Local View: We’re Going to Have Dinner Guests

Saturday, September 10, 2016
Lincoln Journal Star
by Tim Rinne

None of us likes to go without eating.

Even Warren Buffett — who claims to be one-quarter Coca Cola from all the calories he daily ingests drinking Coke — has been known to make an emergency run to one of his Dairy Queens when he gets a case of the hungries.

Whether we’re billionaires, ambulance drivers or newborns, we’re biological organisms. We need to eat. Miss just one meal and our blood sugar goes off, our energy level slumps, and we get stupid (and oftentimes irritable).

Hunger is a condition we have no choice but to address every few hours.

For a huge swath of the world’s population, though, satisfying that hunger can be an insurmountable challenge. Food insecurity — not having enough to eat to meet our daily nutritional requirements — is a fact of life for nearly one billion people on earth.

That one out of seven people are either officially hungry or teetering on the edge is a human calamity that cries out for moral action.

But addressing the problem of world hunger is more than a matter of moral conscience. It’s an issue of national security.

Six years ago, in its “2010 Quadrennial Defense Review,” the Pentagon began warning that “Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.”

The very next year, during the “Arab Spring,” civil war erupted in Syria — due in part to the impact of the worst drought the country had experienced in 900 years. With no water to grow food, over a million starving farmers and their families fled to the cities, overwhelming the government’s inadequate social service system, unleashing pent-up political and religious grievances, and engulfing the country in chaos.

And as we all now know, those climate refugees did not just stay in Syria. The influx of a million Syrian immigrants into Europe created a social crisis for the European Union … and a corollary political backlash.

Alas, the Syrian Civil War is just the precursor to the scary new world we’re entering. As global temperatures rise, extreme weather events will more and more become the norm. Droughts, heat waves and wildfires will become more frequent and intense. Super-storms like Sandy and Katrina, and torrential rains and flooding such as Baton Rouge just experienced will become fixtures in this increasingly erratic climate. All of which will make it harder and harder to produce the food needed to feed our hungry populations.

But it isn’t just the Department of Defense that’s worried.

According to a 2009 State Department cable divulged by WikiLeaks, Nestle — the world’s largest food company — is convinced that our global food supply is at imminent risk. “On present trends,” the classified cable reads, “Nestle thinks one-third of the world’s population will be affected by fresh water scarcity by 2025, with the situation only becoming more dire thereafter … Nestle believes that the world will face a cereals shortfall of as much as 30 percent by 2025.”

If four million Syrian refugees can throw the world community into uproar, just imagine two billion hungry and thirsty people pouring over borders looking for food and shelter. It will be anarchy.

Nor is this danger confined to the developing world in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

With the melting ice caps raising sea levels and 40 percent of America’s population living on the coasts, you can bet the farm that our coastal citizens will be moving inland to escape the flooding.

An agricultural state like Nebraska, sitting on top of the largest freshwater aquifer in North America, will be a destination location for these millions of climate refugees. Without our spending another dime on tourism promotion and business recruitment, folks are about to start showing up on our doorstep.

That being the case, instead of mostly growing corn and soybeans to feed livestock for the international market and having our own food trucked in from California, Mexico and who knows where else, our state might want to consider once again growing food for the tables of those of us who live right here …

Because, at the rate temperatures are rising and the polar caps are melting, we’re going to be having guests for dinner.

Tim Rinne is the State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace. He is a co-founder of the Hawley Hamlet, a neighborhood garden in the block bounded by 25th and 26th, T and U Streets in Lincoln.

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September 16th 2016

Lisa good - Excellent article.