Update: A new Guardian piece is more alarming:
"Overall, global grain consumption has exceeded production in eight of the past 13 years. By mid-century, world crop yields could fall as much as 2o-40%"
A new study fairly asks :
"Can a collapse of civilisation be avoided" (source)
Last year the UN reported that 2013 would see a major food crisis. It’s 2013 now, so what’s up with food.The warnings where not half measure:
Global grain reserves hit critically low levels
Extreme weather means climate ‘is no longer reliable’
Rising food prices threaten disaster and unrest
"According to Brown, we are seeing the start of a food supply breakdown with a dash by speculators to "grab" millions of square miles of cheap farmland, the doubling of international food prices in a decade, and the dramatic rundown of countries’ food reserves." (source oct 2012)
"The geopolitics of food is fast overshadowing the geopolitics of oil."
So how will this pan out. It seems we are in a hologram again, just like our economic and financial hologram that gives no indication of the impending collapse, food is used up even as reserves run down.
"Global grain reserves tighten even as food prices fall" (source)
"The lower the stocks, that means any unexpected development creates more variability in the prices than would otherwise, ..This is what we have been witnessing over the last few years. I don’t think 2013/2014 will be that much different until we build up stocks to levels that the trade community feels are comfortable."
The financial hologram of our world contains assets that can be leveraged to create credit with which we buy fossil fuels to consume. It does not have any use for resources that disappear, except for insuring the risk with uncovered insurances. The US drought of 2012 made politicians push for more insurance, while it is clear you simply can’t replace crops if the entire climatic circumstances of a region change. The North Pole lost ice, it’s 12 degrees Celcius warmer there, the jetstreams changed and drought was a result. This year same story.
The general approach to global resouce collapse is reduction of demand. This is done by reducing the amount of money in circulation (under the name ‘financial crisis’), it is done by advising Austerity. Both do absolutely nothing to turn the trend.
This is the risk of a financialized economy, cashflow is king. Cashflow in trade hinges on absence of disruptions, and the biggest disruption would be the expectation of hunger. The effects of bad harvests are parked where we least notice it. We see rising prices for meat products. Beef prices should dip because of a global cull to deal with the bad 2012 harvest (cows eat mais), now prices are rising because even the smaller herds can not be fed.
"Prices for cattle have jumped by as much as 25% in the past two years as the nation’s herd dropped to its lowest level in six decades while foreign export demand boomed."
Don’t be fooled by the term ‘lowest’ above, it won’t go back up. It’s the same as reporting ‘record temperatures’, they are not records if they don’t get back down, they are simply the trend. The world is NOT dealing with the trend because we live in an economy that divides what is there amongst it’s participants.
Prices in food traded in dollars are already a problem for countries that need to earn those dollars but can’t, like Egypt and other countries in North Africa. Indirectly petrol prices have a large inpact on food prices and are influenced by the same US driven dollar inflation.
In general financial talk about resources will lose it’s meaning once scarcity becomes more serious. The World Bank already concluded it is useless to sell futures for food that doesn’t exist to push prices down, it may make food cheaper in the short run, but it will distorts the price signals that should drive farmers to produce more. Of course if harvests fail it doesn’t matter how much money is available to farm, and if the money no longer buys fossil fuels or those prices go up you’ll be shit out of luck. Sadly, economic laws about
Microinflation means you are able to pay a higher price because you originate the dollars, even though the price is not much higher. Because the US prints dollars and fossil fuels are sold in dollars, this also depletes dollar reserves, especially of poor countries.
Meanwhile, stealthily something is being done. East Africa is being developed truely agressively. We read about indiginous farmers being kicked of their land, truth is that area is taken over by ‘foreign investment’ and guess what that means. From the presentations for investors one can glean the states of the Horn of Africa basically stepped aside to hitch a ride. It is perhaps the biggest landgrab in recent history.
"Ethiopia is using one of Africa’s largest armies to help develop an economy that grew an average 8.7% over the past five years, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country operates a state-led development model that targets public and private investment in value-adding industries in order to diversify an economy in which agriculture accounts for 46 percent of total output." (source)
The secret is the aquifers under East Africa, apart from Oil. There are several, for instance below Lybia as well. One can easily green the entire Sahara with water from that ancient reserve.
Ghadaffi’s "Man Made River"
Ghadaffi should be credited here, not as a farty conspiracy theorist, but as a visionary who developed a huge pipe system to make the water under Lybia usable. He offered his best oil to the US, but the neat US and Europeans did not like his involvement and other terrible acts and cut him out. Now Lybia has oil and water, all it needs to boom. In terms of food production the produce from Lybia is still years away, and that of Ethiopia’s vast regions as well. If wars break out in Africa between Chinese, African and US interests then who knows how reliable that supply will be. Food is no use if it can’t reach you.
Once food becomes scarce the market may dry up. This happened when Russia pulled out because of bad wheat harvests recently. Prices may become more local, meaning the market fragments.
Long term any strategy involving resources that can be depleted will fail, it will be a temporary distraction, a waste of time. Sadly economics is all about wasting time, it is about consuming everything, our state is evidence for that. Never create, just bring stuff to the market. Feed the fire, burn the cash, be a trader. Sticking to this approach will see our atmosphere ultimatly becoming unbreathble, but that is when most life has already disappeared from our oceans and lands, an evolutionary reset, 4 milion years of peace. Right now we are still plowing full steam into this scenario.
There is a solution that can not be reached by looking for places where things are "still ok". That strategy of being a moveable feast, leaving scorched earth behind, won’t cut it. People with a shorter term mindset will try to sell it to you though. Don’t buy it! The solution lies in fighting the trends, but not in the usual way by looking in the market for solutions, because the market has a filter called the banking system, meaning any real solution to economic problems (problems good for carbon cashflow e.g. the economy) will be painfully expensive or unfinanceable. Example, the DutchRainmaker makes water from the air using wind. It is a simple product, it was ready for market at a price point of 10.000 Euro for a turbine providing several thousands of liters of water per day. Now it’s in development for a much more expensive size, not easily sold but much easier to financialize and leverage. It will not inhibit the development of the budding speculative water market!
Your methods of ecorestauration and climate change mitigation should not involve fossil fuels, to prevent the limiting effect of their availability. Use energy that’s already around!
Solutions consists of devices like the dutch rainmaker, it’s easy, buildable without fossil input, no need for carbon credit loans, why? You shouldn’t try to solve the climate problem by using the remaining carbon reserves, and why would you, the Sun provides many times more energy to do the work. The Sun can for the next centuries be the power source for carbon capture and storage, ecological restauration and many other eco restorative processes. In fact it will be, whether we are around or not, it happened several times before.
Big irrigation systems can be build with solar energy as much as with fossil fuel. Ammonia (NH3) is a perfect fuel for heavy machinery (behaves like diesel). So then it comes down to solar or wind driven production of this hydrogen carrier. Once the supply of fuel is secured using renewables, the building and construction of dams, canals and irrigation systems need never stop. While fossil fuel shortages push humanity towards ever more desperate situations, clean fuels like Ammonia allow harmless consolidation and strengthening of natural our support system.
Above a video of the Naga Foundation, about how simple trenches can increase water infiltration into the soil, resulting in irrigation and evaporation free water storage. A simple excavator running on biofuels, elecricity or ammonia can thus cause greening of massive stretches of land. This solution can also be applied in dry nothern Spain and for that matter dry US.
We should perhaps use the starting point of saying : Our foodbase is eroding due to climate change, how are we responding to it? Let’s get serious about what keeps us alive, and party when we improve our chances.