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Can Planet Earth Feed 10 Billion People? Humanity has 30 years to find out.

地球能养活 100 亿人吗?人类有 30 年的时间去寻找答案

All parents remember the moment when they first held their children—the tiny crumpled face, an entire new person, emerging from the hospital blanket. I extended my hands and took my daughter in my arms. I was so overwhelmed that I could hardly think.


Afterward I wandered outside so that mother and child could rest. It was three in the morning, late February in New England. There was ice on the sidewalk and a cold drizzle in the air. As I stepped from the curb, a thought popped into my head: When my daughter is my age, almost 10 billion people will be walking the Earth. I stopped midstride. I thought, How is that going to work?


In 1970, when I was in high school, about one out of every four people was hungry—“undernourished,” to use the term preferred today by the United Nations. Today the proportion has fallen to roughly one out of 10. In those four-plus decades, the global average life span has, astoundingly, risen by more than 11 years; most of the increase occurred in poor places. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa have lifted themselves from destitution into something like the middle class. This enrichment has not occurred evenly or equitably: Millions upon millions are not prosperous. Still, nothing like this surge of well-being has ever happened before. No one knows whether the rise can continue, or whether our current affluence can be sustained.



Today the world has about 7.6 billion inhabitants. Most demographers believe that by about 2050, that number will reach 10 billion or a bit less. Around this time, our population will probably begin to level off. As a species, we will be at about “replacement level”: On average, each couple will have just enough children to replace themselves. All the while, economists say, the world’s development should continue, however unevenly. The implication is that when my daughter is my age, a sizable percentage of the world’s 10 billion people will be middle-class.


Like other parents, I want my children to be comfortable in their adult lives. But in the hospital parking lot, this suddenly seemed unlikely. Ten billion mouths, I thought. Three billion more middle-class appetites. How can they possibly be satisfied? But that is only part of the question. The full question is: How can we provide for everyone without making the planet uninhabitable?


Borlaug, born 12 years after Vogt, has become the emblem of “techno-optimism”—the view that science and technology, properly applied, will let us produce a way out of our predicament. He was the best-known figure in the research that in the 1960s created the Green Revolution, the combination of high-yielding crop varieties and agronomic techniques that increased grain harvests around the world, helping to avert tens of millions of deaths from hunger. To Borlaug, affluence was not the problem but the solution. Only by getting richer and more knowledgeable can humankind create the science that will resolve our environmental dilemmas. Innovate! Innovate! was his cry.



Both men thought of themselves as using new scientific knowledge to face a planetary crisis. But that is where the similarity ends. For Borlaug, human ingenuity was the solution to our problems. One example: By using the advanced methods of the Green Revolution to increase per-acre yields, he argued, farmers would not have to plant as many acres, an idea researchers now call the “Borlaug hypothesis.” Vogt’s views were the opposite: The solution, he said, was to use ecological knowledge to get smaller. Rather than grow more grain to produce more meat, humankind should, as his followers say, “eat lower on the food chain,” to lighten the burden on Earth’s ecosystems. This is where Vogt differed from his predecessor, Robert Malthus, who famously predicted that societies would inevitably run out of food because they would always have too many children. Vogt, shifting the argument, said that we may be able to grow enough food, but at the cost of wrecking the world’s ecosystems.






I think of the adherents of these two perspectives as “Wizards” and “Prophets.” Wizards, following Borlaug’s model, unveil technological fixes; Prophets, looking to Vogt, decry the consequences of our heedlessness.
Borlaug and Vogt traveled in the same orbit for decades, but rarely acknowledged each other. Their first and only meeting, in the mid-1940s, led to disagreement—immediately afterward, Vogt tried to get Borlaug’s work shut down. So far as I know, they never spoke afterward. Each referred to the other’s ideas in public addresses, but never attached a name. Instead, Vogt rebuked the anonymous “deluded” scientists who were actually aggravating our problems. Borlaug branded his opponents “Luddites.”




