Recipe for Disaster

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By Joel K. Bourne Jr. ’90JRN, from his 2015 book The End of Plenty. Bourne, an environmental journalist with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, argues that the combination of ecological devastation and population growth, will create an unprecedented global crisis in food production.

As I walked across the eroded fields of Malawi, saw the effects of Punjab’s pesticide-poisoned groundwater, and toured massive hog farms in China, the agronomist stirred within me. It became abundantly clear that the 7 billion of us who share this incredible planet are intimately connected by our dependence on the soil, the waters, and the climate that feeds us. And unless we put forth a global effort to change our trajectory, these primal elements that have enabled our species to flourish and dominate the planet will not sustain us much longer. Producing food for [billions of people] without destroying the soil, water, oceans, and climate will be by far the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. It will affect everyone, from poor farmers in Africa to the well-heeled suburban grocery shoppers of the West. The fate of the world’s great ecosystems, from the Amazon rain forests to Africa’s Serengeti Plain, equally hangs in the balance.

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