Monday, June 25, 2012

An Ominous Sign for Developed Economies in Bread



Although a scientist and engineer by profession, I have had deep interests in spiritualism and spiritual practices albeit tempered by scientific wisdom and logic. One of the side effects of this indulgence is that one develops certain symptoms and side effects that are similar to spiritualists of a more rigorous kind. I too have not been able to escape such symptoms and one of these is the reading of signs and occasional prophecy.  

Thus, years ago when I served for a few years as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering in Saddam’s Iraq, I noticed that the population throws away bagfulls of bread on a regular basis. This was before the gulf wars. One of the things that Saddam Hussein used to do to keep his subjects happy, besides the supply of fine European booze at subsidized rates, was the supply of near free bread through kiosks that were littered throughout Iraqi cities. The idea was that no citizen, howsoever poor, should go to bed on a hungry stomach. Booze was never thrown away. It improves on keeping and was consumed to the last drop even on the streets since Iraq was perhaps the only country in the world where public drinking was not illegal. On the other hand, citizens were quick to collect their bags of near free bread even when they did not need it. Soon enough unused bread goes dry and it was quickly discarded to the garbage bin.  Noting this, I had a premonition that this was an evil sign and that it would soon be followed by a period of hunger and poverty in Iraq. It is nature’s way of restoring balance through mechanisms that cannot be scientifically delineated or explained. Any resource that is misused and disrespected is eventually taken away through mysterious mechanisms of our wonderful universe albeit there may be a delay in this enforcing mechanism. It could be that the delay is mercy on the part of nature giving humans ample opportunity to mend their ways.

 I returned to Canada then India well before the gulf war but followed the news on Iraq closely because I had so many dear friends in that country from the years I spent there. I noted with sadness that due to the war, sanctions and the disappearance of Saddam the population was facing hardships and hunger. Even bread had become scarce.

This morning the papers had a report from the United Nations Environment Program that mentioned consumers throw away about 222 million tones of food in edible condition every year in the currently rich countries of North America and Europe. Approximately one third of the world’s food goes waste and most of this wastage takes place in the presently rich countries. It is an ominous sign for the future. Is this wastage a sign of the impending shortages to occur in future? It is true that wastage in Europe began as far back as the ancient Greek civilization that introduced prosperity in Europe for the first time. The wastage was followed by the feasting binges of Rome. In recent years it seems that hunger has entered Athens and has begun to knock on the doors of Rome. Would this spread from here to shores far away or would others heed the warning signs in time.

Another ominous sign that is not difficult to understand scientifically is the adverse future impact of debt on personal as well as national economies. Presently the fixes that Europe is exploring involves taking more debt from elsewhere, China or perhaps by a Euro bond that would initially cost less than a Spanish or Italian bond. The developed economies need to learn from Estonia as to how to run a country without debt and grow. The fix that America is exploring is increasing more unsustainable consumption and perhaps more wastage. Traditional economists, locked into the existing unsustainable model of growth would love to see the wastage and retail sales go up.

 Photo Courtesy of  http://www.public-domain-image.com

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