Sunday, September 07, 2008

The End Of Food, by Paul Roberts

Again, the title of this book is a misnomer. Instead it should really be called The Future of Food. If you were to be critical, you could say that it doesn't follow a straight narrative but is rather a patchwork of topics sewn together as a book. After some 300 pages the book does not really come up with a conclusion on the future of food, or how we should really live.

For this reader, however, I found it a fascinating look at current global food production dilemmas. Paul Roberts is an intelligent writer who is good at picking apart subjects and taking out what's of real interest and leaving the unimportant behind. I also like how he can weave together environmental, political and economic subjects to give a clear picture of how our food system works.

Roberts comes come up with some interesting facts and figures you don't usually think of. For example, he cites how the US imports around 50% of its synthetic fertilizer. This had me reeling. If true, surely its as bad as US dependence on foreign oil. Fascinating that we never hear of this.

In short, I agree 100% with Roberts' opinions and the way he looks at the world. Less and less do we know about how our food is produced these days, simply taking it for granted that food will continue to grow on supermarket shelves. But there are costs, costs, costs behind the scenes that don't involve the dollars we pay for food at the supermarket.

Also of note: one of the main thrusts of the book is the question of whether the world can continue to eat such huge amounts of meat, and whether the world has the water required to grow the grain to feed to the animals. My theory is exactly the same as Roberts': we may think that we can outfox nature with new and improved technology, but nature may well put up its own limits and simply stop continued growth due to its not being sustainable.

An intelligent book that looks at all the right angles.

By the same author:

The End Of Oil

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