ENVIRONMENT: Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilisation? – IPS ipsnews.net

Posted by Trish Riley, October 4, 2009

Here are just a few clips from a prescient article by Leste Brown, sent to us by Ed Brown. Please click through for the whole story:

This most recent price surge was trend-driven, the result of our failure to reverse the environmental trends that are undermining world food production.

These trends include – in addition to falling water tables – eroding soils and rising temperatures from increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Rising temperatures bring crop-shrinking heat waves, melting ice sheets, rising sea level, and shrinking mountain glaciers.

The number of hungry people, which was declining for several decades, bottomed out in the mid-1990s at 825 million. In 2009 it jumped to over one billion. With world food prices projected to continue rising, so too will the number of hungry people.

We know from studying earlier civilisations such as the Sumerians, Mayans, and many others, that more often than not it was food shortages that led to their demise. It now appears that food may be the weak link in our early twenty-first century civilisation as well.

Plan B aims to stabilise climate, stabilise population, eradicate poverty, and restore the economy’s natural support systems. It prescribes a worldwide cut in net carbon emissions of 80 percent by 2020, thus keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations from exceeding 400 parts per million.

Cutting carbon emissions will require both a worldwide revolution in energy efficiency and a shift from oil, coal, and gas to wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

The energy transition is under way.

The United States has led the world in each of the last four years in new wind generating capacity, having overtaken Germany in 2005. But this lead will be short-lived…

The soaring investment in wind, solar, and geothermal energy is being driven by the exciting realisation that these renewables can last as long as the earth itself. In contrast to investing in new oil fields where well yields begin to decline in a matter of decades, or in coal mines where the seams run out, these new energy sources can last forever.

We are in a race between political tipping points and natural tipping points. Can we cut carbon emissions fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet and avoid the resulting rise in sea level? Can we close coal-fired power plants fast enough to save at least the larger glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau? Can we stabilise population by lowering fertility before nature takes over and halts population growth by raising mortality?

Yes. But it will take something close to a wartime mobilisation, one similar to that of the United States in 1942 as it restructured its industrial economy in a matter of months. We used to talk about saving the planet, but it is civilisation itself that is now at risk.

Saving civilisation is not a spectator sport. Each of us must push for rapid change. And we must be armed with a plan outlining the changes needed.

*Lester R. Brown is founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute. “Plan B 4.0: Mobilising to Save Civilisation” can be downloaded for free at http://www.earth-policy.org/.

via ENVIRONMENT: Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilisation? – IPS ipsnews.net.