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Hunger Is In

February 19, 2009

It’s sometimes hard to put your finger on, but it’s definitely becoming apparent that “The Global Food Crisis” on track to be the new excuse for wannabe nanny staters and outright totalitarians. Replacing discredited Al Gore with the previously discredited Malthus, predictions of coming shortages and famine are all the rage these days. I actually saw the words “Peak Food” this morning.

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Up to a quarter of global food production could be lost by 2050 due to the combined impact of climate change, land degradation and loss, water scarcity and species infestation, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
The fall-off will strike just as 2 billion more people are added to the world’s population, according to the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), which says cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish catches are declining.
In a new report, it said a 100-year trend of falling food costs could be at an end and that last year’s sharp price rises had driven 110 million people into poverty.

So what’s the solution? Why more government and less people of course. Okay, they never say less people, but it’s always there. What other conclusion are we to draw when the ever increasing population is said to be a problem?
I’m thinking that the continued whining over ‘wasting food’ or the carbon footprint of beef will come to a quick end should any real shortages arise. These things have a way of taking care of themselves.


From → Beef, Environment, Malthus

  1. ‘Peak food’? Where I come from food is grown, not mined. That’s a dumb expression.

    As for waste, the UK throws away a third of its food right now. That’s equally dumb, and it’s not whining to say so.

  2. Matthew permalink

    If we were all vegetarian, we could feed the entire world right now at current production levels.

    As if I needed another reason to love meat.

  3. We could already feed the entire world at current production levels without vegetarianism, if it was distributed better.

    But, if I understand you correctly, you enjoy the fact that there is starvation in the world and want to do all you can to encourage it?

  4. Vines & Cattle permalink

    I’m willing to bet that most of the distribution problems arise from coercive governments, not from any problems with free markets.

    Personally I want to encourage capitalism, no other ‘ism’ is at successful at providing goods and services to so many at a relatively low cost.

  5. One of the biggest problems is subsidies in the US and the EU, creating huge surpluses that are then dumped on poorer countries. This destroys local markets and forces farmers out of business, and then leaves shortages when the surpluses don’t come through one year.

    So yes, coercive governments and a lack of free trade, as you say, but not from the people you might expect.

  6. Vines & Cattle permalink

    You’ve got me wrong if you think I’ll defend subsidies. I’d scrap em all, ag subsidies, corporate welfare, welfare, bailouts, “stimulus”, etc.

    Still doesn’t account for why my local grocery store has more food than the entire nation of Zimbabwe .

  7. Matthew permalink

    How would you change the current distribution system?

    And to answer your question, yes. The world has enough brown people already, and it looks like we are frighteningly close to an AIDS cure. :/

  8. “frighteningly close to an AIDS cure”?

    Your cynicism is astonishing, but then I guess you have the luxury of not having AIDS, and not knowing anyone who does.

    Long may that continue, but consider that the average American consumes 9 times as much of the world resources as your average African. Every new American that’s born will therefore do nine times as much damage to the planet than each newborn African. The problem is not ‘brown people’, as you say.

    How would I change the system? I would encourage poor countries to grow food for themselves first, instead of exports.

    I don’t like subsidies, bu they have their uses – I would switch subsidies incrementally from rich countries to poor countries, and then gradually phase them out altogether over about 20-30 years. That way African farmers would be able to invest in irrigation, fertilizers and so on, creating a level playing field.

    Since they would be growing for the domestic market, it wouldn’t threaten US or EU farmers. It would also break dependence on aid, so in the long term it would save us all money.

  9. Vines & Cattle permalink

    Except that “encouraging” no exports hurts those small farmers you’re trying to preserve. It doesn’t promote enough production and will lead to more shortages, especially if problems with production arise, such as drought or disease. A third party has no right to tell a third world farmer where he has to sell his production, and it’s immoral to tell him he can’t sell for his greatest personal value.
    Your scheme sounds exactly like the meddling and bureaucracy of current western powers, only you claim nobler intentions. History shows that your unintended consequences will be just as damaging and widespread.

  10. Under current IMF rules African countries are obliged to grow for export as a condition for loans or debt relief. It makes sense on paper, but raw materials aren’t very profitable and are subject to wild swings in market prices. When the bottom falls out of a market, like coffee for example, there isn’t enough cash to buy in the food they could have grown in the first place.

    It’s not meddling to suggest that people look out for themselves first, and of course no-one has the right to tell people where to place their production. That’s why I say ‘encourage’, not compel. The problem right now is that they don’t have a choice. The IMF should butt out and give that choice back.

    I don’t like bureaucracy either, but long-term solutions are going to need support mechanisms. They key is to clear them away when their job is done. The current US subsidies were introduced in 1933 as part of the New Deal, and they made sense then. They’ve been pointless and wasteful ever since the great depression ended. Supporting African agriculture makes sense now, so we should do it, but in such a way that sets farmers up for the future, rather than creating further dependencies.

  11. Matthew permalink

    1. Import Substitution Industrialization is a proven failure at generating growth, see most of Latin America.

    2. Export Led Growth is a proven success, see East Asia.

    3. When does consumption = damage? What if my energy comes from nukes and renewables and theirs comes from coal. What if my wood products come from selective cutting and theirs from clear cutting? What if my food comes from no/low till agriculture and theirs comes from gutted rainforrest? Yes we may consume 9 times more than goat herders, but that takes into no account the efficiencies inherent to our system. Nor does it take in account how much more a westerner will produce in his life than a beggar on the street of Jakarta.

    4. My bad, didn’t know ya had the HIV, I’ll be more careful next time.

  12. I don’t have HIV, but I grew up in Africa and I know more about it than I’d like to.

    Export as a growth strategy is great as long as you can feed your population. You’ll also notice that East Asia exports manufactured products, whereas Africa is encouraged to export raw materials. There’s no money in raw materials.

    And consumption does equal damage, from landfill from all the stuff we throw away, to air pollution from car fumes which causes cancers and asthma, the depletion of aquifers to water our golf courses, and the clearing of developing world rainforests to grow soya to feed cattle for our beef. (Export Led Growth is a proven success, see East Asia)

    It’s all very well saying your power can come from nukes and your trees from managed forests, but they don’t. Even if yours personally do, the vast majority of us in the west, myself included, are living unsustainable lifestyles.

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