After a period in Britain without hunger, and to some extent with an excess of agricultural output, it is easy to forget how crucial food production was during past periods of crisis. Food production was essential to survive the global wars of the nineteen hundreds. Before that it was always prone to disruption by external events such as volcanic eruptions, runs of extreme weather and uncontrollable pestilence. Time and again, food production failed, leading to widespread famine, illness and death.
But having now reached a point where the maritime croplands are among the highest yielding in the world, and well regulated enough to withstand all but the most violent of global catastrophes, people ask whether the control over yield has come at too high a price. Will the intense field management so typical of modern arable farming lead first to a deeper malfunctioning of the maritime croplands and then to their failure and collapse.
The balance between offtake for profit and ecological wholeness has been the subject of much recent scientific debate. The problems may now be better defined. The solutions may be clearer. But there is still much to do to achieve a sustainable outcome, since the ways to achieve this needs more than scientific knowledge and best farming practice. It needs a major shift in farming methods and in the attitude of society towards food and agriculture.
On these web pages, we share some of the debate and findings, concentrating on the risks to food production, ranging from global hazards to the gradual depletion through mismanagement of a country's ability to produce food. [The links below will become 'live' later in 2011.]
- famine and cataclysm - the risks
- how food is grown - capture and use of resources
- ecological security - meaning and measurement
- building resilience - the capacity to recover and adapt
- an attempt to define sustainable croplands
General reading on local and global issues in sustainability is suggested under Sources and references
Much of the content in the Risks arises from studies over the past few years by the Institute and its collaborators as part of research on the ecological sustainability of croplands. Below are links to general sources of information in books and web sites. More specialised sources will be given in each section of the Risks.
[To be completed later in 2011]
Contact for this page: Geoff Squire
[Page began 27 February 2011. Status: under construction]