The Real Dangers of Income Inequality – Starvation Literally!

As a preamble to this article, it is appropriate to discuss why we don’t collectively sense the danger of income inequality. The developed world, and especially the US, has never experienced such a gap between the rich and poor. In addition, the top ½ of 1% control the most wealth that the elite, as a percentage of wealth, have in the history of civilization and still we do not rise up against these systemic rapings of our collective labor and lives.

Is it because we still believe if we work hard and do the right things, we will somehow magically make it to the top? It is impossible to do so now because the game is absolutely rigged against just that, well, with maybe the exception of winning a mega lottery. Yet somehow we cling to the hope. It is time to get real here. The last bastion of any semblance of not being a total economic slave is access to the food and water we need. Well I got some bad news for you.

The world’s food supplies are at risk because farmland is becoming rapidly concentrated in the hands of wealthy elites and corporations, a study has found. Small farmers, the UN says, grow 70% of the world’s food but a new analysis of government data suggests the land which they control is shrinking every year as mega-farms and plantations squeeze them onto less than 25% of the world’s available farmland, says international land-use group Grain. These mega-farms are less productive in terms of amount of food they produce per area of land, the report argues.


“Small farms have less than a quarter of the world’s agricultural land – or less than 20% excluding China and India. Such farms are getting smaller all the time, and if this trend persists they might not be able to continue to feed the world,” says the report which draws on government statistics and calls for a stop on land grabbing by corporations.

The report suggests that the single most important factor in the drive to push small farmers onto ever smaller parcels of land is the worldwide expansion of industrial commodity crop farms. “The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing,” it says. The land area occupied by just four crops – soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane – has quadrupled over the past 50 years. Over 140 million hectares of fields and forests have been taken over by these plantations since the 1960s – roughly the same area as all the farmland in the EU.

“What we found was shocking,” said Henk Hobbelink of Grain. “If small farmers continue to lose the very basis of their existence, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself. We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems.”

Big farms have been getting bigger nearly everywhere with rising numbers of small and medium-sized farmers going out of business in the past 20 years, say the authors. Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and Norway in Western Europe have each lost about 70% of their farms since the 1970s while Bulgaria, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia each lost over 40% of their farms from 2003 to 2010. Poland alone lost almost 1m farmers between 2005 and 2010.

But the concentration of land ownership is seen on every continent. Argentina lost more than one-third of its farms in the two decades from 1988 to 2008. Between 1997 to 2007, Chile lost 15% of its farms with the biggest farms doubling their average size, from 7,000 to 14,000 ha per farm. The United States has lost 30% of its farms in the last 50 years.

The report also found that small farmers often twice as productive as large farms and are more environmentally sustainable. “Although big farms generally consume more resources, control the best lands, receive most of the irrigation water and infrastructure … they have lower technical efficiency and therefore lower overall productivity. Much of this has to do with low levels of employment used on big farms in order to maximize return on investment.

In addition to driving small farms out of business, giants like Monsanto are controlling access to seeds for crops and even has gone to adding a “terminator” gene to the seeds so once purchased they can only be used for one crop and will not produce viable seeds for future crops. Food scarcity, mostly controlled as a market demand mechanism, by these large producers, has driven the price of food globally faster in the last five years than any other time in our history.


Why This Should Concern Us All

These same mega corporations are trying to take control over water, as well. During 1999, Monsanto launched a new water business, starting with India and Mexico since both these countries are facing water shortages. Monsanto earned revenues of more than $420 million and a net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water business in India and Mexico. By 2010, about 2.5 billion people in the world are projected to lack access to safe drinking water. At least 30 per cent of the population in China, India, Mexico and the U.S. is expected to face severe water stress.


Four dollars for a gallon of gas is ridiculous enough, but $4 for a gallon of water could someday became a reality, that is, if oil tycoons like T. Boone Pickens and water bottling companies have their way. Privatization of water in which companies control the public’s water sources and free water appears to be what Pickens and corporations such as Monsanto, Royal Dutch Shell, and Nestle are banking on to increase their vast fortunes.

