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The Forum > Article Comments > You canít eat potential > Comments

You canít eat potential : Comments

By Glenn Denning, published 7/10/2009

Through a combination of benign neglect of agriculture and financial mismanagement, the planet is fast running out of food.

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Of course, food security is about both supply and DEMAND. In other words, increasing food production while failing to stop population growth is ultimately futile. All you end up with, in the end, is an even greater number of starving people because food production cannot be increased without limit (remember diminishing returns?) and the world is finite. Chemical fertilizers can boost agricultural production but, as oil continues to decline, will the developing nations be able to afford the increased costs of these? And applying chemical nitrogen to soils leads to a decrease in soil carbon which decreases water and nutrient holding capacity, increases carbon emissions etc.. It is a fool's game. The real lesson is that, if the world is dependent upon chemical fertilizers to sustain its population, then it is already overpopulated.
Posted by michael_in_adelaide, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 9:27:50 AM
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A good article. I read that Borlaug had died. I thought in his own way he was a genuis. It's a fantastic inequity when you think about it that the developed world is fat with food (cooking shows!) while Africa is stuck back in the 1950s.

This has little to do with the closed system thesis of the anti populationists and sociobiologist but rather a lack of education, proper government and food.
Posted by Cheryl, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 10:16:38 AM
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Cheryl, please describe how the world does not operate as a "closed system" so that we can understand where we have got it wrong.
Posted by michael_in_adelaide, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 10:39:30 AM
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1. Michael I'm not sure that using fertilizer = overpolulation, some fertilizers are natural, like guano, do you include that? I understand your intent though I think, that if we have to prop up the land, then it is beyond sustainment .. is that what you mean? Bugger, you're out for 24 hours or something now aren't you because you used two posts.

2. On levels of aid in the $ sense, I suspect that the AGW funds that will be redistributed from "richer" to "poorer" countries will be done in a condescending and tricky manner, such is the style of PM Rudd and his ilk. Will the aid we now distribute overseas just be renamed as AGW money? It would make good sense, then we don't have to send any of the new AGW taxes overseas at all, we just send the same amount, but call it AGW money. That also allows us to do some finger wagging and paternalistic supervising of what the recipients are currently doing wrong.

That way, the various government get to keep and dole out that collected tax for their own pet projects and the never ending electioneering we currently experience.

I'm probably being too cynical though, I'm sure no one would be that disingenuous or devious, certainly I'm sure they will inform the taxpayer (?) haha!

3. Can we eat potential, well yes if we can have jobs that are "potential" - I mean all those new renewable green jobs are just as "potential". I look forward to the "potential" green job employees start paying tax very soon.
Posted by rpg, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 11:08:03 AM
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Photosynthesis, the sun, cosmic rays and wind, tidal pull and all forms of human creativity.
Posted by Cheryl, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 11:28:08 AM
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Ah, well, Cheryl has used up her two posts for the day too. For that we can be thankful.

With regard to fertiliser, Australian soils are deficient in both phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen can be fixed by growing legumes in rotation with other crops. This also increases the carbon content. Both of the former elements must be obtained by digging them out of the ground somewhere so I would presume that some day they will run out too. Artificial nitrogen fertiliser is produced from the atmosphere where there is an abundant quantity, but the fuel used in its production is also in finite supply. As a result of these factors, use of these resources needs to be carfully managed as one day in the future, the burgeoning population may have to live on fresh air and the nutrients which are recycled, in a similar manner to that which obtained in the middle ages. I expect that in those circumstances, a much smaller population would be sustainable.

For aid to be effective, a country needs to have a stable and relatively honest government, otherwise the bulk of the aid ends up in the hands of the few at the top. This will be a major problem in countries such as Zimbabwe.

David
Posted by VK3AUU, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 12:23:08 PM
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