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The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) at the University of Melbourne, Australia, brings together researchers from different disciplines to help create a more sustainable society. It acts as an information portal for research at the University of Melbourne, and as a collaborative platform where researchers and communities can work together to affect positive change. This book can be freely accessed from MSSI’s website:

Cite as: Pearson, C.J. (editor) (2012). 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Society. Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne Published by Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute in 2012 Ground Floor Alice Hoy Building (Blg 162) Monash Road The University of Melbourne, Parkville Victoria 3010, Australia Text and copyright © Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission of the publisher. A Cataloguing-in-Publication entry is available from the catalogue of the National Library of Australia at 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Society, ISBN: 978-0-7340-4773-1 (pbk) Produced with Affirm Press Cover and text design by Anne-Marie Reeves Illustrations on pages 228–231 by Michael Weldon Cover image © Brad Calkins | Proudly printed in Australia by BPA Print Group



he last two centuries have seen extraordinary improvements in the quality of human lives. Most people on earth today enjoy access to the necessities of life that was once available only to the elites. Most people enjoy longevity, health, education, information and opportunities to experience the variety of life on earth that was denied even to the rulers of yesteryear. The proportion of humanity living in absolute poverty remains daunting, but continues to fall decade by decade. The early 21st century has delivered an acceleration of the growth in living standards in the most populous developing countries and an historic lift in the trend of economic growth in the regions that had lagged behind, notably in Africa. These beneficent developments are accompanied by another reality. The improvements are not sustainable unless we make qualitative changes in the content of economic growth. The continuation of the current relationship between growth in the material standard of living and pressures on the natural environment will undermine economic growth, political

stability and the foundations of human achievement. The good news is that humanity has already discovered and begun to apply the knowledge that can reconcile continued improvements in the standard of living with reduction of pressures on the natural environment. The bad news is that the changes that are necessary to make high and rising standards of living sustainable are hard to achieve within our current political cultures and systems. Hard, but not impossible. That is a central message from this book, drawn out in Craig Pearson’s concluding chapter. This book introduces the reader to the many dimesions of sustainability, through wellqualified authors. Climate change is only one mechanism through which current patterns of economic growth threaten the natural systems on which our prosperity depend. It is simply the most urgent of the existential threats. Climate change is a special challenge for Australians. We are the most vulnerable of the


developed countries to climate change. And we are the developed country with the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions per person. There are roles for private ethical decisions as well as public policy choices in dealing with the climate change challenge. This book is released at the time of ‘Rio+20’, a conference in Brazil to review the relatively poor progress we have made towards sustainability in the past 20 years, and soon after the introduction of Australia’s first comprehensive policy response to the global challenge of climate change. Australia’s emissions trading scheme with an initially fixed price for emissions permits comes into effect on 1 July 2012. The new policy discourages activities that generate greenhouse gases by putting a price on emissions. The revenue raised by carbon pricing will be returned to households and businesses in ways that retain incentives to reduce emissions. Part of the revenue will be used to encourage production and use of goods and services that embody low emissions. The policy has been launched in controversy. Interests that stand to gain from the discrediting of the policy argue that it is unnecessary either because the case for global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the associated climate change has not been proven, or that the new policy places a disproportionate burden on Australians. The health of our civilisation requires us to bring scientific knowledge to account in public policy. Everyone who shares the knowledge that is the common heritage of humanity has


a responsibility to explain the realities to others wherever and whenever they can. The argument that the new policy places a disproportionate burden on Australians can be answered by seeking honestly to understand what others are doing. The critics of Australian policy argue that the world’s two largest national emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, are doing little or nothing to reduce emissions, so that it is either pointless or unnecessary for us to do so. China has advanced a long way towards achieving its target of reducing emissions as a proportion of economic output by 40 to 45 per cent between 2005 and 2020. It has done this by forcing the closure of emissions-intensive plants and processes that have exceptionally high levels of emissions per unit of output, by imposing high emissions standards on new plants and processes, by charging emissionsintensive activities higher electricity prices, by subsidising the introduction of low-emissions activities, and by new and higher taxes on fossil fuels. China has introduced trials of an emissions trading system in five major cities and two provinces. This adds up to a cost on business and the community that exceeds any burden placed on Australians by the new policies – bearing in mind that the revenue from Australian carbon pricing is returned to households and businesses. The US Government has advised the international community of its domestic policy target to reduce 2005 emissions by 17 per cent by 2020. President Barack Obama said

