This chapter looks at biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth. It underscores that biodiversity is currently being lost at an alarming rate, pointing out that extinction rates are estimated to be 100- to 1000-fold higher than natural extinction levels. The chapter also discusses the five key threats to global biodiversity: habitat fragmentation, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change, and the overexploitation of ecosystems. Then it examines how agriculture impacts other animals and plants. It describes the strategies of land sparing and land sharing, as well as the concept of rewilding. The chapter concludes with a discussion on biodiversity conservation efforts in agriculture such as agri-environmental schemes and nature-inclusive agriculture.
What are the impacts of food production on biodiversity?
Thijs Bosker, Ellen Cieraad, and Krijn Trimbos
Paul Behrens and Meredith T. Niles
This chapter discusses how the human food systems contributes to climate change and some solutions to reduce its impact. The discussion starts with an explanation of the climate processes, reviewing the concepts of the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle, and the global warming potential. Then it looks at how humans are impacting these processes, resulting in anthropogenic climate change. The chapter explains that the presence of extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in the trapping of more energy (in the form of heat) in the Earth's different systems, predominantly the oceans and the atmosphere. This, in turn, results in changes in our climate, including more extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and fires. Furthermore, the chapter presents case studies to show how complicated some food choices are. Lastly, it tackles how climate change will impact food systems as the environment changes.
How do collective action problems hinder the transition to sustainable food systems?
David Ehrhardt, Thijs Bosker, and Caroline Archambault
This chapter discusses how collective action problems hinder the transition to sustainable food systems. It explains the concept of competing incentives, cost-benefit analysis, and bounded rationality. It also differentiates between private goods, club goods, public goods, and common goods. This classification of goods is used as an important piece in the puzzle of collective action problems in food sustainability. The chapter introduces the tragedy of the commons, which describes the general human tendency to abuse non-excludable goods and presents different social-scientific models to explain it: the discrepancy between individual costs and collective benefits, the problem of free-riding, and the model of the prisoner's dilemma. Furthermore, the discussion covers Ostrom's eight principles for community-based natural resource management. Finally, the chapter outlines a range of institutionalist solutions to collective action problems.
How can we promote sustainable food consumption?
Walsh Bríd, Vicherat-Mattar Daniela, and David Ehrhardt
This chapter focuses on the promotion of sustainable food consumption, which promotes the consumer use of goods and services to meet needs, while minimizing the use of natural resource stocks, pollutants, and contaminants, and reducing waste and emissions throughout the entire product life cycle. The chapter highlights that the food choices of consumers are influenced by a range of determinants, such as social and cultural influences (for example, heritage attachments, status, and fashion), cost and price, and the attitude-behaviour gap. The chapter also tackles the strategies to enhance sustainable food consumption including pricing, labelling, nudging, green advertising, and system-wide reforms.
This chapter focuses on the energy system, to investigate the ways in which energy is currently used in the food system and how this use may develop in the future. It outlines the physical nature of energy and power and describes the different sources of energy. The discussion highlights that food production uses around 15–20% of the total energy produced for human needs. The discussion covers two critical issues in energy use: the improved availability of energy in poorer countries and the implementation of low-carbon technologies in all countries. Furthermore, it explains the zero-carbon energy system. The chapter also explores how food systems can be decarbonized. Finally, it looks at the role agricultural systems could play in the energy transition itself.
How can food aid effectively reduce food insecurity?
Caroline Archambault and David Ehrhardt
This chapter focuses on food aid and all voluntary transfers aimed directly at reducing the food insecurity of a particular population. It discusses the five key ways of providing food aid, which are supplementary feeding or providing in-kind food to specific populations; food stamps or providing vouchers for food to eligible populations; food-for-work or exchanging in-kind food for labour; food banks or food distribution points run by civil society organizations; and food sharing which is sharing of food or money within social networks. Furthermore, the chapter looks at the challenges to food aid efficacy such as targeting, conditionalities that serve the donors' interests, and spoiler behaviour by middlemen.
Paul Behrens, Thijs Bosker, and David Ehrhardt
Food and Sustainability is composed of three parts. It starts off with an introduction to the topic. Part I, food and the environment, looks at biodiversity, pollution, water, soils, climate change, and energy. The next part looks at food and society. Chapters in this part cover nutrition, food security, food aid, and consumption. The final part, food and governance, is about food systems, governance, and collective action, with the text concluding by summarizing and looking to the future.
Meredith T. Niles and Molly E. Brown
This chapter discusses the concepts of food security and its connection to sustainability. It looks at where food is produced, by whom it is produced, and how humans then move and use this food around the planet. The chapter first defines the expanding concept of food security, which has begun with narrower concerns of providing enough food and, more recently, encompassing social and cultural issues. The chapter also introduces the four pillars of food security: availability, access, utilization, and stability. Then the discussion explores urban agriculture as well as the use of satellite information and Internet-connected devices to improve farm management.
How are food systems organized in a globalized economy?
