Science & Tech, Home & Lifestyle, Community & Government
Lesson time 9:16 min
The need to grow copious amounts of food to keep up with human population growth is harming our planet and our society, as Dr. Jane explains.
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Topics include: Monocultures • The Dangers of GMOs • GMOs Have Far-Reaching Effects
When I was writing the Seeds of Hope, I was learning more and more about the number of plants that are already extinct or facing extinction. And we find that many endemic species are gone forever, even before they've even been described. For example, some friends of mine, botanists from the Leiden Botanical gardens were on an expedition. And they discovered an unknown orchid. I'm rather attached to this orchid, because they named it for me. But by the time they'd identified it and described it, it was the last one of its species, because the forest in which it grew, the only place where it grew, had been destroyed. The forests are destroyed for timber. They're destroyed to grow palm oil plantations. But they're also destroyed-- huge areas of forest-- because of the need to grow ever more and more grain. And that's partly for the meat industry or the agricultural farming of animals. But it's also, as human populations grow, the need for more land and ever more land to grow crops. And one of the big problems when you cut down old growth forests, is that although the soil is very fertile for a short time, very soon it loses its fertility and becomes a desert. So the deserts around the planet are increasing. And the human populations are growing. And people need more and more food. So this is leading to a situation, which is really shocking. And when I think of children in the future, it means that we have to try and do everything we can to fight industrial agriculture, because it's industrial agriculture, the growing of one single crop, a monoculture on a huge area of land. Forcing these plants to try and produce two crops a year when normally they would only produce one, means putting more and more artificial chemical fertilizer into the soil. And this is poisoning the land. And it's washing down into the streams and the rivers, and eventually polluting the ocean. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the big problems in agriculture today is that companies are trying to grow more food more cheaply. And what's now known as conventional agriculture-- I don't know how it got that name. Because, to me, conventional agriculture is small family farming, where people use to grow different crops. They rotated them. They would leave land to live fallow to recover its fertility and move to another piece of land. They would run sheep and cattle and chickens over the land that have been used, so that the natural fertilizer was restored. And then they would plant again. But as human populations grew and as big companies wanted to make more money, that kind of agriculture, they felt didn't yield the kind of crops they wanted fast enough. So they began planting monocultures of corn, of wheat, of soy, and so forth. And very quickly, the land became infertile, because these crops were being forced to grow to produce two crops a year, instead of just one. So more...
About the Instructor
There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.
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Dr. Jane Goodall
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.Explore the Class