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What do these crises have in common:

Economic crisis
Water shortages
Global warming
Healthcare
Energy

Okay, they probably have lots of things in common. But the answer I was looking for is "food."

Imagine for a minute that everyone in the United States stopped overeating and became vegetarians, perhaps with some fish thrown in the mix for protein and Omega-3. We all know that situation can never happen, so this is just a thought experiment.

Healthy eating would have a huge impact on healthcare costs. It would be partially offset by people living longer, but I have to think multiple sports injuries cost less than one heart bypass operation. And I read somewhere that 40% of mortgage foreclosures are caused by health problems. (Anyone have a link for that?) So in the short run, until the world is overrun by 200-year old marathoners collecting Social Security, the economy would be better off if people ate right. And that would free up money to insure the uninsured.

Now imagine that cattle are taken out of the food chain. Suddenly you don't need to cut down the rain forests to create new pastures, and the cost of food would drop because veggies are much cheaper than cows. Preserving trees would help the environment, which is also good for the economy. Beef suppliers wouldn't be too happy about this situation, so that is one offset to consider. But your food bill would be substantially lower.

Two-thirds of the world's fresh water supply goes to agriculture, and some sources claim that half of that water is wasted because of inefficient irrigation methods. Once again, food is the culprit. If we irrigated more efficiently we'd have plenty of water.

Now consider how much energy is expended in the pursuit of food. The typical American eats twice as many calories as needed. And most families are making multiple car trips to the grocery store, or to get take-out, every week. If we cut our calories in half, we could enjoy more leftovers and reduce all the driving we do for food. Plus we'd weigh less, so our cars would use less fuel hauling us around.

Therefore, food-related inefficiency is a big contributor to most other crises. Unfortunately, food is somewhat sacred, so political solutions around food are not practical. And our cigarette-smoking President isn't in a position to tell people they should eat less. So don't expect anything to change.
 
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+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 10, 2009
If everyone converted to vegetarianism, how would the world survive the smugness?
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
I don't understand why carnivors eat cows, pigs, chickens, and fish, but do not eat dogs, cats, horses, etc. I couldn't give a rat's ass (unless someone was hungry) about what people choose to eat, but why the inconsistency with the menu?
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
So many people don't want to give up meat. Perhaps the solution is to find a way to genetically make vegetables taste more like,.. I dunno,. melted cheese or something. If you can provide a cheaper alternative to meat that satisfies perhaps you WOULD be able to change the world.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
I would be concerned about agriculture. Raising 10,000 lbs of beef takes years in the pipeline, and several people. Raising 10,000 lbs of vegetables takes a year, and a bunch of people.

America, like most of the rest of the world's industrialized agriculture, rely *heavily* on petroleum based artificial fertilizer. I don't think you would actually realize any petroleum gain, going from pastured cows and fertilized grain for feedlots, to fertilized fields for human consumption. Since I think more ground would be needed, that would also likely cut into tree spaces, too.

I read that the most productive creation of food per unit of ground, is the hazelnut tree. In good years, the nuts pay off big time. You just have to have enough market diversity so a bad year doesn't cancel your whole crop - and let the world starve.

But moving urban residential and other lanscaping focus from evergreens and decorative trees to food trees - nuts, berries, fruits, etc., now that would potentially increase food supply for very little ongoing expense or energy.
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
Okay, so no trees need to be cleared for pastures... but where will all the extra crops required for human consumption grow?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
Is it just me or are some of the people posting here quite selfish? Just because the earth is not about to blow up and we are not immediately going to run out of food doesn't mean we shouldn't start thinking about and working on sustainable methods of living.

Do you wake up most mornings and tell your kids to go F@#$ themselves or do you just imply it by planning the earths existence around your own?
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
"Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies"
http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/06/05/bankruptcy.medical.bills/index.html
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
The common factor all of those issues have is mankind. Particularly, too much of mankind.

We got the financial crisis from too much greed. We get food distribution crises (there is enough food around in the world) by apathy. We get water shortages by evaporation ehanced by heating of the planet from all our hot little bodies. That and the stupid vanity of lawn watering. We get global warming (if it is happening at all) from a variety of sources, but I'm sure our need to drive huge cars, have huge homes, and live in AC all the time is part of that - that combines vanity and greed. Healthcare? Too many sick people! In the old days, they'd have died off, but our investment in healthcare has created subsequent problems in health care! Energy - wireless this, cordless that, five gadgets each that need a battery, WAPs, cellphones, PDAs, MP3 players, and every damn tool that used to be manual but now takes a battery. From what - laziness, sloth, and apathy for the side effects and ignorance of same.

