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  • Writer's pictureJulian Cribb

Food or War: how food will decide the human future

Updated: May 15, 2021

Ours is the Age of Food.

Food is a central obsession in all cultures, nations, the media, and society. Our future supply of food is filled with risk, and history tells us that lack of food leads to war. But it also presents us with spectacular opportunities for fresh human creativity and technological prowess.

Julian Cribb describes a new food system capable of meeting our global needs on this hot and overcrowded planet. This book is for anyone concerned about the health, safety, affordability, diversity, and sustainability of their food - and the peace of our planet. It is not just timely - its message is of the greatest urgency.

Audiences include consumers, 'foodies', policymakers, researchers, cooks, chefs and farmers. Indeed, anyone who cares about their food, where it comes from and what it means for them, their children and grandchildren.

  • Maps a path for a safe, sustainable food supply in the twenty-first century - but also for a way to end the Sixth Extinction and reduce the threat of wars and refugee crises globally

  • Explains the past, present and future connection between food and human conflict, helping the reader to appreciate how their food choices influence world politics and the risk of war

  • Presents the case for dramatic change in world food production, health and choices, showing how each of us can influence the change to a safe, healthy, sustainable food supply in future

  • Explains the connection between food and the looming crises and conflicts of the twenty-first century, proposing that food is a 'weapon for peace' which everyone can use.

Food or War is published by Cambridge University Press, 2019.


'… today’s unsustainable food systems and the impossible job of feeding the estimated 10 billion people inhabiting the planet by 2050 encapsulates the multiheaded crisis humanity faces today. If you haven’t heard all this then Food Or War is a good primer, vivid and punchy.' - The Observer

'Perchance, ecosystems cease to function, the human jawbone would plop open, and remain plopped open, gaping and, over time, morph into a zombie-like end game of people preying upon people. … All of which serves as a prelude to Julian Cribb’s brilliance as an established and celebrated science writer, recipient of 32 journalism awards, and author of ten books, with a new 'first-rate' book. Food or War is not only a page-turner with Cribb’s clear, precise prose, but as an added bonus, it’s jam-packed, like a textbook, with significant facts and statistics about the biosphere. It belongs in the hands of people who deeply care about the deteriorating condition of our poisoned planet. Incidentally, based upon very compelling evidence, yes, it is poisoned.' - Robert Hunziker, CounterPunch

'Food or War offers us the context we need to consider the food we eat, the approach we use to raise food, and the manner we treat others’ resources across the globe in new, revealing, and common sense ways.' - Carolyn Fortuna, CleanTechnica

‘Wars rage on in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, in part driven by food shortages. What to do? … We can turn this imbalance around. Cribb points the way in this must-read book.’ - Tim Fischer, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and Chair of the Global Crop Trust with Seed Vault in Svalbard and HQ in Bonn, Germany

‘Julian Cribb's comprehensive and thoughtful plan to deal with an impending global food security disaster deserves coordinated and urgent consideration by the UN FAO and all national governments.’ - Michael Jeffery, former Governor General of Australia

‘Access to this book will enrich deliberations on critical issues of global food supply, dealing with refugees and poverty, and the food/land/water nexus. The evidence-based approach, integration across issues, and presentation of opportunities for the future make this text stand out from the crowd. It is highly recommended.’ - Kath Bowmer, former Deputy Chief of CSIRO Land and Water and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University

‘Throughout history, food has been both a tool and a consequence of conflict and migration, which continues today exacerbated by arable land lost to cities, unreliable climate and excess consumption in rich nations while millions remain malnourished elsewhere. Cribb’s analysis is urgently apposite, as is his practical call for a sustainable, nourishing and resilient global food system.’ Emeritus Professor Lindsay Falvey, University of Melbourne

‘Drawing on his extensive scientific and historical knowledge, Cribb takes us on a grim and tightly argued odyssey to the edge of the Earth. He holds our hand while we stare into the abyss. Frightening. Having outlined the reality of our tenuous hold on the supports of life, he offers creative and imaginative solutions. A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of humanity.’ - Bruce Haigh, former Australian diplomat and refugee advocate

‘In a time when we are absorbed in populist, political nonsense, Julian Cribb brings us to heel with the existential threat we face, in simple language; he joins all the dots.’

‘Unputdownable. Dealing with the multiple threats to humanity’s most basic need - food - it unceremoniously pulls your head from the sand - but empowers you with the knowledge to do something. An absolutely essential read. This masterful work articulates clearly humanity’s future and may just be warning enough for globally connected communities to avert the avalanche of existential threats bearing down.’ Brad Collis, Editorial Director, Coretext and author of Fields of Discovery

‘Human nature meets human need when the red and black horsemen ride in the ultimate existential food fight. At once perceptive and persuasive, Julian Cribb delivers another science-based study of the human condition at its most basic. Food or War is exceptional.’ - David Hulme, Publisher,

‘A compelling case for turning swords into ploughshares and building a sustainable global food supply in this century of existential climate risks.’ David Spratt, American University Washington College of Law, and author of Climate Code Red ‘Food, like air, water, soil and biodiversity, is one of humankind's most fundamental needs, a source of joy and creator of community. The eco-crises of climate change and loss of biodiversity reveal the total unsustainability of the current global food system. This book is an urgent call for recognition that the inescapable need for change also brings enormous opportunities.’ - David Suzuki, Award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster.

‘Food or War targets an issue that touches every human life, every day: food. And that, without it, people fight. It shows that our 'jawprint' is the heaviest of all our impacts on our finite planet - and that, for civilisation to survive, how we produce food must change … Anyone with an interest in either the human future or food should read this clear, authoritative, scary book. So should all first-year college classes.’ - Emeritus Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic

'[A] splendid exemplar of the new food consciousness.' - Tim Lang, The Times Literary Supplement

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