Food security requires a new revolution

| August 23, 2019 | Leave a Comment

Enabling farmers to adapt agri-technologies to local contexts. Photo courtesy of Development Alternatives

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Media Type: Article - Foundational

Author(s): Paul R. Ehrlich, John Harte

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Studies

Categories: , ,

A central responsibility of societies should be supplying adequate nourishment to all. For roughly a third of the global human population, that goal is not met today. More ominously, that population is projected to increase some 30% by 2050. The intertwined natural and social systems, that must meet the challenge of producing and equitably distributing much more food without wrecking humanity’s life-support systems, face a daunting array of challenges and uncertainties. These have roots in the agricultural revolution that transformed our species and created civilization. Profound and multifaceted changes, revising closely-held cultural traditions and penetrating most of civilization will be required, if an unprecedented famine is to be avoided.

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  • Didem Aydurmus

    I would like to know what percentage of the book openly questions animal agriculture and which numbers you used for ghg percentage of animal agriculture.

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Sorry, Paul and John, but I prefer facts and not vague generalizations. If we continue industrial farming as we are currently in the “developed” world, we will have depleted ALL of the topsoil in 60 years, by 2079, due to carbon (aka humus) loss. Currently, 30% of the vertebrate land-based biomass on earth is us humans, which are fed by the 67-69% belonging to the meat animals we raise, and leaving only 1-3% wild. The remaining forest soils are of poor agricultural significance except for marginal pasture, like the Amazonian rain forest currently being destroyed by human overpopulation and greed and with the support and encouragement of the Populist Bolsonaro government.

    We have become a plague upon the earth, and that is a fact. Today, we are 3,000 times as populous as were our 2.6-10M hunter-gatherer ancestors just 7-12kya. The rest of nature is being systematically destroyed by too many humans using too many natural resources and producing too much pollution.

    This anaemic article is beneath both of you! Want further evidence of the downside of the exploding human population? Population density stress is killing us Now through all of our myriad and rapidly increasing (exponential) “diseases of civilization”, none of which are found in the traditional living hunter-gatherer clans/bands worldwide. These indigenous survivors of our world destroying greed are the real precious human assets being lost in these Amazon fires, along with nature’s “lungs”, and at the hands of “pioneer” overpopulation greed all over the world, not just in Brazil.

    Mother Nature has set about to rid Herself of us through population density stress and environmental collapse. Only an immediate voluntary one-child or no child (afterall, they cost $250-500K to raise to 18 in the West) movement worldwide can avert catastrophe, and as not even my hero Dr. Ehrlich has read my book in his e-library, I am not optimistic about such a turn-around. The earth is burning-up and we are next. Stress R Us

    • Julian Cribb
      • Greeley Miklashek

        Thanks for that. However, you are nonresponsive to my facts and I doubt your book addresses the consequences of human overpopulation either. We are eating the earth and leaving nothing but table scraps for the rest of surviving Nature. Did you cover that “fact”? The only solution to the exploding modern human diseases that i spent a lifetime treating in my 25,000 patients is voluntary population reduction supported worldwide by a massive family planning initiative, not the opposite which Our Dear Leader has set about to please his thoughtless, Godless Evangelical “base”. Just throwing-up a book ad with no explanation is not helpful. Good luck with that! Stress R Us

        • trilemmaman

          Dr. Miklashek. Your ‘facts’ are not facts but your assertions, opinions, and false beliefs. It is our consumption patterns that are destroying our environment…not our agricultural production (which is certainly damaging…but not nearly as bad as the greed and wasteful consumption of the world’s rich (anyone making over $30,000 a year is in the top 1% of the world’s economic class. These are the people that mindlessly consume with virtually no regard for the environmental consequences. Excessive births of the poor are mostly the product of excessive child deaths…that could be easily prevented with access to clean water and sanitation — which would eliminate Half of the world’s infectious diseases. Reduce child death rates, educate women and empower women economically, politically, and culturally…and most would voluntarily chose to have fewer children… The ONLY comprehensive effort that would meet your desired reduction in birthrates and environmental destruction is funding the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Your simplistic view on ‘over population’ is the problem…not a solution.

      • trilemmaman

        Love your last chapter on Recommendations! Looks like at least one person in this exchange has actually done the research and is seeking a comprehensive solution instead of the silver bullet that misses the mark.

        Summary: Key recommendations of the book. Develop a sustainable, nourishing and resilient global food system founded on ecological or regenerative farming, aquaculture, and urban food production. Replan all of the Earth’s cities so that they recycle all their nutrients and water back into food production and fertile soil, have a sustainable, climate-proof local source of food year-round, and are based on permaculture principles. Re-allocate 20 per cent of world military spending to ‘peace through food’. Understand that sustainable food investment is defence spending, can reduce tensions and so prevent many wars from starting in the first place, and avoid vast movements of refugees which may otherwise overwhelm other regions, countries and cultures. Rewild half the planet through a global movement led by small farmers, former farmers and indigenous peoples, known as Stewards of the Earth, to end the Sixth Extinction of life on Earth. Raise a new generation of food-aware children, who understand how to eat healthily and sustainably, through a Year of Food in every junior school on the planet. Put women in charge of business, politics, government, religion and society for the sake of human civilisation and its survival in the century of its greatest peril.

    • W. Douglas Smith

      Here Here! While I agree with your statistics I find most of our problem rests with our innate psychology as a social predatory species. We form bands/tribes/cliques that form our developmental “world view.” As we age that world view becomes increasingly rigid. We segregate our experiences as supportive of our bias or against it. That slows our ability to adapt quickly to rapid changes. As our technologically advancing and crowded civilization changes we see divisions forming between age groups, genders, social groups. Add the stressors of economic, environmental and social change and we have a formula for conflict.

      My point is that we must include our psychology in the matrix when establishing policy to address sustainable development and the rapid adjustments to mitigate global warming and subsequent changes in climate.