Regenesis by George Monbiot

On the dust jacket of this book, a review by the founder of the Eden Project, Sir Tim Smit, tells us that, having finished the book, he felt ‘as if the finest mountain stream had washed through my brain’. This suggests that the book will clear the reader’s mind, in relation to the future of food, farming and the avoidance of climate breakdown, the subjects of this recent book by George Monbiot.

Halfway through my own first reading of the book, I felt I might need to give up eating altogether! There seemed no future in any of our current methods of food production.

Monbiot has, in recent years, dedicated himself to working within the climate and environmental movements and there can be no doubting the level of careful research and scholarship lying behind the book, but it does not make comfortable reading. There are a number of interesting case studies of several types of regenerative farming, mainly British, but it is hard to work out how these could be extended to worldwide food production within the timetable needed to prevent further degradation of land. We need the evolution of entirely new farming practices.

Many of us live in blissful ignorance of the true effects of our current farming methods, including the industrial scale production of chicken meat, the widespread use of practices which lead to serious degradation of our soils and the almost total reliance of British and European farming on huge financial subsidies.

On a positive note, Monbiot suggests several possible rescue measures. The replacement of meat protein by microbial protein, largely using renewable energy, on a localised but semi-industrial scale might solve some of the problems of feeding current and future populations. The selection of perennial cereal and other crops, now becoming available, will allow us to avoid the disruption of soil structure caused by annual cultivation and should help us avoid the use of huge quantities of fertilisers, pesticides and weed killers.

It is clear that we will need to become more adaptable and accepting of change. Monbiot’s book is, in the end, a manifesto for change, which allows us to sound a note of optimism about our future food options. I recommend the book to all who see the need for serious and urgent consideration of how we are to feed the world, without devouring our planet – in other words, how we can bring about ‘regenesis’.

Reviewed by a library member