The Dust BowlFamine — a severe short­age of food, as through crop fail­ure or over­pop­u­la­tion. (“famine.” Collins Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary — Com­plete & Unabridged 10th Edi­tion. Harper­Collins Pub­lish­ers.)

More than mere­ly a short­age or high­er prices, “famine” is the extreme low end of scale. It is a sys­temic prob­lem, not mere­ly a mat­ter of poor dis­tri­b­u­tion or lack of the usu­al choic­es on the shelf.

I don’t know why but that word “famine” has been re-occur­ring in my mind of late.  My local super­mar­kets are still quite full, prices aren’t too bad, some good spe­cials every week. But the word keeps pop­ping into the fore­front of my mind.

Amer­i­can hasn’t expe­ri­enced famine con­di­tions since the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930’s. And even then it was more local­ized in the spe­cif­ic regions of the Dust Bowl. The major cities and sur­round­ing regions were much less impact­ed.

The Dust Bowl was the result of a series of nat­ur­al events as well as many years of poor farm­ing prac­tices lead­ing to the dis­as­ter. Nat­ur­al events keep hap­pen­ing. The mas­sive floods and tor­na­dos of the West and South right now (as of writ­ing this) will cer­tain­ly have a very neg­a­tive impact on food pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion. I’m not pre­dict­ing a famine because of these events but it will put more stress on Amer­i­can food sys­tems.

Any break­down in social order or pro­longed wide spread civ­il unrest can also dis­rupt food pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion lead­ing to a famine. If farm­ers can’t har­vest their crops, or can’t get it to the dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters and fac­to­ries, or those DC’s can’t get the prod­uct to the stores the result is the same. Worst still, if the food just sits on the farm or sits on load­ing docks rot­ting because of logis­ti­cal issues, it’s just as bad.

An attack or ter­ror­ism or oth­er offen­sive event can also result in a famine. In a book I read about a “lim­it­ed” nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. the first win­ter after the war famine was wide spread. Not because of the attack itself destroy­ing or con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing food but most­ly due to the pro­cess­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tems were so bad­ly dis­rupt­ed (as well as a wide spread loss of elec­tric pow­er and fuel for vehi­cles)  food sim­ply couldn’t be processed and sent to the major pop­u­la­tion cen­ters.

And as we have recent­ly seen (as of writ­ing this arti­cle) the weath­er can dev­as­tate oth­er­wise qual­i­ty farm and food pro­duc­tion land that may take decades to recov­er from.

“Famine” may be an old word not heard in the U.S. any more. But there is a say­ing “What’s old is new again.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email