The Global Food Economy: Peak Food, Social Unrest, And Bailed-Out Credit-Junkies

Tyler Durden's picture

Beginning with Malthus' warning to the world and the Great Irish famine, David McWilliams (of Punk Economics) provides his typically succinct, profoundly fascinating, and graphically pleasing insights on the state of the global food economy. "What happens when hungry people panic?" is the question McWilliams poses; "they move to other parts of the world," he rhetorically answers, adding that this could well be the story of the next 50 years on Earth as the rock of the insatiable demand of seven billion (soon-to-be-ten-billion) people smashes into the hard place of the planet's limited resources to produce that one thing that keeps us all alive - food. The food dilemma is more complex though as it is really an energy dilemma - one that is not going away (on the downside). On the bright side, Malthus' nightmare has yet to occur thanks to the ingenuity of humans. However, if all the world's seven billion people consumer as much as the average American, it would require the resources of over five planet Earths to sustainably support all of us. So either the rest-of-the-world eats less to allow Americans to eat more or we are stuck! But it's not just how much we eat, but what we eat...


In fact the change in diet of the Chinese and Indian and Brazilian populations is one of the biggest undocumented stories of globalization - driving up food prices dramatically and punishing the poorer nations (not to mention the inexorable currency devaluations that Central Bankers are slooshing unintendedly to these nations capital markets)

Furthermore, McWilliams rightly ties social unrest to these dramatic food price rises... must watch!

Food is politics and Politics is food...

As the world's diet changes, with a preference for meat and dairy - so energy requirements surge...

MMcWilliams ties a beautiful bow on the presentation bringing the need for the water and therefore the need for oil (energy to grow, clean, and transport).

In short the single-biggest driver of the price of food is the price of oil, so as we hit Peak Oil, are we also hitting Peak Food - and if so, what is next?


and then at around 8:15 McWilliams ties in the 'frothy response' of the world's central banks to the global financial crisis plays its part...


The process of bailing out credit junkies in the rich world is driving up the price of survival in the poor world.


In the west, the poor are getting fatter and the rich are getting thinner (as food is becoming a class issue)...and that is leading to dramatic shifts in health costs...


This is where the Food challenge of the next 30 years is taking us... A roller-coaster where Finance and Ecology meets Economics, Demography, and Politics and the outcome is the 'very survival - and progression - of humanity'...


in a world where billions of people want what you have and might be prepared to do anything politically, militarily, or financially to achieve this...

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ball-and-chain's picture

We've got enough resources to feed all the people.

Greed is the main problem.


Is it time to start killing people off in order to save food?

Get real.

Dooud's picture

Soylent Green is people,,,,,,man!

Michaelwiseguy's picture

I don't think the mainstream media sheeple have ever seen or heard anything like this;

Peirs Morgan Vs Alex Jones - The Gun Debate Round 1

Peirs Morgan Vs Alex Jones - The Great Gun Debate Round 2

Manthong's picture

“they move to other parts of the world”

We asked for it..

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me

And they did.

fourchan's picture

many points missed in this.

the cost of food is the devaluation of the fiat money.

the over population is because of the fiat money boom and bust "system" aka the federal reserve.

the demand on energy is because of the over population^

and the main point is that the fundimental "system" of money will fail because it is designed to, as every fiat system is.

the "system" is to enslave the population to debt, and capture all assets through boom and bust cycles it creates.


the "system" is working perfectly as it has for 98 years now.

GetZeeGold's picture



the "system" is working perfectly as it has for 98 years now.


May the ponzi live.......forever.

Doubleguns's picture

Not many places would be taking in refugees in a food shortage situation. Good luck with running somewhere else without getting shot at the border.

TheProphet's picture

Congratulations Piers. You found the one guy on the planet that makes you look reasonable.

GetZeeGold's picture



Is this an admission that you're willing to take him?

N. B. Forrest's picture

The world has plenty of food.  It's politics that keeps people starving. 

flattrader's picture

Someone posted these links yesterday.