Peter Oosterveer and Anke Brons
This chapter looks at how food systems are organized in a globalized economy. The chapter also differentiates between mainstream food systems, which aim for economic efficiency and rely on the intensive use of technology, including machinery, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, and alternative food systems, which prioritize quality over efficiency in the food supply chain, and usually pay specific attention to certain aspects in the food chain, such as organic production processes, ethics of production, and the relationships between producer and consumer. Next, the chapter defines what sustainable food systems look like and identifies ways to measure food system sustainability. Finally, the chapter explores methods for enhancing the sustainability of food systems such as building on what works and reforming food governance.
How can food systems be governed to promote sustainability?
Gerard Breeman and David Ehrhardt
This chapter explores the politics and policymaking processes involved in the problem of food governance. The discussion emphasizes that governance is both a problem-solving process and a political process in which stakeholders use power to try to promote their own interests. It considers food governance as a wicked problem, complicated by technical complexity, multiple stakeholders, boundary conflicts, and the need for constant adaptation. The chapter outlines the policy cycle in which stakeholders negotiate and compete to promote their interests, then it looks at the goals these stakeholders have in influencing government policy and other institutions and how these shape food systems. Next, it illustrates the difficulties in governing food systems to make them more sustainable.
Can we feed the world sustainably?
Thijs Bosker, Paul Behrens, and David Ehrhardt
This chapter provides significant contexts on how the human population grew dramatically after two major evolutions: the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. It highlights that population growth among humans has required resources to be diverted from natural systems to human societies, including food, water, and energy. The chapter also explains the Holocene, a period of relative stability in the Earth's climate which enabled population growth. Furthermore, it discusses the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch associated with the global and pervasive impacts of human activities on the environment. The chapter also discusses how ecological footprints are calculated and introduces the concepts of biocapacity, resource stocks, and resource flows. Then it tackles the key environmental and societal challenges related to food production. Lastly, it looks at the role of governance in overcoming sustainability challenges.
How are diets linked to environmental impacts?
Jessica Kiefte-de Jong and Paul Behrens
This chapter explores the environmental impacts of diets. It starts by outlining the key components of diets, including macronutrients and micronutrients. Then the chapter examines malnutrition and links it to health impacts and the prevalence of major diseases around the world. Next, it looks at how diets have changed around the world in response to the alleviation of poverty and the global increase of incomes. The chapter also describes the impact of different food types on the environment, and how these may change in the future. It tackles alternative diets such as vegetarianism, veganism, and entomophagy. Lastly, the chapter outlines a case study on nationally recommended diets.
How are food systems related to environmental pollution?
Thijs Bosker and Martina G. Vijver
This chapter discusses how food systems are related to environmental pollution. It highlights that pollution from food production is often diffuse, which makes both prevention and removal difficult. It starts with a brief historical background on public perceptions of environmental pollution and relates this to a shift in environmental awareness among the general public. The chapter introduces key concepts related to environmental pollution such as xenobiotic compounds, contaminants, pollutants, bioaccumulation, and biomagnification. Underscoring that humans have been using increased quantities of agrochemicals since the Green Revolution, the chapter looks at the effects of the application of artificial fertilizers and pesticides on the environment and non-target organisms.
What are the impacts of agriculture on soils?
Paul F. Hudson, Peter Houben, and Thijs Bosker
This chapter focuses on the impacts of agriculture on soil, which is a vital natural resource for food production and provides a range of ecosystem services. About 95% of the world's food production comes from the soil while the remaining 5% comes from glass greenhouses and fisheries. The chapter describes the basic components of soil and the soil ecosystem services: provisioning, supporting, regulating, and cultural services. The discussion emphasizes that about a third of global soil resources already have been degraded by human activities, mostly due to modern agricultural practices. The chapter also tackles the key causes of soil degradation: water and wind erosion, pollution, and salinization. Furthermore, the chapter reviews how to examine a soil horizon and explores hydroponic agriculture – the growing of crops outside the soil.
A view towards the future
This chapter visits and re-emphasizes the need for a transdisciplinary approach to sustainable food production. It underscores that there are tensions between the social needs of equitable (and maximal) food security and sustainable food systems and it emphasizes that any policy on food sustainability will therefore produce winners and losers. It shows a Doughnut model for combining social and planetary boundaries, depicting social shortfalls and ecological overshoots, as well as ecologically safe and socially just space. The discussion also touches on the ethics for food sustainability, discussing the Golden Rule and its application to future generations and other species. Finally, the discussion returns to exploring projections and looks at the future challenges to be faced.
How does agriculture impact freshwater resources?
Paul F. Hudson
This chapter explores the impacts of agriculture on freshwater resources, which are essential to human sustenance and sustainable food production. It explains how freshwater is distributed and how excessive pumping of groundwater from aquifers to support irrigation drives land subsidence which in turn increases flood risk and coastal erosion. Furthermore, it discusses how humans have shaped their landscape to have access to water. The chapter also looks at how dams impact rivers and biodiversity by degrading habitat variability and the storage of large volumes of river sediment, and mentions the trend of dam removal in Europe and North America. The discussion also covers the concept of environmental flows that are embedded in modern integrated approaches to river basin management.