Feeding the World: A Challenge for the Twenty-First Century
MIT Press, 2000 - 360 pages
A realistic yet encouraging look at how society can change in ways that will allow us to feed an expanding global population.
This book addresses the question of how we can best feed the ten billion or so people who will likely inhabit the Earth by the middle of the twenty-first century. He asks whether human ingenuity can produce enough food to support healthy and vigorous lives for all these people without irreparably damaging the integrity of the biosphere.
What makes this book different from other books on the world food situation is its consideration of the complete food cycle, from agriculture to post-harvest losses and processing to eating and discarding. Taking a scientific approach, Smil espouses neither the catastrophic view that widespread starvation is imminent nor the cornucopian view that welcomes large population increases as the source of endless human inventiveness. He shows how we can make more effective use of current resources and suggests that if we increase farming efficiency, reduce waste, and transform our diets, future needs may not be as great as we anticipate.
Smil's message is that the prospects may not be as bright as we would like, but the outlook is hardly disheartening. Although inaction, late action, or misplaced emphasis may bring future troubles, we have the tools to steer a more efficient course. There are no insurmountable biophysical reasons we cannot feed humanity in the decades to come while easing the burden that modern agriculture puts on the biosphere.
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Reasons for Concern
End of an Era?
Appraising the Basics
Photosynthesis and Crop Productivity
Land Water and Nutrients
Agroecosystems and Biodiversity
Consuming the Harvests
Harvests and Postharvest Losses
How Much Food Do We Have?
How Much Food Do We Eat?
How Much Food Do We Need?
Comparisons and Implications
Environmental Change and Agroecosystems
What Could Climate Change Do?
Opportunities for Higher Cropping Efficiencies
More Efficient Fertilization
Better Use of Water
Rationalizing Animal Food Production
Feeding Efficiencies and Resource Claims
Opportunities in Milk and Meat Production