The End of Plenty: Book summary and reviews of The End of Plenty by Joel K. Bourne Jr

The End of Plenty

The Race to Feed a Crowded World

by Joel K. Bourne Jr

The End of Plenty by Joel K. Bourne Jr X
The End of Plenty by Joel K. Bourne Jr
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The insertion of notes at the end of each chapter rather than at the back of the book gives it a textbook feel, which may put off some readers. It should not: this call to arms is lucid, informative, and even entertaining, fully deserving a wide readership." - Kirkus

"Bourne thoughtfully lays out a vision of how short-term thinking got us to the current crisis point, and how a longer-term, ecological view, supported by creative science and more careful policy, might still be able to save us." - Publishers Weekly

"The prospect of having to feed billions more by midcentury is daunting, and yet the scale of the crisis is barely recognized by most people. The End of Plenty should provide an important antidote for that - both covering the overall situation and giving interesting vignettes of problems and potential solutions. It's an important read for everyone." - Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of The Dominant Animal

"The world's agricultural systems may not be able to provide enough food for the nine or ten billion people who will be alive in 2050. Joel Bourne, who grew up working on his family's farm, traveled the world to explore what may be the greatest challenge facing the next generation. The result is calm, lucid - and fascinating." - Charles C. Mann, author of 1491 and 1493

"Thoroughly researched and exceptionally thoughtful…Joel Bourne's courageous book should convince every reader of the compelling need to address world food problems through more skillful and sustainable agronomy, but also through education, especially of women, and universal family planning." - Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health, New York University, and author of Food Politics

"Much of this book is sad and scary - it's going to be hard to feed a world that we're relentlessly heating. But reading about the amazing advances being made by developing-world farmers with 'organic' agriculture left me with a vision of the planet we could still create." - Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

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Author Information

Joel K. Bourne Jr

Joel K. Bourne Jr. has a BS in agronomy from North Carolina State University and an MS in journalism from Columbia University. A contributing writer for National Geographic, he has written for Audubon, Science, and Outside, among others. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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