The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Coming Global Food Crisis: Learning from the Great Irish Famine

A 19th century "soup kitchen" providing emergency relief for people without food. These kitchens could have saved millions in Ireland during the great famine of 1945-1850, but the British government refused to keep them open long enough. The main lesson we can learn from the Irish experience is how fragile is a food supply based mainly on a single crop, potato in the case of Ireland. In our case, the fragility is the result of basing our food supply system on a single energy source: fossil fuels.

Below, you'll find a post by Jesús Pagán about the food supply situation in the world. Pagán understands the basic concept that could cause a food crisis in the near future. It is a problem of food supply, not a problem of food production. In a previous post on "Cassandra's Legacy, " I wrote:
The world's food supply system is a devilishly complex system and it involves a series of cross linked subsystems interacting with each other. Food production is one thing, but food supply is a completely different story, involving transportation, distribution, storage, refrigeration, financial factors, cultural factors and is affected by climate change, soil conservation, population, cultural factors..... and more, including the fact that people don't just eat "calories", they need to eat food; that is a balanced mix of nutrients. In such a system, everything you touch reverberates on everything else. It is a classic case of the concept known in biology as "you can't do just one thing."
Pagán's ideas are consistent with the concept that the world could see a major food crisis if the system collapses, even just in part. Transporting food from a region to another requires a complex technological network able to transport, process, refrigerate, package, and do more things to the food we eat: it is an energy-intensive system. If there is an energy shortage, then we are in trouble, but we may not even be able to recognize a problem that will appear in the form of a financial crisis that will make it impossible for people in poor countries to purchase the food they need. 

We have already made a mistake similar to the one that led to the Ireland famine in mid 19th century: that of relying completely on a single technology: the potato for the Irish, fossil fuels in our case. Then if things get truly bad, we may need to learn from Ireland how to manage in an emergency situation.

During the famine, the British government did at least one good thing: they set up a number of "soup kitchens" that could have saved hundreds of thousands of Irish people from starvation. One of the basic problems with the famine was that the Irish families were only equipped to cook potatoes at home using peat as fuel. But it was not just potatoes that were cultivated in Ireland, some grain was also cultivated. But the Irish had no capability to process grains at home because peat is a poor fuel and, besides, grains need to be milled and turned into wheat before they can become edible in the form of bread or soup. Milling is an energy intensive process, and so it was expensive for the Irish who had no way to turn the local cereals into food. Soup kitchens solved the problem having sufficient financial resources to buy grains, also importing it, and then using a better fuel (coal) and better equipment to produce food that could be distributed to everybody, even the poorest. 

Unfortunately, the Irish soup kitchens were dismantled by the government just when they were most needed. We cannot say whether that was done with the specific intent of exterminating the Irish, or just because of incompetence. But as long as the kitchens were operating, people could stay alive. Would we find ourselves in the same situation, in our times? That is, would we need an equivalent of the 19th century soup kitchens in order to survive? 

Jesus Pagán has been reasoning along these lines after having examined the situation with the world's food supply. He proposes an emergency solution to a possible food shortage consisting in part in growing food locally but also processing it locally using a technology that he calls "Foodtopia Termopolios" which has several points in common with the old soup kitchens of mid 19th century. The idea is to cut the really expensive costs of the current food supply system: processing, refrigeration, packaging, and transportation. It means producing and treating food locally, using as little energy as possible. Is it a viable idea? The future will tell us, 


By Jesús Pagán


In the introduction to his 1979 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Prof. Theodore Schultz stated:
“Most of the people in the world are poor, so if we knew the economics of poverty, we would understand a lot about economics that really matters. Most of the poor people in the world subsist on agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture, we would understand a lot about the economics of poverty”
Our society, "thermodynamically blind and deaf", is suddenly discovering a new reality that questions its immediate future. It sees and hears things that it had never seen or heard or understood: Agricultural vulnerability, food insecurity, supply failures, peak oil, melting, droughts, fires, floods, inequity, energy transition, price rises….

Maybe you would like to flee, but where to go? You can leave the urban centres for rural areas, but nothing is certain anymore. The root cause is too much energy consumption:

1 kW energy consumption per capita is now the aim of IEA in the face of the dubious energy transition. It has been talked about for decades: “Basic needs and much more with one kilowatt per capita” was proposed in 1985 by José Goldemberg. But this idea was never put into practive. The reason is simple: in Europe, the energy inefficiency in food system already consumes 1 kW per capita. It leaves no room for other energy uses. Our food system consumes 1/3 of the world's energy and 70% of the planet's fresh water and produces up to 57% of greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, it is the root cause of more than 60% of illness cases. In summary, it poses a deadly risk to humanity.

