X-Message-Number: 21986
From: "Mark Plus" <>
Subject: Re: Malthus vs Simon
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 08:33:58 -0700

In Message #21982, Michael Price writes,

>Malthus' doomsday predictions of the human population explosion being
limited by resources have always failed to materialise in the past, and I
expect this to continue into the future, forever.  Have a look at The
Ultimate Resource by Julian L. Simon to see why resources are economically
unlimited.  Simon presents many reasons why we should sceptical about the
claims of doomsayers that we are running out of resources, living on
borrowed time, etc etc

Mark Plus -- There must be some kind of taboo among cryonicists about 
acknowledging empirical evidence, for example, the news. Before too long, 
we're all going to sound like "Baghdad Bob," the former Iraqi information 
minister who made an ass of himself by publicly announcing Iraq's tremendous 
victories over American forces in the last days of Saddam's regime.

Regarding the Malthus versus Simon debate, in the last few years, the trend 
in grain production suggests that we're near "Peak Grain" as well as "Peak 


Week of May 31, 2003; Vol. 163, No. 22
Global Food Trends
Janet Raloff

Last year, for the third year in four, world per-capita grain production 
fell. Even more disturbing in a world where people still go hungry, at 294 
kilograms, last year's per capita grain yield was the lowest in more than 30 
years. Indeed, the global grain harvest has not met demand for 4 years, 
causing governments and food companies to mine stocks of these commodities 
that they were holding in reserve.

This is just one of the sobering observations about world food trends 
offered last week by researchers with the Worldwatch Institute, an 
Earth-resources think tank in Washington, D.C.
Each year, Worldwatch reads several key indicators of our planet's 
environmental health. The organization's latest 153-page almanac, Vital 
Signs 2003, issued May 22 in cooperation with the United Nations Environment 
Programme, notes that production of the world's three major cereals fell in 
absolute terms in 2002: wheat by 3 percent, to 562 million metric tons (Mt); 
corn by almost 2 percent, to 598 Mt; and rice by 2 percent, to 391 Mt. 
Together, these three crops make up 85 percent of the world's grain harvest, 
notes Worldwatch's Brian Halweil.

Throughout the early 1960s, world grain reserves were equal to at least 1 
year's global demand for these commodities. By last year, that excess had 
fallen to just 20 percent of what's now consumed annually.
What makes these trends so dangerous, Halweil reports, is that despite 
increasing dietary diversity, most people around the world "still primarily 
eat foods made from grain." Globally, people derive 48 percent of their 
calories from grain-based foods. Moreover, Halweil points out, 
grains especially corn serve as "the primary feedstock for industrial 
livestock production."

Indeed, he told Science News Online, "livestock consume 35 percent of the 
world's grain, over 90 percent of the soybeans, and millions of tons of 
other oilseeds, roots, and tubers each year." In the United States, the 
share of these plant-based foods going to livestock is even higher: 50 
percent of all grains (including 60 percent of corn) and virtually all soy.

Parched bread baskets
Drought in Australia and the United States last year explains much of the 
drop in world cereal harvests, Halweil says.

New data issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture flesh out the picture. 
They show that record or near-record droughts last year throughout much of 
the western and midwestern United States the nation's breadbasket and corn 
belt, respectively accounted for shortfalls in wheat and corn. It was so bad 
throughout much of the West that earlier this month the USDA announced a new 
$53 million program to help farmers and ranchers mitigate the effect of 
drought. The initiative will provide money for implementing new 
water-conserving technologies and farming practices.
Agricultural economists see no sign that U.S. grain production will recover 
soon. A map in the USDA's May 20 Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin depicts 
much of the intermountain West in the throes of "extreme drought" with large 
surrounding areas spanning from Mexico to Canada and from Nevada through 
middle-Nebraska in only a slightly better situation: suffering merely a 
"severe drought."
Data reported in a May 1 water forecast by the National Drought Mitigation 
Center in Lincoln, Neb., show "spring and summer stream flows [at] less than 
50 percent of average in parts of the Intermountain West." Water reservoirs 
mirror the problem. Despite a cool, wet spring throughout much of the West, 
fall and winter drought conditions have left water supplies well below 
average in some cases at half of average amounts in many Western basins.

The bottom line: No one expects bumper grain crops even in the United 
States. Attaining just average yields may prove difficult.

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