Oct 23, 2019
Taken from JRE #1368 w/Edward Snowden: https://youtu.be/efs3QRr8LWw
Oct 23, 2019
Taken from JRE #1368 w/Edward Snowden: https://youtu.be/efs3QRr8LWw
Compared to other wealthy countries, America stands out as a gluttonous over-consumer of both food and fuel. The United States boasts an obesity prevalence double the industrial world average, and per capita carbon emissions twice the average for Europe. Still worse, the policy steps taken by America in response to obesity and climate change have so far been the weakest in the industrial world. These aspects of America’s exceptionalism are nothing to be proud of.
Is it possible that America is hard-wired to consume too much food and fuel? Unfortunately, yes, says Robert Paarlberg in The United States of Excess. America’s excess is driven in each case by its distinct endowment of material and demographic resources, its unusually weak national political institutions, and a unique political culture that celebrates both individual freedoms over social responsibility, and free markets over governmental authority. America’s over-consumption is shown to be over-determined.
Because of these powerful underlying circumstances, America’s strongest policy response, both to climate change and obesity, will be adaptation rather than mitigation. As the damaging consequences of climate change become manifest, America will not impose adequate measures to reduce fossil fuel consumption, attempting instead to protect itself from storms and sea-level rise through costly infrastructure upgrades. In response to the damaging health consequences of obesity, America will opt for medical interventions and physical accommodations, rather than the policy measures that would be needed to induce better diets or more exercise.
These adaptation responses will generate serious equity problems, both at home and abroad. Responding to obesity with medical interventions will fall short for those in America most prone to obesity – racial minorities and the poor – since these groups have never enjoyed adequate access to quality health care. Responding to climate change by building more resilient infrastructures at home, while allowing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to continue their increase, will impose greater climate disruption on poor tropical countries, which are far less capable of self-protection. Awareness of these inequities must be the starting point toward altering America’s current path.
“Kudos to Robert Paarlberg for his shrewd, creative, and readable analysis of the political and cultural forces that had made it so difficult to meet the parallel challenges of climate change and the obesity epidemic.”–Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
“This book is vintage Paarlberg: extensive research, elegant writing, and fresh thinking that goes against the grain. This is also probably the most significant book yet from his distinguished career. I hope his pessimistic analysis proves to be wrong, but proving that will be a tall order. In any case, we cannot afford to ignore it. The two phenomena he treats together so insightfully are vital for America and the world.”–John S. Odell, University of Southern California, and author of egotiating the World Economy
“Professor Paarlberg provides a sobering analysis of the utter failure of America as a nation to deal with the twin challenges of climate change and epidemic obesity. Whether or not one agrees with his conclusions regarding the appropriate combination of prevention and adaption, anyone seeking to address these challenges will benefit from his description of the uniquely American combination of geographical, political, and cultural barriers to action.”–Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
“Americans consume far too much food and fuel–more than others do. Paarlberg here explores the deep-seated attributes of American circumstances, institutions, and culture that lead to this high consumption and make it so difficult to change, despite its costs at home and abroad. In Paarlberg’s hands food and fuel illuminate brilliantly some negative aspects of American exceptionalism.”–Richard N. Cooper, Boas Professor of International Economics, Harvard University
“A creative assessment of the inability or unwillingness of the United States to address pressing environmental issues. By considering the overconsumption of both fuel and food in the United States, Paarlberg is able to show how these two mostly unconnected issues spring from similar aspects of American demographics and political culture.”–Elizabeth R. Desombre, author of omestic Sources of International Environmental Policy
Robert Paarlberg is a Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He has been a member of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Research Council and a consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Heading upcountry in Africa to visit small farms is absolutely exhilarating given the dramatic beauty of big skies, red soil, and arid vistas, but eventually the two-lane tarmac narrows to rutted dirt, and the journey must continue on foot. The farmers you eventually meet are mostly women, hardworking but visibly poor. They have no improved seeds, no chemical fertilizers, no irrigation, and with their meager crops they earn less than a dollar a day. Many are malnourished.
Nearly two-thirds of Africans are employed in agriculture, yet on a per-capita basis they produce roughly 20 percent less than they did in 1970. Although modern agricultural science was the key to reducing rural poverty in Asia, modern farm science―including biotechnology―has recently been kept out of Africa.
