free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 16. CITIES AND FAMINE

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


One school of "die-off" thought is that famine will strike the cities first and hardest.

Actually, this runs contrary to a lot of historical experience:

"Famine is a very destabilizing and devastating occurrence. The prospect of starvation led people to take desperate measures. When scarcity of food became apparent to peasants, they would sacrifice long term prosperity for short term survival. They would kill their draught animals, leading to lowered production in subsequent years. They would eat their seed corn, sacrificing next year's crop in the hope that more seed could be found. Once those means had been exhausted, they would take to the road in search of food. They migrated to the cities where merchants from other areas would be more likely to sell their food, as cities had a stronger purchasing power than did rural areas. Cities also administered relief programs and bought grain for their populations so that they could keep order."

"The Irish Famine: Distribution of Famine Effects [...] Those who lived nearer to large cities had more access to imported goods. Although food was exported as usual from Leinster in 1844 and 1845, there was a net import of almost a million tons of grain by 1847. However, these imports naturally reached those nearer to the cities and these are in the east and south. Dublin, Belfast and Derry escaped with almost no effects at all, while Cork and Wexford were relatively better off than their rural environs. It was the inland and especially the western areas that could benefit least from the food of the cities."

"He reported that it was only through government connections that workers in Leningrad, Moscow and other large cities received the groceries they needed. He noted that the peasants found themselves in a situation much worse than that during the years of the revolution, and not much better than during the 1921-22 famine in Ukraine. The correspondent provided details about the situation in Ukraine: conditions in the villages were so bad that people who lived in Leningrad, Moscow and other large cities sent food parcels to their families and friends in Ukraine in order to save them from starvation."

"The prevailing famine conditions have forced hundreds of thousands of internal refugees into temporary camps on the fringes of large cities like Balkh and Mazar-e Sharif where food is available."


At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 7:49:00 PM PST, Blogger Jason Burroughs said...

I've never heard this argument made with respect to peak oil. What I have heard is that peak oil issues will hit cities first and hardest. The logic is that people in the city can't grow any food of their own and rely on imports from rural areas. So If there is no food being trucked in, the city folk will start heading out to the suburbs and beyond to get what they don't have. I think that's a pretty reasonable assumption, don't you?

At Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 1:52:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Thomas Robert said...

Assuming food market doesn't break down, the post is correct: food, just as anything else, gets auctioned: people with money get it, people without don't. Mind that demand elasticity to price is, in the case of food, very low, so prices can and will go up a lot.

Of course that rests on several assumptions:
1) Food doesn't get stolen
2) Food isn't rationed
3) Food isn't hoarded

Actually, all three are highly likely.


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