KICS

is a forum for conversations amongst activists and academics on issues relating to science and democracy.

KICS Sharing Session #26
The Looming Energy Crisis and Agriculture:
Who will feed India when the sun sets on oil?

Date and Time: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 0430 – 0600 PM
Venue: Conference Hall, Centre for World Solidarity (CWS), Street No.1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad
Facilitator: Steve Hallet (ppt)
Moderator: Sreekumar N

There have been recurring fears that the global population is becoming too large to feed and that we should expect widespread famine. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 The Population Bomb predicted widespread food shortages in India in the 1970s and 1980s. These predictions proved false and India’s food production increased dramatically through the years of the Green Revolution. India has grown  in many other ways since this time, its economy has been one of the fastest growing in the world over the last quarter century, and India has become a major global economic hub. But the news is not all good. Economic and agricultural growth have been matched by population growth and the accelerated extraction of natural resources.

Many of the challenges that India faces are mirrored around the world, and are linked to emerging global crises. Paramount among these is access to energy resources. The whole world faces the imminent decline of oil, natural gas and coal resources, but India is particularly vulnerable. Oil supplies in India are woefully inadequate, and India already imports the lion’s share of its oil. Natural gas is somewhat more abundant in India, but India has already begun to import natural gas as well. Coal is the mainstay of India’s energy portfolio, but even coal resources are becoming depleted. What will India do to generate its energy needs as fossil fuels go into decline? Some of the biggest challenges will be in agriculture. High yielding cereals are dependent upon gargantuan supplies of fossil fuels: diesel for tractors; natural gas for fertilizer.

How will Indian agriculture fare through the coming energy crisis? I know this sounds like the bleating of yet another Ehrlich or Malthus coming to cry “wolf!”  We have heard all this before: I know. But, the fable of the little boy who cried wolf always ends the same way: the wolf always shows up in the end. India, once again, faces an uncertain future.  How will it respond?


Steve Hallett studied at Lancaster University, UK. His career took him to McGill University, Canada and the University of Queensland, Australia. He is currently Associate Professor of Botany at Purdue University, USA. Steve’s main areas of research activity have been in weed science and sustainable agriculture, and he has published more than forty peer reviewed articles and book chapters in these areas. His project work has taken him to China, Central America and a number of countries in Africa. More recently, he has delved into studying the confluence of energy and agriculture issues and is the author of the recent book “Life without Oil: Why we must Shift to a New Energy Future” (Prometheus Books).  Steve will leave you deeply concerned about the inevitable changes coming to global agriculture, but most importantly, he will provide new insights into the changes that are necessary to make the world a better place.

Knowledge Swaraj

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