If it were the end of the world as we know it, we’d be fine, according to Michigan Technological University professor Joshua Pearce.
“People have been doing catastrophic risk research for a while,” says Pearce. “But most of what’s been done is dark, apocalyptic and dismal. It hasn’t provided any real solutions.”
Even when looking at doomsday scenarios—like super-volcanoes, abrupt climate change and nuclear winter—society’s forecast isn’t horrific. In fact, Pearce says life will still have a sunny outlook. His research is outlined in a new book, Feeding Everyone No Matter What, out this week.
“We researched the worst cases and asked, ‘is it possible to still feed everybody after a complete collapse of the agricultural system?’” he says. “All solutions until this book focused on food storage, the survivalist method of putting cans in closets. But for global catastrophes, you’d need at least five years of supplies—think bedroom size, not just a closet.”
That big a stockpile just isn’t possible globally, let alone in America, says Pearce. Families simply don’t have enough money, and stockpiling would only raise food prices, causing more of the world’s poor to starve.
Worry not, says Pearce. Even if the sun were blacked out for years at a time, killing all plants, we’re still okay sans brimming bunkers of canned goods.
After looking at five crop-destroying catastrophes (sudden climate change, super-weeds, super-bacteria, super-pests and super-pathogens) and three sunlight-extinguishing events (super-volcano eruption, asteroid or comet impact, and nuclear winter), Pearce says we have a way to feed everyone on Earth for five years. That’s enough time for the planet to recover, allowing a gradual return to the agricultural system we use today.
“We looked purely at technical viability—ignoring all the social issues that currently cause millions to go hungry and die every year,” he says.
Swap the Big Mac for Bugs and Slime
So how do we feed billions of hungry mouths if there is no more sunshine or farming? Swap your Big Mac and fries for bacterial slime and a side of bugs, and you’ll be okay.