The stress on the global web of life applied by a century of industrialization continues to increase as systems within it begin to break down. Nearly buried in the industrial media, amid the relentless stream of industrial optimism — the “we can do it, technology will find a solution” school — that floods our receivers, these stories, this week, reveal glimpses of the dark underbelly of the American way of life to which the world aspires:
- Beg for Your Food: The United Nations warned this week that the world is “dangerously close” to a food crisis. Citing the worrisome combination of exploding demand and rising inflation in China and India, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said it is crucial that world production of wheat and rice “expand substantially” next year to avert disaster. The report indicated that increased food prices are a certainty, adding that any additional food shocks would be unacceptable. Let’s hope Mother Nature got the memo, because the world faces declining yields from genetically modified crops; continuing loss of farmland to desertification, rising seas and development; serious crop losses in several countries to severe storms; and abandonment of food crops by operators following the lure of pricier, non-food crops such as sugar, cotton and corn for ethanol.
- Run for Your Lives: The devastating effects of conflicts over ever-scarcer resources such as water could cause a surge in migration for which the world is unprepared. According to a report from the international charity Christian Aid, at least one billion people will be forced from their homes between now and 2050 by such forces. Moreover, a new report by the British consulting firm Maplecroft says developing countries in Asia and Africa face the biggest risks from global warming in the next 30 years. Poverty and large low-lying coastal regions prone to flooding and cyclones make Bangladesh the most exposed country while India, in second place, is vulnerable because of pressures from a rising population of 1.1 billion.
- Top Up Your Gas Tank: A new study from the University of California, Davis, indicates that at present rates of consumption and innovation, replacement technologies for the energy now provided by oil will be up and running about 90 years after the oil runs out. Although the study’s methodology is strange — it reaches its conclusions by analyzing the investments of sophisticated market players — the report echoes what many others have realized by applying logic and measurement. What the report does not, of course, go into is the nature of that 90 years (and it won’t be just 90 years, or course, since in the absence of oil, all science will stop): it will be in all probability the worst era in the history of the human race.
- Don’t Go in the Water: Coastal waters around the U.S. have become so acidic that states should list them as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The agency warns coastal states that carbon dioxide isn’t just an air pollutant —since sea water absorbs CO2 from the air, forming carbonic acid that wreaks havoc with marine life, the greenhouse gas may also be the world’s most dangerous water pollutant. “Ocean acidification is one of the biggest threats to our marine environment,” says Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Is this just cherry-picking the ocean of news for the occasional story that portends disaster? Well, yes, just as the popular diet of news has been cherry-picked for the stories that amuse and distract us from the fact that we, all of us, are seriously screwed by the heedless greed of the industrial overlords.