Food supply limits approach

This article on new research from the  Oxford Martin Centre Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford suggests that by 2050 the limits of the earth’s capacity to provide sufficient food will be exceeded unless globally coordinated changes in food production, consumption and waste are implemented. The study is not simply centred on climate change effects of of agricultural activity, but also on the consequences of the spread of western-style diets combined with the expected additional growth of human population of well over a billion extra mouths to feed.

The global food system has a lot to answer for. It is a major driver of climate change, thanks to everything from deforestation to cows burping. Food production also transforms biodiverse landscapes into fields inhabited by a single crop or animal. It depletes valuable freshwater resources, and even pollutes ecosystems when fertilisers and manure washed into streams and rivers.

The planet can only take so much of this stress. Staying within its environmental limits will require a global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies. That’s what a team of international researchers and I found in a new study published in the journal Nature

Without concerted action, we estimated that the environmental pressure of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the continued Westernisation of diets. At that point, those environmental pressures would exceed key planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity.

SUFFICIENTARIANISM – Sufficientarianism is a theory of distributive justice. Rather than being concerned with inequalities as such or with making the situation of the least well off as good as possible, sufficientarian justice aims at making sure that each of us has enough.


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