Years ago, I prepared this image to visualize how the world's population grew with oil. Oil has guaranteed food for the world's population and allowed its devastating growth.

Today, the food system generates consumption equivalent to the entire world oil production. However, the International Energy Agency (IEA, World Energy Outlook 2020) foresees a 50% reduction in oil production in 2025. 

The threat at this time is not the very serious climate change; the great threat is the lack of oil in a global food system that depends vitally on it.

Consequently, the survival of 8 billion people depends on oil. The following graph expresses how oil is the main ingredient in the diet since there is an evident correlation between the price of oil and that of food:

How will we feed ourselves?


What background do we have of this little-debated question in society? We were already seriously warned on the decline in oil (Peak-oil) by Admiral Hyman Rickover's report "Energy resources and our future" in 1957, but never before has the IEA proposed a probable scenario of a 50% lack of supply in production.

In his appearance before the Senate of Spain, Antonio Turiel, a researcher at the CSIC said: “We should equip ourselves, as soon as possible, with the ability to be self-sufficient in food production. We should ensure the supply of water, in drinkable conditions, and the ability to purify wastewater”.

Would it be possible to define the energetic homo? How much energy do we need to be alive and how much energy do we actually consume? All our vital activity, thinking, inventing, loving, getting excited, etc. it is covered from the energy of our diet; On average, this is approximately 2,500 Kcal/day, that is approximately 100 W .

Of this energy, our basal metabolism, and being a warm-blooded mammal, consume 70 W. We only have 30 W left for activity. But on a social level, to maintain our status, in Europe we consume an average of 6,000 w per capita, that is, 60 times more than the energy to be alive: we maintain airports, we travel to the other side of the planet, we drive, we have Formula 1, international sports leagues, we buy what we do not need, eat meat, cruises, Olympics, etc.

The Current Situation

As Juan Bordera Romà says:

“We are before a black elephant in the room. A problem that we all see, or at least most of us, but we hardly talk about it, or how to approach it, especially because of its enormity and its overwhelming nature. Ignoring it makes it gain even more weight, grow by the hour. The indifference and lies we tell ourselves to move on will inevitably end up crushing those in the room” (in this case the planet).

We must avoid the scenario "Who can save himself" described by the International Energy Agency when it contemplates a halving in oil production in 2025. "Who can save himself" is the impression that remains after reading the TEEB report of the UN that says our food systems are broken; "Who can save themselves" is the impression given by the SCIENCE publication arguing that "with this food system, whatever we do, we lose", since by itself, the current food system will increase the temperature above 1.5ºC, if there is no change in strategy.

So, what happens when we go to the supermarket? The source of the problem is that today, in the EU, a High Tech territory without oil production, we consume more than 25,000 kcal to produce a simple average daily diet of 2,500 kcal, that is, EROI (Energy Returned in relation to Energy Invested) = 0.1. Much of those 25,000 kcal comes from oil, the "life energy" of the global food system. That is, of the 25,000 kcal: 7,000 kcal are consumed and processed at home, 3,250 kcal in restaurants and catering, 4,500 kcal in the supermarket, 4,750 kcal in industry, 1,500 kcal in transport, and 4,000 kcal in agriculture (see table below).

This is the evidence for "technology as a systemic destroyer of habitat." When we go to the supermarket and see, for example, a milk carton package (which was packed in a high-speed filler under aseptic conditions from a reel of paper), we don't believe what we see, it's magic! We proudly call that R + D + i. We go crazy with the holy grail of today's society: "TECHNOLOGY." This wonder does not allow our minds to see what is behind it. Scientific progress and technological development hide reality to forget about the by-products (CO2, plastics, etc.) that it produces and the energy inefficiency with which it is processed. What happens when that machine starts filling at 7,000 containers per hour is hidden.

It is not only in the food sector, it is the trend in any industrial activity; we live among the songs of sirens. When we are shopping in the supermarket, where everything is digitized and mechanized, we are not informed that behind our simple diet, there are hidden about 3 kg of oil, which emitted more than 8 m3 of dirty CO2 into the atmosphere, in addition to Nitrous oxide, methane, plastic, paints, glass containers, aluminum, and hundreds of toxic materials, some of which, like microplastics, are already in our bloodstream We use technology in a way that defeats its purpose, which should be to ensure a sustainable and comfortable environment to live in. On the other hand, it has helped to generate on our planet about 8,000 million individuals, an overload in the energy / environmental impact where three-quarters of them live under threat, in eco-social misery, walking towards the Seneca cliff.

