20 March, 2013

The Big Issues

I recently attended my "umpteenth" Agricultural Outlook Conference in Canberra. I am very aware of the frailties of human memory, but did feel that it was one of the best I have attended.I was particularly interested in the FAO and OECD papers on food supply, population growth,etc.

The achievements of India and China,in lifting millions out of poverty seems to me to demonstrate what can be done and provides great hope for the future of the planet and mankind.

Two key principles give rise to my optimism-
  • There seems to be a consensus that global population will increase from the present 6.6bn to 9.1bn by 2050. This surely must place pressure on the environment.
  • It has been clearly demonstrated that as nations lift themselves out of poverty, with much improved education, particularly of women, population growth ceases. Meanwhile the very poor countries have the greatest population growth and population growth has effectively ceased in the developed world.
In any event, reducing disease and  poverty in the poorest nations seems to me to be the biggest challenge facing the world and is a great humanitarian endeavour.
I have great sympathy for the position of the "Skeptical Environmentalist", Bjorn Lomborg, who argues that rather than spending billions on attempting to change global temperatures we should simply adapt to what he believes is a warming reality and apply those billions to lifting living standards in the poorest nations.

This assumes that this can be done and that throwing money at the problem is the answer. It is, of course, much more complicated than that, with politics in sub-saharan Africa and elsewhere being a major stumbling block. However, the Indian achievements and the Chinese adoption of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (free market principles/capitalism) demonstrates what can be done. Two papers at the Outlook Conference relate. The first deals with population growth and food production prospects. The second deals with food security and the importance of trade issues.
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