We Need Lots of Increased Food Production – and Soon

In the three hours since we first logged into the Population Institute web site, approximately 36,000 babies were born. That, according to P.I.’s population meter.  In other words, allowing for deaths during that period, the Earth’s population increased by about 19,000, the population of Weatherford, Texas, a suburb of Ft. Worth. Hello to the new Weatherford.

Current projections put the world’s human population at 9.1 billion, just 39 years after it reaches seven billion two months from now. With food staples prices now rising sharply, how will the world cope with ever-increasing demand as the population grows by 30 percent?

In an October 2009 report, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), an agency of the U.N., warned a food production increase of 70 percent is necessary by mid-century if humanity is to avoid widespread famine. Why the increase? Demographers expect larger, more urban and richer populations that will demand more food. Add to that the fact that millions of people live hungry now, and you have the formula for a need for much greater food production.

The report advised that there is a need for greater production per unit of land as well as a need to increase the amount of productive land. What’s more, the biofuel market adds competition to food production. Eveery acre used to grow biofuels is not producing food. While output of cereal crops is increasing, the rate of growth has been declining. “What,” you may say, “does this have to do with me?”

Plenty. While America is going through political meltdown and economic debility, there has been clamor in the House of Representatives to cut family planning funding. Evidently, the same factions that opposed funding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and supported the Global Gag Rule – which prohibited family planning funding for any foreign organizations that also provided abortion counseling during the George W. Bush Administration – are back on the warpath. In other words, let family planning and contraception, and other programs that prevent abortion, be damned.

It seems to us that the inmates are trying to run the asylum. There are those who argue that the Bush Administration – due to its upside-down policies – actually caused tens of thousands of abortions by denying those in need in poor countries education and contraception to reduce the number of pregnancies.

Farm Drought in Australia – photo courtesy Australian Government

We cannot depend on our dysfunctional federal government to live up to its once-great potential and assist those in poorer countries in becoming better at family planning and in agricultural efficiency. Add to that, according to the FAO report, while the United States is second only to China in screwing up our atmosphere, it is the people of the Southern Hemisphere who are most likely to get the royal shaft as a result of climate change.

Australia has been suffering through an extraordinarily long severe drought while parts of the country recently had record flood-producing rainfall. Whether it is related to long-term climate change is anyone’s guess at this point.

But is it right that the poorest people of Africa, South America and southern island nations should likely suffer the consequences of climate change and poverty while America – one of the scoundrels in this piece – shies away from its ethical obligations?

We guess that once serious inflation hits and Americans are forced to compete for expensive agricultural commodities, we will suddenly see the light and realize it is to our own benefit to aid those who want their piece of the pie.

So, what can you do? Log onto a search engine. Learn about environmental problems that relate to population issues and support organizations that are knocking on the noggins of the Capitol’s blockheads. Let your senators and representatives know how you feel.

While America’s short-term problems are sad and dismaying, the world’s environmental problems are here for the long run. If you have kids or grandkids, ask yourself this question: “Which is a greater concern for me, leaving my descendants a national debt or leaving them a shadow of the planet we once knew?”

And since we Americans are, pound for pound, the world’s greatest environmental villains, shouldn’t we think about whether there is Enough of Us?


  1. As you say, the world’s population is increasing at a staggering rate, but it is in places that can least absorb the impact where they are increasing most quickly. The backward parts of the world where education is most limited are the places where women are perpetually pregnant. Perhaps the Americans will see the value of exporting education, Hmmmm?

    • Aaron, you make a point about education, and this has become one my ‘hot button’ issues. However, I don’t think Americans will ever agree on what sort of education is correct for other countries when they can’t agree on what is correct for America. If you can convince an impoverished country that they need help it will still be a challenge to convince them that Americans can provide anything besides dollars.
      I don’t want to seem like a pessimist but maybe we should educate ourselves first. There are some international NGOs which we could support. In fact there is a new office within the United Nation which studies ways to track statistics and predict disasters while there is time to do something about it. One of the things they track is school attendance.

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