It’s a daunting concept, and this article from the Economist throws a lot of those sorts of statistics at us. Ethanol is sucking up our corn supplies, Asia is consuming too much meat, and we’ve got to produce 500 years’ worth of grain in under 40 in order to sustain a projected population of nine billion. It’s a dark sort of future that the Economist presents, and it makes me want to fall off the face of the Earth more than a little bit.
I go through funny little phases where I quite sensibly (but very unproductively) lose all my little hope for humanity and its future here. For someone with an apocalypse-prone sort of mind, this class isn’t always conducive to absolute serenity. Sometimes, when we talk about food shortages, epidemic obesity, hypodermically tenderized meat and the one-billion-thick slabs of hunger and heart disease that bookend the global population, I panic. I don’t want to live to see the end of the world. Food riots, starving babies and other stirring bits of pathos of the kind one is likely to see in an Oxfam ad, frighten me more than a Republican majority in the Senate, more than the bloodthirsty gorillas which sometimes still wake me screaming and sweating in my bedsheets. It’s because I feel responsible, and the minute I start to think about these things, the guilt comes crashing down. And I think that one of the myriad reasons that this situation might have gotten out of hand is just that. It’s scary, it’s no fun to think about, but it’s also guilty. Irresponsible consumption is something we talk about a lot in America, and it’s gotten so that you can basically buy your wrongs away by spending lots more money on local, or organic, or vegetarian, or whatever. Kind of like planting trees to offset your trip to Bali, it’s the easy way out and consumer self-esteem doesn’t bear much examining of it. So ignore it. You’ll never meet those starving babies.