China feeds 20% of its population with 9% of its arable land. So If the world average grain production reaches this level We can feed another 10 billion people

I’m in agreement that we can feed 8bn+ but I want to query those percentages.

Does that mean China uses 46% of it’s arable land to feed it’s whole population? And does this mean that 54% is (i) used for exports, (ii) used for crop rotation, or (iii) potentially arable but not yet farmed?

It’s only the first option that implies that a huge surplus is possible and sustainable. The second option imposes a severe limit on how much else can be produced without relying on significant quantities of gas to make fertilizer. And while that reduces the need for rotation, this is a short term fix and absolutely destroys the soil and the nearby waterways, so is unsustainable in the long term. If it’s the third option, does this mean deforestation of established forests? That’s equally unsustainable and will lead to more endemics and pandemics as humans get closer to pathogens they’ve never encountered before.

Or could it also be that 20% essentially live on rice and a few vegetables, with the other 80% requiring (far) more than 36% of the arable land (plus imports) to meet a more varied diet? If so, the important figure is how much land is needed to grow a varied diet for the whole population, plus a surplus to export and to counter droughts and avoid famines in China and abroad.

If any of these challenges are on the right lines, China would struggle to double food production (1) sustainably, and (2) in a way that lets humans live fulfilling, healthy lives. A varied diet is also a public health measure, making public healthcare more sustainable. This all suggests a much nearer limit on population.

Remember, the abundance of food in Europe requires a landmass the size of India devoted solely to farming. Also necessary to remember is that capitalist food production is so incredibly wasteful and chaotic, and we don’t need this kind of abundance.

The rest of this comment is not related to your comment, jlyws123, but is a counter to the challenge that I now expect having written the above text.

Before anyone accuses me of being Malthusian, we first need to challenge and unravel bourgeois consciousness. I reject Malthusianism. The flaw with Malthusianism is that it’s internal logic ‘works’ with a population of 10 or of 10bn.

If population did reach 20bn or more, it would be horrifically wrong to not try to feed everyone. In capitalism there would be no attempt to do so, just as there is no attempt to properly feed the world’s current population. Malthusianism is not the only lens through which to look at issues related to population, though.

I predict that a communist world would be far more willing to live in harmony with nature without simultaneously blaming all the problems on particular demographics and concluding that those people are using too many resources. This may mean facilitating a population rise to 20bn+. But it may also mean population controls, although these would look very different and would come from the people. Most issues (if any) relating to population would be resolved by increasing living standards along a communist model, anyway.

Not that this means we can triple population or anything, but increasing vertical and other urban farming is an option for a reasonable increase in food production with out significant increased environmental damage.

Vertical farming is more energy intensive because it requires artificial light and vertical water transport. There is also the question of acquiring sufficient fertile soil and nutrients. Fertilizer takes energy to produce. Ultimately this becomes not a question of surface area but of sustainable and large scale energy production. If you have sufficient energy and enough raw materials you can expand farming by many orders of magnitude. Without those things you need to keep clearing more and more land and rely on sunlight which is not as dependable at higher latitudes.

Those are good points. Wouldn’t it not be to hard to use sewage as an input for both for energy and nutrients? Also, if we vastly decrease energy use for shipping food and refrigerating it, it might be more sustainable for local vertical farming in cites.

I think regardless of anything like a perfect solution at this point, the fact that all these things are options that could be considered and worked through is promising. It means that a radical reimagining of farming is possible, which will be needed, whether it’s to make food production for 8bn or 20bn people sustainable.

There’s also the energy saved from reducing car use, increasing public transport, no longer heating the private and hardly ever used indoor swimming pools of the rich, and no longer making so many pointless commodities.

There are also things that individuals (🤢 liberalism, sorry) can do to feed themselves if they had the time and education. Growing mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, etc. We’re so alienated from food production and time-poor (and poor-poor) in capitalism, though, that it’s hard to get started. The few things I’ve grown, I’ve not wanted to eat because of the bugs, etc. Ridiculous, I know, but this is the effect of a lifetime of all my food appearing sanitised in supermarkets. (That said, it’s going to take some serious un-alienating for me to eat food growing in my own sewage, never mind others’!)

Agreed, it will take a bit to convince people that it’s fine, but also plenty of people already eat food grown in sewage like the traditional fish ponds in places like Vietnam and India (there’s a great piece in low tech magazine on it, im sure people like the great people working on that will have a large place in dealing with environment and how we live after the revolution)

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