Rizor, John (Ball State University)

The Subway Agri-Fit

Mentor: Shannon Riddle

The Malthusian Catastrophe
In 1798, Thomas Malthus proposed that the human race would eventually return to subsistence-level conditions as a result of insufficient agricultural production with regard to population growth. Malthus assumed the growth of agrarian economics as an arithmetic progression, thereby producing linear growth. On the contrary, population is an exponential progression and if unchecked over time will outrun linear growth. During the time of Malthus’ theory, the human race was checked by some form of natural selecion; in simple terms, only the strong survived. However, with the advancements in medicine and technology, the human race has essentially triumphed over natural selection, leading to massive population growth. U.S. World News predicts that the human population will break 9 billion before the year 2050. Traditional agricultural practice would require an additional 100 trilliion hectares of arable land to provide food adequate to support this population (roughly the size of Brazil). However, 80% of the world’s arable land is either in use or unfit for agricultural purposes. Therein lies our problem...

Traditional agriculture in the United States cannot support the expected population increase without considerable land acquisition or a complete reinvention of agricultural practice. The latest considerable advancement in farming, the advent of the modern tractor, was popularized nearly 80 years ago. While technological advancements have been made in bio-engineering and genetic farming, the field has been relatively unchanged for decades. Traditional agricultural practice in the United States has stagnated, making it an ideal candidate for reform on a national and worldwide scale.
Land acquisition at the scale necessary to facilitate sustaining the global population is not possible because we are currently farming over 80% of the arable land worldwide. This particular proposal examines the feasability of integrating commercial agriculture into the urban fabric. One major disadvantage of urban agriculture is the astronomical price of land in contrast to relatively inexpensive rural farmland. However, in the event that urban agriculture becomes a matter of necessity, the reclamation of abandoned urban infrastructure for agricultural purposes needs to be seriously examined.

Why Subways?
Chicago, home of the nation’s second largest mass transit system, has experienced a 40% ridership decline since 1985 (nearly 215 million annual riders). Despite modernization efforts, aging infrastructure and rising fees have discouraged subway usage leading to stop closures, abandonments, and reduced hours. While the subway system is currently viewed as the “sustainable” transportation option, it seems evident that eventually the subway system will be replaced by a more efficient means of transportation, rendering massive amounts of urban infrastructure obsolete.
The widespread decline in subway ridership in the United States is an indicator that reform is necessary. In the likely event that a more efficient mass-transit system is adopted, the abandoned subway infrastructure would be conducive to subterranean farming for a variety of reasons. Unlike intercity modes of transport, the subway system is confined to the urban locale as an intracity mode of transportation. In addition to the benefit of location, the subterranean nature of a subway rail is beneficial because of the ease of controlling the environmental factors. This environment features less extreme temperature changes and is easily contained, which eliminates the needs for pesticides and fertilizers while maximizing crop yield.

Essentially, this proposal integrates a stagnant industry and a failing transportation infrastructure to revolutionize the way we address food production in an overpopulated world. If nothing else, it is merely food for thought. The agri-fit concept is proposed under two basic assumptions:
1. A more efficient means of mass transportation is adopted, rendering the existing infrastructure obsolete.
2. Traditional agricultural practice cannot support the basic needs of the human population.

The proposal, by no stretch of the imagination, encourages subway abandonment or disuse. That being said, I encourage you come check out my research. I apologize in advance for the awkward format...hindsight is 20/20. Feedback is encouraged and appreciated...

Dislike starvation? Come check out the Agri-Fit...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice work John, great topic and very informative.