Since the end of the Great Depression the greater majority of the American people have given little thought to the idea that food is scarce. Unlike most other countries, even those who have no gainful employment are still able to acquire food in one way or another in America – be it through private or public assistance. We’ve been the richest country in the world for over a century, and with that comes the ability to acquire food before any other nations have a shot at the bidding process. The leftovers – like rotten meat and dairy products – are often then distributed to second and third world nations, essentially leaving them to fight over our scraps. Here in America, we toss out millions of pounds of uneaten food, often from ‘single portion’ plates capable of feeding entire families in poorer African and Asian countries.
But, as American wages continue to drop (adjusted for inflation, of course), jobs are lost, debts are taken to never before seen levels, and tens of millions join the global population yearly, the food scarcity that has so eluded us for decades may become reality even here – and much sooner than we think.
Via The Trumpet:
Have you ever gone hungry? Ever had to scavenge for any scrap of food-like garbage simply to stave off your gnawing hunger?
Probably not. Most people in the affluent West can’t even begin to imagine it.
But of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth, an estimated 850 million are undernourished or chronically hungry. With global food production hurting and prices rising, this number is swiftly climbing.
In July, a famine was officially declared in the Horn of Africa, the first in 30 years. A reported 12,400,000 people don’t have enough food. Imagine it. There are 81,000 people in my town; this is every last person in this town and 152 more just like it, all going hungry.
Between May and July in that region, 29,000 children younger than 5 died of starvation.
The nightmare is expected to last into next year, and the number of afflicted to rise quickly to 15 million. These are the chilling effects of two years of drought—the worst in six decades—coupled with some absolutely shameful human behavior.
When your belly is plenty full, your tendency is to brush aside such facts. After all, what can you do?
But you need to give this some serious thought—because chances are extremely high that soon, you won’t just be reading about those hunger pains.
In the First World, we have enjoyed several decades of practically unprecedented abundance—limitless food variety, available year-round, at some of the cheapest prices enjoyed on a mass scale in human history. Thanks to increased food production, the share of underfed people on our planet has been dropping for centuries; in recent decades, percentages of malnourished and starving people have been more than halved.
No wonder we take it all for granted. This auspicious historical anomaly is the new reality. The party can last forever, right?
Well, there is a catch. This period of plenty has largely been sponsored by acomplete revolution in the way we produce and distribute what we eat. The good news is that we have become extremely efficient in producing cheap food in massive quantities. The bad news is that it has come with monumental unintended additional costs.
Perhaps the most urgent consequence is that this revolution has made us dangerously vulnerable to massive disruptions in our food supply.
As our modern world has shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial- and now a service- and information-based culture, farmers have vanished en masse. A mere century ago, one in four Americans lived on a farm, and the average farmer grew enough food to feed 12 other Americans. Today, while the population has more than tripled to over 300 million, only 2 million farmers remain. On average, each one grows food to feed 140 people.
Today in the First World, less than 2 percent of the population is feeding the other 98 percent. The vast majority of us get our food from hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have only about a week’s worth of groceries in the pantry. We are wholly sustained by a complex system about which we are almost completely ignorant. Making food has become a profession for experts.
Every link in this intricate process is burdened with troubling issues that would cause most of us to raise our eyebrows with concern—or even retch in disgust. More pressingly, every link is susceptible to major potential breakdowns.
And early signs of breakdowns in the system are appearing—more all the time. Soaring grocery bills. Headlines about food-borne sickness from harmful bacteria. Epidemic chronic health problems like obesity and diabetes. Food scarcity. And yes, even famine.
What would you eat if the grocery stores and restaurants were empty?
Full Article: The Trumpet
The world population is rapidly approaching 7 billion, and by 2050 it is projected to exceed 10 billion people. While 850 million may be chronically hungry, at least another couple billion have extreme difficulty with actually acquiring food due to lack of broad availability and funds. We face some serious problems going forward, because current food production simply cannot meet demand, especially when we consider the recent development that agricultural production is increasingly being directed towards alternative energy rather than food consumption.
The combination of global population and food demand is rising about 2 percent a year. Meanwhile, food production is rising at only about half that rate.
You can add to this fundamental reality a myriad of other pressures on the food supply: more adverse weather events—droughts, floods, and other disasters—that reduce crop yields or wipe out harvests; vanishing marine life, including ocean fish catches—the top source of protein for Asians—because of over-fishing, pollution and other causes; government enactments like farm subsidies, food price controls, taxes, regulations, restrictions and so on.
Paul Roberts lists still more factors in his 2008 book The End of Food. “Arable land is growing scarcer. Inputs like pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are increasingly expensive. Soil degradation and erosion from hyperintensive farming are costing millions of acres of farmland a year. Water supplies are being rapidly depleted in parts of the world, even as the rising price of petroleum—the lifeblood of industrial agriculture—is calling into question the entire agribusiness model.”
Source: The Trumpet
The additional variable of inflation is also going to play an important role. For one, the demand on the agricultural industry over coming years is going to force food prices up for no other reason than there isn’t enough supply to meet the ever increasing population. On top of that, a large portion of the globe’s population has become dependent on monetary exchange units managed by central banks, so when those central banks print more money in an effort to manage prices, the effect is to actually destabilize those prices. As has been recently seen, that means the purchasing power of the currencies in question deflates, while the price of the physical goods rises.
