Tag Archives: World Population

The Land Needs Rest or Conservation, what occurs when man attempts to control rather than build up the land – To Build up the Land part V

5/8/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

We return today to complete our series entitled “To Build up the Land.”  It is an exploration of the co-dependence of man upon the land, and the land upon man to build it up.  While the former statement is obvious, what may be less clear in light of today’s political and environmental climate is the latter.

Does the land really need man to tend to it so that it, too, will prosper?  The clear answer is that the land not only needs the activity of man upon it to survive and thrive, but also that of animals.  However, the land does not simply require any type of activity, it requires human activity which helps the land to achieve balance.

Today, there are roughly 7.1 billion souls on the planet, more than at any other time in human history.  If one watches the numbers roll on the page linked above and then sees that the world’s net population is on track to grow by roughly 80 million souls this year alone, it would appear that this population growth is nothing short of exponential and that the world’s population is on something akin to a warp curve when plotted out graphically.

World Historical Population
World Historical Population courtesy of US Census Bureau

However, while 80 million souls per year seems a staggering amount, it is important to note that the actual growth rate, as a percentage of the current population, is on a gentle decline, currently at 1.1%, just half the growth rate experienced in the early 1960’s, which is the most recent peak in the growth rate based on United Nations estimates.  The United Nations further anticipates that by 2050, the growth rate will again be halved to just 0.5%, and that the world’s population will stabilize at around 10 billion persons after 2100..

As we have explored earlier, overpopulation is largely a myth constructed by persons who both live in crowded urban areas and assume that current statistical trends will invariably accelerate.

The myth is intensified by the fact that a majority of mankind has chosen to live in urban settings and has left large swaths of land to lie fallow, something that benefits neither man nor the land.  According to statistics in the 2013 edition of Demographia’s report on World Urban Areas, roughly three out of every ten, or 28.2% of the world’s population lives in an urban area of over 500,000 total inhabitants with an average density of 14,000 persons per square mile.

The current increase in urban populations and corresponding worldview has left an increasing burden on those who build up the land via agriculture to provide the food necessary for the 7.1 billion souls and counting to survive and be adequately nourished.

If one, for the sake of argument, were to make the broad assumption that those living in urban areas were completely reliant on their rural counterparts for their food supply in an equal proportion, this would mean that the rural population must produce, on average, 139.3% of their annual food consumption.  In other words, they must produce enough food for both 100% of their own consumption and an additional 39.3% to be consumed by the otherwise occupied urbanites.

However, this is an overly simplified view of the actual dynamics of food production, for while it is clear that while a small proportion of urbanites may collectively achieve communal or territorial self sufficiency when it comes to food production, it is also clear that 100% of the earth’s rural inhabitants are not dedicated to agricultural.

What, then, is the true ratio?  How many persons are spending their lives building up the land?

On average, each American farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people.  This is up from roughly 26 people in 1960 and, in terms of statistics, would mean that one person armed with the proper agricultural equipment, technology, and favorable climate patterns, can produce 15,500% of their own caloric requirements.

This staggering advance in American agricultural productivity is largely owed to the extended period of peace which has reigned in America which gave birth to, or at a minimum coincided with, rapid advances in agricultural science and industrial machinery.

It may be said, then, that these advances in agriculture have made possible the urban centric worldview that is widely espoused today.  This is not a bad thing, however, and the current awareness of climate change and its potential impact on the increasingly delicate food chain upon which an increasing majority of the world depends is rightly cause for alarm.

Agricultural Alarms

GMOs

While it is staggering that one American farmer can provide nourishment for up to 155 persons, the question that is at the heart of the present debate on the merits of using Genetically Modified Organisms in seeds and the modified seeds’ reliance upon pesticides to ensure adequate crop yields is the following:  At what long term cost does this productivity come?

It is an important question, for the long term security of the world’s food supply may hang in the balance.

Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are a prime example of mankind’s attempt to control nature.  It is a form of conservation in that it attempts to conserve the current balance of food production by creating crop yields in excess of that which would occur under normal conditions.

It cannot be argued that GMOs have played a major role in human population growth.  However, it is also clear that there are many direct and indirect side effects to exerting this type of control over the food chain which have yet to fully manifest themselves.

First and foremost, the staggering crop yields that the combination of GMO seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides provide come at a high price for the land itself.  Rather than achieving a balance with the land, allowing it to produce and rest in natural occurring intervals with intermittent obligatory rests in the form of Sabbath years for agricultural land and herd rotations for pasturelands, mankind’s GMO induced yield highs convert the land into an addict, unable to function without regular shots of fertilizer and irrigation.

