Category Archives: food security

What IF We Have Fusion Ten Years From Now? Here are 12 Possibilities.

Nuclear fusion has always been the dream of scientists as an ideal energy source, but has so far been elusive after many decades of work. However, two days ago, Lockheed Martin reported that it would have successful nuclear fusion available in a small-sized unit platform about ten years from now.

See:

Skunk Works Compact Fusion Site at Lockheed Martin
Reuters Article on Scientific American: Lockheed Claims Breakthrough on Fusion Energy
Forbes: Lockheed Martin Claims Fusion Breakthrough That Could Change World Forever

If this is true it will change the world as we know it. On the other hand, claims of fusion have always existed somewhere off in the distant future. Is this time any different? We don’t know, but it’s worth considering how it could change the world if this announcement becomes the real deal.

Here are twelve likelihood’s.

1. Desalinated water would become cheap. The deserts of the world could become the farm regions for the world – if located near the sea. Warm regions could grow food year-round. Water woes would be mostly forgotten about and more people could locate in climates which are desirable but currently restricted by water supply. California’s water woes would be gone. So would the Middle East’s.

2. This would be a totally disruptive technology. We would no longer need the grid and would instead have distributed power. Transportation would go fuel cell, electric, and hybrid. We’d have much less need for today’s fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas and could greatly reduce human induced CO2 emissions. We wouldn’t need wind generators, either. Some solar photovoltaic might still be useful. Buildings which are heated with natural gas could be heated with electricity instead. Air conditioning and refrigeration would become cheap.

3. There would be no need for biofuels. Ships would be powered with fusion units. There is speculation that we could have unlimited flight time for airplanes, too.

4. Regions which are currently being farmed could be returned to the wild.

5. Urbanization could continue with much greater confidence. Today’s ideas of city greenhouses and hydroponic growing centers would be far more feasible with cheap available water and energy, especially along the coastlines.

6. Farms would continue to industrialize, but in modern technical ways, as opposed to today’s political-corporate ways. Tractors and combines would be powered by fuel cells. Fusion could be the energy source for producing nitrogen fertilizer.

7. Most of the developing world could advance far more rapidly if fusion becomes available. Computers, robots and technology would continue to advance at an unprecedented pace. Medical advances and longevity advances would be included.

8. Leisure time for humans would become a greater reality. Some economists already believe that it will become necessary to pay people to “exist” because jobs are not available as we become more efficient, as we use more and more robots, and as computers and communications continue to eliminate jobs. We’d need even fewer people to produce food and basic goods. New models would be needed which would pay people to be artists and service workers and other types of meaningful contributors to society. Economies should do well if cheap energy is available reliably since expensive energy is akin to a tax on industrialized nations, though they’d need to adjust to this disruption.

9. Population would continue to grow and grow with fewer limits to growth. Would we finally have the political will to place a value on the natural world and on biodiversity? Would pollution become our greatest problem, then, or could fusion help us to get rid of pollution? Perhaps it could.

10. We wouldn’t need hydropower anymore, so rivers could be undammed.

11. Perhaps every region or nation could become food secure.

12. Increased globalization: The world would become even smaller. So might the Universe. There would be a greater chance for peace. So be it.

What DO YOU think would happen?

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin.

FAO: Global Food Price Index is Down Again.

A very reassuring new Food Outlook Report has just been released by the FAO.

If we were to go back over the past five years and review all of the sensationalist headlines proclaiming that food production in the world is headed downwards and far-more-than-that drama predicting assured gloom and doom, we would see that many fear-mongers got it very wrong.

The world on average has surpluses of food right now. Weather was quite good all around for the globe’s wheat crop so that 2014 will set a new high record. Strong prices pushed a rebound in corn production to make up for the recent large policy-induced demand for corn coming from the U.S. The Midwestern United States didn’t experience a multi-year drought as many predicted in 2012. And climate change is not as of yet affecting our global food supply in a significantly negative way.

The graphs below show us the remarkably positive state of the world for food and agricultural production.

Global food prices have fallen significantly over the past three years.

The decline in September marks the longest period of continuous falls in the value of the FAO’s Food Price Index since the late 1990s.

Only the meat commodity is up in the past two years. Sugar, dairy, cereals, and vegetable oils are all down. Today’s high meat prices are a result of the high feed prices from a couple year’s back, so that comes as no surprise.

STOCKS-TO-USE-RATIOS FROM THE REPORT
Wheat: Based on latest forecasts for stocks and utilization, the world wheat stock-to-use ratio increases from 25.2 percent in 2013/14 to 26.9 percent in 2014/15, while the ratio of major wheat exporters’ closing stocks to their total disappearance rises from 14.1 percent to 15.6 percent, reflecting this season’s ample supply situation.

Coarse Grain: The anticipated increase in world inventories will result in the stock-to-use-ratio reaching 20.2 percent, a value not seen since 2001/02, and well above the historical low of 13.8 percent registered in 2012/13.

Rice: Based on the current estimates, the drop in world carryover stocks would reduce the world rice stock-to-use ratio from 36.2 percent in 2014 to 34.8 percent in 2015.

Cereals: The overall positive outlook, if realized, will result in the cereal stocks-to-use ratio increasing to 25.2 percent in 2014/15 from 23.5 percent in 2013/14, and the highest since 2001/02.


Sources:

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/253838/icode/

http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4136e.pdf

Human Apocalypses. Mysteries. Cycles.