Solutions to the problem certainly exist. There are ways we can increase food production, especially if we implement policies that educate the people on how to not only eat appropriately, but to produce their own food, as well. But generally, the solution that many of the world’s most influential thinkers come up with is forced population reduction. Take, for example, the solution to the problem from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was quoted as saying:
Whatever may be done to guard against interruptions of supply and to develop domestic alternatives, the U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States.
The other solution put forth by governments and their corporate sponsors are further destruction of the family farm and expansion of massive corporate agricultural operations.
In his book Collapse, author Jared Diamond chronicles the collapse of societies over the last several thousand years. In general, collapse seems to boil down to those particular civilizations overextending themselves in terms of using up their natural resources and destroying their habitats. Water and food are absolutely critical, and in many cases, even when a society is able to perceive that a problem exists, they fail to act in time to reverse the trend:
The first stop on my road map is that groups may do disastrous things because they failed to anticipate a problem before it arrived. for any of several reasons. One is that they may have had no prior experience of such problems, and so may not have been sensitized to the possibility.
Perhaps the commonest circumstance under which societies fail to perceive a problem is when it takes the form of a slow trend concealed by wide up-and-down fluctuations.
Politicians use the term “creeping normalcy” to refer to such slow trends concealed within noisy fluctuations. If the economy, schools, traffic congestion, or anything else is deteriorating only slowly, it’s difficult to recognize that each successive year is on the average slightly worse than the year before, so one’s baseline standard for what constitutes “normalcy” shift gradually and imperceptibly.
Source: Collapse by Jared Diamond; pp. 421-425
One of the more interesting things when we look at Diamond’s commonest circumstance is that those up-and-down fluctuations are very much apparent in food prices, as well as energy prices today. Yet, the entities responsible for reporting the truth about this information have simply covered it up. Just take a look at the CPI, our official measure of inflation, and you’ll see how food and energy are not weighed as heavily in the calculations because of these very up and down moves! The numbers are telling us what is happening, yet we are being told to ignore them!
For now, the system may be percieved as stable, but it wouldn’t take much to really trigger a collapse with regards to the availability of food. SHTFplan reader JP had some interesting thoughts on the matter, and points out just how quickly it can happen. There are quite a few variables and possibilities, but if we’re talking about a rapid collapse leading to massive and nearly immediate disruptions to our food supply, then it would likely be some sort of monetary phenomenon that is the likely cause:
It may start with a dollar collapse, or a string of bank failures but it will end the same way: spot shortages appear in our ultra-fragile food delivery system, itself built upon JIT (Just-In-Time) order fulfillment and having little intervening warehousing, and no excess transport capability. The people, seeing the odd empty shelf, change their preferences from three days or so of food reserves to, say, a modest three weeks. This would mean a quintupling or more of demand all at once. Bad shortages appear. The hoarding starts and never stops. We never catch up and even military intervention will be insufficient to get us back in equibilibrium. Chaos reigns and people die – a lot of people die. Maybe eighty percent or more.
The most significant threat we face at this time in terms of disruptions to our food supply may very well be the strength of the dollar. If the dollar collapses, then we can’t meet our payment obligations, which means we can’t acquire food from other countries, because there will simply be no way to determine what the value of the currency unit of exchange really is. In essence, global suppliers would justifiably fear that they would be holding worthless paper. The effects of such a collapse may take weeks, perhaps months to resolve.
We have only a limited supply here at home, and if it just so happens that a collapse in the US dollar occurs at the same time as weather anomalies that destroy large percentages of food production in America, the USDA will likely not have enough food reserves for the domestic population:
While the previous surpluses were costly and sharply criticized, much of the food found its way to the poor, here and abroad. Today, says USDA Undersecretary Mark Keenum, “Our cupboard is bare.”
U.S. government food surpluses have evaporated because, with record high prices, farmers are selling their crops on the open market, not handing them over to the government through traditional price-support programs that make up for deficiencies in market price.
Worldwide, food prices have risen 45% in the past nine months, posing a crisis for millions, says the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Because of the current economics of food, and changes in federal farm subsidy programs designed to make farmers rely more on the markets, large U.S. reserves may be gone for a long time.
Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, at a recent food aid conference, says his agency faces tough decisions about managing the rest of the reserve in times of widespread hunger. “How far do we draw down?” he asked. “Do we take it down to zero because we need it? Do we hold some in there, because who knows what’s going to happen, for emergency purposes later?”
Source: USA Today – May 2, 2008
There are a number of factors working against, both in the long-term, as well as the short-term.
The only plausible solutions are a return to personal farming practices, or at the very least, local community farming in one way or another. It is simply irresponsible to depend on someone several thousand miles, or an ocean, away to deliver our food to us. This solution, arguably, may be considered overly optimistic and not grounded in reality.
We can only advise our readers to take matters into their own hands. The government certainly won’t be there to help when you need it most. Personal food production, whether it be in the form of micro farming or micro-livestocking, will ensure that when those grocery store shelves become empty, you and your family will have something to eat. Storing up supplies and becoming proficient in the production methods yourself is really the only way to ensure your food will be there when you need it.
Hat tip Sam Not Sam, JP