The future of agriculture and society in Iowa: four scenarios

Meghann E. Jarchow, Ida Kubiszewski, GL Drake Larsen, Gretchen Zdorkowski, Robert Costanza, Stefan R. Gailans, Nicholaus Ohde, Ranae Dietzel, Sara Kaplan, Jeri Neal, Mae Rose Petrehn, Theodore Gunther, Stephanie N. D'Adamo, Nicholas McCann, Andrew Larson, Phillip Damery, Lee Gross-Camp, Marcello Merriman, Julian Post, Meghann E. SheradinMatt Liebman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Iowa is a leader in crop and livestock production, but its high productivity has had concomitant negative environmental and societal impacts and large requirements for fossil-fuel-derived inputs. Maintaining agricultural productivity, economic prosperity and environmental integrity will become ever more challenging as the global demand for agricultural products increases and the resources needed become increasingly limited. Here we present four scenarios for Iowa in 2100, based on combinations of differing goals for the economy and differing energy availability. In scenarios focused on high material throughput, environmental degradation and social unrest will increase. In scenarios with a focus on human and environmental welfare, environmental damage will be ameliorated and societal happiness will increase. Movement towards a society focused on human and environmental welfare will require changes in the goals of the economy, whereas no major changes will be needed to maintain focus on high throughput. When energy sources are readily available and inexpensive, the goals of the economy will be more easily met, whereas energy limitations will restrict the options available to agriculture and society. Our scenarios can be used as tools to inform people about choices that must be made to reach more desirable futures for Iowa and similar agricultural regions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)76-92
    JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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