Water Horrors!

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world\’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world\’s leading water scientists.

My word, that is a problem.

Competition for water between food production and other uses will intensify pressure on essential resources, the scientists said. \”The UN predicts that we must increase food production by 70% by mid-century.

So, is that going to be difficult or easy? That\’s what we really need to know, no?

A separate report from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said the best way for countries to protect millions of farmers from food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia was to help them invest in small pumps and simple technology, rather than to develop expensive, large-scale irrigation projects.

\”We\’ve witnessed again and again what happens to the world\’s poor – the majority of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and already suffer from water scarcity – when they are at the mercy of our fragile global food system,\” said Dr Colin Chartres, the director general.

\”Farmers across the developing world are increasingly relying on and benefiting from small-scale, locally-relevant water solutions. [These] techniques could increase yields up to 300% and add tens of billions of US dollars to household revenues across sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.\”

Oh, that\’s all right then. It\’ll be piss easy apparently. Move standard rainfed peasant farming one notch up the technological scale to perhaps Ancient Egyptian levels with say an Archimedes Screw and we\’re done.

Back to sleep everyone.

What does amuse is that John Vidal seems not to have even read his own article where the final paragraphs contradict the opening ones.

14 comments on “Water Horrors!

  1. Why do I get the feeling that ‘expensive, large-scale irrigation projects’ would be a much better solution and that the author would rather peasants remained as such?

  2. The best way to feed the world’s poor is to stop stone-age warlords with AK47s from creating chaos and allow the farmers to get on with it in the knowledge that their efforts will not come to nothing.

  3. oh. And cease Western rent-seekers from turning agricultural land into carbon-credit scrub.

  4. So there’s no shortage of water anywhere, just localised shortages of water infrastructure?

    Why don’t they say that then instead of wittering on about water, do they not know that 70% of the earths surface is covered by water?

  5. We could stop subsidising the water used by European and American arable farmers. That might help too.

    How so?

  6. >do they not know that 70% of the earths
    >surface is covered by water?

    Indeed, and there is no great secret how to get the salt out of it, either. The process simply uses energy.

    So it is actually all about energy, not water.

  7. And the population of the US will be starving by the mid-1990′s if I remember correctly. Or was it the mid-1980′s?

    These Malthusian scares are so hard to keep track of.

  8. Are they morons or liars? No third option.
    Most land in the UK and many other countries is unfit to be used for arable farming, growing crops and vegetables but much of that land is fit for grazing cattle or sheep or goats. Deer and pigs can feed in woodland. The easiest way to increase UK food production would be to restore the hill farm subsidy so that crofters on marginal land could make enough money to get by if they combined livestock/mixed farming with bed-and-breakfast in the tourist season. And on the British hillsides there is no shortage of water.
    There are some areas of the world which are suffering from drought and/or desertification, notably North Africa and the area around the Aral Sea (the latter due not to nature but to the Soviet Union’s central plan) but most of the world has more than adequate rainfall to provide grass for farm animals.
    What may be necessary is to ban feedlots in the USA which waste vast amounts of food fattening up cattle immediately prior to slaughter and the monumental waste of water in California’s Central Valley. But the USA is NOT actually the whole world, despite the pretensions of the “World Series”, “World Boxing Association” (which in my youth comprised only 48 out of 50 states in the USA) etc.

  9. John 77 , I’m no farmer, but it strikes me that virtually all of England (less of Scotland and Wales) is suitable for the production of crops. The idea that reintroducing the hill farm subsidy is the solution surely shows that your idea is nonsense – if hill farmers could produce serious amounts of food, they wouldn’t need a subsidy (and that subsidy over and above what the soft southerners get).

  10. @ Luke #13
    You are clearly *not* a farmer.
    Try walking around the countryside and looking
    Crops are more profitable and less hard work than keeping animals. So if the majority of land is suitable for the production of crops why is only 4.6m out of 18.3m hectares of agricultural land used for crops? While the other 6m hectares includes housing and business use it also includes millions of hectares that isn’t even fit for sheep.
    Before joining the EU and signing up to the Common Agricultural Policy, hill farmers DID produce substantial amounts of food. They produce less now because there are fewer of them and marginal land around now-empty crofts where the crofters grew vegetables for their own consumption and/or sale in the local market is downgraded to grazing because the handful of remaining farmers do not have enough hours in the day. In some cases marginal arable land is downgraded to grazing because the reward does not justify the effort of growing crops. Before calling it nonsense you might perhaps go and check.

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