Balancing Food Security & Ecological Resilience in the Age of the Anthropocene

In Sarah Kenehan & Erinn Gilson (eds.), Food, Environment, and Climate Change. New York, NY, USA: (2018)
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Climate change increasingly impacts the resilience of ecosystems and agricultural production. On the one hand, changing weather patterns negatively affect crop yields and thus global food security. Indeed, we live in an age where more than one billion people are going hungry, and this number is expected to rise as climate-induced change continues to displace communities and thus separate them from their means of food production (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre 2015). In this context, if one accepts a humancentric ethic, then the focus would be on addressing impacts to agricultural production, and thus food security (Borlaug 1997; Navin 2012). On the other hand, ecological resilience is also being impacted by climate change, as species go extinct or migrate due to fluctuating temperatures and shifting weather patterns. This reduction of resilience negatively impacts ecosystem services and the ability of the natural world to support life (Palmer and Larson 2014; Urban 2015). From an environmental holist perspective, then, one could argue that the ethical path would be to focus on reducing negative impacts to species and/or local ecosystems rather than increasing crop yields. Thus, there appears to be a tension between the prioritization of crop yields and the mitigation of ecosystem impacts. While this tension is well established in the agricultural literature (Kirschenmann 2010; Noll 2018), climatezas lochange exacerbates the situation, as agricultural lands are stressed and climate-induced migrations increase already high demands for foodstuffs, thus bringing the conflict to the forefront (Macdonald et al. 2015; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2017a).

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Samantha Noll
Washington State University


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