In 2008, in an interview with James Lovelock in The Guardian, he was asked what could be done in the face of the climate threat. The reply was: “Enjoy life while you can: in 20 years global warming will hit the fan.” James Lovelock described the eco-social collapse from the climatic perspective but he forgot the invisible enemy that was extraordinarily described in 1906, by Alfred Henry Lewis when he declared: “There are only nine meals between humanity and anarchy”. Climate change becomes secondary when our food depends on oil shortages. Lovelock's phrase should have been: "Enjoy life as much as you can before the decline in oil production causes the collapse of the food system."

The discourse today is the circular economy, urban gardens. It is undoubtedly educational for young people. However, in Leningrad besieged by Germans (and by the Spanish "Blue Division" as well), vegetables were cultivated in public parks, but when winter came there even were cases of cannibalism. The amount of food that can be obtained through traditional farming techniques would inevitably cause a mass exodus to nowhere.

How did we get here?
In 1972, with the report of ("The the Limits of Growth") we should have reacted, now it may be too late.

Today our society suffers the consequences of a poor and common view that food is calories, neglecting its biological functions. Currently we have gone from blessing food on the table to throwing it to the garbage container; and we have forgotten about nutritional balance.

"We are what we eat". Before we did not eat based on calories, we followed a traditional recipe book of formulations and mixtures made from the imagination that gave the famine or the bonanza of the moment, and that moment was impregnated with the energy, environmental, health, cultural, social, economic situation, religious, etc.

The daily practices of feeding ourselves transcend beyond being biological energy, nutrients, pleasures, sensations and are the main cause of the worldwide energy waste, tremendous environmental pathologies, hunger, social exclusion, relocation of resources, an unbearable healthcare expense, identities, individual lifestyles, etc.

Why don't we ask ourselves about these things, which put our lives at risk? Philosophizing is asking, philosophy has shown no real commitment to the implications of diet. We should have given a “philosophical approach to food” that goes beyond a scientific understanding of nutrition, but also beyond a purely cultural, aesthetic vision ... insofar as it takes into account all the various economic, political, animal-ethical, agricultural, industrial, environmental, energy, health, practical and aesthetic daily worldviews of food. In other words, it is necessary to nurture a food philosophical conscience that really studies all the factors about "how we humans eat in the world."

The "great acceleration" that began in the 1960s, produced an enormous expansion of wealth in society, for the first, and perhaps last time in the history of mankind, allowed, thanks to false abundance, a large number As consumers in rich countries, to eat whatever they wanted. Today almost no food practice is prescribed by cultural tradition, religion, class or gender.

The result was a food system that generates up to 57% of greenhouse gases, consumes 1/3 of the world's energy, 70% of fresh water and causes 70% of premature deaths, among others.

Is there information at the institutional level about this food dystopia? 
The most complete study on our way of eating was carried out by the TEEB initiative (Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) promoted by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal from the G8 + 5 Ministers of the Environment meeting in Potsdam, Germany, in 2007, which resulted in the report: “MEASURING WHAT MATTERS IN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SYSTEMS”, synthesis of the results and recommendations of the TEEB Report on the Scientific and Economic Foundations for Food and Agriculture.

It says: “There is more and more evidence that current agri-food systems are broken; "And adds:" If you take into account the food value chain as a whole, including deforestation to clear land, processing, packaging, transport and waste, our food systems represent approximately 43% and 57% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans”.

And even more: “The eco-agri-food value chain significantly affects the SDGs, sustainable development goals, and endangers half of these goals: climate (SDG 13), fresh water (SDG 6), biodiversity and ecosystems (SDG 14 and 15), human health (SDG 3), social equity (SDG 5 and 10) and livelihoods (SDG 1 and 8).

If this is so, how is it that nobody puts his or her finger on the food sore?

Food and health.

Different sources highlight a high percentage of premature deaths due to specific foods (at levels of 60% or more). A meta-analysis carried out by the American Academy of Sciences, a true work of art, shows in two diagrams: one radar and the other Cartesian, the impact of diet from a health and environmental perspective:

Nine of the top 15 global morbidity risk factors are the result of poor diet quality, while associated diseases, including coronary artery disease (coronary heart disease), type II diabetes, stroke, and colorectal cancers, they represent almost 40% of world mortality.

