By Joern Fischer
Today I gave my own talk at the conference discussed in the previous few blog posts. Some of the conference had been a little less radical than I would have liked … and so I tried to change this a little.
The slides of my talk are posted below. My argument went like this:
- Most ecologists, including at this conference, engage with food via a production focus;
- This is problematic because more production has not solved food security problems so far;
- Moreover, setting out to “meet rising demand” is ignoring that demand is rising because of two fundamental drivers of biodiversity loss and un-sustainability — namely rising consumption expectations and increasing human population;
- Rising consumption primarily leads to obesity, not to more happiness;
- Some human population growth is inevitable, but good family planning now could still make a difference of billions by 2050;
- Focusing on cases such as rural Africa, instead of singling out the need to produce more, in many cases one could equally single out the need to have smaller families;
- Female secondary education thus could be a better measure to improve conservation and food security than producing more!
- Educated women have fewer children;
- This means education would reduce the need for food increases, and would reduce pressure on land (such as primary forest);
- Even better though would be a focus on food systems as a whole;
- Following Ostrom’s example, we could as if there are social-ecological system properties that benefit both food security and biodiversity conservation;
- Once we think about systems, it is also important that to change systems in major ways requires more than a change in some parameters;
- Changing the system goal, and questioning the paradigms underpinning the system are among the most influential ways of changing systems — according to Donella Meadows (1999);
- A rational analysis suggests that our global food systems are set up around values and paradigms that ultimately do not serve food security or biodiversity conservation;
- This means scientists need to enter uncomfortable normative territory: the values that our global systems are based on are not conducive to the system outcomes we aspire to;
- Scientists must not shy away from engaging with these issues.