The human jawbone is the most destructive implement on Earth. Every meal you eat costs the planet 5-10 kilos of topsoil, 800 litres of water and 1.3 litres of fuel. It emits 0.3g of poisons and 3.5 kilos of climate-wrecking CO2.
Humanity as a whole does this 8.5 trillion times a year. A third of our food is wasted, along with the soil, the water, the nutrients and the hard work of the farmers who produced it.
We are now devouring the Earth in order to feed ourselves - an act both unwise and bound to end in tears. Because of the colossal waste and destruction involved, our present food system is not sustainable. It cannot cope with the vast climatic and resource changes which are overtaking it.
There is no point in trying to prop up a failing system. We need instead to develop one that renews itself and does not ruin the Earth. The global food system that fed 2.5 billion humans in the 20th century, based on farming pumped up with technology, chemistry and fossil fuels, cannot feed 10 billion people living on a hot, turbulent planet in the mid-21st century.
Over the next 50 years the fate of our civilisation depends critically on food. Success in overcoming the intersecting challenges of climate and resource scarcity will bring peace, plenty and a chance to repair the planet. Failure will bring war and a collapse in civilisation.
The world urgently needs a new food system. One that does not exacerbate any of the 10 catastrophic risks I described in Surviving the 21st Century (Springer 2017). One that eases climate change, reduces the threat of war, regenerates the natural world, nourishes all of humanity, cleanses our polluted planet, and improves our health. A renewable food revolution.
A renewable food system has three main pillars,
- Regenerative farming, replacing current systems, which repairs soil and water, provides clean healthy food, locks up carbon and re-wilds a third of our present farmed area to end the 6th Extinction.
- Climate-proof urban food production, based on intensive systems and biocultures that eliminate waste and recycle all urban water and nutrients back into sustainable, healthy food.
- Deep ocean aquaculture of fish and sea plants which avoids the pollution and disease caused by intensive coastal systems to replace the failing wild harvest of sea fish.
These vital new technologies, each with the potential to produce about one third of the world's food without suffering from climate impacts, are already under trial worldwide. They present Australia with a superb opportunity - to be a world leader in the Age of Renewable Food.
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