Agriculture Needs a Fundamental Rethink in the 21st Century
photo: David Silver
You may have missed it over the holidays of the past ten days but the BBC ran an interesting piece on the sort of transformation that will be required in the 21st century to feed a projected world population of 9 billion by 2050, without continuing to simply pump more chemicals into fields to replace what has been lost by intensive industrial farming. Professor Tim Lang of the UK government's Food Council described our current agriculture system as one which "was laid down in the 1940s" and then went on to describe his vision of the future:Energy, Water Scarcity, Biodiversity Loss, Urbanization are Key Challenges
Lang described the challenges we are facing. They are probably well known to regular TreeHugger readers, but here they are: Oil & Energy (nearly all of the world's food economy, from production to distribution, requires massive inputs of oil in one form or another), Water Scarcity (in the UK 50% of vegetables are imported, many from water stressed countries), Biodiversity (we need to replace and enhance biodiversity, which will require a shift in the way we grow food), and Urbanization (as more people move to urban environments, where will they get their food).
Food System Needs to Change to Being More Environmentally Sustainable, More Equitable
Then Lang made the suggestion that one to deal with these problems is to,
...get biodiversity into gardens and fields, and then eat it. We have to do this rather than saying that biodiversity is what is on the edge of the field or just outside my garden.
The 21st century is a going to have to produce a new diet for people, more sustainably, and in a way that feeds people more equitably, using less land.
Food Culture Needs to be Reinvented
The original piece also quotes food campaigner and chef Raymond Blanc, who in my mind really sees a big part of the solution: Reconnecting people with where their food comes from, and growing more of it on whatever space is available locally. Blanc,
Food culture is a whole series of steps. Whatever amount of space you have in your backyard, it is possible to create a fantastic little garden that will allow you to reconnect with the real value of gardening, which is knowing how to grow food.
And once you know how to grow food, it would be very nice to be able to cook it. If you are growing food, then it makes sense that you know how to cook it as well.
And cooking food will introduce you to the basic knowledge of nutrition. So you can see how this can slowly reintroduce food back into our culture.