by Ted L Glines
71% of Earth's surface is water. Land mass (29%) is 57,268,900 square miles. If we use 6.4 billion as the human population of the Earth, we now have 110 persons for every square mile of land. It is worse than that because 20% of our land mass is mountains, and another 12.5% is deserts. So about one-third of the land is unusable for growing food, reducing the usable support land mass to about 38,179,267 square miles. Effectively, that means we currently have about 142 humans being supported by every square mile of Earth's usable land mass, if every square mile of land mass was producing food. This, of course, is far from the case.
We have fewer farms and ranches now than we had 20 years ago. Family food production is becoming a thing of the past as the children of ranchers and farmers are leaving the homestead to make their lives in the cities. Small operations are being swallowed up by corporate food-production facilities which resemble factories. Still, food production is falling behind the world's need for food. Even in China, recent news reports state that millions of rural people are moving from their farms to the cities.
“More than 852 million people -- about 13 percent of the world population -- do not have enough food each day to sustain a healthy life, according to the Rome-based Food and Agriculture organization (FAO).” This was the UN estimate in 2006. The figure is higher today. The report went on to say, “...the majority of the hungry live in Asia and Africa, Afghanistan and North Korea.” Rather than solutions, we heard the eternal blame-song: “...the 'current massive under-funding' of UN programs, especially in Darfur (Sudan), the Sahel (including Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad) and the Horn of Africa (including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya) is unacceptable.” At that point, the UN was predicting that they would reduce the number of hungry people by half - by the year 2015 (wholesale death by starvation should accomplish this goal).
Here in America, living in the horn of plenty, we are beginning to feel the pinch as prices of meat and groceries are rising in response to changing farm priorities. Corn has become the priority crop, not for food but to produce ethenol. A shortage of wheat and oats, etc., is driving up rancher's feed costs, and this is driving up the cost of meat, milk and cheese, and bread product prices are rising. Failing grain surpluses also mean there is less food to be shipped to starving people in under-developed countries.
My automobile cannot use ethenol. I do not know anyone who owns an automobile which will burn ethenol. Nor do I know anyone who is planning to spend a five-digit sum to purchase such a vehicle for the sake of saving a few pennies at the gas pump. Young people buying their first cars will buy the hybrid vehicles, but it will be tens of years, perhaps generations, before our currently driven gas-guzzlers are in the junk pile. Perhaps our farmers will use the surplus corn for white lightning, or return to growing food crops.
In America, we think of basic survival-needs as being food, clothing, housing, transportation, and employment. We actually could survive without employment, without transportation, without housing, and even without clothing. Millions of third-world people are surviving without those things. But ... food? It is the lack of food which is killing people.
I know. Instead of sending them corn and wheat and oats and rice, we can send them jugs of ethenol (marked “XXX”) so they may starve to death happily.
Seriously, however, as our world population continues to grow larger, and as our food production continues to deplete, we are nearing the time when we will face a crisis food shortage for all of humanity. Political rhetoric and gimmicks must be replaced with serious long-term planning if we hope to forestall the impending food crunch which is predicted by simple mathematics.
Tomorrow's fine dining: “I will have the Rhetoric Flambe', with a side order of Sauteed Gimmicks. To drink? Ah ... a carafe of your finest Ethenol 2015.” Yummers!