What’s in the patty?
I’m reading a book that is freaking me out. It warns us of a future where countries that have dried up their rivers and aquifers to water the crops we’ll need to sustain some 9 billion people by 2050, will need to import water via an international water market. Water will become a globally traded commodity. I won’t even go into the horrors of reading about how analysis of a hamburger patty revealed the tissues and bits and pieces of 1,000 animals (yep, you read that correctly: 1,000). And forget about swine or avian flu – the three dangerous emergent pathogens we have to worry about are – Salmonella enteritidis, campylobacter and the deadly Escherichia coli O157:H7.
Here are a few snippets from the book:
- “humanity will still need at least 17% more fresh water to meet all of its food needs than is currently available…just to produce the extra grain the world is forecasted to need by 2050 will require us to somehow come up with as much as a trillion tons of additional water – a challenge that may simply exceed our technical, political and physical capacities”.
- “we know that the climate is changing, and we know that oil could very easily be at $250 a barrel tomorrow if the Middle East blows up…So if we are really scientists, we should at least be asking ourselves what kind of agricultural system could produce the food and fiber we need in a world where oil is $250 and where we have twice the severe weather but only half the water that we have now. What kind of agriculture could we come up with? It’s an entirely reasonable question to ask, and yet, no-one wants to touch it, because when you get down to it, no one has a clue”.
- Since 1980….more than 1.1 million square miles of forest – an area larger than India – has been cleared, much of it to make way for pasturelands and croplands, especially soybeans, corn and palm oil plantations.
I reckon that Lester Brown has been spot on with his forecasts. Have a read of his 1995 work, “Who will feed China?” – because a lot of meat-hungry Chinese are now demanding a Western-style diet and this means more corn has to be grown to feed the cattle at increasingly cheaper costs; all the crops necessary to feed our expanding global population leads to soil erosion because of massive use of pesticides and fertilizers; water is getting scarcer; peak oil is fizzling out (and grain relies on cheap oil for transport and so on). You can read a synopsis of Brown’s work here and the book is here.