Again, fertilization and irrigation are important parts of farming and the building up of agricultural land when done in moderation.  However, when these tasks are taken to the extremes under which they are practiced today, they rob both the land and mankind of their most important survival mechanism; self sufficiency.

CAFOs

Another less known but equally widespread practice that may ultimately threaten the food supply is the increased reliance upon Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.  The proliferation of CAFOs, which are facilities where animals are raised in relatively cramped quarters and fed things that are not part of their natural diet (the equivalent of fertilizer in the GMO example above) and injected with antibiotics (the equivalent of pesticides in the above example) poses a twofold threat to the environment.

First, it produces animal based foodstuffs that have been proven to be harmful to humans over time.  Second, and perhaps more importantly for reasons that are obvious, it limits the animals’ natural and mutually beneficial interaction with the land which robs the land of an important means of natural fertilization and rejuvenation, urine and manure.

After a personal epiphany regarding the detriments of setting apart land for conservation, a practice that is widely thought to be beneficial, Ecologist Allan Savory has made it his life’s work to reverse what he now sees as a dangerous policy of conservation.

For over a century, well meaning ecologists like Mr. Savory have labored under the belief that desertification, the fate that awaits the land when mankind and animals cease or severely limit their intercourse with it, was the direct result of large herds of animals grazing upon it.  The initial conclusion of attributing desertification to large scale animal grazing is a logical one.  After all, if one has seen the relative devastation that large herds leave in their wake, one can only conclude that the animals alone are responsible for desertification, as they leave the land barren and trampled.

Yet Savory holds out that this first analysis is incomplete.  In fact, it is necessary for animals to consume, trample on, and leave their excretions on the land so that it may be left in peace to rejuvenate itself with the necessary fertilizer and just the amount of greenery necessary to thrive.

Part of the logic of Mr. Savory’s approach is that if the animals are left to graze freely, they will leave the land for greener pastures, as it were, once they have eaten the top layers of grass and shrubbery, the equivalent to pruning a plant.  Furthermore, the animals will quickly tire, as anyone would, of tromping through their own excrements in search of food, leaving the land both pruned and fertilized.  The land will then rejuvenate itself in time for the next grazing cycle.

While it has remained on the fringe of land management, Mr. Savory’s work has received the endorsement of royalty.  At the 2012 World Conservation Congress, none other than the Prince of Wales gave this endorsement of Savory’s methods:

“I have been particularly fascinated, for example, by the work of a remarkable man called Allan Savory, in Zimbabwe and other semiarid areas, who has argued for years against the prevailing expert view that it is the simple numbers of cattle that drive overgrazing and cause fertile land to become desert. On the contrary, as he has since shown so graphically, the land needs the presence of feeding animals and their droppings for the cycle to be complete, so that soils and grassland areas stay productive. Such that, if you take grazers off the land and lock them away in vast feedlots, the land dies.” {via wikipedia.org}

While GMOs and CAFOs may appear to be nothing short of modern miracles with respect to food supplies, they are a result of man attempting to control the land as opposed to working with the land for mutual benefit.  Left to its own devices, mankind will destroy the land to the extent that it wishes to unilaterally exert its will upon it.  What is needed, then, is an acute awareness that to destroy the land through an exertion of unnatural control over it, is to destroy ourselves.

Conservation dooms the land to desertification

It is clear that the land, mankind, and animals live together in a delicate balance.  Maintenance of this balance requires both constant interaction between mankind and nature and a measure of restraint, a general recognition that nature cannot be controlled in a healthy manner.

The opposite of the action of building up the land is a term that implies something that could not be farther from the truth:  Conservation.

The term conservation implies the maintenance and upkeep of something.  In terms of land management, it may be mistaken for actions taken or not taken to build up the land.  However, in practice, conservation has come to embody a form of forced abstinence on the part of man with regards to the land.

There is much debate and scientific evidence which points to the activities of mankind being the ultimate cause of climate change and desertification.  These findings are true to the extent that mankind’s activities are not aimed at building up the land.  However, the only thing worse than mankind working to throw nature further out of balance by chasing a misplaced monetary premium is for mankind to abstain from interacting with the land altogether in a vain hope that the land would be better of without us.

The land needs mankind, and mankind needs the land.  Both the land and mankind need animals to freely roam over the land rather than suffer in the constraints of a CAFO, the equivalent of prison in the animal world.  All efforts to halt this natural interaction are an unwitting step towards squandering what arable land remains on the planet.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for May 8, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.34
Oil Price per Barrel:  $96.53
Corn Price per Bushel:  $6.75
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.76%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $113.38
FED Target Rate:  0.12%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,472 THE GOLD RUSH IS STILL ON!
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.5%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,105
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,565,500,000,000 LOTS OF DOUGH ON THE STREET!
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,571,400,000,000