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Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet Hardcover – 26 May 2022
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The Sunday Times bestseller
*Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize*
'This book calls for nothing less than a revolution in the future of food' Kate Raworth
From the bestselling author of Feral, a breathtaking first glimpse of a new future for food and for humanity
Farming is the world's greatest cause of environmental destruction - and the one we are least prepared to talk about. We criticise urban sprawl, but farming sprawls across thirty times as much land. We have ploughed, fenced and grazed great tracts of the planet, felling forests, killing wildlife, and poisoning rivers and oceans to feed ourselves. Yet millions still go hungry.
Now the food system itself is beginning to falter. But, as George Monbiot shows us in this brilliant, bracingly original new book, we can resolve the biggest of our dilemmas and feed the world without devouring the planet.
Regenesis is a breathtaking vision of a new future for food and for humanity. Drawing on astonishing advances in soil ecology, Monbiot reveals how our changing understanding of the world beneath our feet could allow us to grow more food with less farming. He meets the people who are unlocking these methods, from the fruit and vegetable grower revolutionising our understanding of fertility; through breeders of perennial grains, liberating the land from ploughs and poisons; to the scientists pioneering new ways to grow protein and fat. Together, they show how the tiniest life forms could help us make peace with the planet, restore its living systems, and replace the age of extinction with an age of regenesis.
Regenesis speaks to us like a poem that begins with a phantasmagoria of that which lies under the soil, offers a magnificent political economy of global food production and concludes with a hopeful vision of a techno-ethical equilibrium between Humanity and Nature. It must be read -- Yanis Varoufakis
People from all walks of life should read this remarkable book. It is in my view one of the two or three most important books to appear this century -- Prof. Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government
As we begin to rethink our relationship with Nature, the unstinting work of George Monbiot becomes ever more valuable. Monbiot has been at the cutting edge of the discussion for decades, and his extraordinary book covers this complex, evolving subject with depth and breadth, sincerity and humour. I never cease to be surprised by the unexpected perspectives he brings to bear, leading me through problems I never envisaged and solutions I never imagined. We are left with the hope that the solutions might triumph, that we might make it through -- Brian Eno
A book offering evidence-based hope is a rare thing in these days of climate and nature emergency - yet that's exactly what George Monbiot has written. Inspiring and compelling, Regenesis sets out a transformative vision of a new food future with the potential to both restore nature and feed the world. Monbiot's blueprint is both wildly ambitious and deeply practical, and might well be our last best hope of stopping the sixth great extinction -- Caroline Lucas
This remarkable book, staring curiously down at the soil beneath our feet, points us convincingly in one of the directions we must travel. I learned something on every page -- Bill McKibben
George Monbiot clears paths towards solutions that lie dormant within us, which, if embraced, could transform our world and our societies into better places. He reaches for new ideas that might ignite the collective consciousness in a push to protect, rather than tragically destroy, the biosphere. Read George Monbiot and you will meet the cheerful courage and passion of a fellow traveller on this earth who seeks authentic hope -- ANOHNI
For anyone who cares about where our food comes from and its impact on the planet Regenesis is essential reading. This deeply researched book lifts the lid on our current methods of food production and all its dirty secrets: but more than that it provides a blueprint for the future. Monbiot pursues the key question: how can we have healthy food that's cheap enough for everyone to eat? His answers provide critical pathways towards a way to feed the planet -- Rosie Boycott
Forget Elon Musk's dry-as-dust retro sci-fi fantasies, George Monbiot gives us an inspiring vision of the future that is alive and kicking and grounded in the latest scientific discoveries. George Monbiot has combined his gifts as an investigator, interviewer and witty storyteller to create an exhiliarating epic! -- Robert Newman
A fascinating and ultimately positive book ... a harmonic vision of how changing our relationship to land use, farming and the food that we eat could transform our lives -- Thom Yorke
