1st Edition

Outgrowing the Earth
The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures

ISBN 9781138380103
Published June 6, 2019 by Routledge
224 Pages

USD $22.95

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Book Description

Historically, food security was the responsibility of ministries of agriculture but today that has changed: decisions made in ministries of energy may instead have the greatest effect on the food situation. Recent research reporting that a one degree Celsius rise in temperature can reduce grain yields by 10 per cent means that energy policy is now directly affecting crop production. Agriculture is a water-intensive activity and, while public attention has focused on oil depletion, it is aquifer depletion that poses the more serious threat. There are substitutes for oil, but none for water and the link between our fossil fuel addiction, climate change and food security is now clear. While population growth has slowed over the past three decades, we are still adding 76 million people per year. In a world where the historical rise in land productivity has slowed by half since 1990, eradicating hunger may depend as much on family planners as on farmers. The bottom line is that future food security depends not only on efforts within agriculture but also on energy policies that stabilize climate, a worldwide effort to raise water productivity, the evolution of land-efficient transport systems, and population policies that seek a humane balance between population and food. Outgrowing the Earth advances our thinking on food security issues that the world will be wrestling with for years to come.

Table of Contents

Part I, Pushing Beyond the Earth's Limits * Losing Agricultural Momentum * Growth: The Environmental Fallout * Two New Challenges * The Japan Syndrome * The China Factor * The Challenge Ahead * Part II, Stopping at Seven Billion * A New Demographic Era * Population, Land, and Conflict * The Demographic Transition * The Demographic Bonus * Two success Stories * Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population * Part III, Moving Up the Food Chain Efficiently * Up the Food Chain * Shifting Protein Sources * Oceans and Rangelands * The Soybean Factor * New Protein Models * Part IV, Raising the Earth's Productivity * Trends and Contrasts * Fertilizer and Irrigation * The Shrinking Backlog of Technology * Future Options * Part V, Protecting Cropland * Losing Soil and Fertility * Advancing Deserts * Converting Cropland to Other Uses * Conserving Topsoil * Saving Cropland * Part VI, Stabilizing Water Tables * Falling Water Tables * Rivers Running Dry * Cities Versus Farms * Scarcity Crossing National Boundaries * Raising Water Productivity * Part VII, Stabilizing Climate * Rising Temperatures, Falling Yields * Temperature Trends and Effects * Raising Energy Efficiency * Turning to Renewable Energy Sources * Part VIII, Reversing China's Harvest Decline * Grainland Shrinking * An Aquacultural Initiative * Water Shortages Spreading * Turning Abroad for Grain * A New Food Strategy * Part IX, The Brazilian Dilemma * World's Leading Source of Soybeans * Feed Supplier for the World? * Meat Exports Climbing * Domestic Demand Growing * Expansion: The Risks and Costs * Part X, Redefining Security * The Tightening Food Supply * The Politics of Food Scarcity * Stabilizing the Resource Base * A Complex Challenge *

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Lester R. Brown is President of Earth Policy Institute, and has been described as 'one of the world's most influential thinkers' by The Washington Post. He is widely known as the Founder and former President of the Worldwatch Institute, whose Board he now chairs. He launched the influential State of the World reports, which are now published in over 30 languages. Brown has been honoured with numerous prizes, including the MacArthur 'Genius' Fellowship, the United Nations Environment Prize, and Japan's Blue Planet Prize. He lives in Washington, DC.


'The book proposes that the challenge of feeding the world is at least as much about energy, water, climate and population. This view is no more than we should expect from Lester Brown, whose forte, eloquently expressed in the course of writing dozens of books over the past four decades, is to emphasise the links that connect all our development sectors, sometimes obviously, sometimes covertly, often crucially.' Times Higher Education Supplement' Lester Brown advances our thinking on the food-security issues that the world will be wrestling with for years to come.' Sustain 'The book should be bought just to demonstrate how good arguments are put together.' Paul Ganderton '[I]t will be an instant classic.' E. O. Wilson Praise for Eco-Economy '[A] lucid and wide-ranging examination of how we can save our forests, grow rich on power generated from wind and sun, halt global warming and heal the ozone layer.' New Scientist 'Highly interesting.' Helmut Schmidt, former Chancellor of Germany '[A] marvellous and inspiring book!' B rge Brende, Minister of Environment, Norway 'The book should be bought just to demonstrate how good arguments are put together.' Paul Ganderton Praise for the Author 'Widely respected environmental political thinker Lester Brown ... writes powerfully and accessibly, and is eminently readable.' Times Higher Education Supplement