Why the Plan to Feed 10 Billion Will Lead to Increased Emissions
Despite intending to cut emissions, this new plan would actually lead to an increase due to its causation of increased population growth.
The plan, as devised by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, is designed to be sustainable enough to feed a world of 10 million people and more.
It includes a large reduction of red meat, an increase in plant protein, and more fruit and vegetables. I won’t go into the technicalities of the plan, but the reasons behind it are our health, sustainability, and greenhouse gas emissions — with sustainability being the main part of it.
The fundamental flaw and biggest problem with the plan, then, stems from its attempts to create a sustainable global diet, to ensure “planetary health”. What this report fails to comprehend and reconcile with its attempts to create a more sustainable diet is that population growth only occurs, and by extension only increases, when there is enough food to support it.
The report certainly succeeds in finding a diet which would sustain 10 billion, but this whole approach is the wrong one. By increasing our capacity so that we can provide for more people (which presumably must be an approach we take right into the future) we create the conditions for population growth.
But, you may ask, why is population growth such a bad thing? If technology keeps improving in the same way as population — that is, seemingly exponentially — we should be able to sustain ourselves forever.
The problem comes with the increasing rate of growth in population. We cannot guarantee that we will always be able to keep up as we have been in the past, and the reason that I feel as though we are at a key turning point is that now, more than ever before, we have the capacity to make an informed decision about whether we should put ever more strain on our resources and pressure on the success of space exploration.
But environmentalists must do what the commission has failed to do — reconcile the seemingly conflicting ideas: that encouraging sustainability will only pose future issues and that we must cut our carbon emissions.
Here, it is crucial to understand that a smaller and more stable population directly correlates to less usage of resources — not just food, but also fossil fuels, wood, and medicines. That is how we can dismiss the suggestion of needing more sustainable and environmentally friendly diets in order to feed more people, without betraying environmentalism entirely.
Further to this point, there is good reason to believe that making diets more sustainable will only accommodate greater food production, which, on the whole, will be just as damaging to the environment as the current level.
It may be that, in spite of the supposed potential of agriculture for cutting emissions, any attempts to exploit it will be flawed and unworkable, producing no real results for the environment, and only serving to delay finding solutions to climate change.
But we cannot afford to wait.
Perhaps we should be looking at ways to halt population growth on a global scale, because we may only have a short window of time in which to attempt this before it becomes an untameable phenomenon.
Still though, there’s something else that this plan, this approach, shows us. It highlights something about human nature, that ties into our attitudes to climate change. We seem to have a rather annoying tendency to look at data, spot a trend, and decide how to adapt, rather than how to mitigate.
Whether this is global warming, population growth, or economic downturn, it seems to always be the case that we recognise the problem, but then, rather than thinking about how to stop said problem, we decide to try to adapt to live with sub-optimal conditions — increasingly so with the use of technology.
If we can’t realise that stopping a trend at source is cheaper and safer than learning to live with its consequences, we will only cause ourselves more suffering and hardship. We usually get quite frustrated when bankers and politicians don’t stop economic crises. It’s time to make sure that we never have to because of climate change.