Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Feed Your Car

In this article, Gwynne Dyer points out something that I wasn't aware of:
For the sixth time in the past seven years, the human race will grow less food than it eats this year. We closed the gap by eating into food stocks accumulated in better times, but there is no doubt that the situation is getting serious. The world's food stocks have shrunk by half since 1999, from a reserve big enough to feed the entire world for 116 days then to a predicted low of only 57 days by the end of this year.
That is well below the official safety level, and there is no sign that the downward trend is going to reverse. If it doesn't, then at some point not too far down the road we reach the point of absolute food shortages, and rationing by price kicks in. In other words, grain prices soar, and the poorest start to starve.

So another crisis is looming in a century already full of crises. While Islamic fundamentalism takes on Western fascism, while we go to war to fight for cheap oil to burn away in our SUVs (and slowly poison ourselves in the process), while we approach massive environmental and economic upheaval, we are running out of food. And where is it going? Dyer further notes:
In the United States, a "corn rush" has been unleashed by government subsidies for ethanol, and so many ethanol plants are planned or already in existence in Iowa that they could absorb the state's entire crop of corn (maize, mealies). In effect, food is being turned into fuel -- and the amount of ethanol needed to fill a big four-wheel-drive SUV just once uses enough grain to feed one person for an entire year.

So not only are we killing ourselves and our planet to support our energy-rich western lifestyle, now we're literally starving people to do it.
And the conseqeunces? Dyer notes in this article the baffling non-response of the world's politicians and citizens to the climate change crisis, noting that: civilisation falls into violent chaos as huge numbers of people start to starve. Even two degrees hotter will reduce agricultural output in the main food-producing regions of the world by about a quarter.
Much hotter, and it will be much worse, so we may end up negotiating (or more likely, fighting) over which billion of us starve first. Intelligent human beings, faced with that prospect, would act at once, or so you would think -- especially because the actions required are not really all that painful, provided that they start right away.

We need our governments to put the same effort, if not more, into the right battles as they are into fighting the wrong ones. If we don't spend a greater effort fighting climate change and hunger than terrorism, then fighting the wrong battle will have truly been a monumental waste.

1 comment:

  1. Science fiction? Nope. Man, I can't make this stuff up.
    I am so growing some plants in the corner of my landlady's yard... any plants.
    Miss being a net producer of food, sometimes. Shall have to grow some.