Balancing on a Planet is an interdisciplinary primer on critical thinking and effective action for the future of our global agrifood system, based on an understanding of the system's historical roots. A key component of Balancing on a Planet is a thorough analysis of the assumptions underlying different perspectives on problems related to food and agriculture around the world and a discussion of alternative solutions.
David Cleveland argues, for example, that combining selected aspects of small-scale traditional agriculture with modern scientific agriculture can help balance our biological need for food with its environmental impact – and continue to fulfill cultural, social, and psychological needs related to food. Balancing on a Planet is based on Cleveland's research and engaging teaching about food and agriculture for more than three decades. It is a tool to help students, faculty, researchers, and interested readers understand debates about the current crisis and alternatives for the future.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Preface: A Personal History
Agrifood Systems History and Future
1. Eating Stardust: Population, Food, and Agriculture on Planet Earth
2. Agricultural Revolutions
3. Thinking Critically about Sustainable Agrifood Systems
4. Sustainable Agrifood Systems: Three Emphases
Moving toward Sustainable Agrifood Systems: A Balancing Act
5. Managing Evolution: Plant Breeding and Biotechnology
6. Managing Agricultural Ecosystems: The Critical Role of Diversity
7. Managing People: The Common Property Option
8. The Big Solutions: Climate Change, Resource Cycles, and Diet
9. The Big Solutions: Localizing Agrifood Systems
Appendix 1. Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Symbols
Appendix 2. Metric Units and Metric-English Unit Conversions
David A. Cleveland is Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a human ecologist whose research and teaching are on small-scale, sustainable agriculture. He has worked with farmers around the world, including in Ghana, Mexico, Zuni, Hopi, Pakistan, and the United States. He is currently researching the potential benefits of agrifood system localization on climate change, nutrition, and food sovereignty.
"In Balancing on a Planet, David Cleveland sets forth the evidence for this plea: if our world is to have a future, we must engage in serious critical thinking about the practices and consequences of our current food system and find immediate ways to transform it to one that is more sustainable."
– Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, and author of Food Politics
"Achieving sustainable food production on earth is a destination whose route has not yet been charted. But in mapping the trajectory of the global agrifood system – from soil condition to social organization – and examining the critical concepts, values, and assumptions that underlie it, Cleveland has begun to reveal for us what that route – and the destination itself – might someday look like."
– Dr. Deborah K. Letourneau, Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
"With real examples and evidence, Cleveland presents a convincing argument for how traditional agriculture can help us build a sustainable food system. Presenting on new synergies and ways of thinking, and avoiding the traps of technological fixes and economic imperatives, this book makes the urgent need for change crystal clear."
– Stephen R. Gliessman, Professor Emeritus of Agroecology, University of California, Santa Cruz
"David Cleveland does more than just set out his view of the future of agrifood systems in a world of scarce resources; he provides the reader with the tools to make up her own mind, and arrive at her own conclusions."
– Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food