Julian Cribb FTSE

EVERY meal you eat now costs the planet 10 kilos of topsoil author and science writer Julian Cribb will tell New Zealand and Australian soil scientists meeting in Queenstown, NZ on December 15, 2016.

“Ten kilos of topsoil, 800 litres of water, 1.3 litres of diesel, 0.3g of pesticide and 3.5 kilos of carbon dioxide – that’s what goes into one meal, for one person,” he says.

“When you multiply it by seven to 10 billion people each eating around a thousand meals a year, you can see why food is becoming the challenge of our age.

“The human jawbone is the most destructive implement on the planet – but few people get that,” says Julian Cribb, author of ‘Surviving the 21st Century’ (Springer 2016).

“This is going to bring about a revolution, not only in what we eat but also how and where we produce it. Cities like Auckland and Sydney will become the farms of the future.

“The world is currently losing 75 billion tonnes of topsoil a year – and the problem is getting worse, not better. In fact, scientists say we have lost a third of the world’s soil in the last 40 years. At such rates, they warn, the world will run out of good farming soils within 50-70 years.”

At the same time critical world water shortages are looming. A recent scientific report estimates that shows that 4 billion human beings experience acute water scarcity at least one month of every year. The UN University warns that world demand for water will exceed supply by up to 40 pe cent by the 2030s.

“Governments and consumers fail to grasp that scarcities of soil, water, oil, nutrients, technology, fish and finance are now acting in sync – and are being amplified by climate shocks. Together they pose a major threat to world food security – and to world peace.

“Food producers in New Zealand are among the world’s most innovative,” Mr Cribb says. “They are at the forefront in soil and water management – but they have to be better still. They have to lead the global change to a new food production system that uses half the water and half the soil it does today – yet produces twice as much food. That’s a big ask.

“In the coming decades, there will be a boom in local food production both in the cultivation of thousands of novel crops, in the recycling of water and nutrients in cities, in the exploitation of soil microbial activity and carbon farming, in the development of new, climate-proof production systems such as soilless aquaponics and biocultures, protected cropping, algae farming and urban ‘agritecture’, and in the design of novel foods and diets.

“New Zealand and Australia can lead the world in developing novel food systems that waste nothing – and which deliver a diet that is far more diverse, safe, clean, healthy and sustainable.

“Food is one of the most creative acts which humans perform – and the scientists and food producers of our two countries and will help to lead and shape that creativity,” Mr Cribb says.

  • Julian Cribb is an author, journalist, editor and science communicator. He is principal of Julian Cribb & Associates who provide specialist consultancy in the communication of science, agriculture, food, mining, energy and the environment. His career includes appointments as newspaper editor, scientific editor for The Australian newspaper, director of national awareness for CSIRO, member of numerous scientific boards and advisory panels, and president of national professional bodies for agricultural journalism and science communication.