By Wayne William Cipriano
Progressive Farmer magazine caters mostly to technically adept large-scale farmers so it is not written for me, but I enjoy reading it anyway. In two successive issues the magazine concentrated on the dangerous degree to which human population is outpacing our ability to feed ourselves and in the next issue the almost miraculous levels of corn production that some American farmers have reached.
While the average corn production in the United States of America is about 160 bushels per acre, a staggering amount of grain when compared to the production of like foodstuffs around the world, the farmers pursuing the corn production record routinely reach 400 bushels per acre and the most successful often approach 450 bushels.
I suppose we should expect the emphasis of Progressive Farmer to be increased production, but there is another response to the problem, isn’t there?
We can produce more and more units of food using every technique and advantage we can muster but it is frequently at the cost of the nutrition we claim to be after. Our organic farming sisters and brothers tell us that with the proper attention to natural balances, simple proven methods and some engineering know-how good food can be plentifully produced, but not, I suspect, in the massive quantities our rapidly overpopulating planet will require.
Even if we trim our efforts to producing the most efficient food, that which travels from the soil to our bodies without stops in between to feed cows, pigs, fish, and so on, it still seems along the present curves that population will surpass food availability.
The answer, unless we plan on making due with Soylent Green seems clear to me.
In many parts of the world child mortality was of such magnitude that a family had to produce a number of small fry if it wished to end up with any children of sufficient age to share in the family’s work. Such habitual baby production is a cultural mandate not easily overcome even by the advent of safer childbirths and much higher childhood survival rates.
Often, child production begins earlier in the lifespans of parents and continues on a more regular basis than in what we humorously call the “advanced societies”. Lack of diversions during non-working hours, fewer working hours and less harsh and physically taxing labor among other considerations are facets of evolving societies and all contribute to a higher frequency of birth producing activity.
Understanding these things, one would think this side of the food / population equation, the population explosion, would become at least as important and well-discussed as the other side, food production. But it is not so, at least not in the messages I receive via the media.
Lots of talk about increasing food production, very little talk about controlling the population size.
Why do you think that is?