There’s no way around it. If we’re going to talk about food, we also need to talk about the people who don’t have enough of it. More than 10 percent of the world’s current population of 7.1 billion people suffer from hunger – and millions of people – many of them children – die of starvation and malnutrition every year. These are statistics accepted by world health organizations. This is the current norm for our species.
But environmental researcher Lisa Palmer is looking another couple of decades ahead. Using United Nations predictions, we will have grown by another two and a half billion people midway through this century. Palmer wants to know how on Earth will humankind’s appetite be dealt with then.
In her new book, “Hot, Hungry Planet,” Palmer travels the globe and witnesses some of the current perils of unsustainable agriculture and inefficient food delivery systems.
But she goes way beyond discussing the land use practices of farmers, or the agricultural policies that impact the environment and food security. She’s looking for solutions, and she finds them – in places as diverse as sub-Saharan African, India, and the United States.
Palmer shares case studies of successful efforts to produce more food and encourage biodiversity, all while coping with the uncertainties of a changing climate.
She discovers that these holistic approaches to food production also integrate other factors, including education, family planning, data insights, technological hacks and willingness to challenge conventional thinking. This isn’t impossible – it’s happening in small-scale situations the world over.
“Hot, Hungry Planet” demonstrates the critical necessity and moral imperative for combining scientific data, entrepreneurial thinking, and agricultural common sense in combatting global hunger. In some places, this type of approach is already making a dent in the problem.
But to put these solutions into widespread effect, there needs to be a major commitment of resources and political will. Given the current vacuity of moral leadership on the world stage, the impetus for this will have to come from billions of the rest of us.