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Page added on February 10, 2010

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Plan B 4.0 by the Numbers

World agriculture today faces pressure from many sources. On the production side, the amount of unused arable land worldwide has dwindled. Overworked soils are becoming eroded and degraded, and overpumped aquifers are being depleted. Meanwhile, as the global population grows and increasing biofuel production converts grain into fuel for cars, demand for food continues to climb. In Chapters 2 and 9 of Plan B 4.0, Lester Brown discusses these challenges. Here are some highlights from the supporting data:

In Nigeria, Africa

On the water front, Saudi Arabia stands out as a dramatic example. Following the 1970s Arab oil export embargo, the Saudis, fearing a retaliatory embargo on grain, decided to become self-sufficient in wheat. They heavily subsidized irrigation, pumping water at great depths from a non-replenishable fossil aquifer, in order to farm the desert. Yet in early 2008, after being self-sufficient in wheat for over 20 years, the Saudis announced that with their aquifer largely depleted, they would reduce their wheat planting each year until 2016, when wheat production will end. Although Saudi Arabia is the first country to acknowledge publicly how falling water tables are affecting harvests, over half the world

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