THE COMING FAMINE
A discussion paper by Julian Cribb and Associates
In coming decades the world faces the risk of major regional food crises leading
to conflicts and mass efugee movements. This is driven primarily by emerging scarcities
of all the primary resources required to produce food and a global failure to reinvest
in it. This paper outlines key factors in emerging global food insecurity and proposes
'The Coming Famine' published by the University of California Press and CSIRO Publishing,
Most of us have by now heard the forecast that there will be 9.2 billion people
in the world by 2050. But current projections suggest human numbers will not stop
there - it will keep on climbing to at least 10-11 billion by the mid 2060s.
Equally, the world economy will continue to grow - and China, India and other advancing
economies will require more protein food.
Thus, global demand for food will more than double over the coming half-century,
as we add another 4.7 billion people. By then we will eat around 600
quadrillion calories a day, which is the equivalent of feeding 14 billion people
at today's nutritional levels.
The central issue in the human destiny in the coming half century is not climate
change or the global financial crisis. It is whether humanity can achieve and sustain
such an enormous harvest.
The world food production system today faces critical constraints. Not just one
or two, but a whole constellation of them, playing into one another - and serious
This is the great difference from the global food scarcity of the 1960s. Then the
constraints were around skills and technology - and the generous sharing of modern
agricultural knowledge and technology in the Green Revolution was able to overcome
Today the world faces looming scarcities of just about everything necessary to produce
high yields of food - water, land, nutrients, oil, technology, skills, fish and
stable climates, each one playing into and compounding the others.
So this isn's a simple problem, susceptible to technofixes or national policy changes.
It is a wicked problem.
These issues will now be explored under the relevant headings.