译注:“卢德分子”,保守派, 19世纪他们反对广泛被使用的、造成众多有技术的纺织业者失业的自动织机,现代这一词用于描述反对工业化、自动化、数字化或一切新科技者。

The Roads to Hell
vogt entered history in 1948, when he published Road to Survival, the first modern we’re-all-going-to-hell book. It contained the foundational argument of today’s environmental movement: carrying capacity. Often called by other names—“ecological limits,” “planetary boundaries”—carrying capacity posits that every ecosystem has a limit to what it can produce. Exceed that limit for too long and the ecosystem will be ruined. As human numbers increase, Road to Survival said, our demands for food will exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity. The results will be catastrophic: erosion, desertification, soil exhaustion, species extinction, and water contamination that will, sooner or later, lead to massive famines. Embraced by writers like Rachel Carson (the author of Silent Spring and one of Vogt’s friends) and Paul Ehrlich (the author of The Population Bomb), Vogt’s arguments about exceeding limits became the wellspring of today’s globe-spanning environmental movement—the only enduring ideology to emerge from the past century.

沃格特于1948年踏入历史长河,出版了《生存之路 》,这是第一本现代版的“我们都要下地狱”之书。

《生存之路 》说,随着人类数量的增加,我们对食物的需求将超过地球的承载能力,结果将是灾难性的:水土流失、沙漠化、土壤枯竭、物种灭绝和水污染,这些迟早会导致大规模饥荒。

在瑞秋·卡森(《寂静的春天》一书作者、沃格特的朋友之一) 和 保罗·埃利希 (《人口炸弹》的作者) 等作家的支持下,沃格特关于超限的观点成为了当今全球范围内的环保运动的源泉——这是上个世纪出现的唯一持久的意识形态。

William Vogt (Denver Public Library, Western History Photographic Collections)

图:威廉· 沃格特( 丹佛公共图书馆,西方历史摄影收藏 )

When Road to Survival appeared, Borlaug was a young plant pathologist working in a faltering program to improve Mexican agriculture. Sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the project focused on helping the nation’s poor corn farmers. Borlaug was in Mexico for a small side project that involved wheat—or rather, black stem rust, a fungus that is wheat’s oldest and worst predator (the Romans made sacrifices to propitiate the god of stem rust). Cold usually killed stem rust in the United States, but it was constantly present in warmer Mexico, and every spring winds drove it across the border to reinfect U.S. wheat fields.

《生存之路 》面世时,博洛格是一位年轻的植物病理学家,正在一个改善墨西哥农业的摇摇欲坠的项目中工作,该项目由洛克菲勒基金会( Rockefeller Foundation)赞助,重点是帮助美国贫困的玉米种植者。
博洛格在墨西哥参与了一个涉及小麦的小项目——或者更确切地说,是一种真菌——黑茎锈菌,它是小麦最古老和最严重的捕食者 ( 罗马人为安抚“锈病之神”做出了牺牲 ) 。

The sole Rockefeller researcher working on wheat, Borlaug was given so little money that he had to sleep in sheds and fields for months on end. But he succeeded by the mid-’50s in breeding wheat that was resistant to many strains of rust. Not only that, he then created wheat that was much shorter than usual—what became known as “semi-dwarf” wheat. In the past, when wheat was heavily fertilized, it had grown so fast that its stalks became spindly and fell over in the wind. The plants, unable to pull themselves erect, had rotted and died. Borlaug’s shorter, stouter wheat could absorb large doses of fertilizer and channel the extra growth into grain rather than roots or stalk. In early tests, farmers sometimes harvested literally 10 times as much grain from their fields. Yields climbed at such a rate that in 1968 a USAID official called the rise the Green Revolution, thus naming the phenomenon that would come to define the 20th century.


Norman Borlaug (Courtesy of Rockefeller Archive Center)

图:诺曼·博洛格 (由洛克菲勒档案中心提供)


译注:关于这段,是个容易引起争论的地方,因为涉及国际水稻研究所,还有。。袁隆平院士,天涯上有人吵过,有人爆“90% 中国杂交水稻, 占中国水稻产量的一半, 是从 IRRI 的品种发展出来的”,“几乎所有中国杂交稻都是从 IRRI 的品种 (包括 IR-8) 培育出来的”,“印尼水稻产量十年翻一番根本没袁隆平什么事”袁老为什么没有得诺贝尔。。为什么在国际上影响不大等等。。网上也有网友反驳过,但谁也说服不了谁。。仁者见仁智者见智吧。

Were the Prophets disproved? Was carrying capacity a chimera? No. As Vogt had predicted, the enormous jump in productivity led to enormous environmental damage: drained aquifers, fertilizer runoff, aquatic dead zones, and degraded and waterlogged soils. Worse in a human sense, the rapid increase in productivity made rural land more valuable. Suddenly it was worth stealing—and rural elites in many places did just that, throwing poor farmers off their land. The Prophets argued that the Green Revolution would merely postpone the hunger crisis; it was a one-time lucky break, rather than a permanent solution. And our rising numbers and wealth mean that, just as the Prophets said, our harvests will have to jump again—a second Green Revolution, the Wizards add.

