Using an apple to illustrate the sustainability challenge

My friend Matthew Coxhill has a dramatic exercise he adapted from Resources of California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. It uses an apple to show just how much of the Earth’s surface is available to grow food to feed the world’s (growing) population.

Try it yourself. (Then eat the apple.)

  1. Take a knife and an apple. The apple represents the earth.
  2. Slice the apple into quarters; put aside three of the quarters, as they represent water on the Earth’s surface. (And please be careful as you cut up the apple–I don’t want any cut fingers out there!)
  3. Cut the remaining quarter of the apple in half; put aside one of the halves as uninhabited deserts and the Arctic and Antarctic areas. 
  4. Cut the remaining piece into quarters; put aside three of these pieces for land that is too rocky, wet, hot or poor for crop production.
  5. Peel the remaining part of the apple (1/32nd of the whole apple). The peel represents the thin layer of soil that is available for producing all of the world’s food crops.

This shows just how fragile our relationship with the earth is. Even soil isn’t an infinite resource; it’s a resource we need to nurture and protect so that the planet we live on can continue to grow the food we need.

Discussion questions

How can your workplace help protect the natural resources in your area? What initiatives are you aware of to protect your area’s natural resources?