Well, here’s some cheery reading.
As someone used to the idea of ‘butter mountains’, ‘wine lakes’ and ‘super-size me’ never-ending meals at McDonalds, it seems odd to me to think that we might ever have not enough food.
But a journalist and an academic have just combined forces to write a book that shows that’s exactly what the Romans thought too. And (apparently) so did mediaeval Europeans and the people of Mesopotamia (wherever that is).
The food systems of all three of these societies relied heavily on new technologies (think 600 horse power tractors, plus lashings of fertilisers and insecticides) and complex trade networks (think Kenya green beans and “just in time” supermarket distribution systems).
The food systems of all three societies failed because (in their confidence) what they didn’t see coming was overpopulation (think 7 billion and rising), weather changes (climate change anyone?), and soil erosion (don’t get me started!).
The thing, of course, is that it is important to put the new local system in place before the old global one fails.
You can read more, including an interview with the authors, here: http://www.salon.com/life/sustainable_food/?story=/food/feature/2010/08/26/empires_of_food