先知被驳斥了吗? 承载能力是一种妄想吗? 没有。


It is as if humankind were packed into a bus racing through an impenetrable fog. Somewhere ahead is a cliff: a calamitous reversal of humanity’s fortunes. Nobody can see exactly where it is, but everyone knows that at some point the bus will have to turn. Problem is, Wizards and Prophets disagree about which way to yank the wheel. Each is certain that following the other’s ideas will send the bus over the cliff. As they squabble, the number of passengers keeps rising.



The Story of Nitrogen
almost everybody eats every day, but too few of us give any thought to how that happens. If agricultural history were required in schools, more people would know the name of Justus von Liebig, who in the mid-19th century established that the amount of nitrogen in the soil controls the rate of plant growth. Historians of science have charged Liebig with faking his data and stealing others’ ideas—accurately, so far as I can tell. But he was also a visionary who profoundly changed the human species’ relationship with nature. Smarmy but farsighted, Liebig imagined a new kind of agriculture: farming as a branch of chemistry and physics. Soil was just a base with the physical attributes necessary to hold roots. Pour in nitrogen-containing compounds—factory-made fertilizer—and gigantic harvests would automatically follow. In today’s terms, Liebig was taking the first steps toward chemically regulated industrial agriculture—an early version of Wizardly thought.

Hard on the heels of the gains came the losses. About 40 percent of the fertilizer applied in the past 60 years was not absorbed by plants. Instead, it washed away into rivers or seeped into the air in the form of nitrous oxides. Fertilizer flushed into water still fertilizes: It boosts the growth of algae, weeds, and other aquatic organisms. When these die, they fall to the floor of the river, lake, or ocean, where microbes consume their remains. So rapidly do the microbes grow on the manna of dead algae and weeds that their respiration drains oxygen from the lower depths, killing off most other life. Nitrogen from Midwestern farms flows down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico every summer, creating an oxygen desert that in 2016 covered almost 7,000 square miles. The next year a still larger dead zone—23,000 square miles—was mapped in the Bay of Bengal, off the east coast of India.



Rising into the air, nitrous oxides from fertilizers is a major cause of pollution. High in the stratosphere, it combines with and neutralizes the planet’s ozone, which guards life on the surface by blocking cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. Were it not for climate change, suggests the science writer Oliver Morton, the spread of nitrogen’s empire would probably be our biggest ecological worry.

化肥产生的氮氧化物上升到空气中,是污染的主要原因,在同温层高处,它们与阻挡致癌的紫外线保护地表生命的地球臭氧层结合并中和, 科学作家奥利弗 · 莫顿认为,如果没有气候变化,氮气帝国的扩张可能是我们最大的生态担忧。



At first, reconciling the two points of view might have been possible. One can imagine Borlaugian Wizards considering manure and other natural soil inputs, and Vogtian Prophets willing to use chemicals as a supplement to good soil practice. But that didn’t happen. Hurling insults, the two sides moved further apart. They set in motion a battle that has continued into the 21st century—and become ever more intense with the ubiquity of genetically modified crops. That battle is not just between two philosophies, two approaches to technology, two ways of thinking how best to increase the food supply for a growing population. It is about whether the tools we choose will ensure the survival of the planet or hasten its destruction.




“Not One of Evolution’s Finest Efforts”
all the while that Wizards were championing synthetic fertilizer and Prophets were denouncing it, they were united in ignorance: Nobody knew why plants were so dependent on nitrogen. Only after the Second World War did scientists discover that plants need nitrogen chiefly to make a protein called rubisco, a prima donna in the dance of interactions that is photosynthesis.

IV、“ 不是进化最好的成果之一”
直到第二次世界大战之后,科学家们才发现,植物主要需要氮来制造一种叫做 Rubisco(二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶)的蛋白质,这是一种在光合作用中扮演着首要角色的物质。

Evolution, one would think, should have improved rubisco. No such luck. But it did produce a work-around: C4 photosynthesis (C4 refers to a four-carbon molecule involved in the scheme). At once a biochemical kludge and a clever mechanism for turbocharging plant growth, C4 photosynthesis consists of a wholesale reorganization of leaf anatomy.

