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The Immorality of Increasing Production in Salmon Farms and the rest of food industry (Part 3)


Part 1      Part 2      Part 3

Corporate food producers don’t generally produce food with the primary intention to feed hungry people. To them, food production is business and the first duty (by law!) of any corporation is to maximise profits for its shareholders, with only one way open to them: maximise production! Unfortunately, non-corporate food producers generally produce to the max as well, just like so many of us work as much as we can, because we have to earn as much as we can, either to make ends meet or to be able to consume, consume and consume. Producing food to the max will feed a few things: it will feed the problem of overpopulation; it will feed the problems that come from overpopulation (such as diseases, degradation of land and the waters, destruction of wild species, global climate disruption, totalitarian wars, etc.); and it will feed the pockets of the corporations, their shareholders and other food producers. Will it feed the hungry? Up to a certain point it will, but the truly relevant side of the story is that the real result will be billions more hungry mouths caused by continued population explosion in already severely overpopulated areas. We keep hearing that it is inevitable that there will be 9 billion humans on the planet by 2050, and that if we don’t produce enough food, all those extra people will go hungry. In reality it is more or less the other way around: the 9 billion will only come to be if food production will first be increased to the level where it can be converted into and then maintain 9 billion human bodies. A minority of those bodies will be well maintained, but the vast majority will be undernourished or malnourished. The minority will become smaller and smaller, and the majority will grow and grow, and the gap between them will become wider and wider.

9 billion people can never live sustainably on this planet. Neither can the current 7 billion. Feeding a population of 7 billion literally requires converting wild nature into ever more food for humans and, eventually, into human flesh. At the moment an estimated 200 species go extinct every single dayi, and the gigantic food requirements of the human population in overshoot is one of the greatest culprits in that crime. It might even be the single largest.

Some believe that 1 billion people can live truly sustainably on Earth if their way of life is truly sustainable, while others think more in the region of a few hundred million or even fewer. Whatever the number turns out to be, any number higher than that is only temporarily possible by eating into and thereby exhausting and destroying the rest of the community of life, on which we ultimately depend for our survival. And raising the numbers of humans above what is sustainable is exactly what Big Agriculture has been doing ever since it emerged. We are eating up and converting into human flesh ever more of what little remains of the rest of the community of life at an ever faster pace. Increasing food production literally is unsustainability incarnate!

170840_10150399241320010_4414446_oIf there is a solution to these problems, it is quite the opposite of what the food industry promotes. If increasing food production only serves the industry itself and leads to so many problems, then could reducing food production remedy those problems? Ideally this would happen by local communities taking food matters back into their own hands, producing what they need to feed the population rather than producing as much as possible to make as much profit as possible. The standard reaction to that is that this would lead to famines, riots, wars and so would come down to murdering millions if not billions of people. Not so! Before totalitarian agricultureii was invented, there were hardly any famines. The utter dependence on just a very small number of crop species and species of livestock made agriculturalists extremely vulnerable to failure of those few species if circumstances were unfavourable. People who depend on wild food may have lean and fat years, but they depend on many hundreds if not thousands of species, and even in years when a few of them fail due to droughts, excessive rain or cold or diseases, there will always be some which still provide food. Totalitarian agriculture was started about 10,000 years ago and global food production has been on the increase since then. Coinciding with that was a spectacular increase in famines, often caused by crop failures, but also by wars and an ever growing gap between those who control food production and those who have to work hard to be able to afford that food. After 10,000 yearly experiments it should by now be clear that each increase in food production has seen only more faminesiii. Naturally a very quick reduction in food production would lead to world-wide famines, but a gradual reduction in food reduction would not have to. And rather than leading to increased deaths, it would lead to a decrease in births through social choices or biological mechanisms reducing fertilityiv. In theory no one would have to die horribly while the population drops. Unfortunately there are two factors which make that very unlikely to happen. Firstly, the food industry and all industries connected to it have nothing at all to gain from reducing food production. If corporations don’t grow, they go bust, and so they will defend themselves at all costs. If reduction of food production will lead to violent deaths, most of them will be caused by the industrial military complex refusing to give up their power and wealth. Secondly, there may simply not be enough time left for a gradual pain free reduction in population size. Is that a reason to not even bother to try, or try our best to make the landing as soft as it can possibly be? I opt for the latter!

