A friend of mine, Heather Flores, of Food Not Lawns, had posted something on her Facebook page to weed out the willfully ignorant assholes determined to deny climate, be bigoted pricks, or otherwise refuse to have a calm, reasonable discussion about difficult topics, like racism, sexism, capitalism, cronyism, politics-ism, and overpopulation-ism.
As it turns out, overpopulation-ism is a difficult, touchy subject. This is something that the author, Daniel Quinn, discovered many years ago after he wrote his Earth-shattering book, Ishmael, in which he argued that the ever-growing human population was outstripping the biomass of the planet, and if not checked, we would eventually eat ourselves into extinction. He’s right, by the way; we will.
I chimed into the discussion that day on Facebook because my social-media, genital shocking device was malfunctioning, and failed to prevent me from doing something so stupid as to comment on such a volatile topic. I charged right in, much like Gimli son of Gloin might if he found himself in a room full of orcs, somewhere deep in the Mines of Moria.
Someone else had pointed out that while overpopulation was an issue, it wasn’t the main issue. They argued, instead, that the over-consumption of resources was really the culprit, and that by consuming less we could bring ourselves more into balance with nature. Another Facebookian countered by pointing out that overpopulation was a bigger problem in places where consumption was low: i.e., Africa, South America, which is only partly true, because there’s also China and India who are attempting to join the Western World in the great feast of consumption.
This is where I jumped into the conversation, which at the time was just that: a conversation. But there’s no better way to turn a conversation into an argument, than to bring the focus back around to the real, underlying problem: overpopulation, which is exactly what I did. Sue me, I’m a trouble-maker.
I laid out Quinn’s argument in short order. Basically, I said that while consumption was a major problem, overpopulation was driving that feast. The more people there are, the more consumption there will be. This is because our culture—so-called ‘civilized’ culture—is based on the central myth (The One Ring, as I like to call it)—that the Earth belongs to us, and we were meant to rule it. This is Quinn’s argument in a nutshell, and it’s dead on. Since civilization itself is predicated upon that assumption, it has allowed ‘civilized’ humans to over-run all of Nature. The only way to stop that is to start thinking differently about our place in the greater scheme of things. We must come to the realization that we are part of Nature not its owners and masters. That was essentially my argument on Facebook that day.
Little did I know that I had stomped on someone’s toes, or kicked them in the uterus, as it were. Awhile later, a lady–who apparently has several cute children and was tired of insinuations that her reproductive choices are to blame for the Earth’s ills–responded quite vehemently to the entire thesis. I have left the verbiage and spelling in its original form, mostly for your amusement, and mine:
Are you Steve Bivans, from here? from USA? This is the only country were people consumption so much and complain so much about kids. So yes one of my big fights is to defend our children from being blame for the destruction of this planet. Who are you to believe you are better than they are so you have the right to live, to grow your own food, whether that’s in community gardens/greenhouses etc [that was one of my solutions to the problem]……And this is for not telling you that every time an American (gringo consumer) blame me or my kids for the so called human biomass I really want to tell you; Why don’t you go and feed the crocodiles with your own body in the Amazonas in front of a community of indigena people that has being extinguished by SHELL.
Normally, when I’m attacked in such a manner, I lose my shit, start cussing, ranting, and raving, and charge back into the battle like Gimli after he’s been punched in the nose by a troll, but not that day. I laughed. Yeah, I laughed till I cried. I was still chuckling hours later; I still chuckle when I think about it. The visual is just so absurd that I couldn’t even be angry with her, lol. Actually, I kind of wanted to just hug her. She made my day, maybe my month!
Obviously, this lady was, at some point in the past, or still is, an indigenous person, or a descendant of indigenous people–as I suppose we all are–and for some reason got it into her head that I was anti-indigenous because I said that overpopulation was the driving cause of our environmental issues. To be fair to her, I would probably be a very tasty treat for an Amazonian crocodile, what with all the BBQ’d pork and chicken I’ve consumed during my lifetime, not to mention being marinated in bourbon and rum.
I responded that I was sorry if she took offense to my argument, and that in fact, I had not even mentioned indigenous peoples, or attempted to blame them for anything, and that to do so would be ridiculous anyway. No one group of people are to blame for overpopulation, especially the tiny remnant of indigenous peoples, who make up less than 1% of 1% of the Earth’s human population! Why she singled me out, I’m not sure, but I’m so happy she did, because I was struggling to come up with a blog topic for this week.
While I’m certain that feeding me to an Amazonian, riparian reptile would be entertaining and funny—especially for my detractors—and simultaneously nourishing and yummy for the beast, it wouldn’t solve overpopulation. The key driver of that problem is the over-production of cheap, crappy food, mostly American grains like Monsanto’s corn.
That sounds counter-intuitive, but it isn’t really. It’s quite simple. More food equals more people. There is no shortage of food on the planet; there is an over-abundance of it. Yes, that’s what I said.
“But all of those indigenous people are starving over there in Somalia, and Bangladesh!”
