How to feed 10 billion people on the earth sustainably? This is a question of concern for all of us. Not just politicians and the food industry should decide what we will eat in the next 50 years.
The speedy population growth puts the responsibility for a sustainable planet and economy in the hands of us, the people. Our scope to control such huge ambitions is however limited.
This is why we need to improve our confidence when it comes to the answer to the question ‘How to feed 10 billion people on Earth in a sustainable way?’
In this article we reflect on some of the rules of thumb concerning the relations between sustainability and our life expectancy, the way we shop, and how and what we eat. These rules of thumb help us to gradually expand our contribution to a more sustainable planet and economy.
Some of the links are affiliate links. As an affiliate associate, we earn a commission when you purchase any of the products offered through the shared links at no extra cost for you. This helps us maintain this website.
Table of contents
- 1 How to feed 10 billion people on the earth sustainably?
- 2 Speedy population growth
- 3 Limited scope
- 4 Confidence is the key
- 5 Lost in the available options?
- 6 Are we schizophrenic?
- 7 How to feed 10 billion people on Earth?
- 8 Sustainability and life expectancy
- 9 Shop with a sustainable conscience
- 10 Nutritional guidelines with a sustainable focus
How to feed 10 billion people on the earth sustainably?
Despite the fact that our individual capacities are limited, together we can seriously contribute to a more sustainable planet and economy. When we start, others will follow. The various rules of thumb suggested in this article will positively contribute to biodiversity and the environment, life expectancy, and a more sustainable economy.
Speedy population growth
One of the major reasons for the need for a more sustainable world is the speedy and enormous expansion of the world population. In 1951 the planet harbored 2.5 billion people, in march 2020 almost 8 billion.
Some statisticians predict that in 2050 more than 10 billion people will live on the earth. Population growth is fierce on the African continent, in South America, and in Asia.
Moreover, people are getting richer by the day in many states in these regions. They also want their share of the pie. This is a big problem because biodiversity and agriculture in these regions are already stressed.
Against this background it’s essential we make the right individual and collective choices. We eat every day. Most of us at least 3 times a day. This means that our everyday food decisions have a major impact on the sustainability of the food produced.
Given the 3 major principles of sustainability, we consider what’s best for the planet, for the people, and for the economy. However, on our own, the scope of our decisions is limited.
Our individual perception of the impact of what we eat on the planet and the economy is very limited. Moreover, age, gender, upbringing, and cultural background determine our perception and its consequences.
Sustainability: Planet, People, Profit
Confidence is the key
It’s important we have confidence in the decisions we make as consumers when it comes to the food we buy and eat. In general, we tend to trust the food decisions we make. Usually, we give these decisions little consideration.
Our behavior demonstrates how confident we are about our food. The scope of our confidence is however limited to the people component of the 3 sustainability principles.
The planet and the economic components of the sustainability of our food, get very little consideration. For example, there is a limit to the amount of extra money (the economy component) we’re prepared to pay for more sustainable food production and consumption.
Lost in the available options?
These past years it has become more and more clear that the consumption of meat has a major negative impact on the environment and the climate. We need to curb our meat consumption and raise the prices of meat, and food in general, to sustainable levels.
This is also necessary because many of us are concerned about animal welfare, environmental pollution, biodiversity, the landscape, fair trade, and labor conditions (specifically child labor).
In our eyes, these concerns compete with other very important personal goals, such as freedom of choice and self-fulfillment. How to balance all these concerns in a sustainable way, without getting lost in the available options, and serve 10 billion people on Earth with proper food?
Are we schizophrenic?
For example, it’s not easy to balance our ethical position over animal welfare with the price we pay for our everyday food. Let alone with the environmental impact of agriculture.
Governments and businesses are no great help in this. They consistently force us to separate ourselves as consumers from our domain as ethical citizens. They do not seriously support us to pursue ethical goals when food is at stake.
As consumers, they tell us to vote with our wallets. As citizens, we’re told to vote for the community with our best ethical intentions. However, we don’t have split personalities.
How to feed 10 billion people on Earth?
Discussing our individual position related to the sustainability of food does not answer the question of how to feed 10 billion people on Earth. Or does it?
I’m inclined to believe that we personally have a major impact. Take the consumption of meat. Many people eat meat 3 or more times a day.
The direct and indirect negative consequences of this level of meat consumption on our health are substantial. Moreover, the impact of this amount of meat consumption has a major negative impact on the environment and the climate.
This is why we designed several rules of thumb to personally contribute to the change to a more sustainable planet and economy. And of course to try to guarantee that all 10 billion people on Earth will have enough to eat.
Sustainability and life expectancy
Life expectancy rose substantially worldwide during the past 5 decades. There is a strong link between our food consumption and life expectancy. When you want to prolong your life expectancy and at the same time contribute to a sustainable planet, the following rules of thumb we use might be a suggestion for you as well:
- Follow dietary guidelines. Fortunately, most dietary guidelines are similar if it comes to health goals: all highlight a largely plant-based diet over a meat-based diet;
- Do not eat meat. Only poultry or fish and this no more than once a week and only in very small portions. Avoid the consumption of red meat and processed meat or fish;
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables, of course organic;
- Eat carrots, and tubers, and turnips over salads;
- Eat fruits, and vegetables from the season, and preferably from where we live;
- Eat 500gr vegetables daily;
- Alternate raw foods with cooked or steamed versions;
- Use little amounts of water and oil for cooking;
- Don’t overcook our food;
- Always chew our food with some perseverance.
Shop with a sustainable conscience
When we go shopping we use some rules of thumb as well:
- Eat before we step into the supermarket;
- Avoid plastic. “In the supermarket?” I hear you think, “Impossible!” There are however enough alternatives. Try food in tin cans or glass, when you buy prepared food. For fresh food this is way more difficult in the supermarket, although some supermarkets don’t mind if you bring your own bags;
- Buy our food in organic fruit and vegetable shops. They use paper bags. And Hannie crocheted special cotton nets that weigh almost nothing and are as good as paper bags;
- Make an effort to buy as much organic food as possible. Most supermarkets have organic departments at present;
- Use the smallest cart available. Seducing is an art that must have been invented by supermarkets. A small cart forces us to buy only essentials;
- Plan to avoid food waste. Make a list, on paper, on your mobile, or just in your head of what you need to prepare your meals, for one day, and most certainly for a whole week. This list is important because last year the USA passed the 50% rate of food waste. Meaning that people threw away more than 50% of the food they bought.
Nutritional guidelines with a sustainable focus
In summary, the best nutritional guideline with a sustainable focus is a plant-based diet. This has tremendous advantages over a meat-based diet. The impact of meat production and consumption and agricultural monocultures on the environment and biodiversity is horrendous.
There are 5 ways how we learned to combine nutritional guidelines with a sustainable focus:
- From information on the Internet and by participating in citizen initiatives that focus on a more sustainable agriculture;
- By exchanging ideas and insights with our friends;
- We experiment with our kitchen garden and with very small steps we vary our food intake;
- By helping others to grow organic food;
- We only buy and eat organic food.
We buy and eat organic food because this serves at the same time health and sustainability goals. In organic agriculture, no chemical fertilizer, insecticides, pesticides, or fungicides are used.
Do you have suggestions for a more sustainable planet and economy? Please share them with us in the comment box.