist attractions is the Bahamas Cave System, where you can dive into the crystal clear waters and witness spectacular preserved features underneath the sea.

Nearby is the Grand Lucayan resort, located at the beachfront of Freeport, Grand Bahama. It has more than 500 spacious guestrooms, huge infinity pools and restaurants that serve Bahamian cuisines. The resort is truly a one-stop-spot, as it offers a variety of exciting indoor and outdoor activities such cave diving, horseback riding, dolphin encounters, casino games, and more.

REPOST: Why Oil-Rich Gulf Arab Countries Are Turning to Renewables

The growing concern over depleting hydrocarbon resources is forcing oil-dependent nations to rethink their economic policies and diversify into other sources of income, and that includes renewables. Bloomberg has the full report:

Visitors look at screens displaying images of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park on March 20, 2017, at the solar plant in Dubai. Photographer: STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images


Solar power is getting so cheap that even Gulf Arab states awash in crude oil are embracing the renewable resource. Their motive is as much to keep selling fossil fuels as it is to rein in their carbon emissions.

With almost 30 percent of the world’s oil reserves and some of the lowest costs of production, Arab countries in the Persian Gulf will probably rely for years to come on crude exports as a pillar of their prosperity. But improvements in solar technology mean it will be cost effective to exploit the region’s abundant sunshine instead of burning their oil and natural gas to run power plants. That could allow them to export more and boost their haul of petrodollars.

Why would oil-rich countries shift to renewables?

Electricity use in Gulf Arab nations has surged by 6 percent a year on average since 2000, driven by expanding populations and growth in energy-intensive industries, Ada Perniceni, a Dubai-based partner at consultant A.T. Kearney, said in a May report. Governments are seeking more efficient ways of satisfying this rising demand, and the increasing afford ability of renewables is making solar and wind power a bigger part of the region’s energy mix.

By the end of 2020, the Middle East and North Africa are forecast to have 24.1 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity –- almost six times the 4.2 gigawatts installed as of last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The additions will require $27.4 billion of investment, BNEF said in May.

The risk that oil prices may fall adds to the pressure on Gulf Arab producers to maximize their earnings by exporting more of their crude instead of burning it. Saudi Arabia’s use of electricity and desalinated water is so high that the country burns crude to meet half of its domestic power and water demand, according to A.T. Kearney’s Perniceni. If the kingdom doesn’t curb demand or invest in alternative energy sources, local needs could absorb most of its hydrocarbon production within 10 to 20 years, she said.

The shift toward renewables by the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council would also help diversify their economies. Saudi Arabia is seeking to curb its reliance on crude exports under its Vision 2030 strategic plan, on which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has staked his personal prestige.

Continue reading HERE.

Powering up the future: Renewable energy rapidly taking off

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For obvious reasons, electrical power has become an essential part of the human civilization, from boosting economic activities to enhancing man’s overall quality of life. However, electricity is traditionally generated using fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas—the very reason why such commodities are among the most traded in the world. They have, however, often been associated with severe air pollution and global warming. The growing demand for energy and the ballooning concern over the planet’s deteriorating health have led to major developments in green tech, particularly in the field of renewable power. Such alternative power sources have existed for decades, but only in recent years have they been gaining significant attention and higher investment.

Geothermal power

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Geothermal power production requires high upfront investment costs. However, in most countries, it is one of the main sources of energy. It is tapped by over 20 countries around the world, such as the United States, China, and the Philippines. In Iceland, more than a quarter of the country’s energy needs are met by its five major geothermal power plants.

The United States has significant geothermal resources with a great growth potential, particularly in western states like California and Nevada. The United States ranks high among countries with most geothermal heat pump installations. According to the GEA (Geothermal Energy Association) annual production report for 2016, the U.S. geothermal market had about 3.7 GW of installed nameplate capacity and 2.723 GW of net capacity with two additional plant expansions in Nevada.


Solar Power

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Solar power is one of the most widely used renewable sources of energy. Its extremely low carbon footprint, zero emissions, and longevity make for a healthier environment. Large-scale solar farms are currently being constructed in countries like India and China.

