Food crises are never noticed for what they are when they start.
Good examples are the beginning of French revolution, and the American Dust Bowl. What started as “those guys don’t seem to have enough food to eat” led to some interesting changes to mankind – especially in the case of former.
As is the case with humans, we tend to notice the ebola “outbreak”, but not the everyday degradation that seem to impact us much more in the longer term. This is atypical “frog in boiling water” story.
So then, is food crisis really real?
Sometime back I read a free book – the name of which I could not recover. But it had amazing content on population growth, energy starvation, global warming, water wars, food famines and the like. The argument was that we are surely heading to a dystopian future unless we act NOW!
I agree in substance to the argument – we are taking this wonderful planet to something worse than it was. In fact there was a book back in 1960s that argued mass extinction of humans due to unavailability of food.
I had my doubts about whether the trends continue.
Humans are notoriously short sighted, and we cannot think exponentially. Even if you tell us that oil is going to end in 2040, and we will increase in numbers beyond sustainable food production – we will hardly give a rat’s ass to that thought. “That is for the future to decide”, we say.
But, even with all that – I think there is a greater pressure of nature to help regulate humans by themselves. This is inspired by the theory of Malthusian catastrophe. Availability of more food has encouraged population growth. That I can see, but what will happen to all the humans if disaster strikes *after* the growth?
First a couple of factors on why that may not be as disastrous in short time frames –
1. Population growth is decreasing
The growth in population is poised to decrease further till 2100 according to UN. We may hit the peak between 2040 to 2070.
2. Humans can survive on other sources of nourishment
Some argue that bugs may just be the next big thing in food revolution. Pressurized into surviving on less, humans can always adapt to eating what is not considered good food source today. That will not sustain long term, but may prevent large scale extinction within a couple of years.
Any such food shortage further negatively impacts the population. Less people need less food.
3. Environment degradation != Immediate food shortage
Even with the chemicals impacting cultivatable lands, and water shortage making it harder, I doubt whether this is going to manifest itself in food shortage in near term.
In fact global warming is causing some positive impact as well (if only in the short term). For e.g. humans can now settle in Arctic, melting Himalayan glaciers have resulted in more irrigation facilities downstream.
Food supply per person has stayed on course/increased in the past. I don’t see why we break up significantly in near term.
More such graphs at GapMinder.
Yes, there will be death and destruction similar to the two instances I mentioned before. There will be suffering. But, not to the scale we love to imagine (and did you notice that we always imagine famine hitting “them”, “larger humanity” instead of “us”).
So, we as a species will thrive in the long term?
Not a chance. You cannot continuously abuse the resources you have, and hope to survive. But again, that is for the future generation to think about. Let me take my SUV for a spin to shake off all these thoughts.
After the SUV spin, should I care about the so called food crisis?
Yes, of course.
Anything and everything that you can do to avoid being a burden on the planet is welcome. You see that I am just a small part of this universe. Harmonizing my being with the rest of nature is going to make me happy and at peace.
Also, read some comics that are going to predict more dire consequences from food crisis than what I do.