The thin layer of topsoil that covers the earth’s land surface was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. Sometime within the last century, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation. Now, nearly a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming, reducing the land’s inherent fertility. Soil that was formed on a geological time scale is being lost on a human time scale.
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With falling water tables, eroding soils, and rising temperatures making it difficult to feed growing populations, control of arable land and water resources is moving to center stage in the global struggle for food security. What will the geopolitics of food look like in a new era dominated by scarcity and food nationalism? Here are a few of the many facts from Full Planet, Empty Plates.
The phrase “global food crisis” may strike us in the developed world as a bit overblown. But in his new book Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, Lester R. Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, aptly demonstrates that our current food security situation is anything but normal… and could even represent the “weak link” to maintaining the standard of living to which we’ve become accustomed.