Energy transition, renewable energies, electric cars and biogas are in the news alongside the war in Ukraine and natural disasters. But talking about energy transition implies detoxing from our dependence on fossil fuels. In particular, moving away from fossil fuels means growing plants whose roots, stems, leaves and flowers can be used to make plant fibres for clothing. These plants can also be used to meet the growing demand for polymers of agricultural origin for the production of biodegradable plastics and hydrogels for pharmacology and cosmetics.
Producing biogas from organic matter from agriculture means devoting land to growing plants with a high energy value, particularly maize. Widespread use of wood heating – one of the renewable energies – means dedicating land to forests for harvesting and replanting. The energy transition requires productive land.
In Lignat (Puy-de-Dôme), Les Turlurons, a free trade association, plans to install a megabasin covering 18 hectares and containing 1.25 million cubic metres of water on farmland. In addition to the scientifically substantiated criticism levelled against the basins, the neutralisation of 18 hectares of arable land raises questions…
Observation with the naked eye of the sub-desert character of southern Europe shows that the climate is gradually becoming more African than European. The drying out and therefore the ariditý leading to the desertification of the land are moving northwards. Arable land is shrinking… unless agricultural production methods are updated, for example by adapting the know-how of Sahelian farmers.
Areas not yet affected by aridity comparable to that in southern Europe are already gradually drying out due to changes in rainfall and wind patterns. Agronomists are warning of the consequences of soil drying: the fibres in cereals and fodder are hardening. This makes digestion more difficult and reduces the nutritional value. The same applies to rice. Maintaining the current level of nutrition will therefore soon require an increase in the area devoted to grazing, market gardening and arboriculture.
Finally, rising sea levels are moving the coastline and estuaries inland. This phenomenon is pushing housing further to the interior, reducing arable land.
This objective conflict́ between land uses, which is as acute as the conflict between water uses (drinking, putting out fires, cooking, washing, industrialisation, irrigation), raises an extremely pragmatic question: what’s the point of wearing plant fibres and having biogas under the saucepan if the pan remains empty because of the food shortage due to the reduction of arable land?
Whether we are talking about water or land, our respective needs will continue to increase while resources will continue to shrink. As a result, production conditions and access to sufficient food in terms of quantity and quality are now at the heart of the climate change challenge. Without mitigation of environmental change, there can be no agriculture; without food, there can be no human activity, and no need for energy.
In today’s hot news, appeals for help from food aid associations bear witness to the growing importance of the food issue. Inflation persists and the decline in social solidarity is increasing the number of vulnerable households. It is well known that food, heating, medical care and clothing are the main budgetary adjustment variables for vulnerable households. In the pre-Covid period, food insecurity already stood at 6.7% of the European population, i.e. 59,712,000 million inhabitants of the European Union. The ratios are the same at Combrailles level.
Having analysed these objective facts, Comb Lab, together with its partners, is currently setting up a system to ensure food security for the people of Combrailles in 2024 – 2035 – 2051. Food – a vital necessity – has priority status and becomes our gateway to the complex process of building resilience in the Combrailles region, to which we are devoting our energies.
In a study published on 5 July 2023, Irish economist Philip Pilkinson notes:
“The most important cause of riots is food shortages, a factor well known to economists, sociologists and historians in understanding riots. When people don’t eat as well as they used to, discontent and unrest grow.”
And the author follows up his point:
“Three meals separate civilisation from barbarism.”