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“An urgent and at times terrifying dispatch from a distinguished reporter who has given heart and soul to his subject.”—Hampton Sides
When the demographer Robert Malthus (1766–1834) famously outlined the brutal relationship between food and population, he never imagined the success of modern scientific agriculture. In the mid-twentieth century, an unprecedented agricultural advancement known as the Green Revolution brought hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, and improved irrigation that drove the greatest population boom in history—but left ecological devastation in its wake.
In The End of Plenty, award-winning environmental journalist Joel K. Bourne Jr. puts our race to feed the world in dramatic perspective. With a skyrocketing world population and tightening global grain supplies spurring riots and revolutions, humanity must produce as much food in the next four decades as it has since the beginning of civilization to avoid a Malthusian catastrophe. Yet climate change could render half our farmland useless by century’s end.
Writing with an agronomist’s eye for practical solutions and a journalist’s keen sense of character, detail, and the natural world, Bourne takes readers from his family farm to international agricultural hotspots to introduce the new generation of farmers and scientists engaged in the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. He discovers young, corporate cowboys trying to revive Ukraine as Europe’s breadbasket, a Canadian aquaculturist channeling ancient Chinese traditions, the visionary behind the world’s largest organic sugar-cane plantation, and many other extraordinary individuals struggling to increase food supplies—quickly and sustainably—as droughts, floods, and heat waves hammer crops around the globe.
Part history, part reportage and advocacy, The End of Plenty is a panoramic account of the future of food, and a clarion call for anyone concerned about our planet and its people.
“[A] fascinating narrative…Bourne brings a piercing eye to intransigent problems in food production and alleviation of hunger, leavened by notes of pragmatism and optimism.” — Jean L. Steiner, Science
“An important read for everyone.” — Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of The Dominant Animal
“One of the most informative, engaging books on the world food prospect I have ever read.” — Lester R. Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute, and author of Full Planet, Empty Plates
PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, 2016
William Saroyan International Prize, 2016