to the Australian Parliament that all countries should take seriously the targets that they had reported to the international community, and made it clear that the United States did so. United States efforts to reduce emissions are diffuse but far-reaching. They now include controls on emissions from electricity generators, announced in March 2012, effectively excluding any new coal-based power generation after the end of this year unless it embodies carbon capture and storage. From the beginning of next year they will include an emissions trading system in the most populous and economically largest state, California. The United States is making reasonable progress towards reaching its emissions reduction goals, with some actions imposing high costs on domestic households and businesses. Australia has now taken steps through which we can do our fair share in the international effort, at reasonable cost. It would be much harder and more costly to do our fair share without the policies that are soon to take effect. What Australians do over the next few years will have a significant influence on humanity’s prospects for handing on the benefits of modern civilisation to future generations. This book will help Australians to understand their part in the global effort for sustainability. Ross Garnaut University of Melbourne 15 April 2012


Contents Foreword by Ross Garnaut Table of Contents

v viii

Author Biographies




1 Population Rebecca Kippen and Peter McDonald


2 Equity Helen Sykes


3 Consumption Craig Pearson


4 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change David Karoly


5 Energy Peter Seligman





Ethics Craig Prebble



Culture Audrey Yue and Rimi Khan



Awareness and Behaviour Angela Paladino



Local Matters Matter Kate Auty


10 Public Wisdom Tim van Gelder


11 Mental Health Grant Blashki


12 Disease Peter Doherty


13 Corporate Sustainability Liza Maimone


14 Governance John Brumby



Natural Resources


15 Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Rodney Keenan


16 Water Hector Malano and Brian Davidson


17 Food Sunday McKay and Rebecca Ford


18 Zero Carbon Land-Use Chris Taylor and Adrian Whitehead




19 Changing Cities Peter Newman and Carolyn Ingvarson


20 Affordable Living Thomas Kvan and Justyna Karakiewicz


21 Built Environment Pru Sanderson


22 Infrastructure Colin Duffield


23 Transport Monique Conheady


24 Adaptive Design Ray Green


25 Handling Disasters Alan March




26 Twenty Actions Craig Pearson


Further Reading





17 Food Sunday McKay and Rebecca Ford


lobal food production is under significant stress from a confluence of economic, political and environmental factors. The 2008 global food crisis illustrated the fragility of the current food system, sparked renewed interest into its complexities, and highlighted challenges for improvement. Concurrently, increasing population and consumption are placing unprecedented demands on agriculture and natural resources. To meet the world’s future food requirements, productivity must increase while agriculture’s environmental footprint must substantially decrease. This chapter explores some of the fundamental challenges facing agriculture in securing future food production.

Population Agricultural production is theoretically sufficient to feed the world’s population; yet more than a billion people do not have adequate access to food. One in seven people have insufficient access to protein and energy in their diet and 40,000 die everyday from hunger. With an estimated global population of 9.1 billion by 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts that food production must almost double over this 40-

year period. This will require agriculture to produce as much food as has been consumed over our entire human history. Total agricultural production will need to increase 70 per cent (100 per cent in developing countries) by 2050 to cope with this additional population. According to the FAO, this translates to an additional billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million tonnes of meat annually compared to current production. Figure 1 illustrates the proposed increase in cereal demand in developing and developed countries between 1995 and 2025. Most of the expected growth in population will occur in the developing world and will be associated with the ‘march to the cities’. By 2050, it is estimated that 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Urbanisation, together with growing wealth and higher incomes, is already significantly changing the composition of the food demanded. The food basket in many regions is shifting away from basic staple foods (cereals, wheat), towards high-value food products (such as meat and dairy). Specifically, overall meat consumption in developing countries is expected to account for around 82 per cent of the projected global growth in consumption




million metric tons

2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0

1995 Cereal demand

Developed countries

2025 baseline Developing countries


400 350 million metric tons

300 250 200 150 100 50 0 1995 Meat demand

Developed countries

2025 baseline Developing countries


Figure 1. Top: Cereal demand in developing and developed countries, 1995 and 2025 baseline. Bottom: Meat demand in developing and developed countries and world 1995 and 2025 baseline. Source: Rosegrant et al 2002.



of protein in the next decade. Studies by Bruinsma (2009) have projected increases in per capita consumption of meat from 37kg to 52kg in developing countries by 2050 and 26kg to 44kg in low-income countries.

