Sustainable intensification?

I attended a debate organised by the Part II students at Plant Sciences yesterday evening, entitled Sustainable intensification: an oxymoron?

Debate poster

Debate poster

I couldn’t stay to the end of the Q&A session, but I think overwhelmingly the panelists were of the opinion that sustainable intensification is one of the ways we must go forward if we want to feed the global population. Of course, reduction of food waste (I wrote on my other blog about it here)  is also important, as one of the audience pointed out, and duly acknowledged by the panelists. But if we want to be able to increase food production by 50%, as stated by UN FAO as necessary to feed the 9 billion in 2050, then we need to be able to intensify our agricultural areas sustainably.

I wonder though, whether similarly with conservation, the scientific evidence done by academics and researchers trickle down to the practitioners to ensure that the best practices are used?

Agrotechnology seems like it’s big business, but it doesn’t look as though farmers are catching on yet. I don’t think we can have all our food from huge corporations doing industrial-scale farming – as one of the panelists, Helena pointed out, we’re losing a lot of genetic and crop diversity when small scale farmers growing local varieties get squeezed out of their land and they’re the ones who are usually providing the food for the locals anyway. We need to modernise farms and farmers I guess, but perhaps part of the romanticism of farming lies in the idea of a guy in overalls and wellies lugging around a bucket of chicken feed (or in loose-fitting shirt and trousers carrying a hoe and growing rice) and doing everything by hand.

But I wonder why is it that often when I attend these talks, everyone proposes solutions that are still ultimately market-based, around capitalism and economic growth and fundamentally the same business model? Okay I’m not biz whiz so perhaps there are differences in business models between eco-friendly sustainable businesses and the rest of the world, but it’s still capitalism? Are alternative solutions (trying to change the current economic system, socio-political systems) too radical, too unfeasible, too unattainable to even be considered?

The talk I attended by Molly S. Cato on bioregional economy back when I first arrived in 2012 has stuck with me ever since, but I seldom hear about it anywhere else, which is quite sad cos it appears to be dismissed as a feasible solution. Anyway, lecture calls.


About Jocelyne Sze

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
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