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.
"Timely...How to Feed the World is a fascinating read not because it spends time talking about how to build a simple road to get there, but rather delves into all the roadblocks that must be addressed to meet that goal...How to Feed the World is a good read for anyone as the experts and editors were able to boil down specifics in an easy to understand manner."
High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
"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
WEBINAR: Feeding our World: Combating Food Waste and Unequal Access
Tue, Apr 17, 2018
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
Moderated by Jessica Eise, co-editor of How to Feed the World, this webinar describes methods of achieving global food security, and illustrates the connection between developing equal access to food and reducing waste and loss in our food systems. The webinar features co-editor Dr. Ken Foster and Dr. Jerry Shively of Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, and will include an audience question and answer session.
Download an annotated table of contents here or read it below.
Get the reader's guide created by Jessica Eise and Ken Foster here or read it below.
For a sample syllabus on global food security, click here.
How to Feed the World: Student Study Guide by Kenneth A. Foster
Published by Purdue Extension, 76 pages
How to Feed the World: Teacher Guide and Key by Kenneth A. Foster
Published by Purdue Extension, 52 pages
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.
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.
Recent climate marches have captured our collective attention. Students and young people around the world have taken to the streets to demand action on climate change now, in order to protect the environment for a better future. The impacts that we can already see are not the only climate impacts that will affect quality of life for future generations. Some climate dangers have yet to materialize. We turned to some of our authors to find out—What do they think will be the most pressing climate change issue in the next 50 years? Why?
The most pressing climate change issue will be our capacity to provide adequate nutrition and water to every person on Earth. This is a challenge we already struggle with and climate change will increasingly cause droughts and extreme weather events. Both our water sources and agricultural production are sensitive to these climatic shifts. Potential future food and water shortages will lead to increased global unrest and political tensions. However, we can take steps today to prevent these future shortages by developing sustainable adaptation strategies. Our greatest strength as humans is our capacity to innovate, and if we do so carefully and responsibly we'll be able to prevent many of these future crises.
-Jessica Eise, author of How to Feed the World
Clearly, the most pressing climate issue is figuring out how to get the global economy to carbon neutrality, and then developing the technologies for economically taking large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. But another critical issue that is not yet really being addressed is how we get in place national and international regimes to manage massive human migrations that will be driven by climate change. Regardless of the success that the global community has in implementing deep greenhouse gas reductions over the coming decades, we already know that anticipated future climate impacts will eventually cause large-scale migration of populations away from areas that are threatened by climate risks such as sea level rise, extreme heat, extreme storms, drought and wildfires, and towards areas of lower risk. The timing and geographic distribution of these movements is highly uncertain. They will, however, have a large impact on both the areas that lose population and the areas that gain population. And they will cause substantial economic, social, and political turbulence. As one commentator noted: "You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million." How will we manage this climate migration? What legal status will the migrants have? How do we prepare the areas that are losing population, as well as those that are likely to find themselves with large unplanned in-migrations? It is time to start digging into these questions.
-John Cleveland, author of Life After Carbon
In my view, the largest threat to Earth in the decades to come will be unsustainable human population growth. This will trigger all kinds of irreversible environmental change. A smaller human footprint means first of all fewer feet.
-Michiel Roscam Abbing, author of Plastic Soup
Most scientists agree that climate change will increase the occurrence, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events, including flooding, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. If we don’t do anything about this, most cities will become less comfortable—some by a lot. Depending on their location, cities and their inhabitants could suffer from the following possible scenarios: too wet, too dry, or too warm. Homes could be flooded on a regular basis, water faucets could stop flowing, or people’s lives could be confined to air-conditioned interiors because outside will be too hot. Fortunately, architects and city planners can help increase urban resilience—the ability of urban communities to bounce back from shock. If we do it right, we can even think of this as an opportunity to improve our cities and buildings. Dikes could double as flood protection and functional buildings, native species and drought tolerant plants can save water used for landscaping, and trees and plants can help cool down urban spaces. The future has always been uncertain, but our future may be even more uncertain. With climate change impacting our cities in unpredictable ways, the big question is: how do we design with these new risks?
-Stefan Al, author of Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise
Climate change, as western U.S. water scholar Brad Udall frequently points out, is water change. What Udall means is that, even as we work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we need to focus on reducing our vulnerability to changes even now being felt in the planet's hydrologic cycles. That can mean more water where we don't want it—think for example the flooding felt in the central United States from a freak storm in March 2019, or the creeping rise of sea level confronting our coastal cities. It often means less water where we've come to depend on it, like the shrinking reservoirs of the Colorado River Basin. Preparing for a future of water change is essential regardless of how successful we are in reducing our greenhouse gas footprint.
