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Balancing on a Planet

Balancing on a Planet: The Future of Food and Agriculture

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 348
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  • Book Info
    Balancing on a Planet
    Book Description:

    This book is an interdisciplinary primer on critical thinking and effective action for the future of our global agrifood system, based on an understanding of the system's biological and sociocultural roots. Key components of the book are a thorough analysis of the assumptions underlying different perspectives on problems related to food and agriculture around the world and a discussion of alternative solutions. David Cleveland argues that combining selected aspects of small-scale traditional agriculture with modern scientific agriculture can help balance our biological need for food with its environmental impact-and continue to fulfill cultural, social, and psychological needs related to food.Balancing on a Planetis based on Cleveland's research and engaging teaching about food and agriculture for more than three decades. It is a tool to help students, faculty, researchers, and interested readers understand debates about the current crisis and alternatives for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95708-4
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. PREFACE: A Personal History
    (pp. xv-xxiv)
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The current world food crisis that began in 2007–2008 is in many ways similar to the hundreds or thousands of local and regional crises that have transpired since the beginning of agriculture. As we have seen, there are sharply contrasting perspectives on the causes and solutions of food crises past and present—and on how to prevent them in the future. The “mainstream” and “alternative” perspectives can sound superficially similar, yet they differ fundamentally in terms of their theories and assumptions, problem definitions and solutions.

    The mainstream emphasizes the direction that brought us the most dramatic and significant successes...

  8. PART ONE Agrifood Systems History and Future

    • ONE Eating Stardust: Population, Food, and Agriculture on Planet Earth
      (pp. 13-46)

      Imagine that you are zooming outward from the chair you are sitting on while reading this book.¹ You see the place where you were sitting recede into its continent, and then the curvature of our planet Earth appears, growing smaller and smaller, joined by the other planets of our star, the Sun. Our solar system, too, grows smaller and seems to hover in emptiness against the background of our galaxy, the Milky Way. And then, as you continue zooming through the Milky Way it too becomes a speck and disappears, lost in the vastness of the universe.

      Our solar system...

    • TWO Agricultural Revolutions
      (pp. 47-70)

      Imagine waking in the morning, opening your eyes to see a sky beginning to lighten to a clear blue, the light of the rising sun filtered through the leaves of acacia trees towering over you, the smell of soil and plants and the remains of last night’s fire in your nose. You rise, walk a short distance away to relieve yourself behind another acacia tree, and return to the camp where the members of your extended family are beginning to stir. You share bits of cooked tubers and meat from the evening’s meal and begin to plan your day—the...

    • THREE Thinking Critically about Sustainable Agrifood Systems
      (pp. 71-96)

      What isyourassessment of the current state of our agrifood system? What is it based on? There are lots of scientific reports on the subject, but their results often conflict, and interpretations of these results can be even more at odds with one another. So how do you choose which reports to use in your assessment? What parts of the system would you like to change? How would you like to change them? What do you think you and others can do to make those changes? How would you work with those who have different ideas about the changes...

    • FOUR Sustainable Agrifood Systems: Three Emphases
      (pp. 97-122)

      The heads of state of the world’s leading industrial nations, members of the G8 (Group of Eight), met in Toyako, Hokkaido, Japan, on July 6, 2008.¹ They ate luxurious multicourse meals and chatted over drinks; in addition to an extensive selection of wines, the menu foronedinner comprised

      Corn and caviar; Smoked salmon, sea urchin; Hot onion tart; Winter lily bulb and summer savoury; Kelp-flavoured beef and asparagus; Diced tuna, avocado and soy sauce jelly, herbs; Boiled clam, tomato, shizo in jellied clam soup; Water shield and pink conger with soy sauce vinegar; Boiled prawn with tosazu vinegar jelly;...

  9. PART TWO Moving toward Sustainable Agrifood Systems:: A Balancing Act

    • FIVE Managing Evolution: Plant Breeding and Biotechnology
      (pp. 125-159)

      It is an ocean of maize extending in all directions. The maize leaves curl in the dry afternoon heat. The rains are late, the rains are scarce . . . again. The climate is changing. Teresa looks out at her field and plans her next move. “Where can I get maize that will produce a good harvest in a shorter time, that will help me cope with the changing rains, which come late and leave early?” Teresa Gonzalez is a farmer in Oaxaca, Mexico. She began managing her family’s farm, along with working in the fields and preparing food, when...

    • SIX Managing Agricultural Ecosystems: The Critical Role of Diversity
      (pp. 160-182)

      In rural Durango, in north-central Mexico, a colleague and I were being shown gardens in a rural area near the capital city, escorted by a small group of urban women, wives of agronomists working for the government (Cleveland 1986a). These gardens were being promoted by a federal agency, overseen by the women from the city, who took us to several project gardens consisting of neat rows of onions, lettuce, carrots, beets, zucchini, strawberries, and cucumbers inside the walled yard of the local health clinic (fig. 6.1). The seeds that had been planted were mostly of U.S. varieties and the use...

    • SEVEN Managing People: The Common Property Option
      (pp. 183-204)

      The Zorse chief’s wife was renowned as the best brewer of sorghum beer in the village. So after a long, hot day of biking between house compounds in the middle of the dry season, my research assistants and I headed to the chief’s house for a calabash of her delicious dam. When we arrived, we found the shaded area under the sok filled with the male village elders talking animatedly, with lots of onlookers on the fringes. It appeared that the elders were interviewing someone from outside the village—a man was at the center of the group, speaking in...

    • EIGHT The Big Solutions: Climate Change, Resource Cycles, and Diet
      (pp. 205-232)

      Imagine the world twenty to thirty years in the future. How old will you be? How old will your children be? Will it be a world where humans have cooperated to reverse global warming? Will we have decided to pursue prosperity decoupled from increasing consumption? Will we have learned how to share resources so that everyone has the necessities of life and the opportunity for happiness? Or will it be a world of extreme weather where the former homes of many millions of people are under the ocean, where human society and the environment have changed irrevocably and for the...

    • NINE The Big Solutions: Localizing Agrifood Systems
      (pp. 233-254)

      You are in the produce section of your grocery store, you want to buy carrots, and you have a choice. There are two bins of carrots, the carrots in each bin look the same and are the same price, but there are different signs in front of each bin. One sign reads “Just harvested, delicious carrots, locally grown within 40 km of this store”; the other says simply “Fresh, delicious carrots.” Which do you choose? Do you choose the “locally grown” carrots and feel good about it? Why? What are your conscious and unconscious assumptions about what “locally grown” means?...

  10. APPENDIX ONE Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Symbols
    (pp. 255-257)
  11. APPENDIX TWO Metric Units and Metric-English Unit Conversions
    (pp. 258-260)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 261-270)
    (pp. 271-312)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 313-320)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-322)