A breath of fresh, logical air…”Does starvation loom? – No.”

January 14, 2011

I love Twitter!  Especially when my social network shares gems like this.

Author Matt Ridley has written several books on evolution, genetics and society (check out the list on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/eBVDkm). Sorry, Matt.  I have to admit, I haven’t read any of your books… but my interest has been piqued and I have had added several of the tomes to my growing ‘to read’ list.  

Anyway, back to the ‘gem’… A link to Matt’s latest blog entry entitled “Feeding of the nine billion” (http://bit.ly/hZv477) was circulated through Twitter today (via #scio11).  This is a GREAT piece!  In it, this ‘Rational Optimist’ addresses/challenges (what I would call in some cases) the hype around the issues of food security and a growing population, food prices and world ag production.  :

Here are a few of my favourite @mattwridley illustrative quotes from Ridley’s blog entry (which, by the way, was also posted in The Times, January 14, 2011):


“…the rate of [population] growth is decelerating. World population is now growing at just over 1% a year, down from roughly 2% in the 1960s. The actual number of people added to the world population each year has been dropping for more than 20 years.”

“…the UN estimates that the population will most probably peak at 9.2 billion in about 2075 before starting a slow decline. Population quadrupled in the twentieth century; it will not even double in this.”


“…if you take inflation into account. Food prices are up in real terms since 2000, but they are still about 30% below the level in 1980 and 85% down since 1900. In terms of wages, the decline has been even steeper.”

“Despite a doubling of the population, global food production per head is 30% up on what it was in the 1950s…Besides, the current spike in food prices is caused by prosperity, not desperation.”


“Farm yields have been marching upwards for decades and will continue to do so. In the past sixty years, the total harvest of the big three crops that provide the bulk of our calories – maize, wheat and rice – has trebled, yet the acreage planted has hardly changed.”

“The more yields increase, the more land can be set aside from food production for reforestation and national parks. This is happening already. National parks are expanding steadily…”

“Don’t forget another factor. Carbon dioxide levels in the air are rising. CO2 is a raw material that plants use to make sugars, which is why many greenhouse owners pump CO2 over their crops to boost production. The results of more than 600 experiments with rice, wheat and soybeans exposed to the sort of carbon dioxide levels expected by 2050 (an extra 300 parts per million) all show remarkably consistent 30+% increases in yield.”

FINAL @mattwridley THOUGHT:

“For all these reasons food production will probably continue to rise faster than population in the decades ahead. There will still be price spikes caused by bad weather or foolish policies, and there will be challenges: policies that encourage innovation cannot be taken for granted. Yet so long as trade is free and innovation flourishes, by 2050 it is easily possible that we can feed nine billion people with more and better food from less land.”

And for all you humanitarian types out there, you are going to love this!  Ridley is giving roughly half of the advance royalty received from his book The Rational Optimist (http://www.rationaloptimist.com/) to three charities: Farm Africa, The International Policy Network and AgBioWorldFoundation.  These are agencies/organizations that are helping those in need, especially in Africa, to trade, farm and innovate.  

The Matt Ridley Equation:  Prolific, insightful writer + Charitable = Awesomesauce!  ;o)