Understanding Sustainable Agriculture Through Wikipedia

  • John Cummings
  • December 24, 2014

By John Cummings, Wikimedia volunteer

Wikimedia volunteer John Cummings has worked to make available on Wikipedia 2400 images of tropic agriculture research from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and 4000 new images of vegan food, all the images were originally posted on Flickr by people who share their content under a Creative Commons license.

“I want to give people a greater understanding of agriculture’s impact on the environment and of alternative diets that have a much smaller environmental footprint.”

Understanding the impacts of agriculture

The Priority Products and Materials: Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production report by the United Nations Environment Programme found that “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

“Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”

Edgar Hertwich, lead author of the report


Greenhouse gas emissions

A Worldwatch Institute study found that 51% of greenhouse gas emissions were produced by the livestock industry, more than the combined impact of industry and energy. Each year 58 billion animals are killed for food, the impacts of a diet that includes animal products will increase as the population grows, the UN predicts the world population will grow to 9.1 billion people by 2050

Species loss

New research by scientists at the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Zoological Society of London shows that populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have decreased by 50% since 1970. The study identifies food production as a major cause.

“We have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world, if we get [our response] right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future,”.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation, Zoological Society of London

The rate of species extinction is 1,000 to 10,000 higher than the natural state and the recent Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 shows “The average risk of extinction for birds, mammals, amphibians and corals shows no sign of decreasing.”

All images are available on Wikimedia Commons under the categories Vegan food and International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

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