Global Urbanization and Food Production in Direct Competition for Land: Leverage Places to Mitigate Impacts on SDG2 and on the Earth System

Article by Isendahl, Christian and Barthel, Stephan; Vis, Benjamin; Drescher, Axel; Evans, Daniel; van Timmeren, Arjan

Global urbanization and food production are in direct competition for land. This paper carries out
a critical review of how displacing crop production from urban and peri-urban land to other areas
– because of issues related to soil quality – will demand a substantially larger proportion of the
Earth’s terrestrial land surface than the surface area lost to urban encroachment. Such relationships
may trigger further distancing effects and unfair social-ecological teleconnections. It risks also setting
in motion amplifying effects within the Earth System. In combination, such multiple stressors set the
scene for food riots in cities of the Global South. Our review identifies viable leverage points on which
to act in order to navigate urban expansion away from fertile croplands. We first elaborate on the
political complexities in declaring urban and peri-urban lands with fertile soils as one global commons.
We find that the combination of an advisory global policy aligned with regional policies enabling
robust common properties rights for bottom-up actors and movements in urban and peri-urban
agriculture (UPA) as multi-level leverage places to intervene. To substantiate the ability of aligning
global advisory policy with regional planning, we review both past and contemporary examples where
empowering local social-ecological UPA practices and circular economies have had a stimulating
effect on urban resilience and helped preserve, restore, and maintain urban lands with healthy soils.

Title of Journal / Edit Volume, incl. names of editors:
The Anthropocene Review

Isendahl, Christian

Research Area:
Deep Time, Green Futures



URL to website/presentation:

Financed by Seed Box
The writing of this paper benefited greatly from The Resilience of Cuban Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture over the Longue Durée (CUPAL), funded by a Seed Box grant.