Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh
Not long ago I was standing in a bookshop, minding my own business, when a book title leapt out in front of me. The book was “History’s Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them”. It documents the sorry tales of dozens of people throughout history who, with the best of intentions, made some fascinatingly terrible choices.
I scanned the book’s contents page, purposefully, looking for a specific name – that of the recently deceased, Iowa born agronomist, Norman Borlaug. I failed to find him amongst all the unfortunates chosen for inclusion, but then I really didn’t expect to. My lack of surprise was not because I didn’t think he was deserving – I would likely have put him at top of the list myself – but because, in general, the human race is largely ignorant of the grave implications of his work. This ignorance is made glaringly obvious when you consider he is widely celebrated as one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. He even received a Nobel Peace Prize, amongst several other awards, for his disaster of a contribution to mankind.
Mr. Borlaug is father of the very inappropriately named ‘Green Revolution’ – the post World War II industrialisation of agriculture. He is credited with saving millions of people from starvation after World War II. And, credit where credit is due – he probably did. He hybridised seed strains to develop high yield varieties, which in and of itself might not have been such a bad thing. But Borlaug’s work didn’t stop there. The outcome was the creation of a colour-by-numbers, fossil fuel-, chemical- and irrigation-dependent approach to agriculture that saw large scale monocrops become the system of choice worldwide and gave birth to the ‘get big or get out’ agricultural policies of the 1970s. The resulting reductionist bid to deal with, and capitalise on, all the symptoms of this unnatural shift then gave birth to that ultimate method of social control and profiteering – genetic engineering.
The industrialisation of our food supply means that our current production is extremelyoil intensive. It has been calculated that, on average, it takes ten calories of fossil fuels to produce one calorie of food in our current setup. Some food has an even more ridiculous ratio – like corn-fed feedlot beef which consumes about 55 fossil fuel calories to one calorie of meat. We are effectively eating oil.
This is of course an insane state of affairs. As oil production wanes this puts us in an extremely vulnerable position. If our current system remains unchanged, we face acute food shortages in the near future, and that’s without even taking into account the major crop failures we’re getting now as a result of climate change. It is precisely why in 2008, when oil prices tripled in a matter of months, people began to riot worldwide as they got priced out of the ability to eat. The recession has somewhat alleviated this problem, but it won’t be long before crisis strikes again and becomes a permanent condition for humanity.