. "5 How Will We Sustainably Feed Everyone in the Coming Decade and Beyond?." Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2010.
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Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences
FIGURE 5.2 Smallhold farm family on break in southern Mali. The pictured field has a mix of crops (sorghum and cowpeas) and trees (shea nut or Butyrospermum parkii), an illustration of the polycropping strategies. SOURCE: William Moseley, used with permission.
Sachs, 2006; Annan, 2007). Others saw green revolution approaches to solving the world’s food problems as flawed because of associated environmental and social consequences (Yapa, 1996; Das, 2001; Carney, 2008). Better understanding of the issues relevant to this debate is critical to addressing the challenge of how to sustainably feed a growing population.
ROLE OF THE GEOGRAPHICAL SCIENCES
Geographical scientists studying food production and consumption take an approach that is distinctive in several ways.2 First, they examine food production and consumption as a form of human–environmental interaction, an approach distinguished by its treatment of both the social and biophysical sides of this coupled dynamic and by the use of the suite of systems that facilitate the acquisition, storage, and analysis of geographical information discussed in Part I. The interdisciplinary subfield of land-change science has been at the forefront of this effort over the past decade (Gutman et al., 2004; Lambin and Geist, 2006; Turner et al., 2007; Turner and Robbins, 2008). Studies of indigenous or traditional agricultural systems (e.g., Grossman, 1981; Richards, 1985; Bebbington, 1991; Grigg, 1995; Mortimore and Adams, 2001) have advanced understanding of farming in the tropics by, for example, documenting the know-how and techniques of smallhold farmers who often used mixed or poly-cropping strategies that capitalize on agroecological relationships (between crops, crops and trees, and crops and insects; Figure 5.2). These indigenous approaches, once considered backward and primitive, are now acknowledged to be more efficient from an energy input-output standpoint under most circumstances (Bayliss-Smith, 1982; Pimentel et al., 2002) and have inspired new strategies within the organic farming movement that are celebrated in such popular works as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) or Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007).
This same geographical approach could be applied to address sustainability questions in other resource (water, energy, mineral, biological) systems.