Perhaps most important, virtually all discussions of food security assume the human population will grow by 2.5 billion people by 2050. The optimism of many analysts concerning our ability to feed these additional billions is quite disturbing, given the dreadful nutritional state of billions today. If it will be so easy to feed a population 35 percent larger, why isn’t everyone well-nourished now?
Five steps have long been recommended to solve the food problem: stop increasing land for agriculture (to preserve natural ecosystem services); raise yields where possible; increase the efficiency of fertilizer, water and energy use; become more vegetarian; and reduce food wastage. To this one could add: reduce the flow of CO2 into the atmosphere; stop wrecking the oceans; greatly enlarge investment in agricultural research; and move proper nutrition for all to the top of the global policy agenda. All of these steps require substantial changes in human behavior, but they seem unlikely since most people fail to understand the agricultural system and its complex, nonlinear connections to the mechanisms driving environmental deterioration. Inputs needed to feed each additional person will, on average, come from scarcer, poorer and more distant sources, disproportionately more energy will be used and greenhouse gases generated. And above all they fail to see that humanely reducing future human numbers, by empowering women everywhere and making modern contraception universally available, could make solutions much easier and the human future much brighter.