A sustainable food revolution holds the key to ending the Sixth Extinction that is wiping out the world’s wild animals and plants.
“Such is the insatiable power of the human jawbone that rethinking food not only holds the key to peace and plenty for all, but also to ending the 6th Extinction and regenerating a fairer, greener Earth.”
In my new book, Food or War, I describe a new global food system that can feed 10 billion people on a hot planet, reduce the risk of war – and bring to an to an end the wholesale destruction of the Earth’s wild landscapes and the animals, plants, fish and birds it contains.
Our current food system is not sustainable because, among its many dire impacts, it destroys the very ecosystems on which it depends to keep on feeding us. In the process it is also obliterating Nature on our planet.
The human jawbone has become the most destructive implement ever seen on Earth: “Every year, in the course of wolfing down 8.5 trillion meals, it dislodges 75 billion tonnes of topsoil, swallows 7 trillion tonnes of fresh water, generates 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions and distributes 5 million tonnes of toxic chemicals.
It fells forests, empties the oceans of life, destroys rivers and lakes, strips landscapes and blankets the planet in a plastic shroud. It is the reason that life on land now shows the following grotesque imbalance: 32% human, 66% domestic livestock, 3 per cent wildlife.
The first thing everyone who eats needs to understand is that the food system that fed humanity in the 20th century cannot feed us all in the 21st. It is too destructive, too vulnerable to climate change or to shortages of soil and water. It has to change.
The good news is that the change is already under way, in the hands of tens of thousands of regenerative farmers, urban food producers and aquaculturalists worldwide. They are building a new, safer, healthier food system that does not lay waste the Planet. But we need every consumer in the world to get behind them and support the change.
As the new food revolution takes place, on farms, in cities and in the oceans it will become possible to return an area of the planet equal in size to North America to wilderness, enabling many species now threatened by human activity to survive and prosper.
To manage this vast transition, we need an army of a billion people – indigenous people and former farmers – who are the ones who understand nature best. They can plant the trees and shrubs, restore landscapes, protect wild animals, birds and fish – as many of them have already begun to do worldwide.
The corporate industrial model of agriculture is going to expel almost a billion small family farmers over the coming decades – as it has already done in the ‘developed’ world. We need to save their wisdom and their skills and employ them as Stewards of the Earth, leaders of a vast, planetwide movement to regenerate the wastelands humans have created.
In Food or War I propose a simple way to fund such a movement by reallocating 20% from the world’s military budgets to a novel food system.
“This is a case where the survival of humanity and of the world it inhabits is in jeopardy. There can be no more fitting and intelligent use of defence funds than to protect the Earth, and all it contains.”
The great biologist E.O.Wilson has calculated that returning half the Planet to wilderness will enable the survival of up to 86 per cent of its wild species.
The only way we can achieve that is by shifting the weight of our food demands to cities – which have vast supplies of water and nutrients they currently waste – and to the oceans, which are far more extensive than the land, and by using systems of food production which are far less destructive than at present.
Such is the insatiable power of the human jawbone that rethinking food not only holds the key to peace and plenty for all, but also to ending the 6th Extinction and regenerating a fairer, greener Earth.