This second graph shows the death rate versus the environmental impact.

The Future

If these figures for our food system are true, do they threaten the existence of the human species on the planet? In fact, it is right. The magnitude of ratio of the energy consumption / greenhouse gas emissions is such that a new report in SCIENCE carried out by researchers from the universities of Oxford (UK), Minnesota, California and Stanford (USA), says: “even if fossil fuel emissions were eliminated immediately, emissions from the global food system alone would make it impossible to limit warming to 1.5°”. They have it clear: “with this food system; Whatever you do, you lose”.

What is really going to happen and when?

We are facing a unusual event, a frontal train crash, The first train: the exponential demographic growth that reached around 8 billion in just 150 years and continues to grow at more than 8,000 individuals/hour. The second train: the exponential decrease in oil and other fossil fuels.

But if the origin of the problem is the food system and at the same time the solution, is it possible to quantify the problem, to put numbers on it? From the energy perspective, when an American, for example, goes to buy his diet at the supermarket, he pays 15 times the energy contained in that diet. For a diet of 2,500 kcal that is equivalent to 4.9 kg of oil. In the EU, it is about 10 times, the world average is 6 times.

These figures include the fuel required by the agricultural sector, transportation costs, retail costs and household energy consumption related to food. Unfortunately, the numbers may be grossly underestimated because the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) study does not consider the cost associated with waste disposal, water supply, and the governance of the food system from related organizations, or the increasing health expenditure induced by food.

If we look back, at the beginning of the 20th century, more calories were delivered than the expense of preparing the land and planting the seed cost (We went from an average EROI of 3 to 5, to the current EROI of 0.1 to 0,06). Nothing can survive those EROIs, life on earth evolved from energy return rates greater than 1.

Foodtopia: a proposal for a solution

FOODTOPIA TERMOPOLIOS is a new local, community food preparation system in the (almost total) absence of oil or other fossil energy sources. The goal is to cook locally produced resources in "Dumbar" groups of prosumers, no more than 150 people, using little energy and bypassing the need for transportation, refrigeration, processing, and so on. It is an urban food system much more sober and less spectacular than the one promoted from the uninformed elitist techno-optimism or the apocalyptic catastrophism of popular culture, but the result is  much more pleasant, fair and less risky than continuing with the status quo. You can learn about this idea at the Foodtopia site


  1. I think that the replacement of horses by tractors was the key moment when agriculture became unsustainable, it meant the shift from a system supported by predominantly local resources to one using distant ones and the enserfment of the farmers to the financial system. The banks are the overlords of farming, this is why I see nothing but corn and soybeans in the fields around my village.

    Changing this will require not only changes in techniques but also a change in mentality, the rediscovery of the Medieval idea that it takes a village to farm properly. Truly efficient farming is very complex, it takes the skills of an organized community. An isolated farmer can’t do it by himself.

    1. Agreed that farming via diesel fueled equipment was the end of sustainable agriculture ... and the end of sustainable fishing, forestry, and really almost everything. And that expensive equipment requires bank loans.

  2. funny how at the end of all that his proposal is... yet another retarded high tech gadget. the real answer is, let things settle back to simpler conditions on their own. follow the Tao, things will sort themselves out. but there is no room in those approaches for self-important saviours of the world to dictate 'solutions' or even worse to derive profit or power from them!

    1. Some Guy, this isn’t a high tech gadget, it looks like a canteen for a communal kitchen which is what the place referred to in the article appears to be. I think that were heading into times when having a lot of efficient communal kitchens is going to be very important for the survival of a lot of the population.

    2. It is, basically, a pressure cooker, with the addition of a good insulation. Not really high tech, but it is powered by a resistor, so it needs electrical power. It can be provided by solar panels. So, in certain conditions it might be a life saver for many people. We are not there yet, but.....

    3. A small pressure cooker (called an instant pot),along with a big battery and a few solar panels works for RV campers, so your big soup kitchen could be mobil, a pop-up trailer.

    4. The human collective Holobiont will do whatever is needed to insure its own survival, it doesn’t belong to the swaggering peacocks that call themselves leaders nor does it bow to privilege. It simply does what it needs to survive. It has changed its outer forms many times, the Roman Empire was one of them which was discarded after it was found wanting. Our current system is simply another that will be replaced by more efficient social organization, but the transition can be sudden and painful. We have something like over half of the population that depends on system for their income, when that goes, improvisation will be required to support them until they learn new skills and habits.

