A Booksmart Review: The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century by Dickson Despommier

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The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century by Dickson Despommier (Picador, 2011)

Population experts predict that within the next 40 to 50 years, there will be three billion people added to the current world population of approximately seven billion people for a total world population of over ten billion. According to Dickson Despommier, a Columbia University professor of microbiology and public health in environmental health sciences, it would take a land mass the size of Brazil to feed these additional people, and the planet no longer has such arable space available.

In The Vertical Farm: Feeding the Word in the 21st Century, Despommier—part scientist, part visionary—proposes a revolutionary way to feed the world nutrition-dense food without wasting a single resource, while at the same time restoring vast parts of the planet to its pre-agricultural, natural environmental state. He posits that in order to sustain population growth, every urban area of the future must generate its own food supply in vertical structures. These highly efficient, closed-loop indoor farms for vegetables, fish, and perhaps even poultry use hydroponic and/or aeroponic growing methods. He claims that we have the technology and the need to do so; all that is required is the will to do it, and a radical re-evaluation of food production as we know it.

Lest one think that Despommier’s vision is unattainable, several prototype vertical farms have been erected since 2010 as a result of his worldwide lectures. According to Despommier, vertical farms will not only revolutionize the concept of truly sustainable food production, they will “repair much of what we have damaged along the way to becoming seven billion strong.” A blueprint for a new food supply system, The Vertical Farm is at once pragmatic and filled with hope.

Reviewed by Lynn Felici-Gallant


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