Wonderful ... Monbiot shows that the thin layer on which all terrestrial ecosystems stand is alive with organisms as diverse, fascinating and mysterious as any found above ground. He shatters the shibboleths of farming, showing the way to a radical transformation of agricultural practices and exciting new opportunities for nourishment -- David Suzuki
Regenesis is a world-making, world-changing book; at once visionary and rigorous and practicable. It rings and sings throughout with Monbiot's extraordinary combination of passion, generosity and justice. It is braced by his unshakeable commitment to bettering the planet for all its inhabitants, human and other-than-human. It is a thrilling work, more ambitious even than its predecessor, Feral, and it gripped me as I read. Recognising that "the future is underground", Monbiot shows us that the possibility for a transformed relationship with food, the living world and each other lies just beneath our feet, right under our noses -- Robert Macfarlane
A brilliant, mesmerizing, vital book. Beneath each square meter of soil live thousands of species, and each chapter of George Monbiot's eye-opening exploration of that soil and its potential is similarly, dynamically rich-delivering a whole new way of thinking about our agriculture and our diets, our climate and our future. And much needed hope, besides -- David Wallace-Wells
A genuinely brilliant, inspirational book ... George Monbiot embarks on a journey of discovery, realising that soil and its role in our life is bigger than everything else. Halfway through, I felt like a child who was bursting to share a secret with anyone who would listen. By the time I had finished reading, I felt as if the purest mountain stream had washed through my brain, and Monbiot had shared the most fundamentally important insight of his life -- Sir Tim Smit, Founder of the Eden Project
You may think you are across environmental and climate change issues, but think again. This passionate, extraordinary book opens up a compelling and vital new dimension: food and the way the world farms -- Will Hutton
With rigour, singular bravery and an infectious love for the living world, George Monbiot presents the Silent Spring of our time. Regenesis is an eye-watering reckoning of humanity's land and food crisis and an astonishing vision of survival and restoration. Monbiot takes us on a journey from the rhizospheres and the drilospheres through soil ecology, cultural myths, to the future of food all bound together with his own wonder-ful, beautifully-written observations. There is no topic more important for planetary survival than land and food, and there is no writer willing to dispense of bullshit, tell us the truth, and take on powerful forces and perceived wisdom like George Monbiot. A visionary, fearless, essential book -- Lucy Jones
Monbiot rolls up his sleeves and pulls on his boots for an uncompromising session of agricultural dragon-slaying and foodie myth-busting. Unafraid to propose a new world order for farming and food production that is kinder to both people and planet, Regenesis is rigorous and restive, but also witty, original and humane. Let us hope it is read, digested and acted on by people, politicians and policy-makers the world over -- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
I am so grateful George Monbiot has applied his razor sharp intellect, bountiful curiosity and love for the land to the complex and fundamental issue of what we eat. This book offers a deep dive into the most essential question of our time - how might we feed ourselves without destroying our planet in the process? -- Lily Cole
This is an important book and a gripping read. It will enflame vested interests on all sides. Because Monbiot has that most aggravating of gifts - the ability lucidly to point out things that people desperately do not want to be true -- Henry Dimbleby
How can we ensure that everyone is fed without destroying the biosphere? Regenesis is a lively and deeply researched enquiry that confronts our dilemmas head on. There are no easy answers, but Monbiot provides a brilliant guide to asking the right questions. Transformation is urgently needed and this book shows how it is possible -- Merlin Sheldrake
George Monbiot is a very skilful writer, and Regenesis shows all his powers at full stretch. He seems to see more fully than almost anyone else in this field, with a clarity of attention both to the smallest realities of a handful of soil and to the widest implications of the way human beings have lived and continue to live in the world. Telling things in the right order doesn't seem like one of the functions of the imagination, but again and again Monbiot shows that it is, with all the imaginative sympathy of a great storyteller as well as the overarching understanding of a moral visionary. This is a fine and necessary book -- Philip Pullman
