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The agricultural system that sustains modern society will eventually destroy it, argues this gloomy ecohistory. Leeds University agricultural researcher Fraser and Boston journalist Rimas survey a range of premodern civilizations, including Sumer, Han China, and medieval Europe, to distill the common features that allowed them to feed large urban populations: farming specialization, surpluses, trade, transportation, and food storage. Alas, the authors contend, these food empires bred soaring populations, exhausted soils, led to deforestation and erosion, which together with a turn in the climate, led to famine and collapse. They apply this neo-Malthusian lesson to our cancerous mega-agriculture, based on artificial fertilizer, fossil fuels, and mono-cropping. The authors' tour of food empires past, framed by an irrelevant narrative of a 16th-century Florentine merchant, is interesting but scattershot. Further, they fail to convince on why technological innovations in agriculture will fail, and lapse into a dubious brief for locavorism. (June 15)
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ISBN-10:  1439101892
Genre:  Agricultural Sciences
Publisher:  Free Press
Date Published:  June 15, 2010
Format:  Hardcover
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review by . November 12, 2011
"About our food empire, the doomsayers will continue to grumble while the optimists put their faith in technology or God.  The pessimists at least have the backing of history.  For ten thousand years, human beings have built food empires and whittled them back into parched earth and hunger." p. 171      Prior to the dawn of agriculture human beings were hunter-gatherers.  Essentially the men hunted and fished while the women gathered nuts and …
Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations
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