Feeding the World: A Challenge for the Twenty-First Century / Edition 1

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Overview

This book addresses the question of how we can best feed the ten billion or so people who will likely inhabit the Earth by the middle of the twenty-first century. He asks whether human ingenuity can produce enough food to support healthy and vigorous lives for all these people without irreparably damaging the integrity of the biosphere.What makes this book different from other books on the world food situation is its consideration of the complete food cycle, from agriculture to post-harvest losses and processing to eating and discarding. Taking a scientific approach, Smil espouses neither the catastrophic view that widespread starvation is imminent nor the cornucopian view that welcomes large population increases as the source of endless human inventiveness. He shows how we can make more effective use of current resources and suggests that if we increase farming efficiency, reduce waste, and transform our diets, future needs may not be as great as we anticipate.Smil's message is that the prospects may not be as bright as we would like, but the outlook is hardly disheartening. Although inaction, late action, or misplaced emphasis may bring future troubles, we have the tools to steer a more efficient course. There are no insurmountable biophysical reasons we cannot feed humanity in the decades to come while easing the burden that modern agriculture puts on the biosphere.

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Editorial Reviews

Dennis T. Avery
An extremely important and well-done book, produced by one of the few people in the world with the global and interdisciplinary professional breadth to write it.
— Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262692717
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 390
  • Sales rank: 961,528
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Vaclav Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba.

He is the author of more than thirty books, including most recently Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing (MIT Press). In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that "there is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil."

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction ix
1 Reasons for Concern 1
Demographic Imperatives 6
Dietary Transitions 8
End of an Era? 11
2 Appraising the Basics 23
Photosynthesis and Crop Productivity 25
Land, Water, and Nutrients 30
Agroecosystems and Biodiversity 52
3 Environmental Change and Agroecosystems 65
Changing Soils 67
Environmental Pollution 80
What Could Climate Change Do 90
4 Toward Higher Cropping Efficiencies 105
More Efficient Fertilization 108
Better Use of Water 125
Precision Farming 135
5 Rationalizing Animal Food Production 141
Feeding Efficiencies and Resource Claims 145
Opportunities in Milk and Meat Production 163
Aquacultural Possibilities 171
6 Consuming the Harvests 181
Harvests and Postharvest Losses 182
How Much Food Do We Have? 188
How Much Food Do We Eat? 196
7 How Much Food Do We Need? 211
Human Energetics 215
Protein Needs 227
Comparisons and Implications 235
8 Searching for Optimum Diets 249
Nutritional Transitions 250
Nutrition, Health, and Disease 264
Optimized Diets 276
9 If China Could Do It... 291
China's Predicament 292
Available Resources and Existing Inefficiencies 299
Realistic Solutions 309
References 317
Index 353
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