Sunday, April 26, 2009

Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?

A new article by Lester Brown of the World Watch Institute in the latest issue of Scientific American Magazine examines this question. This is a highly important issue, and the GROW BIOINTENSIVE approach we are teaching here at Ezemvelo produces food with a fraction of the energy, water and soil amendments of conventional approaches. 34 students on a the Leadership Course here this week, spent this morning learning how to make new soil from plant based compost and how to conserve water and promote healthier plants with higher yields by double digging a new vegetable bed for our new GROW BIOINTENSIVE demonstration garden.

The following two posts are alarming, and one needs to remember that the root of the word "crisis" has the same origin as "circle", ie that a crisis represents lack of balance, and the beginning of a return to balance again. It seems we humans need to be pushed to the brink of catastrophe before we will change our ways! Also the word for "crisis" in Chinese is associated with the word "opportunity".

From the May 2009 Scientific American Magazine

Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?

The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse

By Lester R. Brown

  • Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
  • Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
  • Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production.
  • Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.
One of the toughest things for people to do is to anticipate sudden change. Typically we project the future by extrapolating from trends in the past. Much of the time this approach works well. But sometimes it fails spectacularly, and people are simply blindsided by events such as today’s economic crisis.

For most of us, the idea that civilization itself could disintegrate probably seems preposterous. Who would not find it hard to think seriously about such a complete departure from what we expect of ordinary life? What evidence could make us heed a warning so dire—and how would we go about responding to it? We are so inured to a long list of highly unlikely catastrophes that we are virtually programmed to dismiss them all with a wave of the hand: Sure, our civilization might devolve into chaos—and Earth might collide with an asteroid, too!

For many years I have studied global agricultural, population, environmental and economic trends and their interactions. The combined effects of those trends and the political tensions they generate point to the breakdown of governments and societies. Yet I, too, have resisted the idea that food shortages could bring down not only individual governments but also our global civilization.

I can no longer ignore that risk. Our continuing failure to deal with the environmental declines that are undermining the world food economy—most important, falling water tables, eroding soils and rising temperatures—forces me to conclude that such a collapse is possible.

Full article here...

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