Sunday, May 4, 2008

More Food Leads to More Hunger

Just read Steven Earl Salmony's take on some recent population research in Environmental Health Perspectives. This research shows something that not many of us have the stomach to contemplate.

"According to the empirical research (Hopfenberg 2003), human population growth is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop in which food availability drives population growth and this growth in human numbers gives rise to the mistaken impression that food production needs to be increased even more."

The more we increase food production, the more the population grows, and the more hungry people there are. So we increase food production, which leads to an increase in population, and again there are those who go hungry.

In other words, if the population grows, then the population of hungry people grows, too.

"The evidence suggests that the remarkably successful efforts of humankind to increase food production to feed a growing population results in even greater increase in population numbers."

According to Salmony, the researchers call the perceived need to increase food production to feed a growing population "a misperception, a denial of the physical reality of the space-time dimension. If people are starving at a given moment in time, increasing food production cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing, and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane — the produced food arrives too late."

But this does not mean that human starvation is inevitable, says Salmony. Living within the Earth's carrying capacity is the secret.

"We do not find hoards of starving roaches, birds, squirrels, alligators, or chimpanzees in the absence of food as we do in many civilized human communities today, because these nonhuman species are not annually increasing their own production of food.

"Among tribal peoples in remote original habitats, we do not find people starving. Like nonhuman species, 'primitive' human beings live within the carrying capacity of their environment. History is replete with examples of early humans and other ancestors not increasing their food production annually, but rather living successfully off the land for thousands of years as hunters and gatherers of food.

"Before the agricultural revolution and the production of more food than was needed for immediate survival, human numbers supposedly could not grow beyond their environment's physical capacity to sustain them because human population growth or decline is primarily a function of food availability (Hopfenberg 2003; Hopfenberg and Pimentel 2001)."

I'm not sure I've wrapped my head around the ramifications of this research, but it certainly says something about unintended consequences.

No comments: