What? You haven’t heard? We can solve our foreign dependence on oil? We can become a greener country in a few years? We are going to RUN OUT OF FOOD?!
It’s okay. Only a small handful of individuals are aware of these facts. Things like the Royal Wedding, iPhone 5 rumors, and Obama’s birth certificate take much more precedence over the global health of the Earth. I was one of those people sucked into the latest episode of The Real World until recently (thanks to National Geographic and PBS). It seems some people on the face of this planet do still give a damn.
I was recently exposed to the work of Mr. Lester R. Brown, environmentalist and possible genius. At the age of 77, he has devoted his life to the environment and voicing his concerns about our past, and more importantly, our future. A wee little tomato farmer, he has grown to be a world renowned environmentalist. Who would have thought Brown could hold the key to solving a global crisis?
His latest essay, The Great Food Crisis of 2011 contains some eye-opening facts. Even the most apathetic people can’t ignore that 219,000 new mouths to feed are born every day. The world population increases by about 80 million people per year. In 2009, the U.S. sent 28.6% of the grain harvested to ethanol distilleries, an amount that could have fed 350 million people. For every 5 million cars on the road, 1 million acres of land must be paved to accommodate the traffic. Do the math on that. Mr. Brown did.
Globally, we are heading toward a major food shortage because we are overpopulated, destroying our own cropland, and thanks to climate change, seeing declines in the amount of viable wheat and corn yields.
Think about how many products are produced from wheat and/or corn. Think about what happens economically when the crops are busted because of flooding or drought. Supply is down, demand is up, and that means higher prices for consumers. If the supply is low enough, prices will skyrocket and we’ll all be complaining about how much bread costs instead of griping about fuel costs. The price of wheat in the UK is already selling at an all-time high.
Let’s take this thinking further: Think about what will happen when countries across the globe lose their exports and the people don’t have enough to buy food, and therefore don’t have food to eat. The global economy will tank. Farmers will have neither crops nor the normal income they expect, and will also face the danger of job-loss. The country itself will lose tons of funding because there will be less exports. People won’t be able to afford to buy their normal groceries. It is a chain linked together, so a domino effect will occur, drastically changing the global economy.
The real kicker of the crisis? Brown is not the only one out there with enough foresight to give us all fair warning of what we are setting ourselves up for. However, like most people, we ignore someone who actually knows what they are talking about. It’s hard to not feel helpless, but it only takes one person to change another’s viewpoint. If that happens enough, maybe we really can make a difference.
For more of information, check out Lester Brown’s latest books: Plan B 4.0 (available online for free here) and World on Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (which can be purchased on Amazon). They are filled with scientific evidence of why we should be concerned now for a very dark future.
And if we don’t act now, sadly, we should expect a very dark future.