Monday, July 6, 2009

Even Amongst Plenty and Plenty of Haves, the World Must Tackle Global Hunger

By Paul K. Haeder

Even amidst the news of the men’s record-breaking Wimbledon final, Sarah Palin’s hightailing out of the governorship in Alaska, and the news of Americans enjoying a brief Summer 2009 respite from $3.50 a gallon gas prices, there are some organizations marking today as a sad day in world history: · One in six people in the world — or more than 1.02 billion — is now hungry. This is an historic ratio, an unconscionable number of fellow citizens going hungry not just because of the global economic crisis and high food prices. Climate change and disruptive and shaky weather and crop symbiosis have much to do with this current state of food security.

Food will be discussed in coming columns on this blogspot, including pieces in the Pacific Northwest Weekly Inlander, where I have a standing column tied to sustainability. We’ll look at Washington State and the Spokane region at large are doing to work on ag issues and food security specifically. We know about our country’s looming food crisis, and that’s not a lack of calories but rather too many of the wrong calories and calories ingested tied to way to much energy and fuel expelled to get those calories to our plates.

It’s called farm to plate/farm to fork miles, and the average foodstuff from the farm takes 1,540 miles to get to the average American grocery store consumer. Add to that a retrofitted USDA food pyramid, issues tied to Confined Animal Feeding Operations, and the entire debate around genetically engineered or modified food and animal food products.

We’ll look at those as well as ways ag is or isn’t part of the climate solution in terms of CO2 and methane an nitrous oxide emissions.

For now, though, we have to look hard at the growing hunger and food instability crises. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization report tells us that there are 100 million more people who are hungry – that is, they receive fewer than 1,800 calories a day. The World Bank after the G20 meeting in May knows that the world must put in billions each year to help developing areas like South America and Africa get off of inefficient subsistence farming by ramping up sustainable farming and better infrastructure.

We have more than 6 billion people on earth now; by 2050, that will swell to 9 billion people, and farmers will have to produce much more food to stave off crisis after crisis.

"The silent hunger crisis, affecting one-sixth of all of humanity, poses a serious risk for world peace and security," said FAO’s director-general, Jacques Diouf.

Food riots in the developing world last year is just one indication of the fallout of this crisis in hunger and food security. This increase in hunger comes despite strong 2009 cereal production.

FAO’s report points to the urban poor as the hardest hit because of foreign investment declines and drops in demand for exports. What is already happening is a migration pattern shift, with millions returning to the countryside to feed themselves. Since the world is now 51-49 urban to rural, and that ratio is expected to reach 65 percent urban by 2050, we’ll see more environmental refugees. Think Dust Bowl. Think Easter Island or Greenland, as Jared Diamond discusses in his book, Collapse. While China is an economic powerhouse, it’s more than vulnerable to desertification, the loss of trees, the inundation of dust into prime agricultural areas, even the Three Gorges Dam flooding millions of acres of good farmland, and ground level and ecosystems pollution that makes 1890 London or 1910 Pittsburgh look like a park setting.

This all spells human misery and humanity jockeying for refuge. Island nations and Calcutta and even our own Easter seaboard are seeing a rise in sea levels. For planners, this spells huge challenges to water systems, agriculture, infrastructure, and loss of prime property.

We’ll talk about these issues in upcoming blogs, but for now, we must pause and remember the figure – 1.02 billion people are undernourished. Couple that with another 800 million or a billion over-nourished – with too many calories for too little physical work; diabetes; specialty crops and high meat and dairy intake for a minority while the majority of global population struggles for 2,000 calories a day.

“Asia and the Pacific, the world's most populous region, has the largest number of hungry people at 642 million. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest hunger rate, with 265 million undernourished representing 32 percent of the region's population.”

As a side note 15 million are now hungry in the developed world, and this food crisis affects the quality of nutrition: families are purchasing cheaper foods, such as grains, which are rich in calories but contain fewer proteins than meat or dairy products. Add to that fact how many in this country are buying more junk food and fast food since those groupings of food are subsidized and monopolized by huge food conglomerates.

Vegetables and fruit are not subsidized, whereas the grain, beef and dairy industries are heavily subsidized.

Science and technology are now being pressed to help with everything from better mapping for climate shift, to developing high-tech irrigation systems and soil analyses that can be read and directed from the palm of the hand. We’ll talk about those innovations in upcoming blog posts.

The battle line includes those who want sustainable agriculture and scaled farming to meet the needs of local communities, and those on the other side who want to have control of all crops – seeds, grains, plasm, and the like. We in sustainability are being called upon to respond to this crisis.

In coming blogs, we’ll look at how science and technology meet the pavement (the row crop and soil) in Brave New World of peak soil, resource scarcity and the largest outfall of climate change – Diaspora. We will look at the concept of mass migration pattern shifts, refugees from climate change, and what will happen in a world that is now more urban than rural, but one still dependent upon fossil fuel in cities to deliver goods, to keep heating and air conditioning and refrigeration going.

“Envirogees” is the term being used by many in the fields of planning, and all stops must be pulled out to solve this global crisis that is considered not just a human rights and refugee issue tied to ethics and helping our fellow man. This issue of up to 200 million displaced, roaming people worldwide in the next 30 years involves issues directly linked to respective countries’ homeland security, equity, racism, and the larger issue of what we do as a global community to solve these issues. All of these climate refugees will put pressure on teetering job markets, infrastructure and food.

It’s clear to business leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, corporations, individuals, and a plethora of groups and organizations and government agencies that we have to respond to this looming crisis of envirogees.

Companies like Autodesk are working with engineers, designers, architects and others to figure out design and software solutions to the global crises of energy, waste, pollution, and food and water insecurity.

These are some of Autodesk’s sustainable development “communities” linked on its Sustainability page --


US Green Building Council
Developed the LEED rating system to assess the environmental impact of a building

Greener Facilities
Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments exists to inform and demonstrate that sustainability is a viable, profitable business strategy for everyone

The Center for the Built Environment (CBE) provides timely, unbiased information on promising new building technologies and design strategies

Ecosa Institute
Educational programs in sustainable, ecological and regenerative design

Build it Green
Smart solutions from the ground up

Flex Your Power
Save energy, save money, save natural resources

Green Progress
Green progress for a green future


Green Revit blog
Autodesk Revit, green building and design blog

Future forward design

Students for Global Sustainability
SfGS is a student organization committed to sustainable development and conservation projects on both the global and local levels

Additionally, in early 2004, IBM opened up its annual technology and business forecasting processes to the world with the Global Innovation Outlook. This collaboration is what we need now and it has to be tied to every sector in all societies’ social, economic, governmental, educational and science infrastructures.

For now, though, innovation and software design and modeling for climate change’s effects on growing, moving, and delivering food, and increasing food’s sustainability factors, are pressing issues for companies like Autodesk, IBM and thousands more. The California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a great climate change web site for those needing some science behind the debate of what to do about climate change.

For now, though, we need real collaborative ways to solve hunger and food insecurity. Future blog posts will look at what companies like Autodesk and government organizations, think tanks and innovative educational institutions are doing to work on this mass migration shift our world now faces because of energy, food, and water scarcities and ecosystems degradation and political intransigence.

Sustainability Web Sites Referenced

Climate Refugees, Envirogees, Immigration, Food Security Organizations and two pdf’s

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