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XXI : Famine

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

In the allegory of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (as used previously), War is followed by Famine. The sequence is logical: War mobilizes considerable resources and if not through direct looting, an army tends to have priority in the allocation of resources within the budget of a state. Thus the famines and shortages of World War II were the direct results of the state of war.

So if we imagine a 21st century punctuated by destabilizations such as climate wars and proxy wars as well as the risks inherent to the various flashpoints, it is not difficult to see how this can lead to famines in certain regions of the globe and a drastic decrease in the standard of living. Let us recall in passing that our way of life depends a lot on international exchanges and that these can be interrupted precisely by these wars. After all, War is bad for business.

But in our present case, the problem is twofold. Because if the Wars generate famines, famines generate Wars. Here is what people suffering from starvation may say to themselves: "Even if it means dying anyway, why not do it while trying to take other people's resources?" By this single sentence we can summarize at least half of the armed conflicts in the history of mankind as a whole. So if War brings Famine and Famine brings War, we enter a vicious cycle which results in the total destruction of public order. And this is not some fancy speculation or sensationalism used to make views. This is the subject of what is called “Collapsology” to which I will come back at the end of this column.

Another thing that must also be highlighted: most famines since the beginning of the 19th century are avoidable famines : indeed, if before the industrial era famines were linked to a lack of resources, this is no longer the case, since the advent of the Agricultural Revolution and Industrial Agriculture (thanks to the use of chemicals and pesticides, but also thanks to new, more efficient means of transport and the invention of refrigeration systems). It is therefore necessary to understand that modern famines are famines resulting not from a lack of resources but from a bad allocation of those resources. This topic can be the subject of an entire article and I will get down to it one day but keep the following image in mind: African countries are suffering from famines linked to monoculture while the developed world wastes tons of food every year. The rich man throws in the trash what he has bought in excess while the poor starves in the street.

With these foundations laid, here is what awaits us in the 21st century:

We know that the world population is expected to stabilize at around 10 billion human beings by the year 2100. We also know that we are already overexploiting the soil and that we need a planet and a half to meet our needs. We are in fact in surplus of “viable” population. Or at least according to the current lifestyle because if we change our habits, we could actually make it.

At the same time, our arable land is shrinking … Our changing climates make some seasons suitable for agriculture shorter and other seasons, such as droughts, longer. We also have more and more catastrophic climatic events which are also catastrophic for agriculture ... We have pollution of water and land which means that soon our global production will drop. If we add the increase in population and the loss of global agricultural capacities ,we see a net loss of 25% of our resources available per person.This necessarily means starvation but also means less nutrients and food per person for a price of food that never stops to increase.

You can guess for yourself the result of this dynamic: the internal instability of states and the greed to conquer the resources of its neighbors. We can also easily guess that there will be mass migratory movements. The modern refugee crises are a joke next to what lies ahead. Climate refugees who lose their land because of the rising waters, or who leave their country because it became arid, may well be in the millions or tens or hundreds of millions. This kind of movement of people is synonymous with unprecedented violence and political instability capable of putting an end to the life of modern States. There too I am not practising fantasy since it was indeed unprecedented migratory movements that put an end to the Bronze Age, the Western Roman Empire and the civilizations of the Indus.

If you therefore add my first two columns on this subject, we already have an overwhelming observation for this 21st century. The solution remains the same: better international cooperation because it is a problem common to humanity as a whole, and better allocation and management of resources , which calls for an overhaul of the current economic and political model.

But if you think that's all there is to it about what lies ahead, wait until you find the Third Horseman. A rider you already know. He is the "official sponsor" of the year 2020: Pestilence. Because as we will see next week, War and Famine tend to encourage pandemics. And as I was not mistaken in 2015, the 21st century will be a century of unprecedented pandemics. COVID 19 is unfortunately just a glimpse of what can happen to us.

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