Seven billion plus people are now directly or indirectly consuming up the rest of the community of all life. Chief Seattle said: “Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely strands in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.” The community of all life is in collapse as we speak. According to Derrick Jensen “two hundred species per day driven extinct, 90 percent of the large fish in the oceans extirpated, more than 98 percent of native forests destroyed, 99 percent of prairies, and on and on.v” Combine the two quotes, and it becomes clear that we are driving ourselves to extinction by effectively trying to convert all life into human flesh, products for humans, and toxic waste.

Fish farming corporations, especially with their plans for dramatic expansion, are very actively contributing to that process. So now it’s clear. The moral justification for increasing food production turns out to be either a weak excuse or a dirty lie for the sake of the rich of the world to become even richer by profiting from the suffering and the demise of the rest of the living world. Perhaps the saddest thing is that such a pathetically weak excuse has become so widely accepted as gospel. Think of the suffering and destruction that could have been prevented if we hadn’t bought that story roughly 10,000 years ago, when agriculture got going!

But hold on. That’s not all. Fish farming is unlike many other forms of agriculture in some regards. Wheat finds its way to both the richest and the poorest people on the planet, but salmon certainly doesn’t. In the words of Richard Adrian Reese:

Salt water aquaculture is not about producing low-cost protein and reducing world hunger.  It’s about providing highly profitable seafood products to a well-fed (and poorly informed) elite.

It may well be that those high up in the fish farming industry actually believe that food production needs to be increased to feed a growing population. If so, then perhaps they could be excused to some degree for trying to add more food to the global market, but only if their farmed salmon would actually really find its way to the plates of the poor! But that is not the case, of course. Even though farmed salmon is a lot cheaper than wild salmon these days, for all practical purposes it is roughly as affordable to the poorest people on earth as a Rolls Royce is: not affordable at all, not now and not ever! In fact, in a very real sense fish farming takes away the food of some of the poorest people on the planet! The wild fish needed to feed farmed salmon is caught for an important part in the coastal waters of poor nations, thus leaving the people there with waters devoid of the food they’ve always depended on! Rather than feeding the poor, fish farming makes them even poorer, hungrier, and more dependent. But the industry is able to sell its product to the relatively well-off, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Is there a moral justification for increasing production of farmed salmon, or of global food production in general? No, most certainly not. The expansion plan for salmon farming will first and foremost serve to make the fish farming corporations and their shareholders more money and to make them more powerful at the cost of almost everything and everyone else. Are we going to let them do that? Are we even going to continue to hand over our tax money to help them to do it? So far we certainly are! Let’s end that!

iMeaning that in the roughly six weeks it took to write this article (I’m a slow writer!), more than 8000 species are estimated to have gone extinct, never ever to return again.

iiTotalitarian Agriculture is coined by author Daniel Quinn. It is the kind of agriculture where production to the max is the ultimate goal, and where any wild animal which comes in to eat the produced food must be chased off or exterminated, and where every wild plant taking up space which could grow produced food is a weed and has to be killed. In this kind of agriculture the world belongs to civilised humans, and so all the food belongs to civilised humans too. It literally is a war waged against the rest of life.

