Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Walking with apathy into disaster
Article Type: Editorial From: Disaster Prevention and Management, Volume 17, Issue 2.
Planet Earth is a finite entity. There is only so much land, only so much water, only so much raw resource base, but these are not spread equally across all nations. Some nations are large, some are small, some have too little water, some have too much water, some have large reserves of resources, some have very few or no reserves of resources.
On this first day of February 2008 the current world population is 6.78 billion (www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop) compared to 4.4 billion on the same day 30 years ago. Yet the Earth has not increased in size, neither has the area of land increased, nor has the amount of water increased, the only difference is that the reserves of raw material has decreased. How large theses raw material reserves are is not known, all that is known is that we, the people of Earth are using more and more of them each year. Since 1980, taking oil as a prime example, usage levels has outgrown new discoveries by, on average, 15 - 20 per cent on a per annum basis, and consequently leading to an increase in the cost per barrel of crude oil.
To make up the shortfall in oil supplies, and to attempt to produce a cheaper oil source, there has been a demand for greater production of bio-fuels from cereals and grains. This has lead to both an increase in the cost of cereals and grains, and a switching from basic cereal stocks such as wheat, corn, oats to maize especially in those countries involved in intensive agriculture (www.nigelsecostore.com/blog/2007/09/03/156/). This, in turn has lead to an increase in the basic cereal and grain prices.
At the same time as this is occurring, many nations that rely on the low cost intensively produced supply to make up their own short-fall in production of these cereals and grains have either suffered from drought or flood which has wiped out their domestic supply. This factor has not just affected the underdeveloped nations but also nations such as Australia, which is currently suffering their worst drought for decades. Cereal and grains are basic cattle food during the Winter months, when the grassy pastures cannot be used, hence, the higher feed cost is forcing up the price of raw meat within the cattle markets. In 2007 the UK suffered its wettest summer for many decades which drastically reduced the amount of nationally produced basic foodstuffs leading to an even greater reliance on out-sourced material.
Some expert bodies believe that this phenomenon will be short-term and will be remedied by the introduction of genetically modified food crops. This is fine, but how do we feed the world until the politicians can convince the populous of the safety of genetically modified food crops? You can’t tell hungry people to wait a few years and everything will be OK.
Not only has the supply of basic foodstuffs declined but also the per capita consumption of food has increased; in the UK the proportion of food purchased but not consumed has reached 30 per cent, and I would think that the UK is not alone in this respect.
In summary, the population of the world is increasing, the current level of food for consumption is starting to decrease, we are purchasing more food per head and discarding about one-third of what we buy, the weather is against us, we are using raw materials such as oil faster than we can find new sources, and we are diverting crop production away from people to oil production, and we think everything is OK.
I think this is a recipe for disaster.