• Wheat between 9.2 and 13 per cent • Beef between 9.6 and 19 per cent • Lamb between 8.5 and 14 per cent • Dairy between 9.5 and 18 per cent • Sugar between 10 and 14 per cent

Agriculture and Climate

Whether there is sufficient fresh water to satisfy both agricultural and non-agricultural needs (such as household and industry uses) remains uncertain. Water is fundamental for food production and uses up to 70 per cent of the fresh water withdrawals in the world, which has led to growing concern about global water scarcity. Many of the large water basins in the world are already significantly physically stressed. Furthermore, irrigated agriculture plays a critical role in the food equation and has the potential to greatly increase land productivity. Irrigated agriculture currently accounts for 40 per cent of total global food production. By 2050, it is projected that 53 per cent of cereal production will be under irrigation. By 2030, water sources will need to increase by at least one third to support agriculture, at a time when severe water stresses are predicted to affect at least half of the world’s population. Agriculture releases significant amounts of CO2, CH4, and N2O. The sector’s total global contribution to GHG emissions is estimated to be 10–14 per cent of total emissions. This figure rises to more than 30 per cent when costs beyond the farm gate and especially land conversion are added. In Australia the agricultural industry is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and according to

Agriculture and climate are inextricably linked. Anticipated future climate change presents the agricultural industry with two complex requirements; to adapt to a changing and more variable climate, and to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. These challenges will need to be met while delivering significant increases in food production. Agricultural production is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which in itself will have major implications for future food production and food security. Food production is critically dependent on local conditions, and changes to these conditions can severely alter crop growth and livestock performance. A 2.5 degree temperature increase could lower global agricultural productivity by up to 40 per cent (Cline, 2007). Agriculture in Australia is likely to be more adversely affected by climate change than other developed nations. With projections that Australia will experience warmer, drier conditions with more variability and extreme events, southern Australia can expect to experience drought-like seasons every two years on average in the coming decades. According to Gunasekera, Australia’s production of key agricultural products is estimated to decline between 2030 and 2050 as follows:



6000 Selling

Daily calories per capita


Transporting Packaging


Processing Farming




0 Pet food



Meat & Eggs

Oils, sugars, snacks, baking

Figure 2. Daily per capita energy input to the US food system, by food group and production phase, excluding household energy use. Source: Beyond food miles by Michael Bornford.

the Garnaut report contributes 16 per cent to the economy’s total emissions and is the main source of both methane (67 per cent) and nitrous oxide (77 per cent). While agricultural production is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, agriculture also provides untapped opportunities for GHG mitigation (reducing emissions). These opportunities fall into two categories: reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from animal and plant systems, and sequestering carbon in soil and vegetation. Global research undertaken by Peter Smith has shown that if there were a carbon price of US$100 then the market potential for agriculture to undertake the above practices of reducing emissions and/or increasing soil carbon storage would be US$420 billion per


year. With a carbon price of US$20, the market potential for agriculture would be worth US$32 billion per year. This is a potentially significant additional source of income for agriculturalists. Our dilemma is that in future the agricultural industry will be expected to reduce emissions. However, emissions from agriculture are presently increasing and are expected to increase further due to increased demand for food from population growth and shifts in consumption patterns. Can agriculture meet this challenge of doubling food production to feed the growing population and concurrently deliver steep reductions in GHG emissions?


Our Energy-Intensive Food System

The Cost of Intensive Food Production

Food production is energy hungry, particularly when we consider the energy required for packaging and transporting food not grown locally. Industrial transformation of agriculture during the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 60s led to quadrupled increases in global food production. The energy cost for this was supplied through fossil fuels in the form of fertilisers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fuelled irrigation, requiring 50–100 times the energy input of traditional agriculture. Post farm-gate, energy is required for processing, transportation, storage, wholesale and retail distribution, and home storage and cooking. Modern food production, packaging and transport are extremely energy-hungry processes, as highlighted in Figure 2.

We are practically eating fossil fuels, and the amount of energy that has been pumped into production systems in recent decades has not equated to similar increases in productivity gains. Instead we have become obsessed with the production of the perfect-looking apple or the easiest crushable wheat grain for highmarket returns or downstream processing. We have ridden the coat-tails of the Green Revolution until they have frayed and we are now reliant on transforming our production systems to keep up with the food requirements of our burgeoning population. Whether this will come from genetic modifications alone is unlikely. Rather, this is part of a much wider ongoing debate to find ways of greatly increasing food production on lands with fragile soils and significant pest and disease problems.

Figure 3. Source: reproduced from Foley et al. 2011.



