I wandered lonely as a cloud when all at once I was set upon by a Host of Silent Liars.What do Michael Kors, The National Geographic, the United Nations, and the scientific publisher Elsevier have in common? In the last two days, they have all popped up in my email inbox and in each case they are pushing the poverty bandwagon.
Michael Kors (a fashion designer) thinks we can solve the problem of hunger by strengthening the community. He gives no consideration to population growth. But then, he's a fashion designer --- a pusher of vanity products for ladies --- so you wouldn't expect a realistic analysis from such a person. OK, I'm prepared to accept that Michael Kors is well intentioned but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Paul Colinvaux presents a much more realistic analysis in his ground-breaking classic, The Fates of Nations: a Biological Theory of History. Whereas Michael Kors method is political correctness, Colinvaux does not mire himself in that way, rather Colinvaux grounds his analyses in well-established ecological and evolutionary science. This is not to say that Colinvaux does not consider the politically correct point of view. The following quotation from Fates of Nations was written in 1980, when Michael Kors was cutting his teeth on ladies dresses, but it might as well have been written about the modern-day Michael Kors (a very rich man opining about poverty):"Good people worked to help the poor, and with high hope. The earth was a bountiful place whose wealth people were learning more and more to exploit. All that must be needed to abolish poverty seemed to be dilligence and good will. Well-intentioned governors were dilligent, and their efforts yielded more and more resources which could be spread among the people. And the efforts of good will were massively supported by the efforts of greed, as the people of commerce used their cleverness to extract wealth from the land. These efforts always should have yeilded enough resource to abolish poverty, but they never did; the unchanged human breeding strategy saw to that.Given more resources, the human breeding strategy increases population until the point of shortage, and therefore poverty.
The National Geographic has produced a video in which they document their solution:
Well, I guess I'm just glad they aren't pushing for more farmland or for farming the oceans. Presently we farm just about every patch of dirt that can be profitably farmed, and much is presently farmed unsustainably in as much as farmland is being degraded. Furthermore, ALL farmland was obtained at the expense of other creatures and other types of ecosystems.
- reduce waste
- grow more per unit are of land
- move diet down a trophic level by banning meat
As for reducing waste, we already do that every well. Most natural ecosystems are lucky to operate at 10% efficiency when it comes to energy transfer to a specific species. In large measure, our very low wastage can be attributed to refrigeration and modern systems of transport. Of course, waste reduction comes at the cost of increased consumption of fossil fuel. And let us not forget those modern miracles, processed foods:- cookies that have a shelf life of years, thanks to trans fats and plastic wrapping.
As for growing more on each acre of farmland --- well, that has been the story of the industrialization of farming over the last century. Present farm production would collapse in a heap without the industrial input of pesticides and energy and fertilizer that are ultimately derived from fossil fuel. All technologies saturate, even gene techologies, so squeezing more production out of less land is always a bad bet for the long term.
As for moving down a trophic level. These unthinking vegans have lost sight of the fact that there is a lot of land which is unprofitable to crop but which can be efficiently grazed. Without fossil fuels for intensive agriculture, more cropland would revert to grazing land. (Remember that before tractors we used slave animals to do the heavy lifting on the farm --- think about how many paddocks were required to feed them.) The human animal evolved as a hunter gatherer. Those who would force a herbivore diet upon us also impoverish us.
My basic point is that Nat Geo won't confront the real problem and so everything they have to say is pointless rhetoric, at best. At worst they obscure the real problem and thereby cause poverty.
On this 33rd anniversary of World Food Day the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is pushing Family Farming.
First, the anniversary is notable. The first World Food Day must have been back in 1982. It was in the early 1980's (probably 1981) that per capita oil consumption peaked. The worlds economy, particularly food production, depends very much upon oil consumption. All of the 33 World Food Days really commemorate the slow decline of food security which is an obvious corollary of the slow decline in the per capita oil allocation.
Second, family farming is what used to be done before industrialization --- you know, when world-wide production struggled to feed 1 or 2 billion people! I guess that the United Nations promotion of family farming is just another example of UNintelligence.
Another email invited me to attend the 2nd International Conference on Global Food Security
Topics for parallel sessions will include:
Every specific item above has already been done to death over the last 2 centuries. The only thing missing from their list is the real cause for food insecurity, population growth.
- Global and local analyses of food security and its drivers
- Enabling policies for local and global food security
- Sustainable intensification of food production systems
- Urbanization, food value chains and food security
- Managing food-feed-biofuels competition
- Technological breakthroughs to help feed 9 billion
- Land sparing, land sharing and trade-offs in balancing competing demands for agricultural lands
- Reducing loss and waste
- Reducing the risks to agriculture from climate change
- Nutritional security and food assistance programs
- Gender- and generation- differentiated food security concerns
- Sustainable sourcing of food products
- Business-science cooperation to advance food security
One would expect that scientists might be sufficiently objective to at least consider the possibility that continued population growth would cause food insecurity? But no. Nowadays honesty takes a back seat to political correctness. The journals that publish science, like Elsevier, are also culpable --- as are the agencies from which scientists obtain their funding and employment.
To be fair, the first two sessions do not explicitly exclude consideration of the real reason for food insecurity. But nowhere is the real reason for food insecurity even hinted at...
To register for this meeting would cost $700. Travel costs, around $1000. Accommodation, probably another $1000. Most of the attendees will be employed in various industries (especially academia). They will be well paid to professionally pontificate about the pointless in order to obscure unpleasant reallities. Obviously, such people would personally profit by attending the meeting. I'm not so employed. Nevertheless, I'm thinking about submitting an abstract, just to see if they would even allow a presentation of the truth that they most assiduously obfuscate?