-John Fleck, author of Water is for Fighting Over
The transportation sector remains one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and thus represents the lowest-hanging fruit for governments looking to meet difficult carbon-reduction targets. Through our research, we've found that the Netherlands provides the best example of a clear path forward. A 2014 World Bank report ranked it in the bottom 25 nations for transport-related carbon dioxide emissions (as a percentage of total national production). In fact, Dutch transportation contributes just a fifth of their overall emissions, compared to a third in the United States, which—with 1.9 billion tons of CO2 emissions in 2016—overtook power generation as the most-polluting sector in the country for the first time in 40 years. Rather than wait for the electric car to save us, we should be looking to the humble bicycle, which—with the right infrastructure and policies in place—could immediately replace a significant number of trips we take by car, and begin moving us in a more sustainable direction for the future of our planet and our children.
-Chris and Melissa Bruntlett, co-authors of Building the Cycling City
The most pressing issue in relation to climate change is almost certainly the preservation and, if possible, extension of forest cover. Obviously, we must work toward reducing carbon emissions and increasing the adoption of renewable energy, but even the most optimistic scenarios around that would not solve the problem. Forests, and the oceans, provide the greatest sinks for CO2; we can fight to maintain oceanic biosphere and health, but we could—at least conceptually—increase the area of forests. And we MUST try to halt forest destruction.
-Joe Landsberg, co-author of Forests in Our Changing World
Society will not only need to prepare for current and impending changes due to climate change, we will need to do this while taking drastic action to avoid catastrophic consequences in the future. Many cities are vulnerable and dealing with the effects of climate change already. Forty percent of the United States’ population lives on 10% of its land mass—along coastlines. While cities have the power to make a greater impact on how we prepare for climate change, future planning and growth needs to be coordinated, thoughtful, and innovative. To start, policymakers should embrace and champion policies that encourage walkable, urban places and associated density—particularly in suburbs. Walkable, urban places create the opportunity for a lower carbon footprint, while contributing to a better quality of life for residents.
-Jason Beske, co-author of Suburban Remix
While the costs of adapting to climate change will be historic—in the US exceeding in real dollar terms the costs of fighting World War II and building the interstate highway system combined—the costs of inaction will be catastrophic. The UK’s National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) estimates annual global costs of climate-driven flooding, only one of multiple climate change impacts, at more than US$14 trillion. The NOC also projects that more than six hundred million people could be displaced by rising seas alone by 2100. In the US, seven of the ten most economically productive metros—representing roughly one-quarter of the entire economy and growing 50% faster than the US as a whole—face serious risks from rising sea levels.
Yet a blinders-on, single-issue focus on resiliency can mean falling into an all-too-familiar priority trap that pulls resources away from other compelling challenges. For example, the developed world is rapidly aging. People over the age of 65 will represent more than half of America’s (and the developed world’s) net growth for at least the next two decades—placing extraordinary stresses on healthcare costs that are projected to eat up all discretionary US federal spending by 2050. Growing income disparities in the US and across the developed world, accelerated by the shift to a knowledge economy that delivers most of its economic benefits to the better-educated top 20% of the workforce, are generating growing social as well as economic strains. Rapidly evolving technology means that within two decades the US and rest of the developed world will need to retool trillions of dollars in transportation infrastructure to adapt to autonomous mobility while at the same time responding to automation’s projected evisceration of the jobs of tens of millions of workers in the US alone. Nor can government stop funding transit, parks, and education—without facing grave social unrest and economic decline. And already today the developed world faces an enormous bill for fixing existing infrastructure—a figure that in the US will reach US$2 trillion, or almost 10% of the entire US economy, by the late 2020s.
Despite doubts expressed by US political leaders, the real question is not should we react to climate change, but how? The sheer enormity of the threat compels action. But how do we avoid the priority trap? My own experience planning for New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina suggests three strategies: public private partnerships that unleash the innovation potential of the private sector, institutions and government working together; adopting the principles the Dutch originated following World War II—any resources spent on protection from rising seas or other climate forces need to also address livability, economic competitiveness, and wellness; and the time
-David Dixon, co-author of Suburban Remix
I just returned from Sweden where it’s all about climate change. The government is planting trees around the world, as well as working hard to reduce Sweden’s carbon footprint. Recycling options are everywhere. At the university where I spoke there are only washable dishes, cups, silverware in the cafeteria and break rooms. Everyone over four years old rides a bike, and those under four are in contraptions attached to an adult’s bike. Greta, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, is inspiring us all with her courage and passion. For me the key question in tackling climate change is: Will we be willing and able to follow and support the youthful leadership taking on the challenge? It’s easy to write off the younger generation as inexperienced, whimsical, lost in their devices. That is old-fashioned and destructive thinking. These young activists are on the frontline of climate change, and we need to put our faith—as well as our money, influence and energy—in their leadership.
-Lucy Moore, author of Common Ground on Hostile Turf
Creating extensive ecological networks consisting of well-connected, large protected areas is most pressing priority because it is our best option to limit the extent of the sixth mass extinction. Climate change is adding to and exacerbating other threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, over-exploitation of natural resources, and environmental degradation. Ecological networks can reduce the impact of all stressors, promote population persistence, and allow species to adapt to climate change by moving to climatically suitable areas.
-Dr. Annika Keeley, co-author of Corridor Ecology, Second Edition