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When oil prices went up in the '70s, how did that help farmers?
I'm seeing four trends that may lead to world food shortages
- Desertification - losing farmland the size of Rhode Island
- Peak oil means higher prices for fertilizer and pesticides
(for agribusiness), so lower yields may result. Before the
Industrian Revolution, we fed 650 million; we have 10 times
- Water problems. Our Ogallala aquifer is 1/3 what it was.
India and Pakistan water tables are dropping 1.5 meteres/year.
China's Yalu River has gone dry at least one month a year
for over 15 years ... causing crop failures.
- China went from diminishing imports to the start of exports
in '97. If that line continues—which it has—the
world won't have sufficient surplus to sell them by, best
Africa is already losing more than 600,000 people each month
just to starvation, which is over a holocaust a year.
I think we're in for massive shortages that will become more
evident within five years. But I'd like to be proven wrong.
We asked Lester Brown to comment on
your obeservations and he sent us a link to an article he
had just written: www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Grain/2006.htm.
In the Brown column we ran in June, he wasn't saying that
all farmers would stand to benefit from rising oil prices—
just that those whose production and marketing depend the
least on fossil fuels would have a comparative advantage over
farmers with a heavy ancient-source fuel dependence.