Sunday, February 20, 2011

World Food Shortages

In 2008 there were riots and food shortages. Gasoline prices hit $4/gallon in the US, but that was a bother not disaster. The disaster was in the developing world where people starved because of food shortages.

Now 2011 is shaping up to be another food shortage year. Prices are rising. People are worried.

At times like this I like to take a step back and look at the big picture. This number from a SEPP organization's newsletter for Feb 19, 2011:
From 1960 to 2010 wheat production in India went from 10,320 (1000
Metric Tons) to 80,710 (1000 MT) – an increase of 682 percent.
That is a huge leap compared to the population increase in India. So from this perspective, the food shortages will be met by increased production. It won't happen fast enough to prevent this year's starvation, but the future looks good. There is an emerging middle class of hundreds of millions in India and China. The world is becoming more "people friendly" as science and technology allow us to harness human ingenuity to break the contraints of "natural" shortages.

There are pessmists who will proclaim that the future is bleak. Gloom and doom is popular with some people. Two hundred years ago Thomas Malthus wrote a famous essay predicting widespread famine. The 1960s saw group like ZPG proclaim in the book Population Bomb that there would be widespread famine by the 1970s with hundreds of millions starving to death. Today that long tradition of gloom-and-doom is continued by those convinced that we are only decades away from a "heat death" caused by global warming. Funny. the global temperature is actually cooler in January 2011 than the average over the last 30 years. So much for "runaway" global warming.

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