Climate change, peak oil, resource exhaustion, and over-population are combing to cause a new food crisis. The human population runs on grass seeds – grains supply half the calories we consume directly and feed much of our live-stock. The prices of those are skyrocketing.
There’s not enough for the number of mouths. The land is becoming less productive. Fertilisers are running out. Oil prices are driving up production costs. Now, in Russia the worst drought in a century has slashed grain production, forcing the government to impose an export ban (the drought has also triggered forest fires at Chernobyl, sending radioactive ash into the atmosphere).
The WTO is pleading for other major exporters to not close off their trade but if they don’t their people will go hungry while their grain goes abroad to feed the rich. Ukraine is imposing its own export controls, and other major exporters may follow.
It’s not just the grain market that is in trouble. Food prices across the board are rising fast and are projected to keep on rising – quite simply, supply is not keeping up with demand.
The grim irony to Russia being the centre of a new food crisis is that for years they have been quietly talking of climate change as an opportunity. Russian leaders have said the melting permafrost will open up huge new areas for farming. The reality is that the soil under the permafrost, having been frozen for tens of thousands of years, is next to useless and their existing farmland is suffering drought and fire.
The last food crisis was in 2007-08, the same time as the last oil shock. They ended only when the world went into recession. Once again, we have emerging food and oil crises, and the world economy is staring at recession.
This is no coincidence. Recession is just an effect of these fundamental constraints. We’re about to slam into the limits of growth again.