The Coming Collapse of Agriculture & Human Survival

By Michael Haughey

May 27, 2014

Adding to the Global Warming tipping points already passed, are a few really big ones that may lie just ahead.  These events could occur before 2040, and quite possibly much sooner, and could be followed quickly by the collapse of the world agriculture system.  One tipping point already passed is the change in the Jet Stream.  We have been seeing the effects of global warming in extreme weather events for quite a few years now.  The reason is even understood to a sufficient degree to lead to further concern.  That is not the subject of this brief article, but suffice it to say that one component is the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the planet, and that has changed the jet stream.  The jet stream changes have resulted in/contributed to extreme weather events.  The more worrisome of the tipping points already passed is that methane under the Arctic Ocean in the shallow waters off the coast of Eastern Siberia has warmed to the extent that huge frozen deposits are now melting and have melted.  I’ll discuss some of the details of that in another article.  The methane release that is occurring now will have a warming effect on earth that is not yet in the IPCC models.  Thus the dire predictions of the just-released IPCC report may turn out to be miniscule compared to what is about to happen.

Related to the methane currently being released is a really big tipping point: it is very likely that there will be a large release of methane from the already melted deposits below the sea surface.  A number of events could disturb these deposits and cause a large release.  A small example of this occurred as a result of a Magnitude 5.3 earthquake on February 20, 2014 under the Arctic Ocean that raised atmospheric methane levels about 25% even down the east and west coasts of Greenland.  Subsequent earthquakes have occurred along the same fault (Gakkel Ridge) including on April 13 and April 22, 2014.  A larger event (earthquake or underwater volcano) is possible that could in just a few days increase the average methane in the Earth’s atmosphere world-wide by a factor of ten.

Another event that will likely occur soon is the total summer collapse of the Arctic ice.  If the predicted El Nino materializes this summer, this could be the year.  Each such event increases global warming resulting in a positive feedback.  In short order there would be runaway global warming at a rather fast pace – unstoppable.

When the scientists state that the collapse of agriculture is in the cards, I’m not sure there is a good general understanding amongst the populations of Earth of what that means.  The increasing cycles of drought, fire, and floods will result in some areas no longer being able to support agriculture.  In time perhaps outdoor agriculture may become impossible everywhere.  This means almost no food for 7 billion people (or more) on planet Earth.  Your imagination can take it from there.  The resulting conflicts, disease, malnutrition, and eventual near-extinction of the human race could become mind-bogglingly catastrophic and horrid.

The point has already been passed where global warming becomes unstoppable.  The current pace of global warming is relatively slow compared to what is likely after a big tipping point is passed.  In either scenario – rapid runaway global warming or present path runaway global warming – we humans have a decision to make collectively.  Humans should have made that decision decades ago, but didn’t.  Plenty of leaders and scientists tried, but to no avail.  The decision is whether to party to the end, or do something about it.  If your decision is to party to the end, then you should be content with how little humans have done so far.  If you believe there must be a way for humanity to survive, then we have a lot of work to do.

The present path runaway global warming is still expected to lead to collapse of localized farming and the movement of arable zones toward the North and South Poles.  In that path, the transition to more indoor agriculture can be slower.   However, the possibility of a rapid transition means we need to be prepared or risk civilization itself.

A lot needs to change, and it will require a lot of “money”.  So the first order of business is to address how to pay for all the needed changes.  Really it is quite simple.  The “hippies” had it right in the 60’s and 70’s – it IS the system.  More specifically, it is the world-wide monetary system whereby most money is now created as debt out of thin air (debt-based money issued by privately owned central banks) which is at the heart of that system.  Since money is issued as debt when loans are made, there is no money in the system to pay the interest on that loan until more and more loans are made in a never-ending upward spiral of debt.  Humans have certain frailties, and one is a weakness for collecting power and wealth even beyond any possible necessity or practical use.  There are a sufficient number amongst us who are sufficiently sociopathic that they will amass wealth and power no matter who is hurt in the process.  They will not even understand that others are being hurt.  A system that rewards this behavior ultimately leads to where we are now – with a huge gap between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us.  We can re-distribute that wealth all we want, and if that system remains in place, a new set of uber-wealthy will emerge and the cycle will repeat forever.

The inherent problem with regard to global warming is that money can’t be spent without incurring incredible debt and that prevents the solution from happening at anywhere near the necessary pace.  The first step in the effort to prepare for runaway global warming is to abolish money as debt in almost all instances (and eliminate central banks) and have governments issue debt-free fiat money and spend it into economies interest-free at the rate that provides full employment without inflation.  Within this new system, economic systems, including regulated capitalism, can create more than enough private wealth for everyone to live comfortably.  Now that money is available to be spent into the economy, communities and governments can decide what projects should be financed.  This is where we come to being able to pay for what is needed to allow humans to survive the coming collapse of agriculture.  In this new system, money becomes simply the hard work of all of us – labor becomes capital.  The only limit to money supply is the available labor.  Money becomes what is should be – merely a medium of exchange and a representation of value.  If two people have labor, time, and talent to devote to a service or product, they have inherent capital that they can trade using the fiat money as a medium of exchange.  Most attempts to make it more complicated than that are often attempts to obfuscate the transaction and take advantage in an unscrupulous manner.  When the government uses debt-free fiat money to pay person A to make Product A, Person A now has money to pay Person B for Product B.  The money is now circulating in the economy and will continue to do so as long as people have time, labor, or talent available.

Scientists probably have a reasonable concept of what Earth will look like after the collapse of agriculture and well into the worst of global warming.  By that I mean temperatures, humidity, storms, and other weather factors.  A prudent approach, therefore, would be to design our buildings and food production systems to be compatible with that future.  If we don’t, we are done.  Growing food outdoors (on farms and in fields) may become nearly impossible with the wild swings from drought to floods.  But we know a lot about growing food in greenhouses and using hydroponics.  We can also build buildings that can withstand the weather and function fully on renewable energy.  The logical course of action, therefore, is to prepare our society and our buildings for indoor food production.  Greenhouses may need to be strengthened in some areas to withstand extreme weather.  Hydroponics will help maximize the use of indoor or protected growing areas.  Renewable energy can power it all, helping to eventually limit the severity of Global Warming in the future.

Another effect of Global Warming will be sea level rise.  It is necessary to prepare for rising oceans in where and how we construct buildings and cities.  We know that all the frozen water on the planet, once melted, would raise oceans by about 220 to 250 feet.  Therefore building within about 300 feet vertically of present sea level should stop, and higher than that in areas subject to possible Tsunami’s.  Building within the 220 ft to 300 ft zone could be achieved if necessary by applying more rigorous construction standards.  Anything below that zone needs a plan for eventual relocation or demolition and recycling.  The timeframe for this transition is not well understood.  The IPCC estimates keep getting higher, but are still in the range of only a few meters by the year 2100.  The models that informed the IPCC, however, do not include any poorly understood or recently learned inputs.  Since that includes the big tipping points just over the horizon, we can be confident that the sea level rise predictions are too low.  That means that the plans for transition of populations away from sea coasts will need a degree of schedule flexibility to accommodate much more rapid sea level rise.

The increase in severe weather and the oscillation between drought and flood will have a negative impact on water quality.  There will be plenty of water somewhere, but it will come in muddy and heavily polluted bursts (floods) in violent storms.  We will need to capture and clean that water.  In some places that will simply be too difficult and those places may end up abandoned.

Since fossil fuel burning is the root cause of the present global warming and also of the worsening of global warming, a rapid conversion to renewable energy, and not nuclear, must be achieved.  Without the burdens of the present debt-money system, this will be much easier to accomplish.  Fossil fuels should not be burned for energy ever – or at least only in extreme circumstances.

We need to focus our attention on buildings, greenhouses, and hydroponics in terms of survivability for a large population of humans – eventually perhaps over 7 billion humans.  Building codes can be changed to allow and even require spaces for indoor hydroponics and greenhouses.  Water can be recycled within buildings using biological filters (basically doing what wetlands do naturally).  Structures, in some areas at least, may need to be very strong to withstand future weather.  Structures will need to last a long time as we may have great difficulty in the future finding and processing the materials to make them.  The present speculative cheap-building trend probably cannot continue, and fortunately will not be necessary under the new money system described above.

Transportation is another topic, however there are still options.  Mass transit will help, organizing communities so that living spaces are closer to work spaces will help, and cars can be made to last longer and be more efficient and to run on other fuels – be they electric or bio-fuel powered.

In Summary, we must first change the monetary system before we can prepare for the full effects of Global warming.  The magnitude of necessary preparations for the coming collapse of agriculture cannot be achieved until we change to a monetary system that can pay the costs without adding the further burden of debt and interest payments.  It should be obvious even from the light sketches above that the necessary changes and adaptations are monstrous and will require all our efforts and creativity.


Recommended reading:

I recommend the following books to learn about the diabolical ways that the uber-wealthy have taken control of the monetary system for their own benefit.  The uber-wealthy will stop at nothing as they continue to extract more and more of the fruits of our labor and enslave us to satisfy their greed.


“Web of Debt” by Ellen Brown


Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth about Our Money System and How We Can Break Free



“The Shock doctrine” by Naomi Kline


The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
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