In India, the Kamuthi Solar Power Project has a capacity of 648 MWs covering an area of 10 square kilometers and their Kurnool Mega Solar Park with an estimated 1,000 MW once finished. China, meanwhile, is being recognized as one of the leading producers and developers of large-scale solar projects. In contrast to the usual landscape or portrait orientation of solar panels, the country is building a 250-acre solar power plant shaped like a giant Panda that will be stretched up to 1,500 acres when completed. The plant is set to produce 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy in the next 25 years according to China Merchants New Energy Group.



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Energy derived from moving water has been harnessed by humans for centuries. When turbines came to existence, hydropower has become one of the most popular sources of clean energy, and is particularly beneficial in many nations that are well-endowed with water resources. The hydropower industry constantly improves on its ecological profile by using modified and enhanced technologies.

Nowadays, several companies are investing billions of dollars on hydropower projects due to the growing population as well as the increasing electricity demands globally. Earlier this year, some of the successful hydropower projects have begun supplying electricity to the public such as:

The 2,070-MW Lauca hydropower project constructed in Angola, the first of six generator turbines with a cost estimate of US$4.5 billion. The Tata Power Company located in Georgia has finally completed its 187-MW Shuakhevi hydropower project with a price tag of more than US$420 million.


Given the fact that there are still millions of people living without electricity, many countries could potentially take advantage of their natural resources to produce a renewable and sustainable energy that are both economically viable and environmentally beneficial.

REPOST: The U.S. has been hit by two giant hurricanes. Here’s the financial toll

The last two catastrophic hurricanes that battered the US left massive destruction on the cities along their path. While it is still very difficult to measure the full economic extent of their devastation, experts agree that the total financial loss could reach billions of dollars. CNN has some specific figures:

One monster hurricane can cause serious economic damage.

So what happens when two massive storms hit the U.S. within two weeks of each other?

Hurricane Harvey decimated parts of Texas and damaged southwest Louisiana when it hit the region late last month, destroying billions of dollars worth of property.

Now, Hurricane Irma is tearing through Florida.

Both storms will be extremely costly. RMS, a catastrophe modeling company, estimates that Harvey has caused between $25 billion and $35 billion in losses that will be covered by insurance. The total economic damage, which includes uninsured losses, could be between $70 billion and $90 billion.

RMS is waiting until Monday or Tuesday to release damage estimates from Irma, since the storm’s path is still in flux.

AIR Worldwide, another so-called catastrophe modeling firm, says Irma might cause anywhere between $15 billion and $50 billion worth of insured losses in the United States. Damage in the Caribbean could bring that number to $65 billion.

Others say Irma’s cost could be even higher. Chuck Watson, an analyst with the disaster research group Enki Research, said the situation “looks pretty grim.”

Watson estimated that Irma could cause $172 billion in total U.S. damage, based on the storm’s path as of Sunday morning. He expected that $65 billion of that amount will be insured losses, and that $40 billion will need to be covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. That assumed the storm maintains its intensity as it moves north.

Irma was initially expected to hit Miami directly, but it shifted west. Forecasts show the storm moving up Florida’s west coast on Sunday and Monday, hitting Naples and Fort Meyers before reaching Tampa. It made landfall in the Florida Keys early Sunday.

Property damage isn’t the only issue in play. Harvey has already hurt the job market, and Irma could exacerbate the problem. That could knock down short-term economic growth.

On Thursday, the federal government reported that 62,000 more people sought jobless insurance in the last week of August, mostly from Texas.

That raised the total number of claims for the week to 298,000 — the highest level in more than two years.

Continue reading HERE.

World’s most expensive natural disasters in recent history

As a giver and nurturer of life, Mother Nature can also be the bringer of wrath and destruction that not even the most powerful countries on the planet can escape from. In fact, governments and nations all over the globe have witnessed nature’s devastations not only in terms of lost lives but also in its massive effect on the economy, leaving billions worth in ruins. Let’s take a look at some of the world’s costliest natural disasters in recent history.


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Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.

It was during the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season when Katrina made its presence known and that fateful day on August 25, 2005 would be remembered as one of the saddest and most expensive tragedies ($81 billion as of 2005 U.S. dollars) that America has ever seen. According to the reports, 1,836 died in the hurricane and the floods that followed. The devastation did not end there; five years later, many residents were displaced and had no choice but to stay in temporary shelters.