With fossil fuel production predicted to decline in coming decades, there will be less energy available for the production of food. Sustainability of global agriculture will require development and wide implementation of alternative and renewable energy systems. Within the next decade we will see a movement towards on-farm systems that provide energy from renewable sources. These must include greater adoption of solar, wind and small-scale hydro systems as well biofuels that do not directly compete with food sources. Indeed, the conundrum is growing over the division of cropland dedicated to growing food that is directly consumed by people versus animal feed, fibre, bioenergy crops and other products (Figure 3).

Food Waste We live in a wasteful world, with 25–50 per cent of food produced globally wasted along our supply chains. This includes crops not harvested, food lost during transportation, food discarded or rejected by growers or retailers, and household food waste. The causes and sources of waste are many, including: the low cost of food; overproduction; long-distance transportation and supply chains; the power of retailers to dictate appearance and quality standards; aesthetic preferences of consumers; increased consumption of convenience foods with short shelf-lives; food safety standards and litigation concerns; and excessive purchasing. Despite this, no comprehensive research into the causes and potential points for reduction of food waste has been conducted in Australia.


Research has been limited to quantifying the wastage of single crops on farms, or on postconsumption food waste in households (which is estimated to be in the order of $5.2 billion annually in Australia alone). This trend is believed to be similar to the United Kingdom and, as shown in Figure 4, the vast majority of this food waste is avoidable. Chapter three, ‘Consumption’ discusses this. Furthermore, food waste constitutes 35 per cent of municipal waste nationally and imposes an enormous environmental burden, from the resources used in production to the impacts on landfill, including GHG emissions. In the context of a growing population, climatic changes and the challenges of achieving food security, reducing food waste is one means by which food scarcity can be alleviated. By addressing the sources of food waste, and by developing strategies for utilising food, we can close the supply chain loop and offer substantial environmental and social benefits. The Australian Government’s 2011 ‘Issues Paper to Inform the Development of a National Food Plan’ identifies reducing food waste as an import policy priority for achieving a more sustainable food supply and for increasing food availability to the food insecure. In order to help solve this complex issue, a full understanding of the drivers, social impacts and costs along the supply chain is urgently required.

Diseases Direct loss of plant-derived food from pests and pathogens is estimated to be anywhere from


million tonnes per year 0





fresh vegetables and salads drinks fresh fruit bakery meals (home-made and pre-prepared) meat and fish dairy and eggs processed vegetables and salad condiments, sauces, herbs and spices staple foods cake and desserts oil and fat confectionery and snacks processed fruit other Figure 4. Household food and drink waste in the United Kingdom. Where brown bars = avoidable; yellow bars = possibly avoidable and dark blue bars = unavoidable. Source: WRAP 2009; Parfitt et al. 2010.

40 to 100 per cent annually across the globe. Humanity is in a continuum of struggle to stay one step ahead of endemic diseases while keeping the doors and borders closed to exotic threats. This is particularly true in Australia, an island nation, free of many organisms ‘known not’ to occur and which contribute to our ‘clean and green’ marketing edge over our export competitors. State and federal governments are committed to maintaining and improving our nation’s biosecurity, pouring funds into risk analyses, constant surveillance and

development of national diagnostic protocols. Despite these measures, each food production industry suffers from several major disease factors for which management strategies must be put into place to protect yield.

Chemicals The majority of food produced from crops and horticultural industries relies on the application of synthetic chemicals to control pests and diseases, often multiple times within a growing season. Chemicals are applied to the



FAO Food Price Index 2002-2004 =100

250 Nominal

210 170 130


90 50























* The real price index is the nominal price index deflated by the World Bank Manufactures Unit Value Index (MUV)

Figure 5. Source: FAO Food price index 1990–2011. FAO 2011.

soil to reduce the impact of potential harmful waterborne pathogens that attack roots, and to the foliage during the plant’s growth to protect the leaves, stems and seed or fruit. Chemicals are also applied post-harvest to protect against spoilage organisms and fungal species that may produce secondary toxic compounds. Although greatly effective, the longer-term impacts of several chemical classes have meant that many have been phased out already and removed from the permitted chemical list or are in the process of being so. Although many cropping systems remain reliant on chemicals, current research is directed towards reducing chemical inputs and altering the disease triangle through manipulations considered more natural. This includes brassica (Indian mustard) used in rotation with cereals as a biofumigant because it exudes


glucosinolate (sulphur rich) compounds from the root system that suppress populations of harmful organisms in the soil and substantially increases cereal yields.

Prices Food prices have dramatically increased over the last decade. This was illustrated in 2008 where international food prices of wheat and maize tripled and the price of rice increased fivefold. By 2009, together with the global economic crisis, the total number of hungry people in the world had reached more than one billion. As Figure 5 illustrates, from the middle of 2010, food prices began trending upwards again with wheat prices surging by 60 to 80 per cent in response to drought-fuelled crop losses in Russia and a subsequent export ban by the Russian Federation.


