With a grim title, The Coming Famine, author Julian Cribb provides a balance between solutions and warnings concerning the food system in light of extensive environmental degradation. Cribb describes, peace prefers a full plate—and increasing food security is important for international and national security. Often, political unrest arises due to food scarcity, issues of land and access to clean water. Ultimately, hunger is an emerging global security risk and governments, says Cribb, need to change their funding on defense and support more agricultural research because “we eat or we fight.”
Many have heard the question posed: how do we feed a growing population? One response might be for GMO and large-scale farms, while others might campaign for organic techniques. Often these responses are part of two varying sides of a philosophical divide, while Cribb roots for a combination of the two. Rather than focusing on one solution, Cribb reviews several. He reminds readers that hunger is complex and focusing exclusively on crop technology, organic techniques, or alternative fuels, for example, will not lead to a sustainable food system. With a growing civilization pressing harder against the finite resources of the earth, Cribb encourages a global approach and global solutions for the food system.
The problem with detecting the coming famine is the lack of an apparent trigger. There is neither smoke before the eruption, nor a tweet before the social uprising. Instead the coming famine, says Cribb, is an amalgamation of continuous mismanagement of resources. While the affects of climate change is an overarching theme, Cribb focuses on how land, water, nutrients, oil, and human resources (knowledge and technology) are intertwined in agriculture production. For each topic, he declares that the world has passed the “peak” of many of these resources, making it more apparent with each chapter that mismanagement can no longer be afforded.
A significant portion of the book is dedicated to addressing the two “elephants in the kitchen:” population growth and over consumption. His critique for population and consumption are based on the Euro-American lifestyle which incudes high protein intake and wastefulness. The United Nations predicts that the greatest population growth will occur in less developed countries—and it’s likely that many of these nations will demand more meat in their diets. To meet such expected demands, the world will need two more North Americas for production.
Finding a sustainable food system is the biggest and most urging challenge we all face, says Cribb. While the problem may sound daunting, Cribb does not leave the reader feeling hopeless in a system that is heading towards doom, but rather as a part of the solution. Cribb answers our internal question–what can we, as individuals, do? Cribb suggests the following:
– Eat more veggies and fruit, and meat sparingly;
– Waste less, compost more;
– Educate children to value food and resources;
– Rebalance your diet towards foods that have a smaller footprint;
– Encourage sustainable farming techniques.