Worldwide Food Shortage
Copyright © January 21, 2008 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
Worldwide food shortages (famines) have happened in the past and there is no reason to believe that mankind has the ability to prevent them in the future. Mankind cannot control the wind, the rains, the insects, the summer heat, or the early and late frosts. And famines cannot be resolved by diplomatic methods or government propaganda. There is only one long-term solution to a famine. One way or another the population must eventually be brought into equilibrium with the available food supply.
At the current time there are already food shortages in China, Russia, Africa, Mexico, and several other places. Food export tariffs are being increased in many nations to keep the food at home instead of allowing it to be sold to the highest bidder. It would only take one more poor harvest year to push the entire world into a life or death struggle over the available food supply. If this happens then each territory, state, and town will quickly pass laws to keep all their locally produced food within their immediate area. It will be a simple matter of survival and each community will quickly figure out ways to protect its own food supplies. Any other strategy would mean a slow death by starvation.
If there is a worldwide food shortage then the primary cause of death will be starvation, malnutrition, sickness, and disease. Simple health problems, such as diarrhea, will quickly become a death sentence to a person who is in a weakened state of health.
If the world starts to run low on food then people everywhere will revolt. If too many peasants die then the death rate will eventually make its way into the families of the rich and powerful. It takes a lot of peasants to support one prosperous family. Without us peasants the rich people would have to do all the menial jobs themselves and that would be unacceptable. Most wealthy people do not want to be personally involved in any type of farming activity. Farming is hard work with unpredictable results and the rewards are too small.
During a worldwide food shortage, if too many farmers and ranchers die then food production will be further reduced, and the government and its military will begin killing each other in order to gain control of the few remaining food supplies. Therefore, some type of peace will be necessary so that farmers can grow more food.
Farming is both a science and an art. You can't take a successful farmer from Germany and expect him to achieve immediate success on a farm in Brazil. There are too many different variables, including the soil, the weather conditions, and the insects. Only part of his farming knowledge from Germany would be of use in Brazil. He would still need the expertise of a local farmer to avoid the multi-year learning curve in his new environment.
Over half the world's population now lives in big cities. In most cases these individuals have never lived on a farm. They have some knowledge of basic agriculture, such as: plant a seed, water it, wait for the sun to do its job, and then harvest the food. But there is more to farming than this. Farming is learned by trial and error in a specific geographical area. Even experienced farmers know that in some years the harvest will be very small or completely lost for one reason or another. They also understand the appropriate crop rotation strategies for their particular area, climate, and soil conditions.
If there is a severe worldwide food shortage, then each government may eventually decide that the vast majority of the residents of its big cities are expendable. If this happens, then they could quickly "temporarily blockade" the cities and declare martial law for some apparently logical reason, such as an epidemic. The government may take a few of the city's more valuable (not necessarily wealthy) inhabitants to a military stockade and quarantine (imprison) them. Anyone else attempting to escape from the city would be instantly shot on sight. No questions asked. And then the government could simply wait for the remaining residents of the city to kill each other over the small amount of food still inside the city. When that food is gone the surviving people will slowly starve to death. Either violence or starvation or an uncontrolled fire will kill everyone in the city. It won't take long. In just one or two months the population of the entire nation will be reduced in half as the big cities self-destruct. (Historical Note: Since most big cities are already in a serious decline with buildings and infrastructures that aren't worth repairing, this strategy may appeal to a government for a variety of additional more practical economic and social reasons. For example, think about how Nero celebrated as he watched Rome burn to the ground.)
If the cities are destroyed then there will only be half as many people eating as before. And those eaters will be farmers and ranchers and the individuals necessary to support a farming community, such as a blacksmith, a wagon maker, a post office, a church, a school, a general store, a bank, an inn (food, drink, and lodging), a handyman, a boot maker, a seamstress, a doctor, a dentist, and a sheriff. These townspeople also have to eat. Therefore the farmer will need to produce enough extra food to trade with the townspeople for the things the farmer needs. If you try to eliminate any element of society, such as the banker, or blacksmith, or sheriff, then the community will not function smoothly (division of labor and economies of scale). Efficiencies will be lost and that will mean less food instead of more, because the farmer will now have to do his own blacksmithing, and provide his own security, and travel to distant communities to find the things his family needs to survive, such as medicine. The proper division of labor is one of the essential keys to economic prosperity as long as there are not too many leeches in the system.
During a serious worldwide food shortage the farming community will be heavily taxed to support the government and its military. But the heavy tax burden will be inadequate to support the government and its military in its original size. Therefore the government and the military will also need to execute plans to eliminate about half of their own people. Soldiers will meet their death because they will be ordered into a fight their government knows they will lose. After a few of these losses, the military will begin to better understand the situation and they will implement their own strategy to resolve the fundamental problem. If that happens then individual survival will quickly take precedence over patriotism.
Anyone who kills the farmers will simply be committing suicide in the long term. Nobody can live on guns and bullets. Everyone has to eat. I repeat. Everyone has to eat. And that includes the farmer and his family. Anyone who believes he can simply kill the farmer and take possession of his farm, and then work the land, and that the land will produce for him the same way it did for the original farmer is an idiot. This has been documented many, many times in the history of our world, most recently in Zimbabwe. By simply evicting all the country's experienced farmers from their land, Zimbabwe's once extremely prosperous country rapidly plunged into a complete, total economic nightmare.
In Russia 95% of the farms are government owned and operated but they only produce 10% of the nation's food. The remaining 5% of the farms are privately owned and they produce 90% of the nation's food. Russia depends heavily on imported food because they believed that government control of the farms was the path to prosperity. They were wrong.
These examples contain a simple basic truth. A family new to farming will starve to death as they try to learn the farming profession appropriate to a specific region. A family's first two or three years of farming usually results in insignificant yields from their seeds.
This is a critical error most people make when planning their family's emergency food needs. They buy enough food to make it to the next growing season and enough seeds to get them started in the farming business. But when their farming efforts don't produce the yields they originally anticipated, their families will die of starvation. This will happen because of their overly optimistic forecasts of crop yields and unrealistic assessments of the problems encountered by farmers. Any individual who has moved more than a hundred miles from their original farm or garden plot understands that successful farming methods are as much local as they are global.
Therefore, if you don't already have extensive experience in farming on a specific plot of ground, then don't bet your life and the lives of your loved ones that your book acquired farming or ranching knowledge is going to be your salvation during hard times. This strategy may quickly become a fatal flaw in your survival plan. This same fatal flaw applies to anyone who thinks he can just take a farmer's land, either legally or illegally, and expect it to produce enough food to keep him alive.
If you don't already have several years of experience in farming or ranching, then you should consider how your family could fit into an existing farming community in some other way. You should make plans to more fully develop your existing set of skills so you can make a successful transition from a big city to a small town community if the need should arise. If you would like some suggestions on how this could be accomplished, then please click here.
In conclusion, the death of the farmers would mean the death of civilization as we know it. Therefore it is in everyone's best interests if the existing farmers and ranchers survive. They have the knowledge and experience to produce the food necessary to keep society alive during the coming hard times, if they are simply left alone so they can do what they know they need to do based on their own personal knowledge and past experience with their own land. Government intervention, controls, and directives will only make the food shortage worse because government personnel do not have the intimate knowledge of the potential and the problems of each unique piece of real estate. If any government decides to intervene and force the farmers to obey their will, then that government will be sowing the seeds of its own destruction. History will once again repeat itself and instead of just experiencing a worldwide famine, the world will enter into a new Dark Age.
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