The fat and the hungry

London’s Metro paper is available for free and sometimes it does run some good articles – like this one which was in today’s edition. A first glance, featuring a link to it here might seem a bit of a departure from the usual subjects of Climate Change and Peak Oil. However, this is not the case – as both are directly linked, in reality.

Did you know that the world could be running low on food? The reason is because of an unhealthy combination of Climate Change, Oil and Water depletion and also rising agricultural commodity prices. And, apparently, all these combined could cause a real shortage. This is not good, considering that the world’s population is due to reach 9 billion by 2050. In order to feed all these people to the standards expected in rich countries like America, its estimated we’d need another 3 to 5 planets! Don’t see any others on the horizon, do you?

Climate Change can cause adverse weather conditions, destroy ecosystems and make previously fertile agricultural land barren. As oil becomes scarce, so the fuel and by-products needed to support intensive farming becomes scarcer as well. Water is also required to support agriculture, but this is getting scarce too because of over-use (and possibly Climate Change as well!) No wonder commodities are high then?

A lot of it is down to our rising demand for mass-produced food, especially meat. For example, for decades we have cut down rainforest and other eco-systems to support ranches to produce meat for the fast-food industry. Of course, not only are there health implications to eating too much meat but it is also an aggravating factor regarding Climate Change. That is, the disappearance of carbon sinks such as the Amazon rainforest and also (as James Lovelock stated), the presence of too many animals that provide us with meat products. (Believe it or not, cattle are a major source of methane – a major greenhouse gas. I’ll leave you to work out why!) So it’s not just fossil fuels that’s the problem – its our food sources too.

Aside from this, given the way food is distributed its little wonder that the article states that there are now 1 billion humans who are classified as malnourished, whilst another 1 billion are overweight. Guess where these populations are mainly concentrated? Correct – the developing world and the West respectively (although, as you’ll see, this isn’t entirely the case!)

However, a lot of governments are now worried about depleting food imports, as Duncan Green from Oxfam is reported as saying. As a result of this, a lot of land in developing countries is being bought up for the sole purpose of food production back home. He states that local farmers are being frozen out.

This reminds me of something I read in ‘Climate Wars‘ by Gwynne Dyer. He stated that China, for instance, is buying up large tracts of land in Africa for this very purpose. He speculated what the consequences might be when the locals see truckloads of food leaving for China when they are starving due to Climate Change-related disasters. Hmm…

If this all sounds a little depressing (and I know some of the stuff put on this site is at times!), then fear not. The article is also upbeat. It appears that we may be able to overcome the problem with a bit of good old human ingenuity and technological advancement. We may be able to use GM foods (which a lot of people in this country are now dropping their opposition to, according to the article.) Also, scientists in the Netherlands have also reportedly created the means for artificial meat from stem-cells, which shows a lot of promise. Brilliant, could that eventually herald an end to mass farming for meat in future?

To be honest, I think it’s about time that we woke to the fact that we are going to have to use technology to solve our predicament. Afterall, people will be unwilling to compromise on their lifestyles and standards of living to save the planet. Sorry, that’s the reality! However, this isn’t about saving the Earth. She will survive. Its us that won’t! So we need to wise up.

What the Environmental lobby tell us we should do won’t work. Most alternative technologies will not produce the amount of energy we need to sustain economic growth. And neither is organic farming the answer to meet the mass demand for food. Not without a radical change of attitudes and lifestyles, taking us effectively back to the pre-industrial era. Very few will sign up for it.

So, as James Lovelock says, we need nuclear power to replace fossil fuels (unless something better comes along.) We’ll have to accept GM food which is more adaptable to the adverse environment we are going to have to face in future.  Also, we will probably have to consider geo-engineering to counter some of the worst effects of Climate Change. Otherwise, it’s a ‘Dragon Line’ scenario.

I’m all in favour of it really. We’re clever beings  – lets put our minds to it! (By the way, all this appears to be the subject of a book called ‘The God Species‘ by Mark Lynas, which I have yet to read. I’ll get hold of it myself and put a review on here in due course. You can check it out on Amazon here.)

Until the next time…

With 1bn hungry and 1bn obese, what future? by Ross McGuiness


About Owen Law

My pen-name is ‘Owen Law’ (real name: Nicholas Davies.) I’m a science fiction writer specialising in dystopian/apocalyptic visions of the future. I’m from Shropshire, England (on the borders with Wales) and I’m in my forties. I have a background in public services and training. I’ve been working on my first novel, Dragon Line, since 2008. I’ve also written several short stories, one of which you can find on this blog (‘Matilda Leviathan‘). I now reside on the border of Shropshire and Wales, and my interests include writing (of course!), current affairs and environmental issues.
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