Friday, October 13, 2006

Food production declines again in 2006

Thirty years ago people warned us against the dangers of overpopulation and the limits of growth. Now their predictions are coming true and it may be too late to avoid a catastrophe. Global warming, overpopulaton/overconsumption, and peak oil are all upon us--each one aggravating the other.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has issued it's October resvision of estimates of world grain production for 2006/2007, and has revised its estimates downward. It now looks as if production will be about 2% lower than last year and that consumption will run about 50 million tons greater than production. This will be the fourth year out of the last five that production has been less than consumption. Grain stocks have now dropped 25% below their 2002 levels.

Stocks have fallen low enough that grain future prices have started to skyrocket. Corn futures are 80% higher than last year. Wheat futures are 50% higher.

Droughts in the US West, Western Europe, Australia, and China are depressing production. Overuse of fresh water supplies are depleting aquifers; and gobal warming is melting mountain glaciers--a major source of fresh water.

Thousands of small lakes and rivers have disappeared across Asia from overuse. The Colorado, Indus, and Yellow rivers no longer make it to the sea year round. The Ogallala Aquifer in the US West is being delpeted faster than it can be renewed.

The worst part is that many of the ecological problems that face us have not penetrated into the general consciousness. Global warming has become generally accepted. Peak oil is gaining ground. But the food and water problems that face us are still under the radar.

It may already be too late for political solutions. We may need to look to our own neighborhoods and towns to work for ways to survive the coming end of growth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

October 9: Eating the Earth Day

By October 9, worldwide economic activity had consumed all the resources that the earth could produce in a year. From then until the end of the year we are, in effect, eating the earth--depleting the ability of the planet to produce.

Two ecological think tanks, Global Footprint Network and the New Economics Foundation compiled the data for this conclusion. The ecological debt day has been occuring earlier and earlier each year. It was first calculated in 1987 as occuring on December 19. By 2000, it fell on November 1. Last year it was October 11.

We now use about 30% more in one year than nature can regenerate. This ecological overshoot of means that it takes one year and about three months for the Earth to regenerate what is being used by people in one year, creating an ecological deficit.

We are only able to maintain this level of consumption by liquidating the planet’s natural resources. The consequences of this ecological overshoot can be seen in our rapidly warming climate, in deforestation, the collapse of fisheries, species extinction, insecure energy supplies, water shortages and crop failure.