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The stock market has been nasty the last few weeks and Americans worry about their retirement funds, but elsewhere this same economic debacle turns into a food catastrophe, and soon it will become a famine in some areas. The BBC World News reports, made before the current crisis, found that 60% of people in 26 countries say higher food, and energy prices this year have affected them a great deal. The Global Hunger Index tracks 88 countries for under-nourished rates and child mortality. When there are already undernourished areas, how can the responsible authorities not respond to the IPCC published population projections that show an exploding population?

IPCC population projections

IPCC population projections

When the world-wide food shortage begins in earnest the various food exporting countries will put limits on exports to protect their own populations. As their population increases there will come a time when they can no longer export food even if they wanted to do so, without political turmoil. When that happens the importing countries will have to pay a markedly higher price for food on the global market, but that market will already be in a stressed condition or the problem would not have developed in the first place. So there will be an outcry, and some nations will put more land into temporarily higher production, but that is more demanding on the soil and the production can not be maintained. The result will be that they will have to charge higher prices for less food. That condition can not last very long, and someone will have to suffer. Those people who will suffer most will be the ones with the least stored capital, and the least capable of creating personal wealth. That suffering always comes ultimately to the children of the poorest people in the poorest countries. The problem is how to get those economically poor people who can not afford to raise children to not create them in the first place. A reader’s comment on the BBC:

Virtually nobody is addressing the fundamental problem of over-population. Most groups are seriously culpable of ignorance or burying their heads in the sand on this issue – politicians either clueless or dare not speak out, religious leaders peddling anti birth control propaganda, selfish couples with large families – the list is endless ……. A few years ago I heard a Swedish politician promoting a higher birth rate ‘so that the older generation will have enough people to look after them’! With logic like that, what hope for the second and third worlds? Education is required. We are well on our way to consuming virtually everything the earth has to offer in a century or two. Intuitively, I sense that, in the long term, the planet would struggle to support one tenth of the current population yet all the talk is about how much longer it will take to double! Population growth is the root cause of nearly all our current problems. Come on politicians, educate yourselves, stand up and be counted on a platform of population reduction!
Colin Hubbard, Altrincham, UK

Not to worry Colin! Mother Nature will come to the rescue, the way she always does with unchecked exploding populations, and that is with a resounding crash. There will probably be plenty of warnings before this happens, just like there were plenty of warnings before the current over extended housing crisis, here in the US, precipitated the current market crash. The problem is similar to what is commonly called “the tragedy of the commons” (this needs a much better name or an epigram) where it is those people who are exploiting the publicly available resources who benefit the most, and who are injured the least by the collapse of the common resource. This behavior brings on the collapse, and the most marginally limited of the users of the resource are the ones who suffer most from resource depletion, and in the case of food are the ones who die when it collapses. The most flagrant consumers (destroyers) of the common good benefit the most, and are injured the least because they have built up reserves of capital in their other privately controlled resources. They gained this private capital reserve by exploiting the common public capital. The tragedy compounds on itself because so many people benefit from the personal exploitation of the public resource.

This afternoon I went to a lecture, “Starved for Attention: the Neglected Crisis of Childhood Malnutrition” presented by Dr. Buddhima Lokuge from the Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontères . It was a good lecture presented by some people who are trying desperately to find solutions to famine and the childhood malnutrition problems. They work mostly in Africa, and he asserts that there is plenty of food in the world it just isn’t finding its way to the people who need it most desperately. His work has found the best allocation of money is for nutritious food given to mothers from the conception of a child, and then to her child until it is about two years old.

He said, “At a time of increasing food prices, and global food insecurity there is urgent need for international action.” I listened carefully for any nuanced suggestion that their might be too many people for the land that they inhabit to support, but there wasn’t a hint of population awareness. Nor were there any questions from an audience of seventy people which even hinted at the population problem. This is the second lecture this week where the extended discussion was about the cost of food and preventing famine, but where there was absolutely no mention of population. The only solutions offered were of increasing production locally, and of “wealthy nations” giving the starving people more food.