人们可能会认为,进化本应该改进Rubisco,可惜没有这样的运气,但是它确实产生了一个解决方案:C4光合作用( C4是指参与这个光合作用的碳四分子),C4光合作用是植物生化过程中的一个错综复杂的组合,同时也是植物生长的一个聪明的“涡轮增压”机制。

When carbon dioxide comes into a C4 leaf, it is initially grabbed not by rubisco but by a different enzyme that uses it to form a compound that is then pumped into special, rubisco-filled cells deep in the leaf. These cells have almost no oxygen, so rubisco can’t bumblingly grab the wrong molecule. The end result is exactly the same sugars, starches, and cellulose that ordinary photosynthesis produces, except much faster. C4 plants need less water and fertilizer than ordinary plants, because they don’t waste water on rubisco’s mistakes. In the sort of convergence that makes biologists snap to attention, C4 photosynthesis has arisen independently more than 60 times. Corn, tumbleweed, crabgrass, sugarcane, and Bermuda grass—all of these very different plants evolved C4 photosynthesis.

当二氧化碳进入发生C4光合作用的叶片时,最初不是被Rubisco 捕获,而是被另一种酶捕获,这种酶利用它形成一种化合物,然后将其注入叶片深处的特殊的充满 Rubisco 的细胞中。
这些细胞几乎没有氧气,所以 Rubisco 不会笨拙地抓错分子,最终的结果与普通光合作用所产生的糖、淀粉和纤维素完全相同,只是速度快得多。

C4光合作用的植物比普通植物需要更少的水和肥料,因为它们不会因Rubisco 的错误而浪费水。

What the C4 Rice Consortium is trying to do with rice bears the same resemblance to typical genetically modified crops as a Boeing 787 does to a paper airplane. Rather than tinker with individual genes in order to monetize seeds, the scientists are trying to refashion photosynthesis, one of the most fundamental processes of life. Because C4 has evolved in so many different species, scientists believe that most plants must have precursor C4 genes. The hope is that rice is one of these, and that the consortium can identify and awaken its dormant C4 genes—following a path evolution has taken many times before. Ideally, researchers would switch on sleeping chunks of genetic material already in rice (or use very similar genes from related species that are close cousins but easier to work with) to create, in effect, a new and more productive species. Common rice, Oryza sativa, will become something else: Oryza nova, say. No company will profit from the result; the International Rice Research Institute, where much of the research takes place, will give away seeds for the modified grain, as it did with Green Revolution rice.


理想情况下,研究人员应该打开水稻中已有的睡眠基因片段( 或者使用来自近亲但更容易处理的相关物种的非常相似的基因),从而有效地创造出一个新的、更有生产力的物种。
普通水稻 ( 融合蛋白,Oryzasativa) 将会变成另外一种东西:比如说 Oryzanova,任何公司都不会从这一结果中获益,国际水稻研究所将捐赠转基因水稻的种子,就像绿色革命水稻一样,国际水稻研究所的大部分研究都是这样进行的。

When I visited irri, 35 miles southeast of downtown Manila, scores of people were doing what science does best: breaking a problem into individual pieces, then attacking the pieces. Some were sprouting rice in petri dishes. Others were trying to find chance variations in existing rice strains that might be helpful. Still others were studying a model organism, a C4 species of grass called Setaria viridis. Fast-growing and able to be grown in soil, not paddies, Setaria is easier to work with in the lab than rice. There were experiments to measure differences in photosynthetic chemicals, in the rates of growth of different varieties, in the transmission of biochemical markers. Half a dozen people in white coats were sorting seeds on a big table, grain by grain. More were in fields outside, tending experimental rice paddies. All of the appurtenances of contemporary biology were in evidence: flatscreen monitors, humming refrigerators and freezers, tables full of beakers of recombinant goo, Dilbert and XKCD cartoons taped to whiteboards, a United Nations of graduate students a-gossip in the cafeteria, air conditioners whooshing in a row outside the windows.

