Nine: Dave Denkenberger on feeding the world through catastrophes

If a nuclear winter or asteroid impact blocked the sun for years, our inability to grow food would result in billions dying of starvation, right? According to Dr Dave Denkenberger, co-author of Feeding Everyone No Matter What: no. If he’s to be believed, nobody need starve at all.


Even without the sun, Dave sees the Earth as a bountiful food source. Mushrooms farmed on decaying wood. Bacteria fed with natural gas. Fish and mussels supported by sudden upwelling of ocean nutrients – and many more.


Dr Denkenberger is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and he’s out to spread the word that while a nuclear winter might be horrible, experts have been mistaken to assume that mass starvation is an inevitability. In fact, he says, the only thing that would prevent us from feeding the world is insufficient preparation.

Dave was the natural choice to introduce the problem of feeding the world through catastrophes. 

Full transcript, related links, and summary of this interview

This episode first broadcast on the regular 80,000 Hours Podcast feed on December 27, 2018. Some related episodes include:

  • #97 – Mike Berkowitz on keeping the U.S. a liberal democratic country
  • #96 – Nina Schick on disinformation and the rise of synthetic media
  • #88 – Tristan Harris on the need to change the incentives of social media companies
  • #64 – Bruce Schneier on the big risks in computer security, secrets, and surveillance without tyranny

Series produced by Keiran Harris.

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