In Starved for Science Robert Paarlberg explains why poor African farmers are denied access to productive technologies, particularly genetically engineered seeds with improved resistance to insects and drought. He traces this obstacle to the current opposition to farm science in prosperous countries. Having embraced agricultural science to become well-fed themselves, those in wealthy countries are now instructing Africans―on the most dubious grounds―not to do the same.
In a book sure to generate intense debate, Paarlberg details how this cultural turn against agricultural science among affluent societies is now being exported, inappropriately, to Africa. Those who are opposed to the use of agricultural technologies are telling African farmers that, in effect, it would be just as well for them to remain poor.
“Except for South Africa, no African state has legalized the planting of GMOs for production and consumption. While citizens of rich countries have the luxury of deciding what kinds of foods–organic, nonorganic, GMO, non-GMO–to eat, droughts and insect infestations continue to wipe out crops, and rural African children die because they have no choices. Bringing another perspective to the GMO debate [is] Paarlberg’s provocative argument.”―Joshua Lambert, Library Journal
“Condoning the cultivation of genetically modified crops for food is not, Robert Paarlberg concedes, likely to win him friends in academic circles…But in this timely book, Paarlberg, a political scientist, makes a strong argument: Europeans, who have so much food they do not need the help of science to make more, are pushing their prejudices on Africa, which still relies on foreign aid to feed its people. He calls on global policymakers to renew investment in agricultural science and to stop imposing visions of “organic food purity” on a continent that has never had a green revolution. As governments look for ways of tackling what is now commonly called a “global food crisis” with unprecedented price increases in basic foodstuffs, this book offers welcome food for thought.”―Jenny Wiggins, Financial Times
“[An] illuminating book on the state of science and agriculture in Africa…[It] has much of merit.”―Jules Pretty, Times Higher Education Supplement
“[This] book ends with an alternative perspective on globalization that will inspire open-minded skeptics to rethink the matter…[Paarlberg is] a pragmatic believer in separating babies from bathwater. The fact that current applications of GM technology primarily benefit a handful of corporations does not deter Paarlberg from envisioning a scenario in which nonprofits and private African corporations might employ GM technology to serve the increasingly dire needs of African farmers…An insightful book that deftly balances the benefits and drawbacks of globalization, all within parameters conforming to the real world, the one in which we live…A clarion call for corporations and NGOs alike to revisit issues that have been ideologically polarized rather than rationally examined.”―James E. McWilliams, Texas Observer
“This is an important book…Paarlberg has written extensively about smallholder agricultural development and genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa. Here he goes much deeper than just the GM debate to suggest that the anti-GM arguments are part of the currently fashionable trend in many international institutions such as the World Bank and leading NGOs to push organic agriculture and a European-style regulatory system in Africa–instead of promoting increased production…The author says that although well-intentioned, and perhaps appropriate in countries which have already experienced major scientific advances in agriculture, including India, China, and Brazil, these policies are leading to food shortages and agricultural disasters in Africa. Well argued and documented, if controversial.”―C. W. Hartwig, Choice
Robert Paarlberg is Betty F. Johnson Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College.
Norman Borlaug is Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
Jimmy Carter is former President of the United States. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
The Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests (OCTF), based in the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI), was established in 2008 with funding from the Oxford Martin School (formerly the James Martin 21st Century School). It is led by Professor Yadvinder Malhi, and incorporates a network of organisations, including charities, private businesses and public sector organisations, as well as various Oxford University research groups.
Tropical forests are perhaps the greatest treasures of life on Earth, housing half of all biodiversity, much of which has yet to be observed or described. The OCTF brings together Oxford’s vast intellectual capital and expertise on practical issues in this area, with the aim of fostering links between all those interested in the past, present and future of tropical forests.
OCTF general membership includes all interested individuals and organizations available to attend OCTF events. Members currently include NGOs, private sector members, university members and public sector organizations, all in and around Oxford. Read more about our Member Organisations.
The Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests is a member of the Oxford Martin School, an interdisciplinary research initiative at Oxford University tackling the challenges of the 21st century. For further information, please see: www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk
Before Columbus’s fateful voyage in 1492, no European had ever seen, much less tasted, tobacco or chocolate. Initially dismissed as dry leaves and an odd Indian drink, these two commodities came to conquer Europe on a scale unsurpassed by any other American resource or product. A fascinating story of contact, exploration, and exchange in the Atlantic world, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures traces the ways in which these two goods of the Americas both changed and were changed by Europe.
Focusing on the Spanish Empire, Marcy Norton investigates how tobacco and chocolate became material and symbolic links to the pre-Hispanic past for colonized Indians and colonizing Europeans alike. Botanical ambassadors of the American continent, they also profoundly affected Europe. Tobacco, once condemned as proof of Indian diabolism, became the constant companion of clergymen and the single largest source of state revenue in Spain. Before coffee or tea became popular in Europe, chocolate was the drink that energized the fatigued and uplifted the depressed. However, no one could quite forget the pagan past of tobacco and chocolate, despite their apparent Europeanization: physicians relied on Mesoamerican medical systems for their understanding of tobacco; theologians looked to Aztec precedent to decide whether chocolate drinking violated Lenten fasts.
The struggle of scientists, theologians, and aficionados alike to reconcile notions of European superiority with the fact of American influence shaped key modern developments ranging from natural history to secularization. Norton considers the material, social, and cultural interaction between Europe and the Americas with historical depth and insight that goes beyond the portrayal of Columbian exchange simply as a matter of exploitation, infection, and conquest.
“Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures shows how the exchange between alien civilizations prefigured a revolution in taste that was both genuinely global and largely independent of the power dynamics of colonialism…. Norton creatively uses a wide range of sources, from Mayan artwork to early modern medical manuals to Inquisition records, to show how two frequently consumed substances were integrated into European consciousness and diet.”
A bold, science-based corrective to the groundswell of misinformation about food and how it’s produced, examining in detail local and organic food, food companies, nutrition labeling, ethical treatment of animals, environmental impact, and every other aspect from farm to table
Consumers want to know more about their food–including the farm from which it came, the chemicals used in its production, its nutritional value, how the animals were treated, and the costs to the environment. They are being told that buying organic foods, unprocessed and sourced from small local farms, is the most healthful and sustainable option. Now, Robert Paarlberg reviews the evidence and finds abundant reason to disagree. He delineates the ways in which global food markets have in fact improved our diet, and how “industrial” farming has recently turned green, thanks to GPS-guided precision methods that cut energy use and chemical pollution. He makes clear that America’s serious obesity crisis does not come from farms, or from food deserts, but instead from “food swamps” created by food companies, retailers, and restaurant chains. And he explains how, though animal welfare is lagging behind, progress can be made through continued advocacy, more progressive regulations, and perhaps plant-based imitation meat. He finds solutions that can make sense for farmers and consumers alike and provides a road map through the rapidly changing worlds of food and farming, laying out a practical path to bring the two together.