当我访问马尼拉市中心东南35英里处的 IRRI 时,许多人都在做科学最擅长的事情:

Prophets smite their brows at this logic. To their minds, uating farm systems wholly in terms of calories per acre is folly. It doesn’t include the sort of costs identified by Vogt: fertilizer runoff, watershed degradation, soil erosion and compaction, and pesticide and antibiotic overuse. It doesn’t account for the destruction of rural communities. It doesn’t consider whether the food is tasty and nutritious.
Wizards respond that C4 rice will use less fertilizer and water to produce every calorie—it will be better for the environment than conventional crops. That’s like trying to put out fires you started by dousing them with less gasoline! the Prophets say. Just eat less meat! To Wizards, the idea of making farms diverse in a way that mimics natural ecosystems is hooey: only hyperintensive, industrial-scale agriculture using superproductive genetically modified crops can feed tomorrow’s world.
Productivity? the Prophets reply. We have moonshots of our own! And in fact, they do.

先知们回应说,C4水稻将使用更少的肥料和水来产生每一卡路里——它将比传统作物更有利于环境, 这就像你用更少的汽油去扑灭火灾一样! 先知说,少吃点肉!


Wheat, rice, maize, oats, barley, rye, and the other common cereals are annuals, which need to be planted anew every year. By contrast, the wild grasses that used to fill the prairie are perennials: plants that come back summer after summer, for as long as a decade. Because perennial grasses build up root systems that reach deep into the ground, they hold on to soil better and are less dependent on surface rainwater and nutrients—that is, irrigation and artificial fertilizer—than annual grasses. Many of them are also more disease-resistant. Not needing to build up new roots every spring, perennials emerge from the soil earlier and faster than annuals. And because they don’t die in the winter, they keep photosynthesizing in the fall, when annuals stop. Effectively, they have a longer growing season. They produce food year after year with much less plowing-caused erosion. They could be just as productive as Green Revolution–style grain, Prophets say, but without ruining land, sucking up scarce water, or requiring heavy doses of polluting, energy-intensive fertilizer.

由于多年生草本植物建立了深入地下的根系系统,与一年生草本植物相比,它们对土壤的保持力更强,对地表雨水和养分( 即灌溉和人工肥料) 的依赖程度也更低,它们中的许多还具有更强的抗病性,多年生植物不需要每年春天长出新根,它们比一年生植物更早、更快地从土壤中生长出来,因为它们不会在冬天死亡,当一年生植物停止生长时,它们会在秋天进行光合作用。实际上,它们有一个更长的生长季节,它们年复一年地生产粮食,耕地造成的侵蚀要少得多。

Domesticating wheatgrass is the long game. Other plant breeders have been trying for a shortcut: creating a hybrid of bread wheat and wheatgrass, hoping to marry the former’s large, plentiful grain and the latter’s disease resistance and perennial life cycle. The two species produce viable offspring just often enough that biologists in North America, Germany, and the Soviet Union tried unsuccessfully for decades in the mid-1900s to breed useful hybrids. Bolstered by developments in biology, the Land Institute, together with researchers in the Pacific Northwest and Australia, began anew at the turn of this century. When I visited Stephen S. Jones of Washington State University, he and his colleagues had just suggested a scientific name for the newly developed and tested hybrid: Tritipyrum aaseae (the species name honors the pioneering cereal geneticist Hannah Aase). Much work remains; Jones told me that he hoped bread from T. aaseae would be ready for my daughter’s children.

驯化麦草是一个漫长的过程。 其他植物育种者一直在尝试一个捷径:创造一种小麦和麦草杂交植物,希望结合前者的大,丰富的谷物含量以及后者的抗病性和多年生命周期。 在20世纪中期,北美、德国和苏联的生物学家曾尝试数十年培育有用的杂交种,但都以失败告终。 在生物学发展的支持下,土地研究所与太平洋西北部和澳大利亚的研究人员在本世纪初重新开始研究。
我拜访华盛顿州立大学的斯蒂芬 · s · 琼斯(Stephen s. Jones)时,他和同事们刚刚提出了一个新开发并经过测试的杂交品种的学名: Tritipyrum aaseae,但仍然还有许多工作要做,琼斯告诉我,他希望我女儿的孩子们能吃用Tritipyrum aaseae制造的面包。

African and Latin American researchers scratch their heads when they hear about these projects. Breeding perennial grains is the hard way for Prophets to raise harvests, says Edwige Botoni, a researcher at the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, in Burkina Faso. Botoni gave a lot of thought to the problem of feeding people from low-quality land while traveling along the edge of the Sahara. One part of the answer, she told me, would be to emulate the farms that flourish in tropical places such as Nigeria and Brazil. Whereas farmers in the temperate zones focus on cereals, tropical growers focus on tubers and trees, both of which are generally more productive than cereals.

