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Mar 1, 2012

21st Food Security & Sustainability - Historical Lessons from Failed Civilizations

On 1 March 2012, The Guardian published an article by Andrew Simms that reviews current food sustainability policies options and poses the question - is history is not repeating itself as other advanced civilizations have failed throughout history due inability to adapt to climate change and secure food sources? Simms wonders if today's renewable energy technologies and agro-ecology farming methods are opportunities to avoid mistakes of the past or are we doomed to repeat history? He cites as examples of past, failed civilizations - Easter Island, the Norse in Greenland, the western Roman Empire, the Mayan civilization in Central America, the kingdom of Mesopotamia.

Simms notes that science and technology give us an advantage over past civilizations. We have new monitoring and communications technology that let us study soil erosion, climate change, and our energy and agricultural carbon footprint. Will these help us determine which agricultural policy to adopt? He cites as choices, Sir John Beddington's Foresight Report, "which foresees a future of farming intensification, based on hi-tech and reliance on markets" and the agro-ecology of International Assessment of Agricultural Science & Technology for Development (IAASTD) report.

Interestingly, Simms concludes by citing Jared Diamond's Collapse, which states that "societies choose to fail or survive."

For more see: Simms, Andrew. "Farming and energy: lessons from collapsed civilisations," The Guardian, 1 March 2012.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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