Lester Brown Who Will Feed China Study Guide

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 8 October 2016

Lester Brown Who Will Feed China Study Guide

1. Who will feed china looks at china specifically but does so in a way of how things happening in china impact the rest of the world. 2. After releasing the article, china gov’t initial response was a disagreement to brown’s hypothesis. They said by 2025 they would double their grain production so it wouldn’t be a problem. But then grain prices soared and they started to have to import grain so then they asked for brown’s help. 3. People understand that the standard of living in the US could not work for the entire world. 4. The earliest constraints in attempting to make this transformation are food supply.

5. Resource constraints are grain and grain production. As well as water supply and quality. 6. In China, if internal constraints are faced by producers, what solution will the state most likely pursue? They are most likely to import scare resources. Is their historical precedent for such a solution? Japan, Taiwan, and S Korea did this but they have nowhere near the populatoni and people to feed as china does. What impacts can be expected from such an approach both internally and globally? Prices will go up around the world!

7. The gov’t wants to keep prices on grain high enough to keep the farmers on their land but low enough so people in urban areas can afford to eat. Based on your reading of Brown, from the standpoint of China discuss the relationship between industrialization, farmland, consumers, and international trade. 8. 6. In some detail discuss the precise relationships between grain lands and industrialization in China. How does this relate to Brown’s statement that grain production will fall not as a result of agricultural failure, but from industrial success. 9. What is the “wake-up call”? China’s emergence as a massive grain importer will be the wake-up call that will signal trouble in the relationship between ourselves, now numbering 5.7 billion, and the natural systems and resources on which we depend. It may well force a redefinition of security, recognition that food scarcity and the associated economic instability are far greater threats to security than military aggression is.

2. Another Half-Billion Describe the population trends in China between 1990 and 2045. What will the impacts be of these trends on agricultural land? Population will peak in 2045 at 1.66 billion then start to decline slowly. 1990 they hit 1 billion. In Asia compared to Europe, way more people per hectare. And Europe pops have stopped growing while Asia’s go up and up. Population and birthrate declined with the famine but soon got back up again. More people will be depending on agricultural land.

3. Moving Up the Food Chain How does “moving up the food chain” affect agriculture in China? Discuss this in some detail. As people acquire more wealth, they go for more variety in their diet which is usually more expensive and puts more stress on agriculture. This also means consuming more livestock. Much more grain is used, a lot of the time as feed for livestock. Can also be used for beverages like beer, scotch, vodka… and of course breads, pasteries…growth in meat consumption is one of the best indicators of china’s transformation economically. Mostly pork, not as much beef as the US. More meat = more grain needed. Starting to import grain, sugar, and soy/vegetable oil will put pressure on world supplies and increase prices everywhere.

4. The Shrinking Cropland Base What trends are occurring in China’s total agricultural land and why? Cropland is decreasing due to infertile soil, farmers switching to other crops not grain, construction of industry going up in spots where crops once were, and no longer doing multiple crops. What historical precedent exists to understand these trends? In Japan, Taiwan, and S Korea; those countries had dense population and then turned to industrialized nations. Farmland vs. industries. Need more room for housing, highways,(increasing automobiles means more roads, parking lots…) more people more room for their stuff.

5. Spreading Water Scarcity What are the causes? Water use has increased greatly. Due to population growth, irrigation expansion, rising affluence, and industrialization. There are depleting aquifers in northern china. Lots of irrigation to china’s cropland. Very land intensive. Originally came from dams but now it is coming from ground water as well. Farmers need water for their crops, but now they are having to turn to less intensive/profitable crops. Instead of rice they might plant a stable crop like millet, while this uses less water it also is not as good. The increased need for grain import is only going to increase.

They are tapping into ground water, but the aquifers can’t replenish fast enough. Is there any hope? The need for water is only going to increase. Agricultural, industrial, and residential needs are all there. Poor distribution throughout the country. Where there is cropland, there is no water (N. China) and where there is water (Yangtze River) there is not as much cropland. This makes water scarcity even more of a problem. Likely to deline the grain production there even faster. Proposed building a canal to bring water to Beijing but it would be very expensive and cross a lot of rivers and streams.

6. Raising Cropland Productivity Is there much room for increased productivity? They need to increase rice, wheat, and corn production. With new technologies they can do it and have somewhat but there doubt that any increases will be very dramatic. Reached a point where farmers using too much fertilizer so not making as much of a profit, much like what happened with the US. As noted earlier, the central question is whether future rises in land productivity will be sufficient to offset the loss of cropland to nonfarm uses as industrialization progresses. Barring some dramatic new technological breakthroughs, this now seems unlikely.

7. Growing Grain Deficit What was the Japanese experience? Loss of grainland due to land being used for other purposes like industry. Wages climbed for non ag. Jobs and so more people moved into the city and out of rural areas. Causing a reduction in multiple cropping. Results in steady decline of grain production. Japan went down 1% per year. Consumption went up and so did import rates. How could the Japanese experience affect China? China will need to import much of it’s grain if it continues to industrialize. But china doesn’t have seafood it can feed it’s people with. It also has shortages in water that japan didn’t have to deal with. So it china’s impact on the world grain market will be much stronger than japans.

8. Competition for Grain What might world markets look like in the near future? Price of grain would rise, but even if it doubled china would be able to pay for it. However there isn’t enough grain available to supply them with of all countries put together. Consumption would likely decrease around the world.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 8 October 2016

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