Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 27

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE MF: Betraying my old school nature, the quote from the old punk group, the Dead Kennedys, was, “Give me convenience or give me death,” playing on Patrick Henry’s liberty one. And that is one of those competing values: “I want to be able to buy anything I want whenever I want without spending a lot of money.” Well, that leads to some of the situations that you know about that have been described as part of the panel. And that creates our food supply. We’re confronted as well with the fact that there will be nine billion brothers and sisters, fellow human beings o n this planet just a few years down the road, a couple decades from now, by 2050 at least—it might be a little sooner—nine billion people who all want to eat. The nerve of them! In order to provide them with enough to eat, we need to grow more food. But, we’re not making any more land, except for a few sand islands in Dubai and a volcanic one around Hawaii. But you can’t grow food on that yet. So unless we stop development tomorrow and don’t give any more places for those nine billion people to live, we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do with what we have to produce more food. So the tension comes up for folks for whom the value of protecting and stewarding the environment is pretty high on that value and priorities list: How are we going to do that without cutting down more of the rainforest in Brazil? How are we going to do that without putting more environmentally sensitive land into agricultural production? How can we do that without more pesticides? Well, for some who are willing to consider all of the questions, that’s leading to science and technology, genetic engineering or otherwise, as something that has to be considered even in that breakdown of where the priorities are. So, those dilemmas that Thomas Malthus talked about with his Malthusian economics, needs to be considered now in the similar but different context that we’re entering into. Right now, one in eight of our brothers and sisters is hungry almost every night, about eight hundred million people in a population of seven billion. So, where are those priorities when we can have what we want and they can’t? SK: I guess that eight hundred million is also the estimated number of people that could be fed off the grains that are harvested to make into biofuels or fed to animals instead of being used to eat. When you feed grain to an animal, you lose about 90 percent of the caloric value. So ten pounds of grain fed to a cow would produce roughly one pound of beef. Something like that. And increasingly, production of biofuels from corn and soy has replaced food production. Biofuel requirements and farming subsidy laws are passed, and you know that immediately gets very politically polarized in this country. There are a lot of fringe ideas that make it into our political arena on all sides. And we often seem to forget that growing grain takes a lot of water. But it is worth saying that eight hundred million people is also the best estimate I’ve seen of the additional number of humans that our grain crops 24