Global warming and climate refugee pressure on northern Europe’s favorable climate could require local self-sufficiency for 3x today’s population. This requires radical rethinking of the food system.
Global food security pressures
Climate change, species and variety reduction, soil erosion, fresh water shortages and increased disease pressure increase uncertainty about humanity’s food security. War comes on top of this again and creates further and pointless additional problems. Food exports from Ukraine are per summer 2023 halved compared to before the war1. Both war and climate change lead to local water and food shortages, economic decline and thus migration, and various calculations show that this will increase dramatically in scope in the coming decades. Some suggest several billion people by 2050.
Northern Europe as a new oasis and escape destination
It is difficult to predict how exactly climate change will play out, but there are many indications that Northern Europe will be a winner in terms of to avoid the harmful effects and rather achieve a longer growing season and a milder climate, although probably more unstable, and especially wilder and wetter, which we have already had a taste of. With the migration figures we are facing, it is very likely that such winning areas will experience such enormous pressure that they will simply have to accept the situation, for purely humanitarian reasons. This perhaps particularly applies to Scandinavia, which is very sparsely populated and has great potential to become a buffer in that situation, and one cannot ignore both doubling and tripling of the population (which is currently around 20 million) by 2050 .
Norway as an example
The population within the area of the planet that per date is defined as Norwegian territory can be 100% self-sufficient, according to both NIBIO2 and Ruralis3. However, this requires the following:
- Same population as now
- Zero exports
- A diet with mostly potatoes, grains and vegetables, as well as some fish and little meat
- Optimum yields on existing cultivation area
- Still a high proportion of non-organic production
So we can be self-sufficient without making so many changes, but not when the population increases. Then we have to use far more land and new methods. And it is also not certain that the non-organic methods can be maintained because an increasingly global crisis can lead to a shortage of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid seeds and other things that such production depends on (and I am not discussing in this context that organic is anyway also preferred for other reasons such as health and environmental considerations). What do we do then?
Here are some of the possibilities:
- All arable land for food production, and not entertainment (golf, horse keeping, ready-made lawn production, etc.)
- Reclaim cultivation areas that have been demolished by removing buildings and structures (and of course a complete halt to all new demolition)
- More use of intensive organic production methods (intensive vegetable cultivation, greenhouse and indoor cultivation, aquaculture on land, etc.), and in this context use of new digital and electrical-based technology (incl. AI), as well as precision methods
- Use difficult areas with small-scale production with a wide range of cultivation methods
- Use all private gardens and spaces in cities for food production
- Massive planting of fruit and berries as well as food forests/forest gardens, both on publicly and privately owned land
- Development of a network of stations for testing and development of new varieties and breeds for organic and climate-robust production, as well as 100% and as local as possible self-supply of propagating material (seeds, plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms)
- Far more hands are involved in all the activities in a comprehensive restructuring program under public authority
- An identification of the problem complex as the most important societal task since World War II, and mobilizing the entire population to build a system that can provide at least 3x the current population with healthy and good food within a sustainable framework, and that by 2050.
Start the debate!
- Ruralis: Slutten for det eksportorienterte jordbruket i Ukraina? ↩︎
- Ruralis: Krevende men mulig å bli selvforsynt med mat (2023.07.12) ↩︎
- NIBIO: Selvforsyningsgrad og engrosforbruk ↩︎
The article was started on 2023-09-03
Sist oppdatert 2023-11-09 av Bi-O