iv“For example, if a population consists of 1,000 humans and food availability for this population is held constant forever, and allows for 3,000 calories per person per day (holding other vital nutrients constant relative to calorie count), this is a total calorie count of three million calories per day. If the number of people increases to 1,014, the number of calories per person per day is reduced to 2,959. If the same amount of population growth occurs the next year, the population will grow to 1,028. The calories per person per day will then be 2,918. Repeated twice more, the calories available per person per day will drop to 2,879 and then to 2,838. After four years of 1.4% population growth, calories per person per day is reduced by only 162. After a total of nine years, the reduction in calories is only 353, to a level of 2,648 calories per person per day. The impingement of the food and nutrient limitation, although subtle, will eventually serve to curb human reproduction. This may occur through social mechanisms, choice behavior or reproductive biological mechanisms. In other words, halting increases in food production will halt the increases in population by means of a reduced birth rate.http://www.mnforsustain.org/pimentel_hopfenberg_human_population_food_supply.htm


The Immorality of Increasing Production in Salmon Farms and the rest of food industry (Part 2)





Part 1       Part 2        Part3

First of all, many don’t believe that humans are ruled by the same laws determining their population size as bacteria are, or whales or even chimpanzees. After all, many people still think that humans and nature are not only separate entities, but opposing ones, and that humans have learned how to control nature. They will say that humans have free will, and that we can limit our global numbers if we want to. They will even say that this is exactly what we’re doing in the ‘wealthier’ nations where population growth is slowing down while food production is increasing. That argument may seem to hold water if you only look through squinted eyes at one piece of the puzzle, but does it still when you look with eyes wide open at the larger picture on a global scale? No! It is easy tworld-population-growth-graph-smallo see, in past and present, that if food production increases globally, the global population invariably follows suit and increases tooi. First mostly as an effect of converting ever more ‘natural’ land into crop land. When that wasn’t possible any more, methods of extracting more and more from the same bit of land were developed, be it by coming up with crops which do better on poor soils; by bringing in nutrients from elsewhere to enrich that land, first natural organic matter and then petrochemicals and chemicals based on natural gas; or even growing food on artificial substrates.

Still, a little bit of attention to the fact that a few wealthy nationsii nowadays manage to curb the population growth within their borders is warranted. What really happens in these countries is that other factors limit population or population growth before the available amount of food does. There are quite a few factors contributing to this. Sometimes it literally is as simple as the bacteria that would be limited in growth by the size of the petri dish, even if there would still be plenty of food available. In a big busy city with a lack of housing for new families, population growth is almost certain to slow down. And then there is the fact that humans in ‘wealthy’ nations are becoming less and less fertile because their lifestyle is so terribly unhealthy. But one of the most important reasons is actually a trinity of reasons: work, work, work! For some it’s work to be able to barely afford survival, and for some it’s work mostly to be able to buy more cool stuff they don’t need for anything else than out-competing others. We have been turned from humans into consumersiii, and to be able to be the best possible consumer, you have to work as hard as you possibly can. And before you can work as hard as you can in a job where you can make as much as you possibly can, you will first have to spend practically your whole childhood, adolescence, and quite often a good part of your mature life studying! During the past decades people have had ever less time for starting a family, and when they did, they did it later and later in life and had ever less time to actually spend with the family. With both partners often working, many children only see their parents -the two people who should have a pretty large part in raising them- for a few minutes early in the morning, in the evening and for some time during the weekend. No wonder that ever more people choose to have fewer children, or none at all. After all, kids stand in the way of making money, and they cost heaps of money to boot! And what will these kids think about having kids when they grow up? In all fairness, this is the major reason why some nations experience a levelling off of population growthiv. It’s certainly not because people think it’s better for the world not to have many kids! See it in contrast with what are often called developing nations. Here children do not so much cost money to support, but they generate income when they become old enough to be useful. So in wealthier nations children have become a financial burden, while in poor nations they often improve the short-term (!) survival chances of the family.

Despite the reduction in their own local population growth, these ‘wealthy’ nations still do all they can to increase their own food productionv. If not to feed their people, why do they do this? Easy! food production stopped being first and foremost a means of feeding people a long time ago, and it became first and foremost a means of making profit and gaining power. The more food you produce, the more money you will earn and the more powerful you become! Do you doubt this? Do you think the owner of the supermarket you go to chose that career to feed hungry people or to get rich? How about the owners of large food corporations? Or even farmers? In general, with a few exceptions, to the food industry it doesn’t matter at all who is fed with the food they produce, or even if it feeds anyone at all. All that matters is that as much as possible is sold to boost their income!

