To feed ten billion people will require an agricultural and food revolution.

By 2050, there will be 10.6 billion of us on Earth. If the current dominant agricultural model persists, the planet will not be able to withstand the shock. From now on, it will be imperative for people on Earth to change their food system: a shift towards plant-based diets, a drastic reduction in food losses and waste, and above all, a revolution in agricultural practices and technologies. For contrary to what proponents of intensive agriculture suggest, sustainable models such as agribusiness can perfectly feed everyone on Earth.
Il y a presque quatre ans, des chercheurs de l’université d’Oxford publiaient une study that caused a sensation. Professor Marco Springmann and his colleagues had constructed a global model of the food system, including the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding the world's population. Using this model and estimates of current and future food demand, the authors had quantified the environmental impacts of food in 2010 and 2050 in five areas: greenhouse gas emissions related to climate change; agricultural land use related to changes in earth systems; extraction of freshwater resources; and fertilizer use in agriculture.

READ UP : Feeding ten billion people by 2050: Will the planet be able to withstand such a shock?

Global Borders

Leurs investigations aboutirent à un diagnostic glaçant : si aucune mesure n’est prise pour contrer les changements prévus dans la population mondiale et l’occidentalisation des régimes alimentaires, les impacts environnementaux du système alimentaire pourraient augmenter de 50 à 90 % d’ici 2050. « The global food system has fundamentally altered our planet and the resources on which humanity depends. "says Marco Springmann. « Food production is responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions and is therefore a major driver of climate change, he continued. Agriculture occupies more than a third of the Earth's land surface and has led to a reduction in forest cover and loss of biodiversity. Agriculture also uses more than two thirds of all freshwater resources, and over-application of fertilizers in some areas has created dead zones in the oceans. "
In this study, the authors had the merit of highlighting how food production and consumption affect the Earth's "planetary frontiers", the "global frontiers" of the Earth. key planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humankind, beyond which the Earth's vital ecosystems could become unstable ".
Dans les écosystèmes vitaux de la planète, ces « frontières planétaires », les sols jouent un rôle majeur. Or un bon tiers de la couche arable de la planète est déjà gravement dégradée et perdue en raison de l’intensification de l’agriculture. Si les taux actuels d’épuisement se maintiennent – 25 milliards de tonnes de sol par an – l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture estime que les sols de surface disparaîtront d’ici 60 ans avec des coûts économiques énormes et une menace d’insécurité alimentaire pour des milliards de personnes. Pour un spécialiste de la question, Peter Horton, conseiller en recherche du Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom." This is a potential global catastrophe... ». Technological solutions to reduce the environmental impact of food production must include soil conservation and regeneration. For a long time, many voices - such as that of Vandana Shiva - are heard to alert: " Soil, not oil, is the future of mankind. ». What we do on the ground, we do to ourselves. And it is no coincidence that the words "humus" and "human" have the same etymological root.

Changes and resistance

Pour éviter de franchir allègrement nos frontières planétaires et affamer une immense partie de la population humaine, les auteurs de l’étude d’Oxford appellent à combiner plusieurs mesures pour atténuer suffisamment la pression sur l’environnement. Trois changement clés doivent être mis en œuvre ; ils concernent notre modèle alimentaire —manger plus de plantes et less meat-, then our attention to the waste -we will have to halve our food waste if we want to stay within the planet's environmental limits - and last but not least, implement a real revolution in our agricultural practices.  
Or c’est sur ce dernier point que la révolution se heurte aux plus grandes résistances. Les écosystèmes aménagés par les agriculteurs devront viser le plus possible la prise en compte des milieux domestiqués dans toute leur complexité. Une approche systémique envisageant à la fois les interactions entre les végétaux, les hommes et les animaux, d’une part, mais aussi entre les facteurs biologiques, physiques et climatiques, d’autre part. Ce qu’ignore pour une large part l’agriculture intensive qui grignote toujours plus de forêts et d’espaces naturels, qui vise le rendement à l’hectare en ignorant la valeur ajoutée à l’hectare ; celle qui résulte de la différence entre ce que l’on produit et ce que l’on détruit. L’agriculture intensive produit beaucoup mais en détruisant beaucoup aussi en employant des produits chimiques et des carburants fossiles. Les tenants de cette agriculture ont un argument massue pour justifier leurs pratiques : elles sont indispensables pour nourrir suffisamment les humains qui peuplent notre Terre.

We can amply feed 10 billion people

Un argument contre lequel s’insurge Marc Dufumier. Professeur d’agronomie, ancien titulaire de la chaire d’agriculture comparée et de développement agricole à AgroParisTech, il vient de publier chez Actes Sud un petit livre singulièrement inspirant : Agroecology can save us. There's no doubt in his mind, " 10 billion people can be largely fed with intelligent and sustainable agriculture. ». In a interview in Le Monde, he said, " It is perfectly possible to feed the whole of humanity properly and sustainably. If today 820 million people are hungry, and one billion suffer from food deficiencies, it has nothing to do with a lack of food, but with income disparities. These are poor people who are unable to buy the food that exists. To feed a person properly, you need about 200 kilograms of grain (or equivalent) a year. World production is about 330 kilos today. Look for the mistake... "
Many of the solutions needed to start this revolution are already being implemented in some parts of the world. However, scaling them up globally will not be an easy task, as their effectiveness will depend on strong coordination and rapid scaling up, not just in the richer countries. The necessary changes will have to involve above all a real revolution in behaviour and habits. Awareness of the impact of food on the planet will have to be raised from a very early age and encourage industrialists to review their supply and communication. « Feeding oneself is a political act " say the philosopher Corinne Pelluchon. There is no longer any doubt that it is through pressure from citizens that such a change can be initiated.


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2 années

Cette révolution des pratiques agricoles passe par une révolution épistémologique de la manière de penser et calculer le succès agricole, et par un repeuplement paysan pour une agriculture moins automatisée. Seuls les flux de migrants du Sud pourront fournir au Nord de quoi faire de l’agro-écologie. On n’en parle pas encore car c’est un sujet à rebrousse poil de la tendance actuelle à la haine de l’immigration, mais il n’y aura pas de permaculture possible sans un afflux de mains pour la développer.

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