Written by Jan Lundberg
Culture Change Letter #189, June 20, 2008
The empire of cheap food is crumbling
You. Will. Not. Be. Able. To. Get. Food. Need this be spelled out any more plainly? It is time to consider that the stage has been set for petroleum-induced famine. http://jahtruth.net/signs.htm
We have "innocently" accommodated rising population with greater and greater food production via technology and the profit motive. But now we have run out of room to grow, as biotechnology, for example, has severe limitations -- major ones being petroleum dependence and topsoil loss. The biggest wild card for our existence is climate change, as we see with floods and other extreme weather affecting our food supply.
We are headed for massive shortages of food and other essentials, mainly brought about by the depletion of geological fossil reserves of cheap energy and water. The situation is demonstrated regularly with easy arithmetic based on statistical indicators from the United Nations, Worldwatch Institute, World Resources Institute, Earth Policy Institute, and numerous governments. Usually the full force of the message is offset by predictions of huge rises in future human population growth that are simple extrapolations of historical trends.
No one can say with certainty that the worst effects of today's crisis will occur tomorrow or by any particular date. But it is irrational to assume there will only be gradual tightening of supplies until some solutions miraculously come to our aid. One ought to at least admit that one year ago few people thought we'd be going in the direction we're going in, this fast, today.
Three days is our average food supply around the modernized world, i.e., for cities and their supermarkets. Long-term food stocks have plummeted: "Cereal stocks that are at their lowest level in 30 years," according to Worldwatch institute in its most recent Vital Signs. This is exacerbated by increasingly weirder weather, compounded by the oil price/supply pressure on food. What can interfere with the three-day situation are truckers on strike (as in Europe), extended/repeated power outages, and the inability of the work force to commute to work.