What happens to the food anyway? First of all, roughly half of what is produced globally really literally doesn’t feed anyone because it is simply thrown awayvi. Hopefully that shocks you to the core, but the food industry doesn’t lose sleep over it at all: their money was made! Some of the food that will not rot away in landfills or contribute directly to global climate disruption by being incinerated will possibly stay in the country where it’s produced, but a good part of it may be transported and sold to nations which do not produce enough food to feed its own population. For clarity, these are not only poor nations! Some “wealthy” nations are net food importers because their own lands are too full of cities or too damaged to grow enough food while some poor and hungry nations are net food exporters because their food-producing land (or water!) is effectively owned by foreign food corporations which ship the food to wealthy nations which can afford a good price for the product! The locals have to make do with leftovers, or may even require food aid being sent in from those wealthy nationsvii! The real problem, as far as explosive population growth is concerned, arises ironically and painfully enough when food is sent to poor nations lacking ways to feed the inhabitants with what the land and water have to offer. Here it wreaks havoc even if it is sent as food aid! It is in these nations that the food produced in or by nations with a declining population growth actively fuels population growthviii! Food aid is not always a free gift. Not rarely it has to be paid for, immediately or in the future with interest, meaning that the receiving nation becomes indebted to the aiding body, be it nation or corporation, with all the long-term disadvantages for the former and advantages in terms of money and power for the latter). The story of trade and im- and export and aid is much more complicated than that, but this is it in a nutshell. For more information on food aid in particular, see http://theafricaneconomist.com/food-aid-does-not-help-africa-it-is-the-problem. The conclusion from all this is that there is absolutely no proof that humans don’t follow the same laws that other species do: an increase in global food production causes an increase in global population, as long as other factors don’t limit the population size.

Another reason that so many have trouble believing that human numbers are bound by the same laws as the rest of life on earth is that some kind of magical thinking has become ‘common knowledge’. Somehow humans have come to believe that the human population can grow first, and only then require food to keep the newly added bodies from starving. That this is a widely held belief doesn’t make it any less ridiculously wrong. It is an impossibility, akin to expecting that the aforementioned scientists’ petri dish can fill up with bacteria even if there is no food available. Do you remember that a petri dish not filling up with roughly the number of expected bacteria based on the available amount of food would (or at least should) instantly be headline news in newspapers worth their salt? Well, a petri dish filling up with bacteria while there isn’t any food there would completely and violently blow the previous headline off the front page, because this wouldn’t merely be biologically so unlikely that for all practical reasons it is impossible; it would actually require the rewriting of some of the most basic natural laws! It would mean that the bacteria can make their bodies out of…. nothing! It is absolutely impossible that bacteria, or any other kind of being, can increase the weight of their population beyond what the weight of the presently available food allows for.

And so it is with humans, too. To make a human body, there first needs to be food available to make the body out of. You can’t make cookies without having dough first, right? The culture dictates how big and thick the cookies can be; how much time and money there is for making cookies, and each culture therefore manages to make different numbers of cookies out of the same amount of dough. Wealthier nations make relatively few children out of the available food, whereas poor nations make as many as they possibly can. In every case the amount of dough is the ultimate deciding factor determining the eventual number of cookies, even if you don’t use it yourself but send it to someone else to make cookies out of! More dough means more cookies and more food means more humans, whatever recipe you follow! Each and every increase in human numbers ever since totalitarian agricultureix was invented was only possible because there was enough food to make the bodies first. The explosive growth of the human population has been caused by a similarly explosive growth of food production.

