25 July 2014 ~Question of the Day~Complete Food
If you were able to bring just one food to the starving children of the world, what would that food be?
No single food is adequate for nutrition, so I refuse to accept an unacceptable condition ! ;)
A diet based solely on spirulina, other than being boring, would lead to long term deficiencies of several nutrients – most particularly Vit C – not acute deficiency, there is enough there to avoid scurvy, but not enough to allow our systems to adequately combat cancer or viral invasion.
We have evolved for a varied diet, high in fruits and vegetables and nuts. Most particularly high in green leafy stuff. Without such a varied diet, we will be prone to all sorts of sub optimal long term outcomes, particularly if the diet is encountered early in life.
Poor diet is exceptionally stressful on mothers, as evolution favours the next generation, and our biochemical systems will strip nutrients from the mother to feed the child, provided it doesn’t actually kill the mother.
So there is no single food that is adequate.
The whole concept of single point, “magic bullet” solutions needs to be abandoned (however much they are favoured by corporate advertising gurus, and however appealing they are to our juvenile binary neural networks).
What we require is broad spectrum solutions, with much room for individual and group diversity within the spectra available, and with as much redundancy as we can build into every level. As far as I can tell from my investigations that is the only mathematically stable approach to security. It does not appear possible to deliver any significantly useful probability of long term stability in open systems with narrow focus centrally controlled solutions – there is just too much variability that cannot be constrained. If we have central systems that promote and sustain individual and group diversity, that appears to be a stable arrangement.
We can have global abundance.
At the global level there are 2 hectare (Ha) of land per person, a third of which is desert due to heat or cold. If we reserve a third of what is left for nature reserves, that still leaves us with just under a hectare each, which is 2 acres (roughly). You can grow a lot of veges on 2 acres. The global average for food production is about 6T/Ha (we can do much better than that with enclosed gardens providing optimised environments for the plant communities within). If we allow for each person eating about 1.5Kg of food per day, that is half a ton per year. Allow another half ton per year for security (required redundancy, that can be recycled to the non-human ecosystem in normal circumstances) – which leads to a requirement of 1T food per year, or 1/6th Ha (1/3 of an acre per person per year) of non-reserve land – for non-animal food production.
So giving people the tools to store water, and protect crops from animal and insect predation, seems to be the most effective way of feeding everyone.
The mathematics says that if people are prepared to adopt a vegan diet, we can feed 6 times the earth’s current population (and maintain a year’s food reserves with constant turnover) while still leaving a third of every ecosystem (and all the deserts and ice lands) in an undisturbed natural state.
We are not short of resources.
We can easily do it.
We have the technological capacity to have it done within 2 years – every person on the planet housed and fed in sustainable sanitary conditions. (Current global cement production in sufficient to allow us to construct new secure monocoque design dwellings for every person on the planet in two years – if required.)
We will never do it if we rely on market incentives, because markets always value abundance of anything at zero, and guilds (at all levels) will protect their market share – so there can never exist any market incentive to provide abundance to all. Markets only ever provide abundance to a very small group at the top of the system (but human optimism means most people think they will make it into that small group, but don’t).
So – a bit of a twist to the question, and an attempt at a stable broad spectrum solution to a major human issue.