Yes, they’re are starving people around the world, even in our own backyard. Why? Well it’s not because there isn’t enough food in the world. It’s because the food produced by America is too cheap, but not cheap enough.
“What the fuck?”
Yeah, I know, it’s as confusing as a teen-age girl’s love life. The author, Wayne Roberts, does a thorough job laying out the problem in his book, The No-nonsense Guide to World Food, but I’ll attempt to sum up the key points here.
The Fucked Up World Food System
America produces shit-tons of food, every year, way more than we can consume ourselves. In fact, we toss between 30-40% of all of our food straight into landfills. Yes, the number is just as staggering as it is factual. A huge portion of the remainder is turned into corn syrup, to be injected into almost every processed food and drink in the good ole U.S. of A, so it can fill us full of fossil-fuel laden, cancer-causing fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides like RoundUp, elevate all of our blood sugars, make us and our children fat, give us diabetes, high blood pressure, and generally kill us off at an earlier age than our parents.
The rest of that grain, in big shiploads full, is delivered to continents in the Southern Hemisphere, like Africa and South America, where—due to its artificially low price (thanks to government subsidies that allow corporate farms to keep producing it)—it undercuts the prices of food produced by local farmers who can’t compete and are forced out of business, lose their land, and are left destitute and dependent upon the ‘benevolence’ of Monsanto, Syngenta, and others in order to feed their now-starving children.
If, however, all that cheap, nutritionless grain was never produced to begin with, those indigenous, local farmers—who DO know how to farm, contrary to the propaganda that suggests otherwise—would be able to feed not only themselves, but their neighbors as well. Cheap food is CAUSING starvation, not helping to eliminate it. This is a fact. Monsanto knows it, our major politicians know it—well, some of them are of course too stupid to understand it, but not so stupid or morally driven as to refuse the bribes coming from Monsanto and the fossil fuel industry—and the experts on the world food system know it. You know who else knows? Every farmer in the countries to which this shitty food is shipped!
Not only are we starving the people by bringing in our worthless food, but the big oil companies, like Shell—that my friend mentioned in her condemnation of me—as well as asshats like the Nestle corporation, snatch up all the mineral and water rights, so that not only are the local people now starving, they’re also dying of thirst while being covered in crude oil. Meanwhile, all that food we ship in only exacerbates the overpopulation by increasing it! More food equals more people. People are made of food. The more we produce, the more people we produce. We do it year, after year, decade after decade, century after century, millennia after millennia, and every time, the population goes up.
How Do We Stop This Crazy Train?
The only real solution to overpopulation—aside from a massive war, or a Stephen King, ‘Stand’ scenario—is to level off food production, slowly over time, to bring the population down, yes I said down, to a level that is sustainable. No, I’m not saying that we have to starve people to death in order to bring down the population. We’re already doing that; we need a new system that empowers people, not corporations.
“Then how do we do it?”
First, we have to take food production OUT of the hands of massive, international corporations. They couldn’t care one fuckin’ iota about feeding people. The only people they are in the business of feeding are their shareholders, with more profits, period. Don’t believe for one second that they give a rat’s ass about indigenous humans, non-indigenous humans, or humans in any form, unless of course they’re in the form of shareholders, or CEOs.
Bye, bye Mon-Sauron! We don’t need you anymore.
With those asshats out of the equation, local farmers everywhere can get back to producing real food, and the right amount of food for themselves, and their neighbors. And we in the West can do it in our local communities as well!
The United Nations has declared 2015 ‘The Year of the Soil‘ and issued a statement to the effect that small-scale, urban agriculture is the future of food production if we hope to feed the growing population. I would argue that small-scale, urban agriculture is the solution to bring that population down to a level that is sustainable.
The biggest problem with our food supply is that it was commoditized in the first place. We placed a monetary value on the one thing we need the most—except maybe for water, which Nestle is attempting to remedy by bottling every drop they can find to sell to rich Europeans and Americans while the locals beg for a drop in their dusty cups. By placing a price on the things we need to survive, we turned them into commodities produced simply for profit. Corporations have destroyed the nutrition of these foods in the pursuit of higher profits, by slashing costs at the expense of value. They view food in much the same way that they do gold, coal, or oil: something to be sold, traded, and speculated upon. Investors have long gambled on the price of food commodities, as if they were betting on horse races, cock fights, or whether that Amazonian crocodile will choke on my fat skull.
This is insanity.
Food and water should be a right, for everyone. To argue otherwise is simply inhumane, and quite frankly, stupid. Yeah, I said it: stupid. If a human doesn’t deserve to eat, then just shoot them or something. Don’t starve them. That’s just cruelty for the sake of cruelty. And it leads to revolutions, violent ones. Trust me on that one, I’m an historian in real life. When people are faced with starvation, the pitchforks come out. Just ask Marie Antionette and her ‘cake bakers.’
If we want to solve the destructive problem of overpopulation, we need to put food production back into the hands of local farmers and the general population, and take it away from asshat corporations and the government. Or, we could just feed my fat, BBQ-fed, bourbon-marinated ass to a ravenous, Amazonian crocodile.