“[F]ossil-fuel-dependent technologies that stretched living nature’s natural productivity and displaced some of its products not only permitted humanity to escape the Malthusian vise, but saved nature itself from being overwhelmed by humanity’s demands.”
The collective demand for land to meet humanity’s demands for food, fuel, and other products of living nature is—and always has been—the single most important threat to ecosystems and biodiversity. Yet fossil-fuel-dependent technologies have kept that demand for land in check.
This positive aspect of the impact of fossil fuels on the environment has been ignored in most popular narratives, which instead emphasize fossil fuels’ potential detrimental effects, including air, water, and solid-waste pollution, as well as any climate change associated with the use and production of these fuels. Because of this oversight, and thus lacking balance, these studies generally conclude that fossil fuels have been an environmental disaster.
Agricultural Advances: Less Land, More Habitat
To obtain a notion of the magnitude of the environmental benefits of fossil fuels, consider just the effect of fertilizers and pesticides on the amount of habitat saved from conversion to cropland because fossil fuels were used to meet current food demands. The Haber-Bosch process, by itself, is responsible for feeding 48 percent of global population and pesticides have reduced losses from pests for a range of food-related crops by 26–40 percent.
Read more at MasterResource.org. By Indur Goklany.
Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia (Creative Commons)