How can we measure the likelihood of famine in the near future? It would seem a reasonable approach would be to observe where people are already living beyond their ability to feed their children. It may seem strange to say, but things have never been better so far as food is concerned, and the simple proof of that assertion is that the population of the world is continuing to grow by two hundred thousand people every day. For your information here is the up-to-the-second current world population from World of Meters. That growth would be impossible if there wasn’t an abundance of food. Would things change, in the long run of say thirty years, if today’s food of the world were distributed more evenly? A quick fix would be great, but come back in thirty years and the distribution of malnourished children would probably be very similar to today’s sad map.

UNICEF map of malnourished children. Click for bigger map.

Observe that the worst of the existing shortfall of food is in India, but the population there is still growing. At present the current population projection for India versus China implies that India will continue to grow from the current 1.1 billion to 1.6 billion by 2050. But, how can that happen when India’s children are already starving? How can you feed another half billion people, when a sizable part of the current population is already desperately hungry?

Now to make another simple observation, based on the availability of water. Water is absolutely essential to growing crops, and the current supply is not even sufficient for India’s needs. The simple proof of that assertion is that multitudes of children are starving. But, now for the problem of projecting 30 years into the future based on access to water for growing the crops to feed the projected new population. Here is a map of the rivers feeding India, China and Southeast Asia.

These rivers feed nearly half the people of the world.

Compare the two maps and the greatest density of malnourished children is right along the Ganges river. It is obvious that if this river doesn’t flow with its abundance of water coming from the Himalaya mountains that there will be even less food and even more starving people. The rivers shown above feed nearly half the people of the world. The children are especially at risk because they have more difficulty procuring paying work, and they need the money to buy food to feed themselves.

The problem comes from the fact that rain in India is seasonal, and that rain that fell in the Himalaya mountains in the past has frozen into glaciers, and these melt slowly and give a steady flow to these rivers. Unfortunately with the onset of global warming the glaciers are melting, and the monsoon rains now don’t freeze but instead flow quickly off the mountains, down the rivers and into the oceans and then there is nothing for the rest of the year. Without that steady flow of fresh water the crops won’t grow and the people will starve.

Here is a picture of Mt Kailash, the home of the god Shiva and the source of the sacred word ohm.

The north side of Mt Kailash. Photo by D. G. Patel. Click for bigger.

Mt Kailash is at the headwaters of India’s food supply, but as you can see there isn’t enough water on this mountain to sustain billions more people.

With accurate information there can be foresight and better actions.