Something About Earth Day

15 11 2010



Earth Day is perhaps one of the best successes accomplished by the proponents of sustainable development (until it was partly commercialized). Earth Day is supposed to serve as a perennial reminder to human beings of the value of sustainable development and what our roles are as stewards and caretakers of this planet, at the same time, it is supposed to be a celebration and appreciation of Earth’s beauty.


But since its recognition in 1970 as an international event, Earth Day has served as an underscore of the world’s growing economic and environmental problems. All these issues are highlighted every time this time of the year comes. One aspect I would like to discuss and relate with current issues is the “shortage of rice” which is apparently worldwide.


This current issue has reminded me of one of the most criticized thoughts of all time – the Malthusian Theory. This theory simply states that “Man will breed himself to hunger [extinction].” Is this true? Will man sooner or later outnumber the resources of this planet and eventually deplete everything? And his absurd solution is the occurrence of pestilence and war so as to reduce population thereby lessening consumption.


In the way things are going right now, it would seem that this theory is more real than ever. The “rice shortage” that the country is experiencing is coming to a toll so much so that it affected all other aspects in the society. The “shortage” has caused more political turmoil and likewise made economic life harder for everyone most especially the common tao. It had caused a domino effect in the local market as its price skyrocketed all the prices of other commodities skyrocketed. Unfortunately the domino effect cannot be transmuted towards the wage board. And it would seem that the only way to curb consumption is to reduce consumption by either lessening individual consumption or reducing the number of consumers.


But come to think of it, is there really a rice shortage or food shortage  for that matter? I really refuse to concur with Malthus or with any “doomsdayer”. I strongly believe that this planet can sustain human life until kingdom comes. We do not have to wait for a major war or another Black Death to significantly reduce the population just to have food for everybody. The real problem lies in the distribution of wealth and resources. The cartelization of major consumer products has led to a choke point to the flow of goods to the market. Rice, for instance, is not really a commodity that is scarce. The world, as of current IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) statistics, has produced 645 million tons of rice (since April last year). My rough calculation displays that there is about 80.625 kilos of rice available for each human being (consumable for one year). So if there are five members in a family then there is about 400 kilos available for them in a year. Note also that not all human being have rice as their staple food so there is really more than enough for a Filipino.


But where have all these rice gone? Again, we look at the question of proper distribution. These goods are not made accessible for everybody. The same is only accessible to those who can afford it and the others are left behind with no food on their plate. So even if there is actually enough for everybody, these resources are stocked somewhere until they are bought. The truth is, there is more than enough for everybody. The world produces more than it consumes, there are surpluses in production. It is just a matter of making those in control of the modes of production provide a fair scheme in the distribution of goods and services.




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