Two renowned scientists—Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich and UC-Berkeley’s John Harte — argue that feeding the planet goes way beyond food. Revolutionary political, economic and social shifts are necessary to avoid unprecedented chaos.
by Brian Bienkowski
Published on Wednesday, August 05, 20159
by Environmental Health News
How do you make sure billions of people around the world have access to food?
You start a revolution.
At least that’s what two leading U.S. scientists argue in a new report. Feeding people will require cleaner energy, smarter farming and women’s rights, but also a “fundamental cultural change,” according to Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, and University of California, Berkeley, professor and researcher John Harte.
“What is obvious to us is … that if humanity is to avoid a calamitous loss of food security, a fast, society-pervading sea-change as dramatic as the first agricultural revolution will be required,” they wrote in their report published last week in the International Journal of Environmental Studies.
The amount of humans on Earth is growing—projections point to an extra 2.5 billion people by 2020. But tangled within the problem of more hungry mouths is environmental degradation, social injustice and humans pushing toward the very boundaries of the planet when it comes to resources such as food, water and energy, according to Ehrlich and Harte.
For many people across the world growing, buying or finding food is a daily struggle. More than 800 million people are estimated to be malnourished, according to the United Nations.
Billions don’t have stable, secure access to food.
“Some people say the whole problem is too many people and other people say it’s misdistribution of the crops we grow,” Ehrlich said in an interview. “They’re both right but this can’t be fixed by dealing with only one end of the problem.”
Scientists for too long have been looking at how to feed the world in “fragments,” Ehrlich said.
“Some look at solving food problems with crops grown in higher temperatures; some look at reducing waste,” he said. “It’s crystal clear that none of the things that need to be done are being done on a scale that would be helpful.”
It’s not just about pumping out more crops or reducing the amount of people. “Planning for a sustainable and effective food production system will surely require heeding constraints from nature,” Ehrlich and Harte wrote.
They argue that economic equality, population growth and environmental health are all linked. Governments must address the whole system to avoid future famine.