The food-energy-climate change trilemma refers to the stark alternatives presented by the
need to feed a world population growing to nine billion, the attendant risks of land conversion and use for global climate change, and the way these are interconnected with the energy crisis arising from the depletion of oil, with its threat to existing, let alone growing levels of economic activity.
I will then present the natural science perspective of the trilemma, necessary to inform a social science analysis of interactions between socio-economic and bio-physical systems. I will present the case of Brazil using a neo-Polanyian ‘instituted economic process’ framework, to demonstrate how the trilemma is a spatial and historical socio-economic phenomenon, developing unevenly and varying significantly in its dynamics in different environmental and resource contexts. In the last decade, the Brazil-China soyabean connection has given a new twist of considerable geopolitical and climate change significance to trilemma developments.
The presentation concludes by pointing to some further challenges to developing a social scientific theory in this field, and will open questions for discussion.