Food or War: Alarming take on future of humanity

Book review: Julian Cribb offers some unrealistic solutions to world’s greatest threat

 Julian Cribb sees a bleak food future of forced migration, hunger, and resource conflicts. Photograph:  Corinne Dufka/Reuters

Julian Cribb sees a bleak food future of forced migration, hunger, and resource conflicts. Photograph: Corinne Dufka/Reuters

“The most destructive object on the planet,” writes Julian Cribb in this alarming assessment of our food future, is “the human jawbone. It is presently devouring the Earth – and that is not a wise strategy for our long-term survival”. Our rapacious desire to consume has caused wars, built empires, permanently changed the Earth’s ecosystem, and is now pushing humanity towards a cliff edge. Climate change, environmental degradation, unsustainable growth, and industrialised agriculture are part of a toxic cocktail that means “the world faces the greatest threat to global food supply in all of human history”. With the Earth’s ecosystem creaking under the weight of exploitation, Cribb sees a bleak food future of forced migration, hunger, and resource conflicts. “For thousands of years,” he warns, “famine and conflict have united in the human mind and destiny. And they will rule its future.”

An Australian science journalist and writer, Cribb’s work has often been apocalyptic, with previous books The Coming Famine, Poisoned Planet, and Surviving the 21st Century offering similarly horrifying assessments of the near future. But as the images of hellish inferno rising from Australia show us, we are past being able to ignore warnings that seem, at first, alarmist. Indeed, while Cribb’s conclusions are often too extreme (and his solutions unrealistic), he highlights crises being ignored, catastrophes going unaddressed, and problems that demand our attention before it is too late. Here his attention is on our most basic need, the very foundation of society itself. Our food system, he argues, “has never been more vulnerable or at greater risk of compound failure”.

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