They do a very good job explaining how primarily Goldman Sachs was responsible for the recent food crisis in 2008 and will be maniipulating every food crisis to come to their advantage.

The creation of GSCI AND the fall of Glass Steagall have left the US agricultural system open to bankster manipulation.  It was the one-two punch that that took the options trading system out of the hands of ag producers and manufacturers and put it in the hands of people who could care less if you starved.


tsx500's picture

actually , it's  " people who couldn't care less ... "   but i greened u anyway

SelfGov's picture

"We've got enough resources to feed all the people."

Said no hungry man, ever.

Treeplanter's picture

We have millions of acres of fallow land where it rains enough to dry farm.  No need to panic yet. 

toady's picture

'No need to panic yet'

YET being the operative word...

You assume a worldwide organization will be able bring together diverse groups, technology, and most importantly, water.

It's far more likely that poorer area's will become new Somalias and try to migrate where there is water.

GAAP is crap's picture

But you have to love the end game and wonderful logic of the argument:  because we are low on food and don't want death and starvation in the future, we'll just kill you now.


If every American spent the same resources growing food at home as they did on their front and back lawns, stopped using food for fuel, etc, these Malthusians would lose quite a bit of their audience.

the problem is waste and greed, not so much the limited resources.


Shevva's picture

Want to wind up a Malthusian, ask them to name one natural resource that has ever run out in the 100+ years they have been going on and on and on about this.

They use to say the same about london being under 20ft of horse crap now it's just full of rich middle eastern play boys.

N. B. Forrest's picture

Whale oil...


However, beyond that...

TuPhat's picture

We still have whales.  So you missed it on that one.  We also turn corn into alcohol and burn it so we aren't running out of food.  My guess is that death and destruction will begin to limit the population of earth.  We do have a large military don't we?

flattrader's picture

Gawd. You are an idiot.

>>>We still have whales.  So you missed it on that one.<<<

We only have the Right Whale which was nearly hunted to extinction due to a ban in the 1960s.

They got a brake from the slaughter when Kerosene replace whale oil for lamplighting purposes.

Without international pressure they'd be entirely gone.

We don't have whales now because they are infinite.

tip e. canoe's picture

"you can solve all the world's problems in a garden." - geoff lawton

Manolo's picture

Nay, actually, our plantet provides,, Solutions. In the works right now, as we speak,

Earth gives you: 

witness this and sleep well:


Cheers !

flattrader's picture

Yes. There is an enormous amount of methane tied up in the tundra which is melting.

An acquaintance spent his working career in Alaska studying tundra and the latter part of his career watching it melt before his eyes.

The implications are devastating.  He was happy to retire and move back to the 48 because going to work every day was making him so depressed he could hardly do it anymore.

Now, he won't even discuss it at any length.

TuPhat's picture

Pretending that weather cycles continue forever will get you depressed.

flattrader's picture

Ignoring the obvious change in the weather and the long term nature of the cycle that causes tundra to melt will get you dead.

Good luck with that.

flattrader's picture

Ignoring the obvious change in the weather and the long term nature of the cycle that causes tundra to melt will get you dead.

Good luck with that.

Seer's picture

"We've got enough resources to feed all the people."

And with that simple sentence ALL was made better...

Sorry, but that's a pretty incomplete statement.  I fails to include two key things:

1) How MANY?

2) [And] For HOW LONG?

Keep in mind GROWTH.  Since all living things multiply (until they cannot), we will be continuing to increase our numbers (and while we do so we place ever-increasing strains on our environment).

This is a finite planet.  There IS a limit.  Your statement, however, is open, it seems to imply that there is no limit.

I won't bother to address your "solution," as we haven't properly accepted what the problem is (that is, YOU haven't).

Osmium's picture

Soylent Green Bitchez!

Dooud's picture

Synchronicity, man. Hey, get out of my head.

Osmium's picture

Is your avatar the Big Labowski?  Love that movie.

"No, you're the dude"

SgtSchultz's picture

It seems that if the energy demand assumptions are not correct (say perhaps due to new technologies/discoveries), the entire analysis may be suspect.

