Special Event

3rd Annual Malthus Lecture

May 22, 2012 - 07:30 pm to 09:00 pm EDT

How Can We Feed a Growing World and Still Sustain the Planet?

Increasing population and wealth, along with changing patterns of diet and consumption, are placing unprecedented demands on the world's agriculture and natural resources. Today, approximately 1 billion people are chronically malnourished, even as our agricultural systems are degrading land, water, biodiversity, and climate on a global scale. Are there practical approaches that could support agricultural demand from a growing world population?

To meet the world’s future food security and sustainability needs, global food production must grow substantially while, at the same time, agriculture’s environmental footprint must shrink dramatically. In the Third Annual Malthus Lecture, Dr. Jonathan Foley will present possible solutions to this dilemma, showing that tremendous progress could be made by halting agricultural expansion, closing “yield gaps” on underperforming lands, increasing cropping efficiency, shifting diets, and reducing waste. Together, these strategies could double the world's food production while greatly reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.

Dr. Jonathan Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota, where he is a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. He also leads the IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. He and his students have contributed to our understanding of global-scale ecological processes, global patterns of land use, the behavior of the planet’s climate and water cycles, and the sustainability of our biosphere. This work has led him to be a regular adviser to large corporations, NGOs, and governments around the world. He and his colleagues have published over 100 articles in the scientific literature, including highly cited work in Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has also written many popular articles and essays, including pieces in the New York Times, Scientific American, SEED, E360, and the Guardian. In 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The Malthus Lectureship, a partnership between the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), promotes the study of the connections among nutrition, food, agriculture, and population, and invites an outstanding scholar or policymaker to give a presentation each year.

The Population Reference Bureauinforms people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations.

The International Food Policy Research Institute identifies and analyzes alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world on a sustainable basis, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on poorer groups in those countries. IFPRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus has become widely known for his theories, published in the early nineteenth century, that sooner or later population gets checked by famine and disease. Since then there has been a lively debate as to whether our planet can sustainably feed an ever growing population. These important questions are at the crossroads of food policy and demography.