Monday, February 4, 2008


Scientists predicted it. Science fiction writers exploited it. Doomsday fanatics may have lost sleep for it. And it seems to have come...

Planet Earth has reached its maximum utilization to produce food for the consumption of its human population. The basic threshold of supply and demand has been crossed in the bad way. And like anything else, market prices run havoc when it does so.

Well, before myself been stereo-typed for treading the steps of Nostra-Damus, let me give you some factual evidence.

In fact, for some time now, catastrophe indicators have been turning orange. Alas, a trip to a common market makes you wonder whether it should be called red alert now. After all, “It’s happening” as per the famous quote in “Day After Tomorrow”.

We, in Sri Lanka, are paying 255/- for a milk powder packet which was 162/- 2yrs ago. A kilogram of rice has risen from 42/- to 81/-. Bread also almost doubled. Government has been blaming the private sector monopoly holders and worldwide big game players for trying to put it in trouble deliberately. Opposition claims that the lack of planning in the part of Government, together with plenty of dirty plans for the crispy buck in the hidden stocks by their henchmen, as the reason for the chaos.

All these must very well be true. But underneath the Sri Lankan political bullshit, extra weak rupee and dirty business tricks, lies the rest of the ice berg – a worldwide food shortage caused by the historical threshold. We have filled the planet such heavily that there are more mouths to eat than hands to plough and most importantly lands for those hands to plough.

For the issue of lack of hands, is it really the fault of contemporary tech-savvy idiot? I remember my uncles doing some farming, in addition to their jobs and professions. Most of our previous generation did so. But do we? Well I do not. If you ask me why, you know, the usual day-today rat race, commitment for the profession, lack of land to do any farming , having an alternative way to support my family without farming, and oh the whole what not of reasoning. But underlying truth is that farming is no longer a habit of ordinary human beings. Farming has been restricted to a subset of our populations whereas we provide them what you call markets. And we eat out their handful of production.

Worsening the problem, there appeared a different competitor to go in head to head bidding with those big mouths that need food. With the instability and hike in petroleum sector, most food items such as corn are diverted for bio-fuel production. And when it comes to bidding we all know that auto-mobile sector has the stronger penny than those starving stomachs.

Global Warming also has a link to the topic here. Australia has been hit with droughts for half a decade now and they are thinking of taking off the term “drought” and calling it “climate change”. Unlike drought climate change will stay forever. West United States is in a severe shortage of water, some rivers shrinking to 40% of their usual output, mainly due to lack of snowing up in the hills, again due to the rise of mercury. Story may be the same in many other parts of the world, but unfortunately monitoring could be at lesser scale.

But I am a great fan of nature and think that children of nature are capable in riding on its own tides. My bigger concern is whether the dangerous threshold between harvest and consumption has been reached, and if so, whether we have a realistic solution.

Do we have a realistic solution? Fiction writers exploited the possibilities of energy pills to Chlorophyl transplanting, in a very wishful way of thinking that fiction writers do. But scientists have never (to my knowledge) thought out of the traditional box of higher yield per acre. Higher yield also has its constraints and unfortunately the problem is getting increasingly complex faster than the solution development. Topics like oceanic agriculture have been mostly talked out. But overall research in this area is not meeting the demand.

Research fails to meet the demand as the big buck has no role to play. A drug to cure a terminal disease can be sold at any price but a kilogram of rice or a loaf of bread cannot be. Food, being a mass consumer item, leaves its constraints for the big money lust. There is no point in investing for agrarian research. Food will never be a luxury item. And that, I think, is the key reason for not inventing consistent ways for food production than generations old toil of the ground.

And the real story is that we have blocked every possible ways that nature provides us to tackle this. Nature gives us many demons that keep the population away from erupting. Disease, wars, natural disasters, and all those catastrophic events have been keeping human head count at a manageable level. And most of them have been averted by the big global civilization that we dwell today.

Is this a stupid mistake of our civilization to develop mobile phones and internet but still produce food like Egyptians and Mesopotamians did? Or is it nature’s next method for population control? It is beyond my imagination how the increasing human population can tackle this problem, other than using it as a solution for the actual problem of population increase.

1 comment:

  1. One alternative is eating soil, see these,