Did you know that the price of wheat is the price of wheat all around the planet? Yup, it’s the same. We can include Corn, Soybeans, Rice and most other staple foodstuffs in that category as well. When did that happen? Sometime in the 1970’s it actually became official, but it’s been going on for a very long time.
So what does that mean? Well, considering that over a billion humans on the planet don’t get enough to eat every day, it means something is coming. What exactly that is no one can say. It’s not planned in the traditional sense, more ridden like a surfer rides a wave. An almost invisible force that’s currently impossible to completely fathom. But I can relate that countries that are not self-sufficient in food, like Saudi Arabia and many others, are very busy buying up land in other countries for food production. Because they need to and they sense the wave.
When we think about it for a minute we know that there are almost 7 billion people on the planet, all of whom would rather eat every day. In addition, most of those billions (I’m assuming here) would like everyone else to eat everyday as well. Oh, we’d all like power for lights and appliances and fuel for our cars but food is something altogether different. We need food, to live. It’s not a luxury, which is what berthed the phrase “No matter where you are, every country is only three meals from a riot.”
I believe we are all witnessing the greatest organizing force ever to hit the earth. In the past if the inhabitants of one town, village or country couldn’t get enough food, people with food could either contribute or ignore them. However, since the first world war there have been International efforts to feed the hungry, substantial efforts. If Russia or China began to run out of food would we turn our backs? Doubtful, not only do they possess nuclear weapons but also the world is increasingly run by the opinions of lesser and lesser giants. The Common man has more to say about what their country does than ever before in history. It’s an inter-connected world now, hence the price of food has gone international and if a region starves we all hear about it, and do something about it.
To turn away from a starving country would be a very dangerous move for any nation. We have become interdependent as a world and any overt action to ignore or cause hunger could have horrendous implications. The US is a net food exporter for some staple items, but a net importer for lots more. For example not one commercially available banana is grown on US soil. We have a lot to lose in a “food conflict,” everyone does. Which I believe will become a very powerful organizing force, it’s already produced co-operative food pricing. Do we doubt this process will progress? The need for food is the great equalizer, no matter how fancy your weapons, run out of food and it soon will be “game over.” Governments that can’t provide it will soon disappear, countries that fight for it will become everyone’s target.
Last year Russian and Eastern European crops suffered under a severe drought, this year it was our turn. Increased climate pressure makes that a likely possibility for a good time to come. That means organizing water supplies and fresh water is another commodity that is critical. Everybody needs to drink and we need water to grow food. Every critical resource under threat creates a pressure wave to organize distribution. More and more critical resources are organized to be able to be distributed worldwide. That’s just how it is.
As a quick aside we might be tempted to wonder if “free market” economies will be able to charge whatever the market will bear for critical resources. That’s a good question. My answer is yes, they will, until they can’t anymore. Customers will stand a good gouging only so long, then they will band together and set the price themselves. It’s a free market after all, and free markets work both ways. An enterprise can only stand off it’s customers so long, before they take what they need. Sooner or later, it won’t be about profit anymore it will be about need.
But what about population control? That would fix everything. Yup, sure would. As soon as someone finds a way to explain to their husband or wife that they can’t have anymore children because some people like to eat steak, let me know. The Chinese are giving it a shot, of course they had to reach over a billion before it was even feasible. I think that’s coming, but slowly. I find it hard to imagine telling an American they can’t have 9 children, I think other countries feel the same way.
It also may interest some to know what the number one crop in the world is these days. It’s Soybeans, used as animal feed. No one has done much with soybean yields over time, unless that changes meats are going to get more expensive and harder to find. Not tomorrow, not next year but soon, all too soon. Being a vegetarian may seem abhorrent to some, but it’s far more efficient in terms of production and consumption. Ever wonder what a cow eats to make all those wonderful steaks and chops? It’s worth looking up. The first thing to notice is that probably means that soon steaks and the like will be the same price all over the world as well. Free market 101, which also means there will soon be less soybeans for cows because hungry people pay more than ranchers. Which means less cows, chickens, sheep(lambs)………
Get the picture? Oh some enterprising fellows will start out making big money on meats and other less critical things, until people need the grains, soybeans and water to stay alive. Then wiser heads will prevail, and already have. It will probably go like that for most critical commodities. Were you hoping to skip the whole world order thing? Next time…..maybe. But probably not, the Earth like any collective organism will find it’s own level of efficiency and then continue on. Unless I miss my guess, that won’t include fighting each other for resources for very long. It’s much too wasteful and resource intensive. Humans are the ultimate survivor race from a planet of survivors, sooner or later we’ll figure it out and get used to it. We all adapt.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2012