One of the images that struck me the most in the movie HOME by Yann Arthus-Bertrand is when witnessing the declining levels of rivers and water tables. Only to learn that the water feeds oranges or other fruits. In order to increase the level of hard currency reserves, the water of many rivers or lakes has to be shipped away through oranges, avocados, fruits and so on.
Indeed, you can apply it to so many other examples; avocados to be exported for the sake of increasing revenues in hard currencies, potatoes to be exported for the sake of increased revenues in hard currencies, kiwis to be exported for the sake of increased revenues in hard currencies, fancy tropical fruits to be exported for the sake of increased revenues in hard currencies, and I can go on and on.
That aha moment was a shock for me. All of a sudden, I started to see any field of fruits or produce anywhere in the world, as a displacement of water. When I take the train here in France and look out through the window at the landscape, all I see are these vast farming fields that are just water to be shipped away far to other lands in the world. And all that displacement of water has only one single goal: to increase revenues in hard currencies in order to improve that country’s ability to pay for its oil or gas bill.
No wonder food production and agricultural production is going through massive standardization for the sake of increased profits and efficiencies. That is reflected in the form of larger and larger farms all around the world. Large-scale land acquisitions are indeed on the increase in the last few years. This race towards the creation of larger commercial farms at the expense of smaller facilities is indeed hurting smaller communities. Many of these projects are initiated precisely to create more efficient channels of exports that will bring larger revenues in hard currency. At the same time, these larger farms have a tendency to impact the distribution of water to smaller communities. Indeed, while the larger farms expand their footprint, smaller communities then find it harder to cohabit and access water supplies. Hence the need for entire populations to move and migrate.
You see, there is a chain of cause and effect between all these moving pieces, from reserve currencies to food production. From food production to water supplies. From water supplies to climate change. From climate change to migration. From migration to war. On and on and on. And so goes the cycle.
Frankly speaking, our economic thinking right now is much closer to the Confucius warning centuries ago.
“When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger” ― Confucius
And I must admit, we’ve all been acting like imbeciles all these last decades and centuries, trying to act smart, when the broader picture is a lot bigger.
That’s what I wanted to share with you.
Let me know if you have questions and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to comment.