Balancing on a Planet: The Future of Food and Agriculture (California Studies in Food and Culture)

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Press: University of California Press (December 20, 2013)
Publication Date:2013-12-20
Author Name:David A. Cleveland


This book is an interdisciplinary primer on critical thinking and effective action for the future of our global agrifood system, based on an understanding of the system’s biological and sociocultural roots. 
Key components of the book are a thorough analysis of the assumptions underlying different perspectives on problems related to food and agriculture around the world and a discussion of alternative solutions.
David Cleveland argues that combining selected aspects of small-scale traditional agriculture with modern scientific agriculture can help balance our biological need for food with its environmental impact—and continue to fulfill cultural, social, and psychological needs related to food.
Balancing on a Planet is based on Cleveland’s research and engaging teaching about food and agriculture for more than three decades.
It is a tool to help students, faculty, researchers, and interested readers understand debates about the current crisis and alternatives for the future.

From the Inside Flap

"In Balancing on a Planet, David Cleveland sets forth the evidence for this plea: if our world is to have a future, we must engage in serious critical thinking about the practices and consequences of our current food system and find immediate ways to transform it to one that is more sustainable." —Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, and author of Food Politics "Achieving sustainable food production on earth is a destination whose route has not yet been charted. 
But in mapping the trajectory of the global agrifood system—from soil condition to social organization—and examining the critical concepts, values, and assumptions that underlie it, Cleveland has begun to reveal for us what that route—and the destination itself—might someday look like." —Dr.
Deborah K.
Letourneau, Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz "With real examples and evidence, Cleveland presents a convincing argument for how traditional agriculture can help us build a sustainable food system.
Presenting on new synergies and ways of thinking, and avoiding the traps of technological fixes and economic imperatives, this book makes the urgent need for change crystal clear." —Stephen R.
Gliessman, Professor Emeritus of Agroecology, University of California, Santa Cruz "David Cleveland does more than just set out his view of the future of agrifood systems in a world of scarce resources; he provides the reader with the tools to make up her own mind, and arrive at her own conclusions." —Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food"In this tour de force, Cleveland marshals and sustains impartiality on topics that are lightning rods for challenge and debate: the origin of the current world food crisis...
he engages the reader in a deep and compelling account that weaves together personal experience, basic facts, empirical examples, and, most importantly, objectivity."—Anabel Ford and Genesis Gilroy, Current Anthropology

About the Author

David A. 
Cleveland is Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
He is a human ecologist whose research and teaching are on small-scale, sustainable agriculture.
He has worked with farmers around the world, including in Ghana, Mexico, Zuni, Hopi, Pakistan, and the United States.
He is currently researching the potential benefits of agrifood system localization on climate change, nutrition, and food sovereignty.


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Comment List (Total:2)

  •     This is an absolutely superb book, which should be read by anyone interested in the world food problem. It is an outstandingly balanced and well-proportioned treatment, giving place to production, small-scale vs large-scale agriculture issues, water, soil, sustainability, short, general coverage, but exceptionally well organized, with a vast range of facts and statistics easily found. This should be the textbook of choice for world food classes. It may seem a bit textbookish for the general reader, but the information is so important that the effort of reading technical material (very well presented, but, yes, technical) is well worth while.
  •     The book is about sustainable agriculture, but it is much more. Cleveland develops the subjects of critical thinking and the important roles of assumptions in empirical and subjective, value based analysis. The development of sustainability is the best discussion on the subject I have read. The book expanded my understanding of sustainability from an initial relatively low, shallow level to a much deeper understanding . Cleveland presents five interrelated questions we all should ask about sustaining something (resources, humans, other species etc.): What should be sustained? Who is it to be sustained for? Where should it be sustained? How long should it be sustained for? and How can it be sustained ? The treatment of sustainability in terms of economic, ecologic, and social emphases is expertly developed. Finally Cleveland makes a credible attempt of how we might quantify and estimate the human carrying capacity. I found the book to be a wonderful learning experience. I highly recommend it to all those interested in environmental science and sustainability.

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