  3. In 1729 Jonathan Swift published a Modest Proposal to solve the food crisis already prevalent in peasant Ireland. The solution was elegance itself: poor people should sell their children to rich gentlemen and ladies. he says: "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout."

    Before people start to get too repulsed, I should emphasize the Swift was being ironic.

  4. The part about unprocessed red meat is so completely wrong, it detracts from an otherwise excellent article.

    1. Exactly so, you are what you eat ate. Unprocessed red meat is far too broad a brush. Grain/lot fed will ail you and the planet; natural pasture is a variable, that ultimately will heal both. Nature never does grasslands without ruminants.


    Interesting piece re cooking with the sun in Mexico and solar kitchens...could be set up on roof tops...for low energy food processing.

    Mexico is still 25% rural, as opposed to 5% in the US, and my guess is that a lot of the rural here are organic and sustainable as are my neighbors, on small plots...still plow with horses/fertilize with the cows/sheep/goats let in after the crops removed...much more likely to survive a food crisis in the rest of the "organized/dependent" world...if they have rain. I feel sane here...not so on the US farms from which I came.

  6. In a podcast, when Joseph Tainter was asked if there was an example in history when a society deliberately reduced level of complexity in order to survive, he replied: "Yes, it happened in Byzantine Empire in the 7th century." I think that it was Chris Martenson asking the question, but I am not sure. I lost the link for the podcast.

    Very few people know that it was the Emperor Heraclius who reformed the state in such way that it removed layers of complexity which were consuming too much energy necessary for survival. With food problem we have the same choice - reduce complexity or die. Food system complexity based on oil has no future and perspective. But we must understand that Byzantine Empire of the 7th century was lucky to have a ruler with clear mind and vision and authority to transform vision into reality. In contemporary western societies there is endless democratic discussions leading to dead ends. Do we have leaders with clear mind and vision? I doubt it. We were warned about limits to growth in early 70s. That was 50 years ago!

    Please note a great fresco painting by Piero della Francesca in the Wikipedia text. It's fascinating that Italians in the 15th century understood the importance of this great Byzantine Emperor but Italians in the 21st century are completely ignorant on that matter. Heracius in fact prevented Persians and Arabs from conquering Europe. Without Heraclius there would not be the Europe that we know today. And for his achievements we should sometimes remember him with gratitude. He deserves it.


  7. Hello Ugo et al.,

    I think a lot about food. At least three times per day. And about energy, of course.

    It is good that we take this topic up for discussion here, with the beautiful vista at the top of the Seneca Cliff. From here we can look backwards and forwards and decide on a slalom-descent among the rocks. It will be a rough ride, especially for those who don't look ahead.

    Some of us who look ahead will feel anticipatory fear and anxiety, which is the disadvantage of prescience. Most people don't worry.

    From a personal perspective, I focus on growing food from trees. Minimal physical input, maximum energy and nutrient gain. Nut trees, fruit trees and vegetable trees. I also trial and sell food trees that I grow out, some grafted, some seedlings. From cooking perspective, I have already an "instantpot" - an electric insulated pressure cooker for low-power cooking of beans. It is great. Insulated pots have been extensively described by Kris de Decker on the Low-tech magazine website:

    When it comes to societal scale and EROI, there is quite some research available. Here in the Netherlands, we had an organic farmer-turned-researcher who presented his PhD a few years back, on how to transform the current production system to an energetically positive system by 2040. Available here: (Supershort summary: more farmers, more horses, very few cows, almost no pigs nor meat-poultry, much more nut trees) Unfortunately, no government policy has changed. This is not the direction we are moving... Even the EU Green New Deal/Farm to Fork is a lame attempt to greenize the situation, far from what is needed.

    One of my friends is an organic dairy farmer. His main input is diesel (4,000l/year) to grow grains and hay and run the farm. The cows produce 200,000 liter milk, and if I get the calculation right, it is EROI about 4. (at producer level) 10% of his milk is sold right at the farm, bought by people who bring their own glass bottles, most of them by bike. If needed, this can easily scale up to 100%.

    On a short term basis, industrial farming is facing an imminent shortage of nitrogen fertilizer. The two largest exporters (China and Russia) announced in October that they would restrict exports for at least six months. At the same time, the nitrogen fertilizer factory here (Yara) closed down temporarily due to high price of fossil gas, which is the main ingredient. Most farmers are hooked on synthetic fertilizer.

    I think this is just a first symptom of the bumpy ride towards a low-energy future. The age of exuberance is grinding to a halt.

