The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Lester Brown explains how falling water tables, eroding soils, rising temperatures, and control of arable land and water resources is spurring the global struggle for food security. In Full Planets, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity Brown outlines the political implications of land acquisitions by grain-importing countries in Africa and elsewhere as well as the world’s shrinking buffers against poor harvests.


Lester Brown

Comments [16]

jgarbuz from Queens

To those who suggest we cut down protein consumption by "going vegan" I have an alternative. How about going insect? Insects are protein rich. The Arabs in Arabia have long eaten fried locusts before oil made them rich and wealth exploded its population. Insects are plentiful, eat veggies, and provide protein.

Oct. 02 2012 12:44 PM
Christine from Westchester

Wayne: if not completely vegan, at least cut down. Not just on meats but on the sheer quantity. It would certainly help the obesity issue as well.

Oct. 02 2012 12:38 PM
John A

I keep what is probably a 60 day supply of grains (incl soybeans of all things). The rate of spoilage of these things compared to what is in the fridge is massive: tens of years versus tens of days.

Oct. 02 2012 12:37 PM
ben majors from Maplewood, NJ

oops! In the second to last sentence of my initial post, I incorrectly stated "food security will only grow in the US". I meant to type "food INsecurity." ;-/ Sorry, correct if able and you folks care to. Thanks again.

Oct. 02 2012 12:35 PM
james andrea from Brick, NJ

The exportation of food from a famine area to the capital-holding entities happened during the Irish Famine. And the perversion applies when relief has been provided, the local indigenous market structure collapses.

Oct. 02 2012 12:32 PM
Christine from Westchester

Interesting talk but I think Mr. Brown over-reaches a bit. He goes from grain/crops to climate change to birth control. I realize it's a complicated topic but find it hard to believe he's done enough analysis in these many areas to have such a depth of knowledge. Where's the data on this?

Oct. 02 2012 12:32 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

90% of our most"important" crop-soybeans is used to feed cattle. Those crops and that land could feed the world. Mr. Brown is making a most compelling case for going Vegan.

Oct. 02 2012 12:32 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

We should turn our suburbs back into farmland as God intended them to be. As more people go back into the megacities, more land near New York, for example, becomes released for farms grow food locally.

Oct. 02 2012 12:31 PM
ben majors from Maplewood, NJ

Government statistics state that millions of households in the United States are "Food Insecure". Is your guest familiar with that stat, is the definition in the US stat same as he's using? How does he view the problem right here in America. As food prices rise, and employment availability will apparently not keep pace with population growth, food security will only grow in the US.

Google "USA ERS Food Security in U.S." as well as "statistical supplement household food security in U.S."

Oct. 02 2012 12:30 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Well, my father was in the Seige of Leningrad and was very lucky to get some dog meat to eat. Even cannibalism was going on. Over half a million just died of starvation. In New York we have so many pets and stray cats and rats that we could probably hold out for more than few days. We probably could last a week or two, maybe even more. The water supply is more important. We could live off our own fat for at least a few weeks.

Oct. 02 2012 12:26 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What's the relationship of water demand to food scarcity? Are they really separable?

And I'd add environmental concerns to Leonard's list of health & (I think) nutrition concerns over GMOs, esp. when the modified genes can spread into other fields & when crops are modified to withstand pesticides rather than the pests themselves (e.g., Roundup Ready).

Oct. 02 2012 12:19 PM
Gail Zawacki from Oldwick, NJ

It has been well-established by scientific research that the yield of annual crops such as wheat, rice and soybeans is reduced by up to a staggering 20% because agricultural plants absorb tropospheric ozone, a phytotoxin with background levels even in rural places twice the pre-historic amount. The nutritive quality is also reduced, while the vulnerability to drought, insects, disease and fungus is increased.

This doesn't even account for the cumulative damage sustained by trees and perennial plants that are exposed season after season, and the impacts on everything from fruit to nuts to lumber.

What I would like to know is why is this never discussed by Lester Brown in the reports from his institute?

Oct. 02 2012 12:18 PM

It is not clear why Mr Brown believes the climate has been stable for 11,000 years and is just now changing. How is this year different from say the changes in 1816 (cool weather triggered by volcanic activity), the midieval warm period or the dust bowl of the 1930s?

Oct. 02 2012 12:16 PM
John A

I'd be most interested in knowing how cutting off food imports to the US would effect US and those exporting nations. Who would suffer more, would we benefit or those nations... Or would this just not fix the problem?

Oct. 02 2012 12:12 PM
Christine from Westchester

Two questions: What crops should we be using to replace corn, assuming corn takes alot of resource etc. And second: what legislation changes need to occur to help direct the effort (assuming current considerations are paying to support corn crops). Please discuss the requirements to make the change occur.

Oct. 02 2012 12:10 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Please comment on the large negative effect ethanol production has on food availability.

Oct. 02 2012 08:03 AM

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