free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 81. IS FAMINE IN NIGER THE BEGINNING OF THE DIEOFF?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Omnitir asks:
How do you account for the (literally) millions of people currently starving to death in places like Niger, because they can no longer afford to buy food? As oil has rocketed to it current price, the cost of food has also risen, and people that could barely afford to eat before cannot afford to eat now.

Isn't this relationship between rising oil prices and rising food prices, which would be causing a much larger dieoff then what we are seeing if it weren't for UN relief, strong evidence supporting dieoff theory?
ANSWER: No. Let's recall what the die-off theory says. It states that human beings have overshot the carrying capacity of the earth, and 4 or 5 billion people will have to die because the earth is no longer capable of producing enough food to feed them. This is clearly not the case with regard to Niger.

As of today, the WFP (World Food Program) of the United Nations has received US$28 million of its US$57.6 million appeal for Niger. Donors include:
Canada - US$3.2 million
UK - US$2.7 million
United States - US$2.6 million
Netherlands - US$2.5 million
Denmark - US$2.4 million
Venezuela - US$1.5 million
Australia - US$1.5 million
Germany - US$1.5 million
Belgium - US$1.2 million
Luxembourg - US$1.2 million
Italy - US$1.2 million
Ireland - US$1.2 million
EuropeAid - US$1.2 million
Turkey - US$600,000
African Development Bank - US$500,000
Norway - US$306,000
New Zealand - US$349,650
Switzerland - US$39,062
Private - US$334,000. Source
Compare the above with the US$12.6 billion which the US alone spent on dog and cat food in 2003Source.

Japan throws out enough food to feed 50 million people (=5 entire nations the size of Niger) from its convenience stores alone:
The worst offenders are perhaps Japan's legion of convenience stores, where many youngsters and singles do their food shopping. Around ¥10,000 to ¥15,000 worth of lunch boxes are thrown away daily from each shop, that is if the managers can’t find homeless people to give them away to. Multiplied by 40,823 konbini in Japan, that brings the waste, in retail terms, to a staggering ¥220bn (=about US$2 billion) per year.

This level of profligacy is highlighted by a report in the Japanese weekly magazine Shukan. Its economics reporter recently pointed out that the volume of food discarded by convenience stores and supermarkets because they were past their sell by dates – an estimated 6 million tons per year – is equivalent to roughly 80% of the total volume of food assistance currently being supplied to developing countries, or enough to feed 50 million people for a year. Transposing calories into monetary values, Japan's food losses are roughly equal to the total annual output of its agricultural and fishery industries.Source
Clearly the earth produces enough food to feed the people of Niger, and thus the deaths in Niger cannot be attributed to die-off.

Furthermore, the rise in food prices in Niger had no relationship whatsoever to the rising price of crude oil. The price rise was caused by: poor rains, massive crop devastation by locusts, and economic factors relating to food imports/exports with Niger's neighbors (see Source).

Also, in the interests of accuracy, millions of people didn't die during the recent events in Niger; about 3 million people were exposed to varying levels of malnutrition and food insecurity, and the number of deaths ranged in the tens of thousands, not millions.


At Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 2:01:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD, I am not a doomer and you had a few interesting factors in your quotes above.

however, your summary is weak.

"Furthermore, the rise in food prices in Niger had no relationship whatsoever to the rising price of crude oil. The price rise was caused by: poor rains, massive crop devastation by locusts, and economic factors relating to food imports/exports with Niger's neighbors."

Doomers would say that Niger, being isolated, is an example of what will happen to us all after the oil age... we will all be isolated.

Doomers would say that crop devastation by locusts is exactly what peak oil predicts because we will no longer be able to afford to make the quantities of pesticides we need!

And doomers would say that peak oil is exactly the "economic factors relating to food imports/exports" that we will ALL be experiencing after peak oil.

I am not a doomer JD, but reading this last blogg almost convinces me that I should be! Your summary was weak, and falls prey to doomers too easily.

At Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 4:04:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Omnitir said...

I said millions starving to death, but what I meant was millions starving that would die without aid. However it’s an undeniable fact that millions of people are starving around the world.

"Economic factors relating to food imports/exports" – as in the price of transporting goods and agriculture production has risen with the price of oil. It’s difficult to ignore the relationship between “economic factors” and oil prices.

“The rise in food prices in Niger had no relationship whatsoever to the rising price of crude oil.” That’s not true sorry John. The rise in transport costs alone has driven up food costs – the world over. Though oil isn’t the only factor in food costs, it’s certainly a part of the relationship – arguably a very important one.

You did make some good points JD, especially in regards to the wasted wealth of developed nations. Though at the same time I disagree on several points, which have been mostly covered.

While we have the doomers virtually preaching on street corners about the end of civilisation, we also have a strong, and much larger, push for the end of world hunger. While doomers would just roll their eyes at this and demand we don’t help the starving masses of the world (basically so that they can keep driving their SUV’s), humanitarians argue that finally humanity has the power to end world hunger.

I think it’s dangerous to ignore mass starvation and it’s causes, and investigating and understanding the causes of poverty is crucial in solving the problem. And solving world hunger is certainly a worthwhile endeavour, regardless of rising oil costs.

“We are the first generation that can look extreme poverty in the eye, and say this and mean it – we have the cash, we have the drugs, we have the science. Do we have the will to make poverty history?” – Bono, 2004

At Wednesday, September 7, 2005 at 12:40:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feeding the world is a matter primarily of economics. If a region can't supply its population from local food production and can't afford to trade, it is by definition, overpopulated.

Aid in the form of food can be counter productive. It does not address the root cause of starvation or population. Aid should be in the form of information and training... instead of shipments of grain, experts should be dispatched to teach sustainable organic agricultural practises and family planning techniques.

At Friday, September 9, 2005 at 9:20:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feeding the world may indeed be a "matter of economics". Starvation, however, is everywhere and always a matter of politics.

There can be no argument that today there is plenty of food and food aid, much more than enough to prevent starvation. The problem always is to overcome the war or despot or both that thwart efforts to bring food to the starving.

Ask China about its North Korean refugees. See also Ethiopia.

At Friday, September 16, 2005 at 12:12:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

75% of the Earth's surface is covered in water, so why are there water problem anywhere?

Oh wait, it has to be fresh. Tons of fresh water on the planet.

Oh, it can't be locked up in glaciers.

Oh, it can't be contaminated.

Oh, you need a huge infrastructure in order to move it where it needs to be consumed.

Same thing with food. Sure there is a lot of food production in the world, but only wealthy areas can afford to transport food from anywhere. And with oil & natural gas prices going into the stratosphere, and with modern mass scale food production being utterly dependent on these inputs it's going to become harder, not easier to feed the poor areas of the world.

At Saturday, June 9, 2007 at 11:59:00 PM PDT, Blogger Felix said...

Man, you are really, really trying really hard... what does Niger has to do with oil anyway? Its the poorest country on earth, they use no fertilizants, have no water, no agricultural machinery, eat a ration of sorghum once a day and have been starving periodically since the stone age. The world could colapse around them and they wont even notice the difference.

When the japs begin to starve then the "people from niger" (is it ok to call them nigers?) wont even know it happened. I'm not sure if they even know there is such place as japan.


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