Economic crisis
Water shortages
Global warming
Healthcare
Energy
Common factor: Humanity (each human contributing to the net apathy, ignorance, incompetence, sloth, greed, - and a few other things to boot - of the world)

Solution: Less humans.

Advantages: Cheaper than trying to reform the agriculture system, the energy system, the water system, etc. Don't get me started on how much less misery we'd have had out of the latest financial greed-fiasco if we'd started hanging those guys sooner. Overall, doesn't matter one whit how efficient you are if, in the long run, you get enough people. All you ever do is put the problem off.

Action Plan: Cause less people. People who have kid #3 accidentally get a fine. #4 gets you jail time, #5 gets both parents executed (to help balance their imbalance). Most major crimes, instead of long human-misery-riddled prison sentences and expense to support the system, just a quick $.16 and the problem is resolved for good. Also removes need for appeal process. Then we add in killing off terrorists, enemy combatants, shifty allies, and anyone who isn't with us (given that makes them obviously against us... DUH!)... eventually you'd make a good dent in total world population. Throw in a few wars, and we're good. But we have to keep up this level of humanicide to keep a population cap that lets us all live in reasonable levels of civilization. I suggest that number is about 1 billion. Seems to me, we're way over population budget already.

Warm up the nukes, folks!
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
Pizza. Steak. Lasagna. A juicy hamburger. Tacos. Enchiladas. Pot Roast. Ham. Bacon. BLT. Roast Chicken. Fajitas. BBQ Ribs. Spaghetti and Meatballs. Philly Cheese Steak. Club Sandwich.

Anything sound good to anyone?

Good food is one of the simple joys of human existence. If you want to eat like a rabbit, but all means - go ahead. But I'm here to enjoy my time on Earth.

Maybe the solution is to colonize outer space. Then we can have entire planets devoted to certain lifestyles. That way we can put vegetarians with socialist agendas on their own little moss covered rock all by themselves.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
Think of a Kindergarten class doing a really cool art project with shiny, crinkly strips of paper. There are 20 kids in the class and 40 shiny, crinkly strips of paper. Unfortunately, the little miss who hands out the sheets gets really generous and gives 10 sheets to the first 4 kids, leaving the other 16 with nothing.

The solution to the 16 is clear. The first four should keep two strips and share the rest. Two of the five-year-olds have not quite grasped the "sharing" principle, however. As far as they are concerned, there is no shortage and they will not share. They have already begun projects that NEED all 10 strips. They can't share. They wouldn't have ENOUGH if they shared.

A lot of Americans don't see a problem with our eating habits. Our supermarkets are full of options. McDonald's is reasonably priced, etc. Why should we change? Shortages? Environmental damage? Nope, can't see it - and this is how I WANT to live.

In the case of kindergartners, a teacher is likely to swoop in and force them to do the right thing. I don't really want the government playing kindergarten teacher with my life - but as adults, we really shouldn't need that, anyway.

What's wrong with us, as adults, opening our eyes to the impact of our choices on the rest of the world? Just because we choose not to see the damage, doesn't mean it isn't there.



 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
There was a paper out about bankruptcies and medical bills. You can read a blistering critique of it here:

http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/06/why_warrens_new_bankruptcy_stu.php

Also, scroll up and read the posts where Megan addresses user comments.

There's really a problem of how you count these. It's like cell phones and auto crashes. If you count every cell phone in every auto crash rather than drill down to those that definitively cause the crash, you can create a horrifying causal link story. You also end up catching a lot of people talking on their phones while going through a green light in their lane at appropriate speed and being side impacted by some idiot running the light. But of course, that's the politically correct way to count, because everyone knows we'd be better off if nobody talked on the phone while driving. Whatevuh!
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
Scott - I think you are both hysterical and funny, but so many things in the post both invalid logically and in my opinion...where to begin?

"And that would free up money to insure the uninsured." - first, when I don't spend money on my health problems, it won't go to help the uninsured, it goes to help ME. Unless you are talking about taxing more to pay for the uninsured. If you mean that healthy uninsured people would use less of the countries welfare medical budget, maybe, but you'd have to get them to stop eating crap first. So we are looking at more taxes plus getting the poor to make healthy eating choices.

Removing cattle from the food chain is your own bias. The debate rages on, but I can't find any evidence that we were designed to be vegetarians. I dispute that its healthier. Except for some outliers, you don't have vegetarian athletes, blah blah. Does excessive meat consumption possibly make you unhealthy? Maybe. Is it worse than excessive grain consumption? Show me the facts. Excessive sugar and grain is making the world obese, fried foods, high fructose corn syrup, twinkies, etc. What exactly is unhealthy about free-range grass fed beef, pork, and chicken, other than the fact that it goes against your religion?