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Sichuan Earthquake in China

In May 2008, the entire Sichuan province was rocked by a massive 8.0 magnitude that killed about 70,000 people, and left over 18,000 missing. According to authorities, the damages and losses were estimated to have reached $29 billion – not including the indirect damage caused by the disaster’s aftermath. AIR Worldwide reported official estimates of insurers’ losses at US$1 billion from the earthquake. A huge number of livestock and large areas of agricultural lands were also destroyed, including 12.5 million animals. In the Sichuan province, around 60 million farm hogs died.


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Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

The entire world witnessed the horrors and destructions of the double-tragedy that struck Japan’s Sendai region on March 11, 2011. According to report, 8,649 people have been confirmed dead and there are still 13,262 missing.

The deadly tremors and the tsunami that followed were not the end of the resident’s nightmare. The 9.0-magnitude quake had resulted to a deadlier and toxic aftermath when the nearby Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’s cooling system failed and threatened 200,000 people to a deadly radiation exposure.

According to the World Bank, the damages might reach $235 billion, but Japan’s government expected a higher estimate of $309 billion – and could go even higher because of how it could disrupt the country’s economic activities.

REPOST: Forget ‘Earth Hour’, we need to adopt real solutions to our environmental predicament

While initiatives like the “Earth Hour” aren’t necessarily useless, the planet requires more long-term solutions to halt the worsening effects of global warming and other environmental issues. The Independent has a few suggestions:

By encouraging high density living and vegetarianism, limiting travel, rationing electricity and introducing mandatory population control, we could reduce resource use and environment impact, preserving both for future generations.

High density living across the world could help solve our environmental crisis


Facing economic stagnation, the approaching scarcity of non-renewable resources and irreversible environmental damage, policy makers are vigorously doing nothing.

They argue about the correct solution, spend money on faux strategies unlikely to accomplish anything significant or lasting and claim chronic crisis fatigue. Ultimately, a major change in behaviour is needed. It requires embracing a more frugal lifestyle, following the advice of John Stuart Mill [seeking] “happiness by limiting … desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”

Caught in what philosopher Montesquieu called a “spiral of expectations”, the population of Western economies believe that they have a right to constantly improve living standards. Those in less developed countries, understandably, aspire to the lifestyle and opportunities of their peers in advanced economies. But a significant portion of higher living standards is based on unsustainable financial, environmental and resource management practices.

Technological developments may defer some of these problems but they cannot solve them entirely. The magnitude of the difficulty of reversing this spiral of expectations can be seen from a “thought experiment” of what a transformation to a more sustainable future – sometimes referred to as “frugal living” – would look like.

High density living would become the norm, with limitations on permitted living space designed to reduce environmental impact, consumption, and increase transport efficiency.

Vegetarianism would be mandatory. The inputs needed to produce animal protein does not match the added calorie value. Eating only locally produced food (locavorism) would minimise food waste and energy utilised in transportation and storage. All water would be recycled, with limits on consumption. Bottled water would be eliminated other than in emergencies. Disposable items, such as redundant packaging, non-reusable storage and so on, would be banned.

Access to private cars and non-essential air travel would be restricted to reduce energy and resource utilisation and emissions. Electricity consumption would be rationed. Air-conditioning may need to be eliminated to reduce energy demand.

Continue reading HERE.

Three of the most dramatic coastal sceneries on Earth

In many parts of the globe, tourism is a major revenue earner. The likes of the Caribbean, Oceania, and Southeast Asia capitalize on their natural beauty to attract visitors, and their magnificent beaches and islands almost always take the biggest slice of the cake. However, dramatic coastal sceneries are not only found in the tropics. In fact, even in the colder latitudes, seascapes can still be just as stunning. If you’re still trying to complete your bucket list, try visiting any of these surreal coastal utopias:


1. Norway’s Lofoten Islands

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The Lofoten archipelago is considered as one of the planet’s most mesmerizing group of islands because of its glorious mountains and picturesque coastline. The islands’ 160-kilometer rugged mountains are the first sights to see when traversing this coastal gem in northern Norway. Lofoten is a home to natural and surreal phenomena of sounds and sights. If you want to experience the dreamlike midnight sun in the summer or the enthralling northern lights of autumn and spring, then this paradise should be on your bucket list.


