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Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenges in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures by L. R. Brown (Earth Policy Institute/IPA); Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, NY, USA; Year of Publication: 2004 (1st ed.); Pages: 256; Format: Cloth & Paperback; ISBN: 0-393-06070-5 (cloth); 0-393-32725-6 (pbk); Price: US $ 15.95

Reviewed by Saikat Kumar Basu
School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Center for Applied Arts and Sciences, Lethbridge College, Lethbridge, AB Canada T1K 1L6

Guyana Journal, October 2011

The current volume is an outstanding production by L. R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) and is another in the series of best sellers such as Tough Choices, Who will Feed China, Eco-Economy: building an Economy for Earth, Plan B: Resurrecting a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, The Twenty-Ninth Day and In the Human Interest among many others. In this groundbreaking work the author has investigated the challenges of global crop production in the context of global climate change and increasing global world population, shrinking water tables across the globes warning us about the impending danger of global water crises and complexity and challenges of feeding the global human population and issues associated with international food security.

The author has represented complex environmental issues with global perspectives highlighting global population explosion, agricultural and industrial encroachments into protected and non-protected forested areas, air, land, water, soil and industrial pollutions, climate change, global warming, depletion of ozone layers in the upper atmosphere, loss of global biodiversity, failing agriculture, rural and urban divide and environmental awareness in lucid terms. The author has very successfully introduced complex scientific and technological concepts in common language and have translated high technology oriented research and technology developments for non-technical readers to enjoy and understand major global environmental/ecological issues from the multiple perspectives of producers, end users, consumers, politicians, general public, agronomist, farmers, conservationists and law and policy makers. It has been a delight in going from chapter to chapter covering diverse topics from the impact of unplanned and non-scientific and non-judicious industrial exploitations, massive scale agriculture with complex climate change and pollution issues integrated or associated with it. Although the author has deeply investigated the situation of emergent global economies and its possible impact with respect to China and Brazil, he has however unfortunately missed out on another massively populous economy of India. It would have been nice and comprehensive to include Indian perspective into this volume too to demonstrate the length and breadth of the serious global food security challenges we are now being exposed to in terms of sustainability, future opportunities and potentials and overall global social, ecological, environmental and economic stand points. The author's insight into our current consumption level and industrial and agricultural accomplishments with social, ecological and environmental costs are thought provoking. The author clearly explained complex concepts using real life examples and case studies to illustrate his points in a systematic manner with a story telling approach for the general readers.

This volume is presented in the form of ten very well defined and highly organized and connected chapters. The ten chapters presented are as follows: Chapter 1: Pushing beyond the earth's limits; Chapter 2: Stopping at seven billion; Chapter 3: Moving up the food chain efficiently; Chapter 4: Raising the earth's productivity; Chapter 5: Protecting cropland; Chapter 6: Stabilizing water tables; Chapter 7: Stabilizing climate; Chapter 8: Reversing China's harvest decline; Chapter 9: The Brazilian dilemma; and Chapter 10: Redefining security.

The volume also includes a comprehensive notes section providing detailed bibliographic content for individual chapter and last but not the least is an exhaustive index with important keywords used in the volume. The use of simple line graphs, two way tables, figures and images have been extremely useful in understanding complex economic projections, population dynamics and both industrial and agricultural projections.

The author has nicely explained how we are pushing beyond the carrying capacity of the global land resources and how fast and alarmingly we are also loosing agriculturally rich lands by non-scientific management and through the process of over exploitation. The population pressure is ever increasing on one hand and demand for food and other agronomic products are increasing globally while the expansions in new and available agricultural lands are scarcely limited. Similarly while we have been over enthusiastic and worried about the depleting global fossil fuel resources, little has been done to secure the impending global water crisis in the not so distant future.

The current volume will be a handy resource material for ecologists, environmentalists, foresters, biologists, botanists, zoologists, geologists, geographers, agriculturists, technologists and engineers, sylviculturists, conservationists, breeders, geneticists, horticulturists, pomologists, agronomists; and experts in the disciplines of irrigation science and technology, meteorology, economists, planners, statisticians, policy and law makers, administrators dealing with environmental management and practices and undergraduate as well as postgraduate students of environmental management. This will also cater to general public interested in ecological, environmental, agricultural and conservation issues.