George Monbiot is one of the most fearless and important voices in the global climate movement today -- Greta Thunberg
I used to look up to the stars for thoughts of infinity, eternity and divine cooperation. This book revealed to me I could find the same inspiration beneath the soles of my feet in less than a foot of soil. My walks on earth will never be the same as they were. The writing, observation and devotion is infectiously compelling. The learning is deep and immense -- Mark Rylance
A magnificent new overview of how we might live and feed ourselves without destroying ourselves ... It is riveting ... Along with a dazzling array of stats, there's also impressive investigative reporting ... rich food for thought, devastating figures, startling insights and even the odd joke ... A hugely important read -- Christopher Hart ― The Sunday Times
A call to raze the pastoral imaginary so that we can begin to think clearly about how we produce food and steward the soil ... To have any chance of turning the age of extinction into an age of regeneration, systemic reform, based on the facts, not pastoral myth-making, is essential -- Philippa Nuttall ― New Statesman
Colossally important... You've got to read it -- Max Porter (via Twitter)
A treasure trove of hope and solutions, and a vision for a sustainable, healthy, equitable world. We meet inspiring farmers as well as some radical solutions ... Comprehensive, devastating, rousing ... An essential book -- Rowan Hooper ― New Scientist
Big ideas, beautifully written and the portraits of people building the alternatives are gorgeous! Makes you angry and enraptured with the beauty of the natural world all at once -- Aaron Bastani (via Twitter)
Apaean to the wonder that is the ecology of soil, scientifically informed and beautifully told. The perfect bank holiday read -- Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford
Phenomenal. Clear, eloquent, fearless and devastating in its analysis. A revolution in the future of food -- Adam Rutherford (via Twitter)
Glorious ... intelligent, deeply researched .... The point Monbiot makes so ably and so necessarily is that system change is both essential and possible through a complexity of solutions ... The stakes could not be higher. If a book can change hearts and minds about one of the most critical issues of our time, this rational, humane polemic is it -- Gaia Vince ― Observer
Revolutionary ... Rigorous, bold and clear-sighted ... To conjure the miracle of more food with less farming, we need to rethink what lies beneath our feet -- David Farrier ― Prospect
Vivid and memorable... Regenesis is a compelling, deeply researched account of a deeply broken food system and how we might heal it ― Irish Times
A compelling story of soil, food and farming ― Financial Times
Ambitious and deeply researched ... Monbiot exposes, with journalistic flair, the 'gulf between perception and reality' about where and how our food is produced ... it includes some fascinating case studies ... bristling with ideas and imagination -- Laura Battle ― Financial Times
Eye-opening, persuasive, meticulously researched [...] Monbiot thinks globally [... and] his arguments take account of the needs of everyone in society -- Amy Liptrot ― Guardian
A paean to soil, told more gracefully and memorably than anyone before him... Regenesis is likely to become a classic. Monbiot is a writer of the first rank -- Bill McKibben ― Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
- Publisher : Allen Lane (26 May 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 024144764X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241447642
- Dimensions : 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 July 2022
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And that is part of the problem. First of all most people don't see farming as the most ecologically destructive human activity there is because, for one, they can't think there's an alternative; for 2, because we've been brought up to see roaming sheep etc. as a bucolic idyll, and, 3, the farming lobby is incredibly influential. One of his examples is the mad idea of biofuels - incredibly inefficient (and we're talking like 25 to 50 times less efficient than wind power etc.) but stoked by EU subsidies.
So Monbiot's approach is hyper realism, which many don't like. The old arguments of Share or Spare (that is, Share - like regenerative farming) or Spare (set aside of wild spaces) are, in themselves, not the end point - the argument has to be 'how to farm causing the least amount of harm'. Basically, Utilitarianism in farming. And that's hard, and much of the book examines approaches that aren't in themselves solutions, like Regenerative farming, which produces far too little food and would required more and more wild areas, thus actually impacting more than, say, some intensive farming.
