How to feed 9 billion people without destroying the planet

Sustainability involves seeing the whole system, understanding how things interact, and then finding leverage points that make everything better.

Our food system interacts with land use decisions, water availability and climate change. It’s also driven by diet, population growth and pesticides. And despite the face we waste an enormous amount of food, people are still going hungry.

What is needed are strategies for managing land-use and food systems together. These would consider links between agriculture, water, pollution, biodiversity, diets and greenhouse-gas emissions. Each sector and country can tailor solutions. But global coordination, learning and knowledge-sharing will also be necessary to ensure that the net result is sustainable and resilient, and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

FABLE Pathways Consortium has developed a model for getting our arms around this complex system and make better decisions.

Countries should take into account competing demands for land, including urban sprawl, industry and infrastructure development. And they should examine the impacts of international trade and global supply chains on their own resources. The aim is to find integrated strategies that are balanced across the three pillars. For example, intensifying cattle ranching in Brazil would reduce deforestation locally and internationally, while mitigating global greenhouse-gas emissions7.