Public broadcaster WGBH News to air in-depth reporting series expanding on Dædalus research and expertise
CAMBRIDGE, MA | October 5, 2015 – Within two or three generations, the world’s population—currently seven billion people—will level off between ten and eleven billion people. In short, the world is about to be full.
What will that planet look like? Can we provide eleven billion people with a secure supply of nutritious food? Is it possible for so many people to occupy Earth without destroying its remaining ecosystems or doing irreparable damage to its climate? And what are the implications of increasing global incomes, urbanization, and subsequent changes in diet on the physical health of humankind?
These are some of the questions addressed in the Fall 2015 issue of Dædalus, entitled “The Future of Food, Health & the Environment of a Full Earth.” Guest editor David Tilman—Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences and Director of the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve at the University of Minnesota; and Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara—has organized the issue’s eight essays around the themes of:
- The latest dietary recommendations for optimal health
- Food impacts on human health (including obesity and undernourishment)
- Optimal strategies for agricultural growth and development
- Environmental sustainability, and
- The ethics and value systems needed to ensure equity and well-being across future generations
In “Food, Health & the Environment: A Global Grand Challenge & Some Solutions,” Jacquelyn L. Jahn (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), Meir J. Stampfer (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School), and Walter C. Willett (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) present evidence for the optimal diet for human long-term health, and illustrate how this diet also supports environmental wellness.
G. Philip Robertson (Michigan State University) defines agricultural sustainability as the use of farming practices that “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Faced with the challenges of increasing intensification, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and climate change, Robertson advocates for a systems approach that considers farming practices in their full social and ecological contexts and that provides incentives, feedbacks—and the political will—to deliver agricultural sustainability.
In their essay “Closing Yield Gaps: Consequences for the Global Food Supply, Environmental Quality & Food Security,” Nathaniel D. Mueller (Center for the Environment, Harvard University) and Seth Binder (St. Olaf College) examine current opportunities to extend advances in agricultural knowledge and technology to areas with wide yield gaps (the difference between current and achievable agricultural yields). They argue that, while closing yield gaps could dramatically increase agricultural production around the world, the particular strategies used in this pursuit will dictate the magnitude of the food-security and environmental benefits. And in “The Ethics of Food, Fuel & Feed,” Brian G. Henning (Gonzaga University) concludes the issue with a statement on the ethics of using vast portions of our global harvest for livestock feed and biofuels while more than 800 million people remain undernourished. What, Henning asks, does that say about our values as humans?
Essays in the Fall 2015 issue of Dædalus include:
- Food & Health of a Full Earth by David Tilman (University of Minnesota and University of California, Santa Barbara)
- Food, Agriculture & the Environment: Can We Feed the World & Save the Earth? by David Tilman and Michael Clark (University of Minnesota)
- Invisible Women by Catherine Bertini (Syracuse University)
- Food, Health & the Environment: A Global Grand Challenge & Some Solutions by Jaquelyn L. Jahn (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), Meir J. Stampfer (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School), and Walter C. Willett (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
- Closing Yield Gaps: Consequences for the Global Food Supply, Environmental Quality, & Food Security by Nathaniel D. Mueller (Center for the Environment at Harvard University) and Seth Binder (St. Olaf College)
- Land for Food & Land for Nature? by Andrew Balmford (University of Cambridge), Rhys Green (University of Cambridge and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), and Ben Phalan (King’s College, Cambridge University)
- A Sustainable Agriculture? by G. Philip Robertson (Michigan State University)
- The Ethics of Food, Fuel & Feed by Brian G. Henning (Gonzaga University)
Print and Kindle copies of the new issue can be ordered at: http://www.amacad.org/publications/daedalus.
As part of a continuing partnership with the American Academy, Boston-based public broadcaster WGBH News will air a special in-depth reporting series that draws from and expands on research and expert commentary from Dædalus. This five-part series, “Food Fights: From Farm to Labels,” explores the challenges that New England faces to “eat local,” examining topics as far-reaching as the impact of the California droughts on the availability of affordable produce in New England, and the transformation of a dining space at Boston Children’s Hospital into a sustainable food. The series will air locally on 89.7 WGBH Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Additional resources are available online at wgbhnews.org.