So what to do? The Farmfree foods section is exciting. Using hydrogen oxidizing bacteria to create protein is really interesting. You use them to replicate different types of protein, In America you can already buy ice cream made from the artificial milk generate by 'fake' casein proteins. Basically, you can make milk from water and dead bacteria which is chemically almost identical to milk and all you need is power (solar/wind), a fermentation vat and some mixing. Given milk is 97% water, it's not a hard one. But generic lumps of white 'meat' (aka 'chicken') would be another. This could free up a HUGE amount of land, so, again, why the outcry? Well, there's some that scream 'it's artificial! chemical!' and, yes, it is, but if tested properly and seen to be safe, what, actually, is the argument? Other's that they simply wouldn't drink fake milk. Maybe not, but many in the world won't have that luxury and milk production is expensive in every way. The problem with the detractors is there is no other solution, so they're really putting their fingers in their ears 'blah blah blahing' whilst we head towards extinction.
If I had any criticism it would only be that not covered, probably to sheer exhaustion at the size of the project he took on. I think a chapter on the potential for robotic farming would have been good. I think an army of small robots working 24 hrs a day might solve many problems - pesticides, herbicides, ploughing, watering, wildlife corridors within farms, efficient picking etc. So small yield increases but far less poison and soil damage. It would have dovetailed nicely into the Annual/Perennials discussion.
One criticism on Kindle - I KEPT hitting the little numbers of references, and then disappearing to the end of the book. So annoying! I never knew where I'd been... And don't judge - my eyesight can't cope with print. But I'll tell you something - the book ended at about 54% read, meaning there's a LOT of references for those who believe it's a polemical stunt.
I would read it. We're in such trouble and this actually offers some exciting ideas that really would help.
In the opening chapter Monbiot describes in gorgeous detail his (community-run) orchard, the blossom, the fruit, and the mysterious ecosystem that is soil. He discusses the creatures, bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi (drawing on Merlin Sheldrake’s brilliant Entangled Life) and how maintaining and improving soil is an essential, and overlooked, part of the challenge.
Unfortunately, much of contemporary farming worldwide actively damages soil, air and water. Monbiot looks at how government subsidies, introduced to ensure food security, actively encourage environmentally damaging practices, returning to the theme of his Rivercide documentary on how chicken waste pollutes rivers. Farmers, he argues provocatively, no longer farm food, but subsidies. Their most lucrative fields are on spreadsheets.
The problem isn’t that we can’t produce enough food. In principle, the world already produces enough food for 10-14 billion people. The issue is in the distribution, fragile international supply chains, and the fact that industrial farming is incompatible with mitigating climate change.
Once he has outlined the problem, Monbiot goes on to describe a number of potential solutions. He visits one vegetable grower who emphasises working with and improving the soil, making friends with weeds, because they build soil structure. Another farmer sows crops without ploughing. These aren’t commercially profitable, but then neither, remember, is industrial farming, it is propped up by subsidies that pay people to harm, rather than protect, animals, the land and the climate.
Other chapters look at alternatives to farming as we know it, such as growing protein from bacteria or developing perennial cereal crops, and outline the work of groups such as Fareshare in the UK which distribute food which would otherwise be wasted.
There is some humour too, in Monbiot’s critique of the way we romanticise farms, from children’s fiction to Sunday night comfort TV like Countryfile. He is not afraid to take aim at, er, sacred cows, such as pasture-fed meat – which, he argues, is actually be more damaging in climate terms because of the extra land needed to feed each animal. He also says that locally-sourced food isn’t necessarily better – because transport represents such a small proportion of the carbon cost of food.
Regenesis is a fascinating and thought-provoking read, packed with insight and testament to Monbiot’s commitment to detail (he holds others to the same high standard, even allies who make idyllic claims but can’t provide the evidence to back them up). It is unflinching in outlining the problem, but also inspiring in the solutions it offers.
I received a copy of Regenesis from the publisher via Netgalley.