The third and final part of this  article will be published on Friday 15-3.

iiAs a rule they are wealthy only in name, if you conveniently forget their incredible debts.

iii‘“Consume” means to use up or to destroy. Consumers are not the slightest bit embarrassed by this insulting label.’ ~Richar Adrian Reese in ‘What Is Sustainable’.

ivThis is different from the situation in so-called developing countries, where children are not so much a drain on the money coming in, but contribute to income when they’re old enough. In that case, the more the better!

vNot always within their own boundaries! Colonialism is still very much alive, although it’s in disguise.

vihttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste. You’ll notice that the author of this article thinks that we need food to feed a growing population, too. Oh well..

vii“Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president famously said that “Africans produce what they do not consume and consume what they do not produce.” There have been countries that have seen famine even in times that those countries were net food exporters – Ethiopia, Malawi, and Tanzania are examples but to mention a few.” ~Stocky Hoffmann.

viiiThis pushes the population in those nations even further beyond what food can be grown in the country itself, making them ever more in need of aid, and ever more dependent, and in an ever worsening situation.

The Immorality of Increasing Production in Salmon Farms and the Rest of the Food Industry (Part 1)

_asp0043webMarine Harvest, among other aquaculture corporations, and along with many other food-producing corporations, claims that it is vital to increase production to feed a growing population. This article, which will be published in three parts, explains why the opposite is true.

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

The Scottish government and the overwhelmingly Norwegian fish farming industry in Scotland have decided to dramatically increase the production of farmed salmon. The reasons for this, believe it or not, have a lot to do with the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to a Chinese dissident in 2010, to the great displeasure of the Chinese government. The Nobel Peace Prize originating in Norway has led to a Chinese sanction against anything Norwegian, including farmed fish. First Minister Alex Salmond saw an opportunity and promised the Chinese that Scotland would double its production of salmon for them. Ironically, all this goes on with both parties pretending not to know that the vast majority of fish farms in Scotland are owned by huge Norwegian corporationsi!

Even more ignored is that fact that fish farming of this kind is inherently unsustainable: the industry and governments involved are actively sacrificing the waters and wildlife of western Scotland so that they can make big money by selling an unhealthy product to relatively rich people in China. For more information on the inherent unsustainability I suggest watching Twyla Roscovich’s film Salmon Confidential (www.salmonconfidential.ca) and reading this page before you continue reading what follows: http://www.raincoastresearch.org/salmon-farming.htm.

If you’d ask the Scottish authorities why they want to see mostly Norwegian corporations double production in Scottish waters, most likely they’d claim that it’s obviously good for the economy and GDPii. If you’d ask the corporations, they’d say it helps them maximise profit for their shareholders, which, by law, is their first and foremost duty. Fortunately more and more people are becoming aware that doing things just and only for the sake of money, power and growth is not necessarily the best idea. Some even see that the insatiable growing hunger for more money and power has caused an awful lot more bad than good. After all, ultimately an economy can only grow by converting more of what remains of the living wild world into dead products for profit and toxic waste. And what about the fact that a growing economy these days often goes hand in hand with a growing gap between rich and poor, meaning that it only benefits a few to the detriment of the rest?

And so, if we’d question authorities and industry a bit more critically whether or not this is all really only about the money, they are bound to come up with a certain very moral reason why production needs to be increased. It is a reason shared with virtually all other big food-related industries. It is their moral raison d’être; the justification for them making lots of money. That reason is that increasing production is an absolutely vital strategy to feed a growing populationiii. It follows that in fact it would be inhumane not to increase production!

How great it would be if becoming very rich were merely an inevitable side-effect of doing good! But most people with a bit of life experience know deep down that although there is certainly a link between getting rich and doing good, they are usually negatively correlated. In other words, the more damage your work does, the richer you get. Or, in all honesty in many cases, the richer the person you work for gets.

