By Joern Fischer
Thanks to a tweet by Victor Galaz, I came across a new TED talk by Jon Foley. I have tremendous respect for him. He published two landmark papers: in 2005, on “human consequences of land use“, and in 2011 on “solutions for a cultivated planet“. I was very impressed by his talk, because unlike so many other leading scientists, he very explicitly tries to de-polarise opinions. I still think he emphasises certain things over others; so dietary change doesn’t get much of a mention, and equity in food distribution (I think) gets no mention at all. He (mostly implicitly) seems takes as given that we must double (or triple) food production to keep up with growing demand. Interestingly, also, he talks about the need for closing yield gaps, with special reference to Eastern Europe — because it has major yield gaps. I can’t help but think that the yield gap story is a big fallacy, that somehow we can get a free lunch: more production at no environmental cost. This may work in some cases, but in Transylvania at least, I feel closing yield gaps will mean getting rid of “excess” biodiversity … Tibi and I responded to Foley’s original paper here.
Anyway, it’s easier to criticise than to present a great talk: and this is a great talk, I think, from one of the leading thinkers (and doers) on this front.
The original TED talk is here: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_foley_the_other_inconvenient_truth.html
Or just watch it here: