Food, Famines and Weather

“Famine has haunted humans for most of our history.” Viv Forbes

“The cold Middle Ages in Europe were haunted by famines.” Ibid

“In 1235 A.D., 20,000 people died in London and people ate horse flesh, bark and grass.” Ibid

Are We Fostering Food or Famine?

By Viv Forbes, AmericanThinker, June 5, 2018

Famine has haunted humans for most of our history.

In the days of the Pharaohs, whenever the Nile River failed to flood, Egypt starved. Joseph was called in and he organized stockpiling of grain for famine relief.

Even mighty Rome suffered famines – in 436 BC thousands of starving people threw themselves into the Tiber.

Victims of the Great Famine of 1876–78 in India (British Royal Photography Services).

The cold Middle Ages in Europe were haunted by famines. In the 11th and 12th century, famines averaged one in 14 years. Even in England there were 22 recorded famines in the 13th century. In 1235, 20,000 people died in London and people ate horse flesh, bark and grass. There were great famines in India, Bengal, France, China and Russia.

In more recent times, man-made famines were more common in the Comrade Societies – some wit once remarked that “Soviet agriculture has just suffered its 23rd consecutive year of unseasonal weather”. Some famines were deliberate policy such as Lenin’s liquidation of the Kulaks in 1918 and Stalin’s starvation of Ukraine in the 1932-33, while other dictators like Mao in China and Pol Pot in Cambodia caused famine with destructive collectivist farm policies.

Famines eased in Europe and North America from about 1860, partly because crops improved with warmer weather and also because of the great increases in land opened up in the Americas for farming and grazing.

But the biggest expansion in food production started with the invention of the coal-powered steam engine – the iron and steel smelted with coal, and the engines, generators and machines powered by coal and then oil, created a food and population explosion.

First were the steam-powered traction engines which pumped water and pulled iron ploughs, planters, harvesters, freight wagons and forest logs. Millions of crop-eating draught horses and oxen went to the butchers and no longer consumed half of the farm crops produced.

Then hunters armed with carbon-powered gunpowder decimated the wild herds of bison, antelope and deer grazing the prairies of the Americas, replacing them with barbed wire and beef cattle. (Most people today probably disapprove of such species slaughter; but it happened, and the food produced on that land now supports farmers, towns and millions of people.)

The cumbersome steam tractors were replaced by internal combustion engines burning kerosene, petrol and diesel. The model T utility and Fordson tractors created another farming revolution with more food produced with fewer food-consuming draft animals and farm laborers.

Fordson Tractor (via Wikimedia Commons).

Coal-powered trains and petrol-powered trucks and buses moved food, and motorized artillery, cavalry, baggage trains and ambulances moved armies. Millions of ever-hungry and ever-thirsty horses, mules and oxen were removed from the food and water queues.

Australian Light Horsemen, 1916.  Source: Fred Horsley collection  (

The vast crop-lands which had been used to produce food for draft animals now produced meat, eggs, milk, butter and grains for humans. Metal hay sheds, cold rooms and silos allowed farmers to store farm produce for droughts and winters. Engines were soon powering refrigerated trucks, road trains (below), trains and ships that moved food quickly from farms, factories, abattoirs and mills to refrigerated storage in distant cities, thus greatly reducing the amount of food wasted. (But some stupid/green French politician wants an end to the internal combustion engine by 2040, and some foolish Australians want to put a carbon emissions tax on vehicles.)

Australian Road Train.  (Image via Pixabay.)

The next revolution in food production was the discovery and manufacture of nitrate fertilizers and urea using the natural gases nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. These fertilizers, assisted by vast irrigation schemes, gave a huge boost to crop growth.

This stunning food revolution based on combustion engines, hydro-carbon fuels, natural gas fertilizers, irrigation and refrigeration has banished famine from the first world.

But every system has its limits. Famine is always just a season or two away. It bides its time, waiting for a failure in the complex carbon-fueled agricultural, transport and storage network that supports every city.

When hunter-gatherers experienced food shortages, they followed the rains, scavenged for food and largely survived. When farmers and fences replaced hunter-gathers, they cultivated large areas of land to grow grasses and grains for poultry, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. This created a huge increase in food production, but it also tied the farmers to the land – when drought struck, they could not follow the storms.

As farming grew, so too did the dependent cities of factory workers, merchants, tax collectors, rulers, bureaucrats, policemen and soldiers, none of whom produced food. More recently this hungry overhead has been joined by a growing army of welfare and aid recipients, political immigrants and refugees. However, when drought or severe cold threatens the food supply, the cities cannot move away.

Just one thing is now required to create a modern famine – widespread crop failure.

What causes crop failures? Unsuitable conditions in one or more of just three key atmospheric conditions: temperature (unseasonal frost, snow or heat); moisture (extreme floods or droughts); and carbon dioxide (too little to sustain healthy plant growth).

The Little Ice Age ended around the start of the 20th century. Today’s warm climate is very farm-friendly and tends to have most effect on the cold lands of the northern hemisphere, thus increasing the acreage and productivity of the vast crop lands there. Warmth also drives moisture and carbon dioxide plant food out of the oceans into the atmosphere, creating a much more crop-friendly environment. The extra moisture shows up as more precipitation and the extra carbon dioxide we see today makes plants grow faster and stronger. Extra warmth, moisture and carbon dioxide help greatly to increase crop yields and banish famine.

Earth’s climate is always changing, and there is significant evidence that we are past the warm peak of this climate cycle and are on the road to the next advance of the ice.

Every source of climate information in the Northern Hemisphere shows that the Earth experienced the warmest climate of the last 100,000 years about 6,000 years ago and since then (especially over the past 4,000 years) the Northern Hemisphere has been experiencing a gradual cooling.  That does not mean that each century is colder than the one before, but it means that each millennium is colder than the one before.

–John Kehr, “The Inconvenient Skeptic

Global cooling is a dire threat to world food supplies.

First the frosts and snow come earlier and stay later – the growing season gets shorter. Then winter snow persists into summer, ice sheets and glaciers advance and boreal forests and tundra invade grasslands – the great northern crop lands are forced to move south. The cold also reduces evaporation from oceans, lakes and streams, thus reducing rainfall. Growing ice sheets cause falling sea levels, dewatering coastal fish farms and breeding grounds. And, in the final blow, cold oceans and lakes absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, further reducing plant growth. Icy eras reinforce all three crop destroyers: cold, drought and carbon-dioxide starvation.

In addition to climate dangers, foolish green zealots in the comfortable western democracies are also nibbling away at the area of land and sea allowed for harvesting food.

They are also seeking global powers in an anti-life campaign to encourage global cooling by reducing the carbon dioxide content of Earth’s atmosphere. Luckily their costly anti-carbon goals will have no effect on the grand cycles of global climate, but they will harm the cost, capacity and reliability of our complex energy-dependent food production storage and distribution system.

The Green energy they idolize is intermittent and unreliable – it breeds network instability and power failures.

The fierce dog of famine is tethered outside the city gate. Our abundant supplies of reliable energy for the production, harvesting, transport, processing, storage and distribution of food have kept him at bay. But still he waits patiently for foolish politicians or dreadful weather to let him loose.

Just one decent regional blackout will empty supermarket shelves and create long queues at every service station; two frigid winters will see food prices soar; and a return of the Little Ice Age or worse will see starvation stalking the cities.

Greens are inviting famine, humanity’s ancient enemy, into our cities via the green door.

Further Reading:

Steam Traction Engines:

Climate change (they mean global warming) may increase arable land:

Climate Change (they mean global warming) should help corn production:

Henry Hazlitt: “The Conquest of Poverty”

Cold caused the Permian Mass Extinction:

Green Europe may be on the Verge of Blackouts:

To The Horror Of Global Warming Alarmists, Global Cooling Is Here:

Speculative climate chaos v. indisputable fossil fuel benefits:

Viv Forbes has an applied science degree and a life-time of experience in Australia’s great primary industries, agriculture and mining. He holds shares in a small Australian mining company exporting coal to Asia, and now earns intermittent income from economic research and breeding meat sheep.




One thought on “Food, Famines and Weather

  1. masandsblog says:

    Thank you, Mr. Noebel, sir. I have never seen this all so clearly. Though you broke my heart by it all (i.e. my first realization of why the animals HAD to go) , I do see the progression to safety-from-famine in it all. I’m pretty sure, though, that the saved-eternally among us have not much longer to be concerned about it all (i.e. the Rapture) , but, just in case, it is again another area of thankfulness to give to God for listening to so many of us plead with Him according to II Chronicles 7:14, and responding by putting Mr. Trump on our President seat in the nick of time. And a nudge to keep praying fervently for His protection and leading of Mr. Trump.

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