Friday, February 10, 2006

Hippies Get High (But In A Way That Makes It News Worthy)

Mike sent me an e-mail containing this link with the exclamatory subject, "Malthus!"

The link led me to a page describing "Z-Axis Urban Agriculture," otherwise known as putting a bunch of plants in a skyscraper. The article warns of the growing population growth of the planet and even with improved technology, humanity may have trouble finding the land to feed itself (which may or may not be true as we don't know what this new technology will look like).

The article trumps the buildings as a way to reduce a community's "ecological footprint" and other nonsense about needing to increase the quality of urban settings. The artist's conception even sports tiny wind power plants at the top.

The strangest bit about all of this is Julian Simon had a similar idea except he was more ambitious. Using hydroponic bays, we could grow all the food for the whole world in a giant 100-story building the size of a small state (I think it was New Jersey).

Simon, however, was using it only as a hypothetical point to illustrate how humanity was in no danger of "running out of farm land" as these cranks claim we are. It's true that ideas like Z-axis farming are what ensure we don't have to worry about a food shortage and in doing so, these neo-Malthusians are proving their own scares false.

The thing I can't get past (besides the staggering but so far uncited panic number that 80% of the arable land is farmed) is the effort to make a test farm in New York from an abandoned building as part of the general strategy. If land is becoming so scarce, how come there are all these abandoned buildings in urban areas (where land is generally more valuable than its counterparts in rural areas).

If and when this becomes an important tool to feed humanity, it will happen because the rising food prices will make such an endeavor profitable. If not, then not. Either way, we don't need neo-Malthusians making test farms, spreading panic in their wake.

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