We're On the Brink of Worldwide Starvation, but Don't Panic Just Yet
An update on the global food crisis.
It’s not looking great.
The mainstream media is doing what they can to curb the pessimism, but farmers aren’t holding back anymore. (They never were, really.)
The 17 states that produce the majority of our food are looking at big losses in crops this year. In fact, the entire world is staring at the same bleak picture. We’re using soft words to blunt the news, but it’s not hard to see what’s happening when you actually read instead of shouting at CNN anchors. Farmers everywhere keep saying things like, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
It’s going to get bad.
It didn’t have to, and there’s a way out. There’s all kinds of crops we could be planting and harvesting that do well in drier, hotter climates. The question is whether we’ll make the transition fast enough.
It has to be now.
Here’s the spoiler, you should be worried.
Yes, you should be stocking up on dry goods.
You should be altering your diet, moving away from meat and water-intensive foods, toward things like oats and beans. You should be at least trying to grow some of your own food. You shouldn’t be panic buying canned beans and tuna fish. That’s not a smart way to prepare for what’s coming.
That’s just selfish.
The crops are all dried up.
Until just the last couple of days, the USDA and agriculture analysts on Wall Street were making strong predictions despite all the stories in the national and local news about extreme drought and heat waves. Now as harvest starts, crop scouts are telling everyone what it looks like on the ground.
Things are pretty shriveled.
We’re not just talking about a couple of states. We’re talking about our biggest producers: Illinois; Kansas; Iowa; Oklahoma; Nebraska; Indiana; North and South Dakota; California.
They’re seeing about what you’d expect after a summer of triple-digit temperatures and almost no rain. I’m not sure what the “experts” were expecting, or if they were just lying to stave off market panic, but now they’re downgrading their ratings and forecasts. I hate to be a buzzkill, but the downgrades are probably going to keep coming over the next couple of months as reality crashes down. This is the part where I let my doomer flag fly and say I hope you’ve got a plan.
The government doesn’t.
Americans ignored the signs.
We saw all kinds of warning signs about this year’s crop.
I mean, thousands of cows suddenly dropped dead this past summer from heat exposure. Farmers in denial rushed to tell us it was a freak event, and not an ominous harbinger of the future. Plus, climate scientists and sustainability experts have been telling us for years that our reliance on chemical fertilizers and industrial agriculture was going to get us into big trouble.
We were overfarming the land.
We were wasting water.
Americans didn’t pay much attention to any of that this summer. They were too busy getting their vacations on.
Now we’re seeing the first of what’s going to be a decade of brutal consequences. While cows didn’t drop dead everywhere, plenty of farmers did have to sell or cull their cattle because they couldn’t keep them fed or watered anymore. Herd size has fallen by about half this year across states like Texas, New Mexico, and Oregon. About 37 percent of farmers have reported having to kill crops as drought pressed down on more than half our bread basket.
Everything’s up in the air right now, but it’s not alarmist to look at the raw data and make some grim predictions.
Honestly, if anywhere from a third to a half of our crops and cattle aren’t surviving the heat, then it’s fair to say we’re looking at a 25 to 40 percent drop in a lot of the food we rely on. That’s a big deal.
We’ll feel that.
It’s worse than we’re being told.
The mainstream media is doing some interesting spin.
They’re leading with serious discussion, and then walking back their sense of alarm toward the end of their articles. They’re saying things like “prices might go up,” or we “might not be able to find almonds.”
I don’t care about almonds.
We shouldn’t be growing them anyway. They use far too much water. No, I’m worried about basic staple foods, like we all should be.
Farm Policy News has done a great roundup on the latest news stories about looming crop shortages in the U.S. You get a more honest portrait when you piece together what 10 or 12 different news sources are saying, and when you include actual reports from people working in agriculture.
They’re expecting corn shortages. There’s going to be cotton shortages, wheat shortages, and shortages across fruits and vegetables. They’re going to start this year, and they’re not going to let up, because the droughts aren’t going to go away. We’re entering a mega drought cycle.
They’re going to intensify.
It’s every country for themselves now.
Some experts are predicting we might have to import more food. Okay, from who? India boldly declared they were going to feed the world after the invasion of Ukraine. Not only have they now banned wheat exports to “calm the market,” they’re now talking about importing it. They’re also talking about banning rice exports, and other top rice producers might follow their lead.
Wheat is finally trickling out of Ukraine now, but the war has disrupted their planting season. They’ll be producing less this coming year.
Extreme heat and drought are disrupting agriculture across the world. It’s hitting Canada harder than expected, along with Mexico and South America. Farmers in India and China describe the land as “barren,” and some of them say they’ve lost 90 percent of their rice crops.
It’s going to hurt up to 2 billion people.
It sounds to me like nobody’s going to be exporting any food. They’re worried about meeting their own demand. High global prices usually encourage farmers to sell on the international market, but they can’t do that if their governments forbid them, and that’s the direction we’re headed.
Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if agriculture giants like Monsanto managed to skirt around any domestic export bans here. They have no problem letting poor Americans go hungry for profit.
We already know that.
We Americans could find ourselves in an especially ironic position, with big agriculture selling our food on the global market to the highest bidder as we go hungry. After all, there’s going to be lots of demand. Despite their big talk on democracy, our current administration hasn’t done the best job of responding to emergency shortages.
We’ve got two more months.
Harvest time lasts from about now until the beginning of November. By then, I think we’ll have a clear picture of where we stand.
Personally, I think everyone should be learning how to love dried beans and oatmeal, and learning how to plant and grow fruits and vegetables native to their regions to supplement our food supply.
Amaranth is a great option.
Spoiled westerners are going to have to give up most of their meat and dairy. We just can’t afford to produce that anymore. You can make fun of me for eating bean stew and drinking oat milk every day, but in the end people like me are placing the absolute least amount of strain on the ecosystem. I’m starting to make my bread from scratch, as in I’ll be grinding my own flour.
We’re the future.
There’s a bonus here: Dried goods are cheap. They store for a long time. Flour goes bad in a year, but wheat berries can last for decades under the right conditions. They take up far less space than canned goods.
You can grow food in the fall and winter. The sooner you start, the better. Even a small garden helps.
Europe is facing a hard winter with food and fuel shortages. You know it’s going to be bad when presidents start telling us the age of abundance is over, and start using words like “scarcity.” They almost never do that. You also know it’s going to be bad when newspapers in Britain start encouraging you to eat your moldy food. (Honestly, we probably should’ve been getting used to it.) It’s going to feel a little weird as mainstream media across the west starts adopting some of the sustainability advice we’ve been preaching, and there’s going to be backlash. Americans have a terrible habit of thinking they’re exceptional.
This time, nobody is exceptional.
Get ready. Be smart.
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