Feeding the World

(Planet Earth 1969)
There are now about 7 billion of us humans. Soon there probably will be 9 billion of us. Malthusian predictions of mass starvation due to absolute lack of food have so far proved unfounded. Famines in the twentieth century were largely due to inequality, distribution problems and waste. Absolute global food production has more than kept pace with population increase. However this increased production has largely been achieved in ways that are profoundly unsustainable. Modern agriculture is highly dependent upon cheap oil, as tractors have replaced human labour, as have huge amounts of oil-derived fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. These have had serious adverse effects on bio-diversity and on human health. Soils that should never have been ploughed are becoming eroded and in many areas of the world water is becoming a very serious concern. As fossil-fuels become more expensive, as indeed they must if we are to mitigate climate change, and as indeed they will in a post peak oil era, things will have to change.
It is my belief that we can feed humanity in ways that are ecologically restorative, sustainable and socially just. We could feed 9 billion or more of us and do it organically. Issues that are of critical importance are:

  • Social Justice; land and food access for the poor.
  • Socially inclusive and innovative ways to engage more people in agriculture.
  • Soil and water conservation; stopping erosion and building soil fertility.
  • Trees, Permaculture, Perennial crops and Polyculture.
  • Financial investment in ecological farming.
  • On farm renewable energy generation.
  • Photosynthesis driven carbon sequestration, and soils as carbon stores.
  • Solar desalination and desert reclamation.
  • Greenhouses with thermal mass and inter-seasonal heat storage.
  • Changes in the global diet toward more local organic fruit and vegetables.
  • Protecting fisheries and creating marine conservation zones.

Over the next few blogs I want to look at some inspirational examples of global best practice in terms of ecologically sustainable, socially just, productive and profitable agriculture.