2. Italy’s Cinque Terre

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On one of the most beautiful parts of the Italian Riviera sits Cinque Terre, a line of craggy cliffs and stunning coastline named Liguria. The site is a home to five interesting and colorful villages: Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, and Manarola (Çinque Tære literally means “Five Lands”). These towns are inaccessible to cars so tourists have the chance to walk around and along the rocky coastlines while enjoying the tranquil Cinque Terre’s pebbled beaches and the spellbinding cliff-side terraced gardens. It was in 1997 when the Cinque Terre was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


3. Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast

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The stunning Antrim Coast will take your breath away, thanks to the outstanding natural beauties that surround this travel paradise: its splendid cliffs and spectacular farmlands of equally bucket-list-worthy landmarks. Just nearby is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Northern Ireland’s best known landmark, the world-famous Giant’s Causeway.

REPOST: Global diet and farming methods ‘must change for environment’s sake’

An article IOP Publishing argues that improvements in future agricultural sustainability will most probably be the result of major dietary shifts and increases in farming efficiency. With the world population projected to reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050, food production methods must dramatically improve to keep up with the intensifying demand. Read more:


Reducing meat consumption and using more efficient farming methods globally are essential to stave off irreversible damage to the environmental, a new study says.


The research, from the University of Minnesota, also found that future increases in agricultural sustainability are likely to be driven by dietary shifts and increases in efficiency, rather than changes between food production systems.


Researchers examined more than 740 production systems for more than 90 different types of food, to understand the links between diets, agricultural production practices and environmental degradation. Their results are published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.


Lead author Dr Michael Clark said: “If we want to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, but still provide a secure food supply for a growing global population, it is essential to understand how these things are linked.”


Using life cycle assessments – which detail the input, output and environmental impact of a food production system – the researchers analysed the comparative environmental impacts of different food production systems (e.g. conventional versus organic; grain-fed versus grass-fed beef; trawling versus non-trawling fisheries; and greenhouse-grown versus open-field produce), different agricultural input efficiencies (such as feed and fertilizer), and different foods.


The impacts they studied covered levels of land use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), fossil fuel energy use, eutrophication (nutrient runoff) and acidification potential.


Dr Clark said: “Although high agricultural efficiency consistently correlated with lower environmental impacts, the detailed picture we found was extremely mixed. While organic systems used less energy, they had higher land use, did not offer benefits in GHGs, and tended to have higher eutrophication and acidification potential per unit of food produced. Grass-fed beef, meanwhile, tended to require more land and emit more GHGs than grain-fed beef.”


However, the authors note that these findings do not imply conventional practices are sustainable. Instead, they suggest that combining the benefits of different production systems, for example organic’s reduced reliance on chemicals with the high yields of conventional systems, would result in a more sustainable agricultural system.


Dr Clark said: “Interestingly, we also found that a shift away from ruminant meats like beef – which have impacts three to 10 times greater than other animal-based foods – towards nutritionally similar foods like pork, poultry or fish would have significant benefits, both for the environment and for human health.


“Larger dietary shifts, such as global adoption of low-meat or vegetarian diets, would offer even larger benefits to environmental sustainability and human health.”


Co-author Professor David Tilman said: “It’s essential we take action through policy and education to increase public adoption of low-impact and healthy foods, as well the adoption of low impact, high efficiency agricultural production systems.


“A lack of action would result in massive increases in agriculture’s environmental impacts including the clearing of 200 to 1000 million hectares of land for agricultural use, an approximately three-fold increase in fertilizer and pesticide applications, an 80 per cent increase in agricultural GHG emissions and a rapid rise in the prevalence of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.


Professor Tilman added: “The steps we have outlined, if adopted individually, offer large environmental benefits. Simultaneous adoption of these and other solutions, however, could prevent any increase in agriculture’s environmental impacts. We must make serious choices, before agricultural activities cause substantial, and potentially irreversible, environmental damage.”