Mark Bittman grapples with how we manage to live in a world where people still don’t get the food they need:
The world has long produced enough calories, around 2,700 per day per human, more than enough to meet the United Nations projection of a population of nine billion in 2050, up from the current seven billion. There are hungry people not because food is lacking, but because not all of those calories go to feed humans (a third go to feed animals, nearly 5 percent are used to produce biofuels, and as much as a third is wasted, all along the food chain).
The current system is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable, dependent as it is on fossil fuels and routinely resulting in environmental damage. It’s geared to letting the half of the planet with money eat well while everyone else scrambles to eat as cheaply as possible.
While a billion people are hungry, about three billion people are not eating well, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, if you count obese and overweight people alongside those with micronutrient deficiencies.
Paradoxically, as increasing numbers of people can afford to eat well, food for the poor will become scarcer, because demand for animal products will surge, and they require more resources like grain to produce. A global population growth of less than 30 percent is projected to double the demand for animal products. But there is not the land, water or fertilizer — let alone the health care funding — for the world to consume Western levels of meat.
And what’s staggering and so frightening about this is that, as a friend noted, in the short-term the current system is perfectly viable. And that strikes at the heart of the problem here. Something is just far too fucked up about the global economic system we’ve constructed when it makes rational sense for corporations to gut the earth of natural resources and pollute the planet to such an extent that future people will most probably face insurmountable climate-related problems, all in the name of cheap meat. The sooner the global political will is found to legally mandate the internalisation of the costs of carbon within traditional market mechanisms, ensuring the harms are finally penalised and thereby sensibly avoided, the better our chance of not being the greedy generation that played Russian roulette with humanity’s future for too long. Unfortunately, the chances of things changing soon enough currently seem as slim as the likelihood that pigs will be politically empowered with representatives and rights, enabling their simultaneous suffering in all of this to be finally recognised and remedied.