If you hear something often enough without really thinking about it, perhaps even while being somehow discouraged to scrutinise, you are very likely to start believing it. That will happen even if it isn’t too difficult to see why it’s utterly wrong. It literally is a kind of brainwashing. And so it is with the premise that a growing population needs increased food production. Don’t feel too bad if you bought into it: so do most other people. Even the UK chief scientist, Professor Sir John Beddington, keeps getting it fundamentally wrong when he tries to explain the situationiv, and that while he claims to be a population biology expert! Every so often he appears on the BBC News to tell us exactly what we have learned early on: that we have to do everything possible to grow more and more food. No methods are to be shunned and he wholeheartedly advocates ever more intensive and harmful and less sustainable ways of maximising food production, including the use of genetically modified organisms and highly toxic pesticides. No doubt he’ll be happy with the proposed increase in farmed fish production. Why? Because he expects the global human population to grow to 9 billion by 2050, and we must have food production up to a sufficiently high level to feed them all, right?

Wrong! The argument that food production needs to be increased to feed a growing population is one of the most dangerous myths of this culture we are part of, and it is actually vital not to increase food production! The big bad dangerous faulty idea which has to be tackled to make this clear is that a population can grow without having food available first.

It is ironic that this misunderstanding usually only crops up when humans are concerned, not for any other Earthling, often even including non-civilised humans. For example, when scientists introduce a few bacteria into a petri dish with a certain amount of nutrition for the bacteria in it, they will expect the bacteria to increase in numbers as much as the amount of food allows, unless other factors (like the size of the dish) would limit the numbers first. If they put double the food in a second dish, the population there will reach about twice the numbers of the one in the first dish. That is what is expected and, again, unless other factors limit growth, that is what the result always is: an increase in food availability leads to an increase in the size of the population. A population of bacteria does not decide to keep their population at a certain level while food is still plentiful. Even if some of the bacteria would decide to stop multiplying for whatever reason, even one cheater who would make use of the nutrition that all the others weren’t using to make new bodies out of would be enough to spoil the ideals of the rest. The inevitable result would be that the population would still grow to the maximum number allowed by the amount of food in the dish. See it like this: if bacteria would fail to do this in a petri dish without other reasons stopping them, it would end up on the front pages of even the biggest and most serious newspapers. Even Professor Sir John would be puzzled! And this principle is not limited to bacteria. It goes just as well for a population of ants, whales, roses, grass, oaks, the flu virus, and all others: if nothing else limits the population, it will grow as far as the food availability allows it to. This is widely accepted in science. Even Sir John will have no problem accepting it. In fact, he will consider it common knowledge. Bar for one single species. He wouldn’t believe it to be true for humans. Or at least not for civilised humans. Why on earth not?



iiOn the nonsense of GDP, as I roughly remember the joke from Alasdair MacIntyre’s book Soil and Soul: Two businessmen, an older and a younger one, walk along the street. After a while they see a big dog turd. “Ah,” says the older one, “Here’s an opportunity and a challenge. I dare you to eat this turd, and I’ll give you ₤10.000.” The young businessman thinks it over, and eventually, despite his revulsion, decides it’s too good a chance to miss. He picks up the crap, squeezes his nose shut, and works it down as fast as he can so that he won’t have to taste it too long. “Well done,” applauds the older businessman, “Here’s your 10.000!” While the young man still wipes his mouth with his handkerchief and coughs and discretely spits occasionally, they walk on. Not much later the young man spots another good heap of dog droppings. “Look,” says he to the older man, “that’s your chance to earn ₤10.000!” The challenged businessman reluctantly gets down on his knees and swallows small bits whole to make the experience as unhorrible as possible, and when he finally finishes, he gets up and collects his price. In silence they walk on for some time, the younger man clearly thinking very hard. After some time, having passed several piles of dog exrement without challenging or being challenged, he stops and looks the older man in the eye questioningly. “Hold on,” he says, “Why did we do such a stupid thing? We both did a horrible thing, and neither of us got any better by doing that! We both ate shit, and it achieved nothing!” “That’s where you’re wrong,” Says the older man, “By doing what we did, we managed to up the GDP by ₤20.000!”