“Chapter by chapter, Resetting the Table demolishes the preconceived beliefs of smart eaters raised on progressive, post-1960s culinary social movements . . . Through a mix of history, science and reportage, [Paarlberg] makes a convincing case . . . Resetting the Table is sure to be controversial, and should be widely read and debated.”—Rien Fertel, The Wall Street Journal
“Paarlberg pushes back against fashionable trends touted by the likes of Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, arguing that locavore and pre-industrial practices require a lot of dough, and won’t work for society writ-large . . . A compelling take for anyone interested in food and its future.”—Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe
“Broadly and deeply informed. . . All in all, an almost indispensable guide to our food system—and how to make that system work better.”—Alan Moores, Booklist (starred review)
“A clear-eyed look at the present and future of food production . . . Paarlberg places the blame for our current epidemic of obesity and diet-related health problems firmly on the shoulders of food manufacturing, grocery stores, and restaurants for their promotion of unhealthy food. He concludes that commercial farmers did not bring on the food crisis, but they can help to address it by breaking political ranks and siding with progressive attempts to improve dietary health . . . A book that will be of interest to everyone who is concerned about the health effects of food.”—Rachel Owens, Library Journal
“A perceptive analysis of America’s food system. Paarlberg levels a well-informed, evidence-based critique of a broad swath of players in food production and consumption . . . A cogent, revealing look at the future of food.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Astute . . . Environmentally conscience readers will find much food for thought in this informative narrative.”—Publishers Weekly
“A terrific book. Robert Paarlberg makes clear that if crops don’t come in, little else matters. Resetting the Table shows
how the whole world can be fed without environmental harm, and that’s worth listening to. This book accomplishes what is so rare in contemporary writing—being urgent yet reasonable at the same time.”—Gregg Easterbrook, author of It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear
“On a topic all too often subjected to wild claims, emotional argument and rejection of evidence in favor of prejudice, Robert Paarlberg brings welcome good sense, a wealth of facts and an eloquent use of language. His suggestions for how to improve our systems of food production, while benefiting the environment, are vitally important.”—Matt Ridley, author of How Innovation Works
“Drawing on a lifetime of global experiences in agriculture and food systems, Paarlberg challenges the concepts of organic, local, and small-scale as the solutions to feeding the world’s population a healthy and sustainable diet. Does the science-based, technology-driven plate he offers provide a path to this goal? Anyone seriously interested in this existential issue should get this highly readable and thoughtful book.”—Walter Willett, author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy
“Robert Paarlberg’s Resetting the Table is a fresh, deeply researched and courageous study of the unprecedented challenge of ensuring a healthful diet in an era of super-abundant food. Paarlberg demolishes currently-popular solutions such as local, organic, and micro-scale enterprises, while taking on commercial farmers, food companies and supermarkets for turning a blind eye to problems in the food supply. In doing so, he provides much needed context for all those concerned to bring the food system into line with human needs.”—Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History
“Resetting the Table is gutsy, objective, and beautifully written. Paarlberg advocates ‘ecomodern’—sensible—farming practices that benefit farmers, the environment, animals, and consumers. In the process he skewers some widespread, but fallacious, criticisms of America’s food system. This book is must reading for anyone seeking to understand controversies over food and farming.”—Michael F. Jacobson, co-founder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
“In Resetting the Table, Robert Paarlberg fact checks the most central myths of the modern food movement. Paarlberg’s firm grasp on the realities of modern agriculture lend credence to his insights on how we might take meaningful steps toward solving our dietary and environmental ills. He argues that food policy, rather than farm policy, should serve as the focal point of action. In doing so, he offers valuable straight talk to commercial farmers and highlights the critical importance of continued innovation and entrepreneurship in agricultural production. This is a must read book for anyone interested in understanding where their food comes from and the policies that affect how we eat.” —Jayson Lusk, Distinguished Professor and Head, Agricultural Economics Department, Purdue University
“Dr. Paarlberg cogently argues for the potential power and benefits of science in farming—while aptly wondering if we can trust ourselves to use this power responsibly. He neatly clarifies some popular misconceptions—detailing, for example, how U.S. agricultural policy often raises, rather than lowers, prices of subsided U.S. crops—while highlighting largely unrecognized and damaging cultural divides, such as that between commercial farmers and consumers. And, he calls for America’s commercial farmers to help bridge that gap by joining the advocacy movement for better nutrition and health.”—Dariush Mozaffarian, Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition and Medicine, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Tufts University
ROBERT PAARLBERG is adjunct professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and an associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center. He has been a member of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Research Council, a member of the Board of Directors at Winrock International, and a consultant to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is the author of Starved for Science, Food Politics, and The United States of Excess. He lives in Massachusetts.
