Food Security in the Warming World

I’m just coming into the final week of an online course on climate change (via Coursera) which discusses the degrees of warming we are currently on course for in the next century. It’s both depressing, in that we’re aiming for 2 degrees of climate warming by 2050 and over 4 degrees by 2100, and inspiring, in that there are still things we can do that will reduce these figures significantly. One of those things is to reduce our emissions on the individual level and this post discusses combining that reduction with another topic close to any survivalist’s heart – food supply.

One of the biggest looming problems that is really going to bite in the coming decades is the global food supply. At the moment there are about 7 billion humans in the world. By 2050 it’s predicted there’ll be 9 billion humans, which will require a 70% increase in agricultural production world-wide if everyone’s going to get enough to eat. We’re already cultivating 40% of the world’s useable land (http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2005/12/1209_051209_crops_map.html) and every year some of that land is degraded beyond useable condition due to our farming – soil degradation, desertification (http://www.worldometers.info/). The scale of the problem is quite well laid out in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s webpage where they list all the various areas of food production that need to be boosted to achieve this aim – basically, all of them. (http://www.rsc.org/ScienceAndTechnology/roadmap/priorityareas/food/agriculture/) Do we really think we can achieve all of this, when we also know that climate change will reduce both available agricultural land and crop yields across large areas of the Earth’s surface?

Whether we do or we don’t, how can we secure our own food supply? Not by importing food from abroad, as the UK does now with over 40% of its food supplies! (http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/issue/uk.html) I’m tackling this aspect of future-proofing my family’s food supplies not just by resorting to the survivalist’s traditional tool, which is to lay in a stock of preserved food for emergencies, but also by working to grow more of our own food. This year I’ve taken on a 20m by 20m plot on a local allotment site to supplement the deep beds in the back garden at home. This way we’ll know that the food we eat is fresh, healthy, local (hasn’t been flown half-way round the world, with associated emissions!) and since I’m hand-cultivating and using home-made compost, we’re also avoiding emissions from tractors and the use of fertilisers derived from hydrocarbons.

This isn’t new to us – my grandmother got her family through WWII on the produce of her garden, my mother brought us up largely from her allotment and I’ve had allotments and smallholdings in the past. We’ve always had rabbits, both as pets and, for three generations, for meat and fur production. The allotment should see us producing most of the food we need for the bunnies we have at the moment, together with a lot of the food that our flock of 6 chickens need to continue laying us a couple of dozen healthy fresh eggs each week.

I’ll be keeping records of what we produce both at home and on the allotment, so watch this space for details of how we’re succeeding in securing our food supply and reducing our emissions simultaneously!

Better yet, by meeting others on the allotment site, I’m engaging with my local community and have the opportunity to assist my neighbours with their own adaptation to future climate change by improving their food security. That will reduce their reliance on others, enable us all to gain friends and skills, and knock-on to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases for the entire community.

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