Media Release

04/03/2013
Eating the Earth
It’s time to get serious about food. That’s the message of author Julian Cribb, who will present a public lecture at James Cook University in Cairns this Friday (8 March).

It’s time to get serious about food. That’s the message of author Julian Cribb, who will present a public lecture at James Cook University in Cairns this Friday (8 March).

“Feeding an average human for just one day consumes 4.1 litres of diesel fuel, 29 kilos of soil and 2.2 tonnes of fresh water,” Mr Cribb said.

“When you multiply those resources by our current seven billion people, it’s obvious our food system is devouring vast resources that are increasingly hard to replace,” he said. “By mid-century, we will be struggling to feed nine billion.”

Mr Cribb is a science writer and author of The Coming Famine: the global food crisis and how we can avoid it.

“Eating is probably the largest impact each of us has on the planet – but most people are unaware of how great that impact is,” he said.

Without radical change to farming systems, cities and diet the global food system faces a series of critical tipping points in the coming half-century.

“Soil, for example, takes thousands of years to form, but we’re losing around 75 to 100 billion tonnes of topsoil each year.

“According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, half the planet is already degraded, and some scientists say we could run short of good farming soils within 50 to 70 years.”

Mr Cribb says the picture is similarly grim for water and fuel.

“Because these scarcities are operating in sync, and alongside climate shocks, we are likely to reach tipping points in the food system much more quickly and unpredictably than many people realise.

“There is still time to act – but the action must be fast. It must also be universal, as globalisation means everybody is now affected by food prices, supply and the conflicts and migratory floods that arise when the food chain fails.”

The news is not all dire. Mr Cribb sees opportunities for major new developments in food production, including aquaculture, urban agriculture, algae farming, and new ways to produce low-cost food sustainably with bio-cultures.

Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine, will present a free public lecture at James Cook University’s Crowther Theatre at 6.00pm on Friday 8 March.

The lecture is part of James Cook University’s inaugural Sustainability Symposium.

The full Symposium program is at: www-public.jcu.edu.au/sustainability/fair/index.htm

Issued March 4, 2013

Media enquiries: E. linden.woodward@jcu.edu.au T. 07 4042 1007