Too much of a good thing

Coming back to the issue of the food crisis, The Economist asks what can be done? The new face of hunger

It’s interesting to read the comments after the article. Most people seem to think that the ultimate good is to maximize food production through better land use and/or universal adoption of a vegetarian diet.

As it is, many of the world’s poor have been forced to the latter because of prohibitive cost.

For those on $2 a day, it means cutting out meat and taking the children out of school. For those on $1 a day, it means cutting out meat and vegetables and eating only cereals. And for those on 50 cents a day, it means total disaster.

Of course universal vegetarianism will never happen. So leaders will look to maximize land efficiency in order to facilitate stuffing the planet to the brim with as many humans as possible.

But this doesn’t solve the problem, it just pushes it back to the point where there is absolutely no flexibility because the planet’s resources have been maxed out. Population control is the only feasible long term solution.

Declining birth rates in the west mean that in the most affluent societies, there is already an element of population control at play. But in many countries were consumption is increasing rapidly – India and China of course being our favourite subjects – population growth is still strong and shows little evidence of levelling off.

World Mapper – Total Births
Total Births

Gapminder – Population

The problem is that humans are very poor at valuing quality and therefore set their benchmarks of performance in terms of quantity.

It may prove to be a fatal flaw.

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Related

Industrialised nations are not immune:
Japan runs out of butter

Japan, its leading food importers say, will inevitably take a step backwards in the food it eats. “The time will come,” says Akio Shibata, the director of the Marubeni Institute and one of Japan’s foremost experts on food supply, “when the Japanese people will realise that they will not have the quality, taste and prices of food they are used to.”

Affluent but isolated countries such as Japan and Singapore will be the first industrialised nations to suffer the effects of food shortages. How will their experience influence international efforts to address the crisis?

I find myself seriously considering a move to New Zealand given the obvious risks of living in Singapore in the face of long term food shortages.

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