On 31st October 2011, a baby was born somewhere in the world and suddenly the Earth groaned under the strain of supporting 7 billion human beings. Then, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) released a scary report on 28th November 2011 entitled, “The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture .” or SOLAW.
SOLAW notes that in the 50 years between 1961 and 2009 cropland increased by just 12% but agriculture and food production grew by an amazing 150% largely due to the practices introduced during the “Green Revolution”. It could be said that we dodged the bullet then because in the same period, the world population also increased by 100%. If it were not for the Green Revolution, the world would already be facing widespread famine.
However, SOLAW also noted that the success of the Green Revolution has also been costly in terms of soil fertility and pollution and today the “rates of growth in agricultural production have been slowing in many areas and are today only half of what they were during the heyday of the Green Revolution. ” Today, there is very little arable land left for expansion of agricultural lands. If anything, we are even losing arable land, burying it under concrete as cities spread out. Furthermore, SOLAW points out that 25% of the world’s land is now highly degraded, another 8% is moderately degraded and only 10% is showing an improvement in status.
Water scarcity, salination and pollution of groundwater and other water sources and habitats are all making food production harder. All these effects will be magnified further by the effects of climate change.
Yet while agriculture and food production is in decline and under threat, the human population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050. So in the midst of the decline and decay, we will have to pull another miracle out of the bag and increase food production by another 70% in the next 40 years.
Yet at the Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa that is on right now, developed countries and even some developing countries are trying to delay implementation of further measures to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impact of climate change. Canada is even threatening to pull out of the minimal Kyoto Protocol because of concerns that carbon reduction targets might affect its economic competitiveness with the USA.
This reminds me of a Government Minister from a developing nation who called his farmers “stupid” for planting food crops when they could use the land for planting cash crops. He said with the profits, “we can always buy food”. How short sighted! The recent flood in Thailand for example caused widespread panic amongst countries dependent on it for their rice. Climate change is going to make this situation far worse.
It sure looks like we are all heading towards global disaster like idiots; like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned or like lemmings heading for the cliff while assuring themselves there is no other way.
And just to link with my previous post on the Muppets, there are also Pigs in Space.