Flickr CC photo by Cuba Gallery “sunset”

If this world weren’t so mysterious, I don’t think it’d be half as fun. One of today’s looming questions seems to be if we are facing some kind of apocalyptic scenario as a nation, or even as a species.

Predicting apocalypses has been common through the ages. There are always those who expect that a collapse is imminent. Are you one of them? Because it certainly seems like here in America today, the percentage of people with a doomer outlook is pretty high. Doomerism comes up in the media fairly often, and I find it mentioned in conversations surprisingly often among friends and acquaintances that I’d never expect to hear it from. Just what is going on out there that is making us so uneasy?

Here are three examples of preppers that I know of personally. There are more.

• Very recently, an older and wise friend confided that he is acquiring precious metals that he’s keeping in his home office to “buy bread” if the time comes that he needs it.
• A young male acquaintance has a survival kit including a water filter that he keeps while in graduate school, and he plans to steal a bike in his city and bike across a couple of states back to his home if the world should go to hell in a hand basket.
• While on holiday last month, when taking an early evening walk on Balboa Penninsula in California, we visited with a man farming his tiny front yard. There were a few tall corn plants growing, along with a variety of vegetables. He said that he thinks a collapse is imminent and he has a bigger farm in the Pacific Northwest that he can go back to. His approach to dealing with his fear is to grow his own food and learn other skills to be self-reliant.

Many pessimists are fearful about feeding the world in the future. Luckily, being able to adjust our diets and our crop choices gives us more resilience than most people realize. Modern global communication using cell phones and the internet are allowing the exchange of agricultural information and farming knowledge to be shared freely like never before. Contrary to those who always assume the worst in the future of agriculture, on some days I am a cornucopian about the prospects of improving and advancing food production and food production methods in future years. The bigger concern is right politics for healthy food production, in addition to the wild-card of weather conditions caused by climate change.

That said, we do live in the real world and black swan events do come along every now and then, and life moves in cycles – as do civilizations.

I’ve made a list of my top concerns, below. Most of these apocalyptic scenarios would only apply to regions or large groups of individuals in the shorter term.

1. Chaos resulting from political system failures could happen here or anywhere else if people become too polarized, too dissatisfied, lack basic needs and services, or aren’t being represented by their own governments. Rebellions, anarchy, riots, and unrest could become daily events.

2. Survival in our developed nations is reliant upon electricity and liquid fuels, and there are many future energy supply unknowns. The energy industry is becoming increasingly complex technologically, which increases its vulnerabilities. We could be faced with a major oil supply shock due to geopolitical reasons, or we could face a rapid decline in energy availability for various other reasons.

3. Does complexity and technology make us more, or less resilient? At some point, for some reason, we will experience a massive technological failure. We are putting so much trust in technology today that it has become our biggest risk factor and it is our biggest blind spot. Most technology is reliant upon electricity. If we had solar flares or cyberterrorism that knocked out much of our power supply, many of our systems would fail. Very few of us are self-reliant anymore. The technology that we use and take for granted each day is complex so that we can not make the things we rely upon ourselves nor can we fix anything ourselves, like our fathers and grandfathers could.

4. Terrorism, or multi-orchestrated terrorism events including bioterrorism and nuclear or radioactive terrorism are frightening possibilities.

5. There is the possibility of a rapid climate change. This could cause unbearable situations for different reasons in different places and lead to mass human migrations.

6. We could have a global disease epidemic or superbugs that can’t be treated, either of which could cull our human population numbers quickly.

7. We could experience a super volcano or a giant asteroid. These have happened in the past, and will happen again. If large enough, either would be capable of wiping out the food supply of most of the planet.

8. Plundering is part of our human nature, anyway the male part of human nature. There will be more world wars, use of bombs, chemical warfare, drones, and other war technologies which could be related to resource scarcity, or just plain aggression, desperation, or insane leadership.

9. We could have a global financial contagion crisis, failure of our currency or banking systems, or a failure of electronic money. We could have a crisis of confidence in the currency.

11. We could see an end to global cooperation, given certain stressors.

12. We might pollute ourselves into oblivion.

13. Water scarcity could occur where there are large populations. This might require migration or a great deal of global cooperation.

14. Besides water, other resource depletions include topsoil, loss of biodiversity, and multi-species extinctions. Many of these are due to our land use changes in agriculture.

15. There could be planetary tipping points we aren’t fully aware of such as amount of rain forests lost, or the health of the oceans, or ozone changes in the atmosphere.

16. As most population on the planet is locating in cities and urban areas, those areas could become vulnerable if infrastructure or supply chains required to keep them functioning gets damaged.

17. Overpopulation is usually found on lists such as this, yet, the term is difficult to define due to standards of living, geographical circumstances, longevity, water supplies, regional carrying capacities, and so on.

18. Control of media, internet, and electronic communications by evil hands could instigate wrong thinking that could lead to horrific crimes against portions of humanity.

That’s my list. I’m sure there are many more that could be added. So all of you worriers and preppers out there, I invite you to tell us what worries you the most.

One of the greatest mysteries to me is how well man can be a problem solver. Can we evolve to live in peace and harmony? Will neuroscience and new physics discoveries take us places we can barely dream of today? What will future technology, engineering, and scientific discoveries look like? Will people 50,000 years from now view this list above as primitive? When humans do eventually become extinct on this planet, will our DNA go on elsewhere? Will our consciousness survive?