Full House: Reassessing the Earth's Population Carrying Capacity

Authors: Lester R. Brown and Hal Kane
ISBN: 0-393-31220-8
250 pages
August 1994

Constraints imposed by the Earth's natural systems, the environmental degradation of land and water resources, and the diminishing backlog of yield-raising agricultural technologies are slowing the growth in world food production, raising questions about the Earth's population carrying capacity. At the same time, record additions to population are projected. The question now is: how many people can the Earth feed? And at what level of consumption?

The bottom line, according to authors Lester Brown and Hal Kane, is that the world's farmers can no longer be counted on to feed adequately the projected additions to our numbers. Achieving a humane balance between food and people now depends more on family planners than on farmers.

In Full House, the authors propose a global strategy to restore food security and a budget to implement it. Their global food security budget calls for stepped-up expenditures on both sides of the food/population equation. It includes investments not only to provide family planning services to all who want them, but also to eliminate the underlying causes of high fertility, such as female illiteracy. It also includes investments in an extensive reforestation and soil conservation effort, one that will arrest the deterioration of the agricultural resource base.

This is an investment that the world cannot afford not to make. If national security is redefined to address the real security threats in the 1990s and beyond, it will lead to a massive redirection of resources along the lines outlined in this book.