James C. Scott on Food sovereignty: a critical dialogue

argylesock says… I like the way James C. Scott explains food sovereignty and food security in this lecture. He remarks on how we humans rely, mostly, on only three food sources: maize (corn, Zea mays), rice (Oryza sativa) and wheat (Triticum spp.) which lend themselves to large-scale growing and transport. He says that we (Homo sapiens) are the most invasive of all species. However, I don’t like the way he says human population is ‘spiralling.’ That’s a myth as I’ve stated on this blog several times. Globally, the human population is expected to peak at around 9 billion around the middle of this century. Then it’s expected to fall slightly. [Edit] I listened again and found that Prof Scott doesn’t in fact use the word ‘spiralling’ in this lecture.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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8 Responses to James C. Scott on Food sovereignty: a critical dialogue

  1. EqFe says:

    I don’t think that a population going from 7 billion to 9 billion, almost 30% is something that should be ignored, regardless of one’s views of it’s cause. One of the things that worries me a great deal is the effect of global climate change is already having on our ability to grow food. Looking just at the US, droughts in California are already effecting the ability of that state to grow the fruits and vegetables that we have come to take advantage. Droughts in Texas reduced the size of the US cattle herd, as those same droughts in the US decreased not only last years corn crop as well as reducing the amount of acreage projected to be planted in corn this year. Corn, the crop with the highest calorie production per acre has played a large role in the increase in calories grown over the last few decades. But it needs a great deal of water and fertilizer.

    • argylesock says:

      Who do you think is ‘ignoring’ population growth and climate change? I’m certainly not, as you can see on my blog here. I often extol biodiversifying agriculture, which would involve changing emphasis from the Big Three grains (corn/maize, wheat and rice) which James Scott, in his lecture here, calls the ‘proletarian crops’ to the plants he calls the ‘petty bourgeoisie crops’. Others call some of those the ‘neglected’ or ‘forgotten’ crops.

      You’ll have seen my post about Monkombu Swaminathan, called the Father of the Green Revolution in India. He calls for an ‘ever-green revolution,’ saying, ‘The world can certainly feed nine billion people. And feed them well, with more nutritious crops.’ https://argylesock.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/remember-the-forgotten-crops/

      • EqFe says:

        I think you ignore population growth, by referring to it as a myth, I certainly don’t think that you ignore climate change, I worry about adding 2 billion mouths to feed, in the context of climate change.

        • argylesock says:

          Of course population growth isn’t a myth. The myth I referred to is one that I’ve seen in many places – population continuing to increase exponentially, ignoring the evidence that it will peak within the next few decades then fall slowly. When that evidence is ignored, it’s easy to imply that people are going to become so numerous that many will starve like the feral sheep of Soay. That’s the myth I referred to. We’re not sheep.

          Listening again to Prof Scott, I find that he didn’t actually say ‘spiralling.’

          • EqFe says:

            I’ve been thinking about two examples of food sovereignty that worked. One was the ancient Inca, which had the great advantage of having a range of climate zones from the high andies to amazon rainforest to the coast. I remember sitting on a rock on the Inca trail with a native who was the leader of our guides\porters sharing an orange, just like his pre Invasion ancestors did. I understand that the inca had two years of food stored. THe other is the Japanese obsession with growing all their own rice.

    • argylesock says:

      Another point to remember about corn/maize is that much of it is now grown for biofuels, not food.

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