Posts Tagged ‘money’

May 14, 2011

Dear Malthus

Yeah, but if I’m hungry

You were right: the world population expands faster than food production. Although Western population growth has slowed down because we have a higher prosperity level, theThird Worldsuffers from an unrestrained increase in population amounts. For decades, farming land and cattle ranching have been taking over nature landscape. To supply six billion people with food, everything is produced at large extent, with monoculture, aided with fertilizer and factory farms. Still people are starving while, according to recent figures, food production is high enough to supply twelve billion people.

I guess you did already know that poverty in developing countries maintains the people surplus and food shortage. It is probably new to you that food-scarcity is a matter of equal sharing. In theThird Worldthey lack everything: job opportunities, food, a solid position in world economy, money. Here in the West we have plenty of everything and I think that we can feed the one hundred thousand people dying of hunger every day with all the food we throw away.

Beside that, since your time income differences between the West and theThird Worldhave increased and several economic activities maintain these differences. Here in the West governments subsidize farmers because they are going through economically uncertain times. The production surplus that originates from the subsidizing is sold – for usurious prices – in African countries, which economically harms the farmers there.

Yet the local farmers try to survive and this causes the unsustainably use of water and soil in developing countries: each year tropical rain forest areas as large asEnglandare cleared for agriculture. Production per hectare is enlarged by not leaving any land as fallows and increasing cattle density on meadows.

Half way the previous century, Garret Hardin noticed that biodiversity, water quality, soil fertility, production per hectare and ecosystem value drastically decline because of humans collectively using these natural resources too intensively; current environmentalists say exactly the same. What can we do? Nature is so valuable, we cannot just mess her up. Did you know that biodiversity in tropical rain forests is so huge that every step you take you can encounter a new species? Still the rain forest in South-America disappears to give place to soy, which is used to feed the European cattle. (And processed in countless food and care products.) Mangrove forests are cleared because of the high instrumental value of the timber and the areas themselves are tainted due to shrimp farms, while the forests as an ecosystem are much more valuable. Hoe can we prevent the species richness of thousands of years of development to be spoiled?

At this very moment multiple Western organizations are struggling against poverty and for sustainable technologies. I think education is a good way of giving help. We can provide sexual education to put a brake on the geometrical population growth and teach locals how to use water and soil sustainably. It is a bit like raising appreciation for nature.

Okay, I can hear your thinking: how sustainably would we live if we were hungry? A rhetorical question. Malthus, they die because we flourish. Here in the West we spend a lot of attention to sustainable technologies, nature conservation and even nature development, because we are rich enough to spend our money on that. People and nature in developing countries are the victims of the neoliberal character of our global economy. Poverty does not lead to nature degradation, as long as people live harmonically. The world-wide market is just so non-transparent that we in the West are simply not aware that our consumption pattern is destroying nature in developing countries. We do not see who or what is paying for our prosperity. It is just hypocrisy that we spend so much money on developing projects while we are indirectly responsible for the damage.

I write to you because I cannot solve this problem on my own. At least, I only know some useless suggestions. Perhaps we should discard capitalism and become communists. Then there won’t be any distinctions between poor and rich and will farmers in contemporary developing countries no longer be forced to destroy nature in order to maintain their families. Or perhaps we can use gene technology to turn off the gene that determines our avarice. Then we can be satisfied with all that nature offers without trespassing her carrying capacity.

Malthus, I write especially to you because I think you made a step towards the right direction. In your essay from 1798 you used insights from economy and biology to describe why the human population crosses the carrying capacity of nature. This problem has become a global issue now and has led to a poor state of nature preservation in developing countries.

I think it is time to build bridges between different scientific disciplines to solve this kind of social problems. We have to share knowledge with each other, because in this complex world, solo insights are not sufficient anymore. By hearing a word such as ‘free market mechanism’, biologists stay awfully quiet, and when economists are confronted with the nutrient cycles, at night they are having troubles falling asleep.

