Facing Peak Oil and Climate Change: A Pragmatic Approach to a Re-localized Food Production System in Uppsala, Sweden

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper


Globalization and industrial agriculture have enabled consumers in Sweden and other countries in the Western world to enjoy foodstuffs from many parts of the world at very affordable monetary prices, but at the same time involving a lot of external costs in the form of environmental degradation, and a high dependency on foreign agricultural ecosystems as well as on oil and other non-renewable inputs, thus degrading sustainability and resilience in the food system. Accelerated climate change and the upcoming peak oil crisis call for a reorientation and a transition to a more locally-based system. The prospects for a re-localized food system have been investigated in a case study of Uppsala Municipality, Sweden. The results consist of a study of the current primary food production in Uppsala, also including an allotment garden survey, a study of how much additional food may be produced on idle land, and an analysis of opportunities and challenges for a re-localized food system in Uppsala. The allotment garden survey revealed that c. ten percent of the total area of plots containing cottage houses was used for food production, while the figure for plots without cottages was several times higher, c. 65 percent. The total estimated yield for allotment gardens in Uppsala Municipality was about 90 tons of vegetables and 48 tons of fruits and berries. Quantitative calculations on the yield produced by local farmers, horticulturists and leisure gardeners were made for the five categories grain, dairy products, eggs, meat, and vegetables, fruits and berries, together constituting about 85 percent of the total Swedish food consumption. The estimated balance of supply and demand differed a lot between food categories, ranging from 400 percent for grain to 20 percent for meat as well as for vegetables, fruits and berries. Due to empirical uncertainty, the latter figure should be interpreted with caution. For eggs and dairy products the balance of supply and demand was 67 percent and 50 percent respectively. A quantitative estimation for idle land showed that the greatest potential for an increased food production is within leisure gardening, which could be increased by 3.5 to 6 times. A transition to full self-sufficiency would, however, require drastically altered consumer habits towards seasonal vegetables and fruits and less beef in favor of vegetarian proteins. The qualitative analysis of possibilities and obstacles concluded that the greatest assets for a re-localized food production were the large production capacity within rural agriculture, the abundance of mostly unutilized private garden land, the increased interest for urban agriculture among the population, positive attitudes among consumers towards local food, and a relatively high general awareness of climate change and the need for a more sustainable society. Among the challenges were found lacking economic viability and access to suitable farmland, the centralized food industry, an imbalanced agricultural output, unsustainable consumer habits, the tendency among Swedish municipal planners to support exploitation of fertile soil, and a low awareness among both the population and decision makers regarding peak oil and social resilience generally.

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