"energy is expended in the pursuit of food" is a lot of ideas none of which I think have any actual findable proof. Eats twice as many calories as needed - maybe? I know some sickly vegetarians who say 1500 calories is plenty for a person, and I know strong robust 6% athletes who eat triple that (plus meat, OMG). And the car using less fuel is cute, but laughable.

How does south america not replacing their rain forest equal a better economy in any way? Your logic of no cattle = less rainforest = better environment = better economy (here) is specious at best. How well a smidge more oxygen or less Co2 in the air make jobs, fix the financial system?

If you really wanted to help people eat better, help the poor get healthy, etc, one option might be to make a simple rule. Food - i.e. stuff that is actual food, and not processed - is exempt from taxation. Anything processed in any way short of threshing, squishing, cooking or fermenting (i.e. turning grain into flour, veggies into oil, milk into cheese, etc) gets taxed normally (or even more heavily). Make it more affordable to eat FOOD instead of chemical crap. People eat junk and get fat because it's tastier and cheaper and its been engineered to make us want to eat it - and that stuff is not a steak so much as it is cereals, soda, snacks, and junk.

 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
By the way, you realize that Jonathan Swift solved this problem nearly 300 years ago right?

http://art-bin.com/art/omodest.html
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
Nutrition is probably another type of advice you should not take from cartoonists... or maybe the world will someday be overpopulated with 200-year-old vegetarians.
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
I agree that becoming vegetarians will be better for the environment but you are implying that fat people are damaging the planet and if they would just eat less then they would be thin and the world would be a better place.

1) Fat people don't necessarily eat more. This has been shown in studies and I have also seen it for myself with friends and family.
2) The risks of being "overweight" are greatly exaggerated. Many of the studies are financed by manufacturers of diet drugs.
3) Dieting can cause short term weight loss but very few people can maintain any significant weight loss after 5 years.

Here's a good place for more information on Fat Acceptance: http://kateharding.net/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
crunchy

"it takes 12 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. We could be so much more efficient with our land use. "


I'm sorry, but what the ____ do you mean OUR land use? Its my land, or that guy, or that guy over there, or that woman, or that person. You can have your land, I can have my land, but its not "our" land.

Apologies if you are posting from a communist country when you refer to 'our land use', I don't live in such a country, well not yet at least.
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
So basically:
1. Eat (and therefore grow) more fruits, veggies and starches
2. Use less water.

I promise you farmers are motivited already to do number 2, so I don't think there is much there.

How do you propose we do #1? What systemic changes are needed?
 
 
Jun 9, 2009
"I read somewhere that more methane gas is produced from all of the cattle we eat than all of the carbon emissions combined."

Yea, very true, because carbon emissions don't produce methane gas, they produce carbon dioxide. These aren't the same thing.

I don't have water shortages where I live, mainly because I don't live in a place that could only survive by using federal money (and a lot of scandals) to artificially move water to my location which is otherwise devoid of rainfall.

We're also fine with cutting down trees. Trees drop seeds, and more trees grow. We also don't have a lot of wild fires that kill people and destroy homes. There are also a lot of trees, and wildlife.

Global warming, is a scam, end of story. Its funny how humans have been on this planet for a very long time (much longer than 6k years right?) yet evidence from the past 100 years is enough to convince everyone we're going to destroy the planet and end all life as we know it. Which sounds more fanatical?

Economic Crisis: We have a government that runs our budget like a college freshman on a credit card, the people do the same, it was bound to happen, its going to collapse, then sometime in the future it'll repair itself, suck it up and good luck getting through.

Health care cost: We see the doctor for every little cough and sniffle, and use 'health insurance' to cover the cost. If our auto insurance covered gas tires and oil it would be in a similar situation. See also Economic Collapse.

Energy: After the economic collapse, health care collapse, and the massive world war that follows, there wont be nearly the same demand for energy, if there is build some nuclear power plants. Note: We'll also have plenty of water and cattle as well.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
One last thing scott

All of those crisis that you say are related to "food" could relate to almost anything. That is why they are the perfect storm for the government's social engineers and thought police. Anything, it can now be argued, should be the responsibility of the state to control. 0.o
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2009
I give my last post a thumbs down for grammatical errors :( Oh wow, I already received a thumbs down on my first post. I swear, on this blog, even when I agree with scott, I get thumbs down in record time. I must have some views that people in no way agree with.
 
 
 
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