* * *
Published:17 February 2021https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.201204
This account describes the context, history and outcomes of a series of studies into the ecology of slash-and-burn (S-B) agriculture in the world’s humid tropics. These studies, which began in the mid-1980s, identified promising lines of research and continued to field trials, in Central America, of candidate agricultural systems as possible sustainable alternatives to the practice. The only system to emerge from 7 years’ comparative trial with any promise of sustainability, in this context, was the agroforestry technique known as alley-cropping; but only with trees of the genus Inga. Inga alley-cropping then underwent field trials with subsistence farming families in northern Honduras. The system was aimed at the twin objectives of achieving food security in basic grains, on minimal inputs, and of providing the means of eliminating further S-B in the region. Since then, Inga alley-cropping has become the heart of a sustainable and integrated rural livelihood model (the Guama Model) which is being implemented successfully in northern Honduras with some 300 families. These families had been attempting to subsist on a few hectares of land degraded by decades or centuries of S-B. The development of Inga alley-cropping, supplemented by rock phosphate and other mineral supplements, as a sustainable subsistence and cash crop alternative means that land previously being held in reserve for subsequent S-B operations can now be planted to permanent forms of agroforestry. Entire landscapes can be re-greened by productive agroforest vegetation. Achieving this at scale will require the investment of huge extension effort and funds. However, the environmental, social and economic returns are also huge; and they are sustainable. In this programme,we are seeing the vitality and goodwill of hundreds of families focussed on the raising, planting and management of trees in ways that feed the living organisms of the soil and, hence, feed themselves. In so cheerfully planting out their own futures, they plant and reshape the future of their own country. Replicating this at scale, as Rattan Lal outlines below, could reshape the future of this planet. In the mid-1980s, progress on sustainable alternatives to S-B, especially in rain forests, was frustrated by a lack of conclusiveness in the literature as to why soil fertility fails so rapidly post-burn; but also by a degree of contradiction on the impacts of the burn on certain plant nutrients. Hands (Hands 1988 The ecology of shifting cultivation. MSc thesis, University of Cambridge) concentrated on the role of soil phosphorus and attempted to resolve these contradictions. The Cambridge Alley-cropping Projects (1988–2002) continued this theme and threw light on the question of sustainable food production in rain forest environments.
Michael Hands, “The search for a sustainable alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture in the World’s rain forests: the Guama Model and its implementation,” Royal Society Open ScienceVolume 8, Issue 2
Published:17 February 2021 https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.201204
“To offer leading research partnership that facilitates agricultural solutions to hunger, poverty, and natural resource degradation throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”
IITA’s mission is to assure food security for some of the world’s poorest people and provide them with viable strategies that create real, long-term results for economic development and community stability, while building an ecologically sound future that takes into account the issues of climate change. At IITA, we are dedicated to alleviating these problems and working to transform agriculture in Africa.
“The lead research partner facilitating agricultural solutions to overcome hunger and poverty in the tropics.”
IITA sees a bright future for Africa. We see a continent that can become a world leader in agriculture and sustainability. We understand that Africa needs a proactive CGIAR-supported Center that is closely linked to the demands of this continent. Our core beliefs and strategy reflect this.
In line with the new CGIAR, IITA is focused on four System-Level Outcomes described in the Strategic Results Framework.
IITA will advance these System Level Outcomes within five impact zones in sub-Saharan Africa by increasing major staple food yields in target R4D regions by two-thirds. Focusing on cassava, yam, maize, banana and plantain, soybean, and cowpea is the fastest and easiest way to impact farmers and increase the average farm income by half. As rural, farming communities in Africa are among the poorest in the world, these increases will lift over 11 million Africans or almost a fifth of households above the poverty line. Our vision of the future sees the region’s farms commit to restoring natural resources and sustainable farming practices for seven and a half million hectares of degraded farmlands, conserving them for future generations of farmers and food producers.
Looking to 2020 and beyond
IITA operates through decentralized but integrated regional research programs, each working on major agricultural constraints in Africa. We concentrate on crops, farming systems, and maintaining the natural resource base within a flourishing socioeconomic environment. Through the CGIAR Research Programs we will foster innovative partnerships and outscale the technologies developed in sub-Saharan Africa by IITA to the rest of the global tropics. Through a doubling of the current human and financial resources by 2020, we aim to substantially narrow yield gaps of key crops in several African countries in a sustainable manner. We are confident in our ability to deliver on these goals and make a real difference to the people of Africa.
Slash and burn farming is rapidly destroying the world’s remaining rainforests and sending vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Yet for more than 250 million farmers across the world, it is the only way they can survive. Through implementing Inga Alley Cropping – the sustainable alternative to slash and burn – we can change this. By supporting farmers to take up this technique, the Inga Foundation gives them the ability to feed their families and improve their livelihoods, whilst keeping the rainforest and it’s rich biodiversity intact.