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New Agriculturist: Book reviews - Feeding the planet
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Feeding the planet

Feeding the planet

By Klaus Hahlbrock
Published by Haus Publishing
Website: www.the-sustainability-project.com
2008, 266pp, ISBN 978 1 906598 11 2(Pb), £9.99

Feeding the planet is one of 12 books that comprise "The Sustainability Project", the volumes covering the challenges posed by globalization and offering practical solutions for the 21st century. It is the inspiration of German retired corporate executive, Klaus Wiegandt, editor of the series, who offers 'a new dimension on the current discourse on sustainability.'

Of the 12 titles in the series, five directly address agricultural and food issues: Feeding the planet, Water resources, The demise of diversity, Our threatened oceans and Climate change. But agriculture does not function in a vacuum, and the other seven titles cover complementary issues: Our planet, energy, The Earth, Overcrowded world, The new plagues and Building a new world order.

Readers will obviously choose certain titles over others, according to their disciplines and interests: veterinary practitioners may well find food for thought in New Plagues, some of which will be animal-associated, whilst those interested in trade may opt to include Building a new world order in their reading.

But why yet another project, another initiative on this topic? Wiegandt believes that for too long discourse on global sustainability has been largely the domain of small elite groups - scientists among them - and that fresh approaches are needed to put insights into practice. The key is to spur civil society into action, and interaction with scientists, who are all too aware of the choices and dilemmas confronting us.

Inevitably, with such a range of issues to be covered, some of what is read will be familiar to any informed reader but this is easy to accept as the writing is fluent, and major facts and arguments bear repetition for their reinforcement value. The books were first published in German with sales exceeding expectations. The translation is of high standard and the books are a pleasure, as well as stimulating, to read. And in the true spirit of The Sustainability Project, these books complete with search, bookmark and notes function are also now available in e-book format.

Closing his foreword, the editor presents thoughts that are particularly timely as they coincide with the climate change conference in Copenhagen: "Our future is not predetermined. We ourselves shape it by our actions. We can continue as before, but if we do so, we will put ourselves in the biophysical straightjacket of nature, with possibly disastrous political implications, by the middle of this century. But we also have the opportunity to create a fairer and more viable future for ourselves and for future generations. This requires the commitment of everyone on our planet."

For informing, educating and stimulating debate and action among society in general and among scientists, administrators and politicians, these 12 books in "The Sustainability Project" will provide all with food for thought and a lasting resource for teaching and public speaking on a wide range of the interdependent issues that will determine whether future development is sustainable - or not.

Date published: November 2009


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