Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    HSGP Meeting: "Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future"

    This Sunday, July 10, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix will host a presentation by Dr. James Elser, an Arizona State University Regents' Professor in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science.  Dr. Elser will be speaking on the necessity of phosphorus for agriculture worldwide. In a 2010 article on the Foreign Policy magazine website entitled "Peak Phosphorus," Elser described the bleak future of food production if phosphorus consumption continues at its current pace.  Phosphorus is an important component of fertilizer, being used by plant life for DNA construction and the creation of cell membranes, yet it is not a renewable resource.  Much of the phosphorus currently being used in fertilizers is mined from ancient mineral deposits that are dangerously close to running out.  Some estimates place the depletion of the world's major phosphorus sources 30-40 years into the future.  That is a bit too close for comfort.  Although we are all familiar with the scarcity of oil, we have far more reason to be concerned about the scarcity of phosphorus, as it has no substitutes. 

    If steps are not taken to curb the depletion of phosphorus, we can expect to see food prices sky-rocket as countries like Morocco hike up the price-tag on phosphorus exports.  Thankfully, there are ways to make supplies last.  Many of these consist of modifying the highly wasteful practices of the agricultural industry.  For example, controlling the erosion of crop fields would maintain phosphorus levels in soil, reducing the need to re-apply. 

    Please join us on Sunday at the Humanist Community Center in Mesa to learn more about "Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future."  More information on the HSGP can be found at our website,

    Elser, J. J. & White, S. (2010). Peak phosphorus. Foreign Policy Magazine online, 4/22. [link]


    David Despain, MS said...

    Jim gave an informative presentation. See my post on the talk here

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