Farming is the world’s greatest cause of environmental destruction – and the one we are least prepared to talk about. We criticise urban sprawl, but farming sprawls across thirty times as much land. We have ploughed, fenced and grazed great tracts of the planet, felling forests, killing wildlife and poisoning rivers and oceans to feed ourselves. Yet millions still go hungry.
The food system itself is beginning to falter. But, as Monbiot now argues, we can resolve the biggest of our dilemmas and feed the world without devouring the planet. Drawing on astonishing advances in soil ecology, he shows how our changing understanding of the world beneath our feet could allow us to grow more food with less farming.
Monbiot talks about the people who are unlocking these methods, from the fruit and vegetable grower revolutionising our understanding of fertility; through breeders of perennial grains, liberating the land from ploughs and poisons; to the scientists pioneering new ways to grow protein and fat. Together, these examples show how the tiniest life forms could help us make peace with the planet, restore its living systems and replace the age of extinction with an age of regenesis.
In conversation with Olivia Sweeney.
This event was part of Festival of Nature 2022.
George Monbiot’s Regenesis is published by Penguin Books. Buy a copy online or at the event from Waterstones.
George Monbiot is an author, Guardian columnist and environmental campaigner. His best-selling books include Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life; Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning; and Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. He co-wrote the concept album Breaking the Spell of Loneliness with musician Ewan McLennan.
Image credit: Guy Reece
Olivia Sweeney is a lifetime environmentalist and a former Black and Green Ambassador. As part of this, she and two other ambassadors were invited to share the outcomes of their work in the Blue Zone at COP 26. She hosts a Tuesday morning breakfast radio show on Ujima Radio as well as working for a sustainable waste consultancy trying to make it easier for people to reduce their waste, recycle and build the circular economy. She was named one of the Top 100 most Influential Women in Engineering by FT in 2019 and one of Rife Magazine’s 30 under 30 in 2022. She is an advocate for equity and justice in all forms.