“ 非洲和拉丁美洲的研究人员一听到这些项目就很头疼”,培育多年生谷物对先知们来说是一条艰难的提高产量之路,Edwige Botoni,一位来自布基纳法索萨赫勒州际干旱控制常设委员会的研究员说道。
Botoni 在撒哈拉沙漠边缘旅行时,反复思考了用低质量土地上为人们提供食物的这一问题。 她告诉我,答案的一部分就是效仿尼日利亚和巴西等热带地区繁荣的农场,温带地区的农民主要种植谷物,而热带地区的种植者则主要种植块茎类植物和乔木类植物,这两类植物通常比谷物的产量更高。

Am I arguing that farmers around the world should replace their plots of wheat, rice, and maize with fields of cassava, potato, and sweet potato and orchards of bananas, apples, and chestnuts? No. The argument is rather that Prophets have multiple ways to meet tomorrow’s needs. These alternative paths are difficult, but so is the Wizards’ path exemplified in C4 rice. The greatest obstacle for Prophets is something else: labor.

我是在说世界各地的农民应该用木薯、土豆和甘薯以及香蕉、苹果和栗子的果园来代替他们的小麦、水稻和玉米田地吗? 并不是,更确切地说,先知有多种方式来满足明天的需要,这些替代方案是困难的,但巫师的方案也一样,比如C4水稻,对先知来说,最大的障碍是另一件事:劳动力。

The Right Way to Live
since the end of the second world war, most national governments have intentionally directed labor away from agriculture (Communist China was long an exception). The goal was to consolidate and mechanize farms, which would increase harvests and reduce costs, especially for labor. Farmworkers, no longer needed, would move to the cities, where they could get better-paying jobs in factories. In the Borlaugian ideal, both the remaining farm owners and the factory workers would earn more, the former by growing more and better crops, the latter by obtaining better-paying jobs in industry. The nation as a whole would benefit: increased exports from industry and agriculture, cheaper food in the cities, a plentiful labor supply.

自第二次世界大战结束以来,大多数国家的政府都有意地将劳动力从农业中转移出去( 共产主义中国长期以来一直是个例外),目标是巩固和机械化农场,这将增加收成,降低成本,特别是劳动力成本,不再需要的农场工人将搬到城市,在那里他们可以在工厂里找到报酬更高的工作。在博洛格的理想中,剩下的农场主和工厂工人都会挣得更多,前者是通过种植更多更好的作物,后者是通过在工业中获得报酬更高的工作,整个国家都会受益:工业和农业出口增加,城市食品价格降低,劳动力供应充足。

There were downsides: Cities in developing nations acquired entire slums full of displaced families. And in many areas, including most of the developed world, the countryside was emptied—exactly what Borlaugians intended, as part of the goal of freeing agriculture workers to pursue their dreams. In the United States, the proportion of the workforce employed in agriculture went from 21.5 percent in 1930 to 1.9 percent in 2000; the number of farms fell by almost two-thirds. The average size of the surviving farms increased to compensate for the smaller number. Meanwhile, states around the world established networks of tax incentives, loan plans, training programs, and direct subsidies to help big farmers acquire large-scale farm machinery, stock up on chemicals, and grow certain government-favored crops for export. Because these systems remain in effect, Vogtian farmers are swimming against the tide.


To Vogtians, the best agriculture takes care of the soil first and foremost, a goal that entails smaller patches of multiple crops—difficult to accomplish when concentrating on the mass production of a single crop. Truly extending agriculture that does this would require bringing back at least some of the people whose parents and grandparents left the countryside. Providing these workers with a decent living would drive up costs. Some labor-sparing mechanization is possible, but no small farmer I have spoken with thinks that it would be possible to shrink the labor force to the level seen in big industrial operations. The whole system can grow only with a wall-to-wall rewrite of the legal system that encourages the use of labor. Such large shifts in social arrangements are not easily accomplished.

This article is adapted from Charles C. Mann’s most recent book, The Wizard and the Prophet. It appears in the March 2018 print edition with the headline “How Will We Feed the New Global Middle Class?”

文章改编自查尔斯·C·曼 (Charles C.Mann) 的最新著作《巫师与先知》(TheWizard AndtheProphet),(最早)出现在2018年3月的(《大西洋周刊》)印刷版上,标题是《我们将如何养活新的全球中产阶级?》