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Feeding the World:
Can we do it? Plowing his furrow between the doomsayers and the blind optimists, agriculture researcher Vaclav Smil believes that our planet can sustain more than 10 billion people, and he makes his arguments clearly and plainly in Feeding the World: A Challenge for the Twenty-First Century. His prescription is fairly simple: waste less, eat less, and produce more--and he shows just how easy it could be. Just like doctors' advice that the key to losing weight is to eat less and exercise more, which is ignored in favor of simpler and less effective plans, Smil's ideas are just unglamorous enough to fall by the wayside. Why not take the easy way out and decide either that we're all doomed or that market forces will mysteriously solve problems that they have yet to acknowledge exist?
Smil prefers to look coolly at our habits and suggest how we can make moderate changes to our production and consumption and reap great benefits of efficiency--and better health. You won't be surprised to learn that beef takes a beating in the race to convert solar energy to food, but you might not know that pigs and chickens are practically neck and neck. Of course, all of our two- and four-legged friends are eating the dust of the grains and vegetables, proving again that slow and steady wins the race. If Smil's ideas can get the attention they deserve, and if as he says "China could do it," then we ought to be able to look forward to an equitable, sustainable place at the table for everyone, even as our population reaches 11 digits. --Rob Lightner [via]