Food: For Fuel or For Famished?

Who do farmers grow crops for?  Barely a century ago, this question would seem preposterous, but now with environmental advocates like Al Gore showing humanity the effects of their actions on the environment, society is moving away from the unnatural and harmful.  This has led the world to a crossroads.  With this call to preserve the earth and its wonders comes the need for countries to develop alternative sources of energy and fuel.  Many countries have begun utilizing the cassava root, corn, and other crops to meet these ends, but with adverse economic effects.  The cassava root is a mainstay in the diets of many Africans, while corn is found in almost literally every conceivable product in America, from diapers to batteries to cereal to plastics.  Since the number of crops devoted to simply feeding these people is being fractured with countries buying and selling these crops for the development of biofuels, prices of these crops are steadily rising, putting these essential foods out of the price ranges of the world’s impoverished.  Is this the route that society should be taking?  No, because what justifies starving millions just to have energy to run overly expensive vehicles?  What justifies dismantling economies just to claim to be more “green”?  Finally, what justifies the long-reaching ripple effect of these actions such as annexing land from subsistence farmers, destroying forests to make room for fields in which to grow crops for biofuels, and placing countries in the precarious position of having their economies run by one or very few crops?  Is saving the earth really worth destroying its denizens?

Before automatically dismissing this issue to a “save the earth” mentality, one should consider the economic effects growing crops exclusively for their use in biofuels has on participating countries.  Countries that divide their crops between feeding its citizens and exporting for the development for alternative fuels have to produce much more of the crop to compensate for the splinter caused by exporting the crop.  Since not every bit is being sold within the country, the prices for these crops are steadily rising.  This means that the countries’ impoverished cannot afford the cassava that their families desperately need or the corn to survive.  The country’s people should definitely come before the development of fuels.

Next, one needs to think about the ripple effect entailed with this trade-off.  Honestly, it is a snake consuming its own tail.  If the workers who harvest the crops cannot afford the food for their families, they will begin dying off, and if they begin dying off, eventually none will be able to harvest the crop needed for export and sustaining the country’s people.  By doing this the participating countries are placing themselves in a very precarious predicament.  Inevitably the choice will come down to either exporting their crops to bring in more money or not exporting as much to feed the citizens.  What for?  Why is this trade-off necessary?  Just to say that a country is more or less eco-friendly?  Is human life really this expendable?

The final thing to consider is whether or not the means by which countries are able to grow these extra crops for export are justified.  Many countries are annexing land from subsistence farmers and destroying forests – three cheers for irony! – just to be able grow the extra crops necessary to export for the development of biofuels.  Aside from these obvious injustices, much like the Confederacy during the Civil War, countries are being placed on a teetering economic playing field by having one crop supply all of the means of economic development.  However, these countries are in a much worse position, since humans had not and still have not gained the ability to eat cotton.  This precarious position always loses balance and results in economic collapse.  Then where would these countries be?

In short, as Rob Corddry said, “Ethanol is, in its purest form, just as much of a sham as oil.”  Behind the guise of progress and environmentally friendly energy, the development of this energy claims many more lives than heat strokes due to global warming.  Many countries need to be focusing more on feeding the hungry within them instead of splitting these crops with others trying to develop biofuels.  Hunger, and thus human life, is paramount.

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