Enough to Go Around: The Ethics of Agriculture

Diane Regas, exective director of Environmental Defense Fund, speaks at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival.

By the year 2050, the world will have 9.7 billion mouths to feed — 2 billion more than today (Source: UN). Our need to eat already poses serious risks to the natural systems that sustain us. Can the environment withstand such demand? A panel, including Diane Regas, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund, convened at the Aspen Ideas Festival to tackle the issues surrounding food supply, environmental degradation, and innovation in farming. "The central thing about agriculture is that we actually all want a lot of the same things," Regas says. But agriculture and land use contribute about a quarter of global climate pollution, she adds, and excess fertilizer running off of farms contaminates drinking water. So-called “dead zones,” or parts of the ocean where nothing can live, are also the result of too much fertilizer. Putting this into perspective, Regas points to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that’s the size of Connecticut.

Regas’ organization has been working with farms over the last decade to get top producers to adopt practices that reduce pollution and excess fertilizer. So far, about one million acres of corn farms have adopted the methods. But, it’s a drop in the bucket. Ninety million acres of corn are planted in the US each year. More advances in science are needed, Regas points out, as well as farmers who are willing to try new, innovative methods.



Building Better Teen Brains 

Raising a teenager can be tough, and now hard science explains why adolescence is so challenging. Laurence Steinberg, author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence, talks about how the brain is malleable, or still developing, during adolescence. These years, which extend into the early twenties, are key in determining individuals' life outcomes. How should we change the way we parent, educate, and understand young people? Subscribe on iTunes or listen here.


China’s Longest-Running Social Experiment

Mei Fong, author of One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment, says there aren’t enough women for all of the men in China. The country has 30 million surplus bachelors, in part, thanks to the one-child policy. The policy became a two-child rule in January. Fong, a speaker at the upcoming Spotlight Health, shares her reporting on the policy in a guest blog post. Watch for more blogs from Festival speakers in the coming weeks.


Looking Ahead to the Festival

Could the terrorist attacks in Brussels have been prevented had the country focused efforts on keeping young people from joining radical groups? Here’s what we’re reading ahead of the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival track Global Affairs: Our Age of Insecurity.


Consider This: A Norwegian-based organization is working with 100 families to try to keep their children from joining terror groups. Norway has sent only 81 fighters to Syria. Belgium has sent 470.


Read More about The Obama Doctrine and an opinion piece on how to end Syria’s war.