    Gardening is intellectually challenging and therefore fun, healthy, rewarding and if you do it with friends, you can have a great harvest party a few times per year. If you haven't started yet, give it a go. You can start today with sunflower seeds and grow microgreens. It takes a week and you will have delicious fresh greens even in the middle of the winter.


  8. You don't need to make flour to eat wheat or any cereal.
    Put the grains (wheat, oats) in water, let them swell overnight.
    In the morning cut the mass, roughly, with a sharp knife over a board or table.
    If you add some meat, fish or vegetables still better.
    The most nutritous food.

    In Turkey it was traditional when a man of a certain age suffered the inevitable loss of erectile powers, to feed him a plate of boiled broken wheat grains and pigeon's breasts.
    Better than Viagra !

    1. That's a good point, Armando. Maybe also useful!!

      Apart from that, also in southern Italy they make cakes using soaked grains. The question I have, and that I can't answer, is why did people go to such trouble as milling grains when to make them edible it was enough to soak them in water for a while? There has to be a reason, because when a problem they had in Ireland was not enough (or not good enough) mills to mill the available grain.

      Maybe someone can answer this question?

    2. Hello Ugo,

      Grains are great, especially when grown in river-beds. That is why river-based grain-driven empires have been dominant throughout world history.

      However, grains like wheat, rye, barley have often moulds in the Fusarium family, which produce mycotoxins. These decompose during cooking, and the smaller the grain fragment size (after milling/crushing), the faster the decomposition.
      See e.g.

      Sprouting (soaking 1 day in water, then keeping moist a day or two so that the seeds start to germinate) is great, since it starts a transformation of starches into sugars. That is the "malting" process of barley that makes the sugars available for beer brewing.
      Oats were also traditionally sprouted before flattened into oat-meal.
      Nowadays, that process step is usually skipped to cut costs and increase margin for the producer.

      In north-west Europe, there are many rye-grain-breads that include whole grains (a.k.a. "berries"), but they need longer cooking time. One example is the pumpernickel, another is the Frisian style rye bread.

      So, to come back to your question: Soaking is a good first step, but not enough. Cooking is needed.
      Porridge is easier, bread is more energy intense.
      A mid-point between the two is the north-China steamed bun "mian bao". Lower energy need than baking bread, but a little more than porridge.

      Bon appétit!

    3. Cooking a broken grain is very fast compared to the whole grain, cooking them is basically to deactivate the anti-nutrients and avoid the toxicity of raw or poorly cooked starches, having produced flours was to have energy, the flour in contact with the water immediately forms a viscous fluid that can be extruded and shaped into pasta, bread, cakes, etc.
      The lowest entropy procedure is the broken grain.

    4. A complicated story. Thanks Goran, thanks Anonymous. I think the Irish knew what they could and what they could not do. If it had been easy to process raw grains as food, they would have done it without the need of soup kitches.

  9. And the emissions from just the food sector are probably enough to heat the planet enough to guarantee poor harvests from the resulting bad weather.

    The Green Revolution of the middle century that "fed the world" came with a vicious cycle of cheap fossil fuel dependence.

    It sure beats starvation, but food now has to reflect the price of the equipment and fossil fuels used to grow and ship it.

    BTW, did anyone ever notice that food and fuel price hikes aren't included in most inflation/cost of living indexes?

  10. In 1861, the revolutionary Irish nationalist John Mitchel wrote that “Potatoes had failed all over Europe, yet there was famine only in Ireland. ‘The almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight,’ he concluded, ‘but the English created the Famine.’

    It was their ideology, not their technology that was at fault. It can’t really be called a famine when a country is growing and exporting more food than would be needed to feed its people. And Ireland was certainly doing that. In fact, during 1847, while 400,000 Irish died of starvation and related diseases, Irish exports of calves, bacon, and ham actually increased.

    Food of all kinds (peas, beans, onions, rabbits, salmon, oysters, herring, lard, honey, butter ) was shipped from the most famine-stricken ports of Ireland to England where people could pay higher prices. When there was a previous famine in Ireland, the ports were closed to keep Irish-grown food in Ireland.
    During the Great Famine, Laissez-faire capitalism was the ideology of the British ruling class. The merchants lobbied against an export ban, fearing a drop in food prices, and there was no ban on exports.

  11. I tried to find Figure 1.19 in the IEA World Energy Outlook 2020 (from ) to have some context and explanations on Observed decline vs Natural decline but it isn't there.
    Would someone have the source of this Figure ?