It’s important to understand the significance of fluctuations in food prices to comprehend the fragility of our food system. Agriculture is an essential sector of the world economy, as a significant proportion of the population depends on it directly or indirectly. It contributes 24 per cent to global GDP and provides employment to 1.3 billion people or 22 per cent of the world population. With one billion people currently living on less than $1 a day and one in two people living on less than $2 a day, if the cost of food were to rise 20 per cent, 100 million people would be forced back into poverty, according to the FAO. Higher food prices are likely to remain in the coming decades, due to the increased pressures on land and water resources, climatic impacts and rapidly rising incomes in Asia and parts of Africa.

Australia’s Role It is of strategic importance that Australia plays a pivotal role in global food production. We produce 93 per cent of all food consumed in Australia and 1 per cent of all food consumed in the world. It is estimated that food produced in Australia currently feeds 60 million people annually. As Australia is geographically located in the Asia–Pacific region, which has the highest proportion of malnourished people, we will need to proactively address the issues of food security. While there may not be an immediate threat of food insecurity in Australia, the effects of climate change are likely to affect our status as a premier food exporting nation and the health and wellbeing of our population,

which is expected to reach 35 million by 2050. This will place significant challenges on the carrying capacity of our food system to achieve food security. Finally, although Australia’s agricultural production accounts for only 1 per cent of all food consumed in the world, we are among one of the most significant net food exporters. We have continued to produce food on one of the driest continents in the face of continual climate variability. There are significant opportunities for Australian agriculture to contribute to a global solution of feeding 9.1 billion by 2050, and to achieve this, governments and research and development agendas will need to be aligned.

ACTIONS FOR 2020 We will face many challenges in meeting the global food demand of the future. They include population increase, climate change energy requirements, and reduced GHG emissions and chemical use. In Australia, it is essential that future public policy agendas be inclusive of both the national and local considerations that influence our food production systems and availability, from farm-gate to fork. Meanwhile, we the end consumers can make immediate changes to significantly improve the security of our food, including preparedness to accept aesthetically imperfect produce, reducing household food waste through better buying choices, and choosing low-impact packaging with recycling options.


Further Reading Food Baker, D., Fear, J. Denniss, R. (2009). What a Waste: An Analysis of Household Expenditure on Food, The Australia Institute, Policy Brief 6 Nov 2009. Bruinsma, J (2009). ‘The resource outlook to 2050. By how do land, water and crop yields need to increase by 2050?’. Expert meeting on How to Feed the World in 2050 Canning, P., et al. (2010). Energy use in the US food system. United States Department of Agriculture. Economic report 94. Cline, W. (2007). Global warming and agriculture: Impact estimates by country. Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Cueller, A., Webber, M. (2010). Wasted food, wasted energy: The embedded energy in food waste in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 44, 6464–6489. DAFF (2011). Issues Paper to Inform Development of a National Food Plan, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra. EPHC (2010). National Waste Report 2010, Environment Protection and Heritage Council, Canberra. FAO ‘World Agriculture towards 2015/2030. An FAO perspective.’ Garnaut, R. (2011). ‘Garnaut Climate Change Review – Update 2011. Update Paper Four: Transforming rural land use.’ Gunasekera, D., Kim, Y., Tulloh, C., and Ford, M. (2007). ‘Climate Change, impacts on Australian Agriculture.’ Australian commodities vol 14 no 4 December quarter 2007. Gustavsson, J. et al. (2011). Global Food Losses and Food Waste, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Parfitt, J. et al. (2011). ‘Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 365, 3065–3081. Parfitt, J., Barthel, M., Macnaughton, S. (2010). Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change to 2050. Philisophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 365, 1554. Ringler et al (eds), Global Change: Impacts on Water and Food Security. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010. Rosegrant, M.W., Cai, X., Cline, S.A. (2002) World Water and Food to 2025: Dealing with Scarcity. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC. Smith, P et al (2008). ‘Greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture.’ Phil. Trans. R. Soc B2008 363, 789–813. White, A. et al. (2011). ‘The impact of fresh food specifications on the Australian food and nutrition system: a case study of the north Queensland banana industry’, Public Health Nutrition, 14, 1489–1495. WRAP (2009). Household food and drink waste in the UK. Banbury, UK.

Food | 2020 Vision for a Sustainable Society  
Food | 2020 Vision for a Sustainable Society  

Chapter Seventeen - Food