Monday, December 13, 2010

Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart

Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart  (Lo que separa la civilización de la anarquía son solo siete comidas. (Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart.)—Spanish proverb
Fifty years ago there were roughly a billion people undernourished or starving.  Today, although there are more people overall, there are still a billion people undernourished or starving.  The situation is not improving.  Julian Cribb in The Coming Famine notes all the various problems with ecological deterioration, and global warming and then continues:

Livestock is a major problem: the grain fed to American animals alone is enough to feed those billion hungry people. But what about the next couple of billion? Production, says Mr. Cribb, is headed in the wrong direction. Grain stockpiles shrank in the last decade, and the amount of available water for each human is plummeting. Yet to produce more food, we need more water; to produce more meat, we need much more water.  
We also need more land, as much as “two more North Americas” to produce the fodder needed to meet projected demand. Yet existing land is being degraded by a variety of factors. (Mr. Cribb provides a nicely horrifying quote from some older Chinese farmers: “When we were young, we had trouble seeing the cattle in the grassland. Now we can see the mice.”) …
None of these practices will matter much unless they’re adopted worldwide. “Even if North Americans and Europeans halved their meat and dairy consumption,” Mr. Cribb writes, “the saving could be completely swamped by the demand from six hundred million newly affluent Indian and Chinese consumers.”
Books of The Times
Reviews Julian Cribb’s The Coming Famine

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