Seer's picture

Seems you're sidestepping the FACT that this is a finite planet.  EVENTUALLY there is a limit on how many people could possibly fit on the surface of the earth, and any spot occupied by a human means space that isn't available for food production (either cultivated or wild) or energy production.

Yeah, it's possible that pigs could fly, but I'm not basing my future on it, let alone the future of the human race...

TuPhat's picture

You may be basing your future on a finite planet.  You will be wrong.  The resources will outlast man's ability to cooperate and use the resources peacefully.  War is the biggest waste of all and it is coming.

BooMushroom's picture

Population density of India = 954/mi^2

land mass of earth 57.58 million mi^2

P*l = 54,931,320,000

That's 54 billion on the back of an envelope.  It will come to war or pandemic before  that though.  And that's assuming no space colonization, or energy storage breakthroughs.

It's also assuming that we don't build up or down very much.

zorba THE GREEK's picture

This food shortage is getting more serious than most people understand.

I was watching "Moonshiners" last night, and some of them have had to

resort to distilling scotch whiskey because of the corn shortage.

DaveyJones's picture

food is the ultimate "currency." And like most modern currencies, modern food is sad, poisonous, "modified" and controlled by a smaller and smaller number of ever growing and ever evil bastards. Once again, we have to thank our government and the FDA for looking the other way and of course our courts for overturning two hundred years of legal principle and allowing Monsanto and their murderous ilk to poison and patent what we eat. Before then food could never be a patent. ANd now, Nafta and other frauds are spreading this crap all over the world. Just like a poisoned and imprisoned economy, the only solution is not to play.  Take up, perfect and share vital growing skills that have been with mankind and most houses for all time except the last seventy.     

groundedkiwi's picture

Monsanto's wet dream is to have their patented food to be bought only with the worlds reserve currency.

lasvegaspersona's picture

How do you get 4 tons of greenhouse gas from 30 litres of oli?

Ox's picture

Cows are a huge source of methane! He's not talking about the oil chaps, he's talking about those fart machines producing methane over their lifespan.

S.N.A.F.U.'s picture

Right, because that 1/3 of a kilogram of methane a cow produces per kilogram of meat takes you right up to 4 tonnes.  (Sources and math for methane produced are in my post below.)

awakening's picture

An Australian films solution to the problem: Master -"Not shit, energy!" (Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome)

Ookspay's picture

It might be a good time to get a "Gentlemans Farm"; 5 acres, good soil, maybe a pond, some woods, a small orchard... I did.

batz's picture


Why else do you think we still ride horses, shoot and sail? Or play polo for that matter?

Survival, bitches.

Dick Buttkiss's picture

So did we. And while we do our weekly duty -- -- the question is whether we have enough time to fully prepare, how bad it will be when the inevitable happens, how hard the unprepared with come at us when it does, whether we will survive it, and whether life will be worth living if we do.

Parrotile's picture

and whether life will be worth living if we do.

Well life will certainly be very different, and the nature of civility and civilisation will also be quite different to now.

You'll also notice the absence, or degradation of, of many of the otherwise "invisible" resources that we all use without a moment's thought - things along the lines of efficient healthcare at the point of use, safe (clean) water "on tap" irrespective of the time of the year or outside temperature; reliable electrical power for a relatively low cost per kWh - again with effectively unlimited, 24/7 availability.

We believe life would be worth living, but it would be a very, very different World to today's - a World where ability and directly applicable survivalist knowledge will be superior skills to todays "Financial Engineering and Applied Skimming the Market" in-demand skill set.

Might be quite a fun environment for those who are prepared . . . . . .

Seer's picture


But, much of the world has been living that way; heck, most of humanity throughout the ages has been living that way.

Survival, the ultimate definition of what it means to be "sustainable."

People have no idea how different it's going to be.  As much as I'm not looking forward to it (getting too old), I need to go buy some axes: I'm going to miss being able to use my chainsaws.

saveandsound's picture

Where did you get the 5 acres?