As the human population climbs toward a projected 9 billion by midcentury, plenty of researchers are exploring just how society will be able to feed that many people. But there’s another startling global trend that has received far less attention: most of those people (up to 70 percent) will live in cities.
This shift toward urban living, says Yale’s Karen Seto
, has already changed humankind’s relationship with food, including how we shop, what we buy, and how much waste we produce. And as urban populations continue to grow, she says, it will exert untold, and to this point poorly understood, pressures on the global food system.
In the journal Science
, Seto makes the case that achieving food and environmental security in an era of rapid urbanization will require a better understanding of how urban and food systems are intertwined. The paper, “Hidden linkages between urbanization and food systems
,” was co-authored with Navin Ramankutty
, a Professor at the Liu Institute for Global Studies and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. It is part of a special issue of Science
called “Cities are the Future
To date, Seto says, a great deal of the research builds upon the notion that urban and higher-income societies consume more meat than the world average, with significant environmental implications. But even this phenomenon, she says, is more complex than it appears.