“We’re all here today because of soil. Everything depends on it yet we treat it like dirt.”
This was George Monbiot, the highly respected and educated writer on global environmental issues, speaking today during the RSA online event: feeding the world, saving the planet.
Talking about his new book Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet, Monbiot said a “radically different food system” is needed to pull it back from the brink of collapse.
“Farming is trashing the planet. It’s the leading cause of climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and even air pollution,” he said. “We need to take a large amount of food production out of farming because the current system is a car crash.”
No longer using animal farming to produce fat and protein, he says, is key to doing this.
“We can produce fat and protein with precision fermentation and move it out of the farming system and into the factory. This is really simple technology, it’s brewing, having microbes multiplying in vats. It just needs electricity, water and some nutrients.”
And these proteins and lipids can be used to “make an unimaginable range of foods, not just meat and dairy substitutes” Monbiot says.
“It would also allow large tracts of land to rewild so they can capture and sequester carbon that has already been released into the atmosphere. Because we must draw it down – and ecological restoration is the cheapest option.”
There are more than 811 million people currently going hungry and the numbers have been increasing since 2015. The war in Ukraine and heat waves in India and Pakistan are factors pushing food systems in the same direction the financial systems were headed in 2008.
There is a desperate need right now for coordinated action to deliver systemic change that can avert disaster on a monumental scale. Which is why big ideas like those in Regenisis need to be explored by those with the power to deliver transformative change.
Catch up with today’s show for more from George Monbiot.