This year the essay topic the students write will focus on feeding the citizens of their future city. Many thousands of years ago, humans learned to domesticate animals and grow plants for food. Because we no longer needed to hunt and gather, we could stay in one place and start to build cities. It was the beginning of civilization.
Today, agriculture is the largest global enterprise on earth. And while some regions still farm in ways similar to our ancient ancestors, for most of the world the mechanization of planting and harvesting, chemical fertilization and pest control, advanced irrigation, and other modern farming tools and techniques led to increased crop output—which, in turn, became a major contributing factor to rapid population growth.
By 1900, the global population was roughly 1.7 billion people. In 2050 it is expected to exceed 9.5 billion. That's more than 450% increase in the total number of people over the last 150 years. With billions more mouths to feed, there are increasing pressures on our global food supplies: less farmable land, more water pollution, growing water scarcity, increased fuel costs (making importing and exporting foods more expensive), pesticide resistance, and the growth of megacities, to name just a few. In order to feed the world in the future, we will have to come up with smart new ways to grow our food much closer to where we live.
Students challenge: Choose two foods (one vegetable and one protein) and design a way to grow enough of each within your future city borders to feed all of your citizens for at least one growing season. Taking into account your city's size and location, you must consider the critical elements needed to grow food including light, climate, air quality, space, water, soil, and nutrients.