Sustainable Development >> Sustainable Intensification

A new letter is out in Science that I co-wrote with the group over at Leuphana: Jan Hanspach, Dave Abson, Jacqueline Loos, Muriel Tichit, me, and Joern Fischer comment on Godfray et al.’s piece on “Sustainable Intensification” from July in Science. As Joern says over at his blog:

We appreciate that Garnett et al. have tried to embed sustainable intensification within a broader context. However, on reading the paper, we felt that something in the logic was fundamentally problematic — should sustainable intensification be seen as a policy goal interfacing with sustainable development? Should it not rather be seen as a policy goal that is subordinate to sustainable development?

Joern continues

Based on these questions, we wrote a short response to the paper by Garnett et al., which appeared in Science today (the brutally short and not entirely helpful title is courtesy of Science by the way …). Key points of our response are:

  • We agree that sustainable intensification has to be part of a multipronged and context-dependent strategy for food security, and that it is also necessary to curb consumption, improve governance, and reduce waste.
  • We disagree that sustainable intensification should be pursued as one of several issues to be tackled in parallel.
  • Rather, measures to improve equity, access, and distribution are prerequisites for intensification to have any benefits for food security.
  • Intensification therefore makes sense only in a context of genuine strategies for sustainable development, not as a policy goal in its own right.

As Joern says, comments welcome on this contentious topic! While you’re at it, he had a brief bit of relevant commentary yesterday on a recent paper by Jon Foley, and some interesting links were aggregated at the (problematically named, imo) Can We Feed the World? blog.

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