Malthus, I would like to ask you if you would like to employ your multiple disciplinary qualities in an interdisciplinary research team to come up with solutions for sustainable solutions to nature conservation in the Third World. Within this collaboration the theme ‘Yeah, but if I’m hungry’ will take a central stage, by which focus will be on both food scarcity in developing countries and Western consumption appetite. Maybe you can get in touch with Garrett Hardin, or Arjun Appadurai? Can I count on you? Because it would be a dreadful thing if our exquisite nature will be lost.

Kind regards,


Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van dit essay.

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Christina Bay sometimes has difficulties to comprehend everything: the religous, the atheistic and the in-between people; the money-devoted nature-haters and the trying-to-live-sustainable green-lovers; the creationism supporters and the theory of evolution fans; the modernists, the post-modernists and the people who appear to be both; the materialistic fashion diva’s, the cheap-buying easy-to-wear-cloths girls and the alternative cloting girls not buying anything made by young children; the I`d-die-for-some-meat losers and the always-having-a-cold vegetarians; the food distrubtion problem and (non-existent) the agricultural land shortage; the cutting of rain forest for soy and the European countries importing soy; children in developing countries dying of polluted water and people giving medicines to heal them but not cleaning the water; the short-sight future vision people trying to enhance current life and the long-term future vision people trying to develop a sustainable society; the people giving to charity in order to try to enhance life for people in developing countries but not realising the social, economic and environmental implications of more people surviving with still not enough food; the people refusing to donate because in their opinion people in developing countries are lazy and not worthwile donating for and the people trying to explain the causal relations in poverty, market economics and environmental degradation but failing to make clear what is really going on; people getting angry when told the western wealth is more destructive to Earth than slash-and-burn practises in developing countries; people knowing the facts and being able to consider everything but still not see any solution and people still believing God will either save the world or bring an end to life on Earth…

No matter how I put it, the world stays a mosaic of different opinions. And I am so afraid the trying-to-live-sustainable green-lover and the long-term future vision people trying to develop a sustainable society will lose in the end 😦

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I have just watched “Lady in the Water”. My mind wanders, touching all those thoughts I have once passed and considering new insights. The interconnectedness fascinates; is it not only our physical dependence but also a spiritual one? All stories have limitations, all explanations lack a crucial argument to elucidate the one question man wants to answer since we have grown intellect: where does everything start? But is there a beginning? What if all is a cirkel? Without any start or finish?

My mind wanders and is worrying about money. It is a dreadful thing to do, having concerns about money but as they say our climate is warming up, summer is pretty cold and robbing me from my opportunity to work and earn money. But, moreover, worrying about the environment is much more relevant, although that brings me to having to make another choice: what will I do after I obtained my BSc? It all passed (through) me in the blink of an eye, and somehow I would like someone to give me a blink of an eye, just to ensure me I am not the only one considering, pondering and worrying.

Now I still have to finish my story, and I am pretty sure I will name it “Puzzle Pieces”. Mysterious title, I hope people will get attracted to it and appreciate the little blinks of an eye I give to the system we humans created, the system we live in, we live to, we live by…

It is all rules on paper, oral agreements, unwritten laws: easily swept away by the laws of nature. But no matter how weak these rules, agreements and laws may seem to an approaching hurricane, they decide how we live our lifes, how we influence the life of others: the interconnectedness. Because we humans are also a product of the evolution and connected to nature. So it is no use trying to cut our bond with nature and claim the earth and the universe for ourselves. We come up with new paper rules, newly decisive utterances and common ethics, but the only thing we should care about is how much we can take without being greedy and how much we can give without becoming empty.

“Puzzle Pieces” has the potential to change something. I hope people see how useless our actions are as long as we humans do not realize we fool ourselves by fighting wars on battlefields, hating each other for skin colour or thinking “our” way is the best way. Most people are never satisfied: they always want more power, money, land, clothes, jewelry… In stead of bothering ourselves with such things, I think it is good to leave something good of yourself behind, for life is over within the blink of an eye. Like an act of convincing people that war, hate and dirty politics will not make things better “in the end”; like an act of reminding everyone of being kind to each other; or cowardly writing critics on this persistent system. But it is a start.

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