How to Feed the World
6 x 9
By 2050, we will have ten billion mouths to feed in a world profoundly altered by environmental change. How can we meet this challenge? In How to Feed the World, a diverse group of experts from Purdue University break down this crucial question by tackling big issues one-by-one. Covering population, water, land, climate change, technology, food systems, trade, food waste and loss, health, social buy-in, communication, and, lastly, the ultimate challenge of achieving equal access to food, the book reveals a complex web of factors that must be addressed in order to reach global food security.
How to Feed the World unites contributors from different perspectives and academic disciplines, ranging from agronomy and hydrology to agricultural economy and communication. Hailing from Germany, the Philippines, the U.S., Ecuador, and beyond, the contributors weave their own life experiences into their chapters, connecting global issues to our tangible, day-to-day existence. Across every chapter, a similar theme emerges: these are not simple problems, yet we can overcome them. Doing so will require cooperation between farmers, scientists, policy makers, consumers, and many others.
The resulting collection is an accessible but wide-ranging look at the modern food system. Readers will not only get a solid grounding in key issues, but be challenged to investigate further and contribute to the paramount effort to feed the world.
“The essays in this book provide extraordinarily valuable insights that will help point us toward solutions. They are a call to action, highlighting the urgent need to think differently about our resources and how we maximize them for the good of the global population.”
Kathryn J. Boor, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
“How to Feed the World comprehensively illustrates the challenges facing agriculture in a clear, relatable way. Most refreshingly, the authors explore concrete solutions with determined resolve. The book leaves readers stimulated, informed, and emboldened.”
Nick Janzen, Energy and Environment Reporter, Indiana Public Broadcasting
“This is a great read for those engaged in shaping agricultural or food policies; those working on teaching, research, or extension programs in agriculture, food, public health, or similar fields; or anyone else who seeks to understand the drivers of change as we strive to feed an ever-growing world population.”
Jeffrey Hyde, Professor and Associate Director of Programs, Penn State University Extension
Introduction- Jessica Eise and Ken Foster
Chapter 1. Inhabitants of Earth- Brigitte S Walforf
Chapter 2. The Green, Blue, and Gray Water Rainbow- Laura C Bowling and Keith A Cherkauer
Chapter 3. The Land that Shapes and Sustains Us- Otto Doering and Ann Sorensen
Chapter 4. Our Changing Climate- Jeff Dukes and Thomas W Hertel
Chapter 5. The Technology Ticket- Uris Baldos
Chapter 6. Systems- Michael Gunderson, Ariana Torres, Michael Boehlje, and Rhonda Phillips
Chapter 7. Tangled Trade- Thomas W Hertel
Chapter 8. Spoiled, Rotten, and Left Behind- Ken Foster
Chapter 9. Tipping the Scales on Health- Steven Y Wu
Chapter 10. Social License to Operate- Nicole J Olynk Widmar
Chapter 11. The Information Hinge- Jessica Eise
Chapter 12. Achieving Equal Access- Gerald Shively
Conclusion- Jessica Eise and Ken Foster
Two and a half years ago, an idea for a book took shadowy form in the recesses of my mind. I envisioned tapping into the brilliant brains around me. Drawing them out of the depths of their academic morass, I would coax them into sharing their knowledge with the world. Together, we would translate their subject-area expertise into an objective, accessible, affordable primer on food and agricultural issues for the world.
Lofty ideas are great; however, the road is littered with aborted, lofty ideas. That’s because it’s gritty business doing something that breaks the mold, as most lofty ideas are wont to do. My idea was an "accessible" edited volume and it was, quite frankly, strange. It did not align with existing standards, as most edited volumes are academic and dense. This presented quite the conundrum. I vehemently did not want the jargon-filled pages and high price points inherent in academic books to block curious and impassioned individuals from pursuing an education. However, I did want the objectivity and selectiveness of an edited volume.
For the most part, we generally accept that a book is written by one person or, occasionally, a set of coauthors. There are many good reasons why the “single author” model prevails. A single author has a consistent style. A single author can craft a coherent storyline across the whole book. A single author doesn’t have to contend with competing views. As if writing a book isn’t hard enough, imagine arguing with 17 other people on how it should actually go! All of these things make the single author model easier on the editor, reader, and author.
Yet there is one primary disadvantage to this standard approach. Once and a while, a sole pair of eyes simply does not offer a big enough lens through which to see the world. On an issue as enormous and mind-boggling as how to feed the world, it’s laughable to imagine that one mind might tackle it all. These are the cases in which the edited volume really rises to the fore. An editor, or set of editors in my case, will conceptualize the book and then hunt down poor, unsuspecting experts in each particular topic area to coerce into writing a particular chapter.
On the subject of global food security, it will take a concerted effort across disciplines, subject areas, skillsets, and viewpoints to overcome the extraordinarily complex and interconnected challenges we face. We acknowledged this in our book How to Feed the World by inviting leading minds in the field, each with a particular subject area, to contribute their knowledge. We were incredibly fortunate to find a publisher, Island Press, who believed in what we were trying to do: making contextualized, scientific information accessible in today’s veritable quagmire of flashy soundbites based on opinion, snippets, and occasionally smoke and mirrors. Even though it didn’t fit the mold of a traditional genre, they took a risk on us anyway.
After two-and-a-half years of steady work, we crossed the finish line and what might have been but a fleeting moment of wishful thinking became a "flesh and blood" book, if I may use such a description. Two editors, 17 contributors, one publishing house, and endless conversations and countless hours later, we are honored to share our work, How To Feed the World, with you.
It is our hope that in drawing on such a breadth of expertise, and striving to make the chapters accessible, we now share with you a collection that provides a wide-ranging look at the modern food system. We provide a solid grounding in key issues; however, we also do something more. We ultimately challenge you to investigate further and, yes, contribute to the paramount effort to feed the world. Everyone has something to offer, and after reading our book, we ask you to consider how one of your lofty ideas may change the world. To progress, we need everyone’s energy, and although it will take long, hard work, I would say that this is one of the most worthwhile goals for which we may ever fight.
Jessica Eise is an author and communications researcher at Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication.
By 2050 we will have ten billion mouths to feed in a world profoundly altered by environmental change. How we meet this challenge will be the difference between food abundance and shortage, environmental preservation or destruction, and even life and death. We have the tools and ingenuity needed to achieve global food security—but the pursuit of a secure future begins with a clear understanding of the challenges facing our food system today.
In response to this challenge, seventeen diverse researchers from one of the nation’s premiere land-grand universities banded together to write an accessible and comprehensive primer on global food security. In How to Feed the World, this multidisciplinary group of experts from Purdue University reveal a complex web of factors that must be addressed in order to reach global food security. Chapters tackle big issues one-by-one, covering population, water, land, climate change, technology, food systems, trade, food waste and loss, health, social buy-in, communication, and, lastly, the ultimate challenge of achieving equal access to food.
Check out Chapter 8: "Spoiled, Rotten, and Left Behind" below.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.