Eating the Kids’ Food Inheritance

February 9, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

It has become fashionable for people to say that they are going SKI ing (acronym for Spending the Kids’ Inheritance), often by taking equity from their house and spending it on holidays etc.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, they earned it or more likely gained it through house price inflation.  Now though, governments are taking on unimaginable amounts of debt that is in effect stealing from our children’s future and bequeathing them a less prosperous life.

Yes, our children could probably cope with less prosperity, but they will struggle to deal with inheriting an Earth with a changed climate and food production system dependent on the use of resources that have been depleted by previous generations.

The twentieth century started with 1.5 billion people.  We are now close to 7 billion and will pass 8 billion around 2028. This has been possible only because we found ways to convert cheap, plentiful fossil energy in to food energy. On average it now takes about 10 fossil calories, in the form of oil and gas to deliver 1 calorie of food energy.  As these resources are finite, they must become scarce and expensive at some time and then the fossil energy based food system will fail, resulting in famine.

The present food system also consumes vast amounts of mined phosphate and potash fertilizers instead of recycling nutrients back to the soil. Ancient aquifers are being depleted to irrigate crops in dry areas. Many of these aquifers, from America to India are close to empty.

How will future generations judge us baby-boomers, the babies born in the post- second world war years when soldiers returned home and birth rates in the West shot up?  We lived through a period of relative peace and unprecedented prosperity. We enjoyed the swinging sixties, travelled the world and ate and drank in a way that kings would have envied.  In so doing, we plundered and damaged the Earth and built up massive debt.

The thing that they will be unable to understand is that when we realised what was happening we were unwilling to change. We want to live as we do a little longer and to hell with the kids. Some people would call it Gordon Brown mentality.