food sustainability

How self-sufficient is Britain?

Interesting graph from the Climate Safety website this morning, showing Britain’s declining ability to feed itself. It’s not a disaster as long as we’re able to trade, but it is a clear vulnerability in a world of rising oil prices. We’ve been stung by this vulnerability before, albeit under exceptional circumstances, during the war. In the 1930s we were only growing a third of our own food, and it took a huge national drive to up our food production and feed ourselves.

One thing springs to mind however, looking at this graph. Given that we throw away a third of the food we buy, would we be pretty much self-sufficient if we eliminated waste from the system? If we all ate the recommended number of calories, we’d reduce that burden further still. And if Britain’s population stabilised, perhaps a self-sufficient Britain isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

That’s a hypothetical – I don’t think that 100% self-sufficiency should necessarily be a national aim, but it is a useful measure of resilience.


    1. I haven’t written anything specifically on Britain’s population. It’s growing at the moment, and I suspect that the decline in sufficiency is linked to that rather than a decline in productivity. The fertility rate is just below replacement level at the moment, so it is balancing out slowly, and we’re topping up the labour pool with immigration. I think stabilising the population is desirable in the medium term, both in the UK and internationally, and trends suggest it is likely but not inevitable. Not sure if there’s anything much that can be done to encourage it though.

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