Companies, brokers and billionaires are buying up groundwater rights and aquifers. Groundwater is necessary for agriculture and more water is needed to meet a growing demand for food. Many countries have already over-pumped their groundwater to feed increasing local populations. Combine this with climate changes and an ever-increasing strain on water resources due to a rapidly growing world population and you have got a future where water is called “blue gold” because of its scarcity and high cost.

Bleak future

The Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development estimates that half the world’s population will reside in areas with significant water stress by 2030. According to a government report entitled Global Water Security, the demand for water will be 40 percent above sustainable water supplies with needs around 6,900 billion cubic meters due to population growth. By 2025, the world’s population will likely exceed 8 billion people.

Private corporations already own 5 percent of the world’s fresh water. Australia is an excellent example of a country already suffering from multiple water droughts. Farmers are selling water rights to brokers, unaware of the long-term effects.

The United States is by no means immune to these plots. Royal Dutch Shell owns groundwater rights in Colorado and oil tycoon Pickens is buying up all he can in Texas. He owns more water than any other person in the U.S. His plan is to sell the water he owns, around 65 billion gallons annually, to Dallas and other major cities affected by droughts. Pickens hopes to profit off of desperation, saying “There are people who will buy the water when they need it. And the people who have the water want to sell it. That’s the blood, guts, and feathers of the thing.” He also owns a massive wind farm in the area and natural gas resources, but has admitted that he is no environmentalist, only an entrepreneur who goes where the money is.

Stopping the madness

The public might not even be able to rely on the government to do the right thing and protect everyone from private water owners buying up all the water and then selling it for as much as people are able to pay. Lawmakers in most states did not foresee water privatization because water was once plentiful. As such, in some cases the only people who legally have a right to stop water privatization plans are the people who reside on the water property. For Pickens and his land near the Ogallala Aquifer this means that he, his wife and three of his employees are the only people who have a say in his privatization plans, according to

The only way people can fight this despicable process is to refuse to support it. Water districts across the U.S. are refusing to purchase water from private companies. If Pickens, Monsanto and others have no one to sell the water to then they will give up. They are only in it for the money. No buyers means no profit.
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Can’t BE You Say, Well..

Let’s follow up now on the water war in Detroit. So far this year, the water utility has shut off the spigots to 17,000 customers. It wants people to do pay their overdue bills. Many residents are upset with how the city is doing this and ask if some are getting special treatment. People are going thirsty in Detroit, a city with more direct access to fresh clean water than virtually any place in the world. That irony shows up in numerous ways. Here at the Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center, Helen Moore has been passing out bottled water to neighbors. She does that in between mopping the floors here because this building’s pipes are constantly leaking.


There is no big public outreach campaign to warn people that massive shutoffs were coming, no consideration of whether children or seniors lived in a home and no amnesty program like the city ran when it recently hiked rates on parking tickets. That led activists here to petition a United Nations panel, which later declared the shut offs a human rights violation if they affect people truly unable to pay. This fight is also about who owes money to the water department but hasn’t had their water shut off. Put both GM and Chrysler on that list, both owed millions, though Chrysler has since paid up and GM is disputing its bill. Even the city of Detroit itself owes more than $20 million for its municipal buildings, though it’s paid almost 4 million and the rest of the bill is under review. And Michigan owns almost $5 million for the former state fairgrounds. Though state officials say that Bill was caused by leaky pipes, they shouldn’t be responsible for. But critics point out that other customers, like the Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center, aren’t given that same consideration. Detroiter Cynthia Johnson says the effort to create a new Detroit in bankruptcy court has dumped a lot of issues on what some might call the old Detroit.

As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department shut off water to thousands of residents who are delinquent on their bills. One of the activist groups behind the report, the Detroit People’s Water Board, notes that city residents have seen water rates more than double over the past decade at the same time that the city’s poverty rate rose to nearly 40 percent, putting the cost of basic running water beyond reach for tens of thousands of households. Earlier this year, city lawmakers voted to raise water rates by a further 8.7 percent.

Almost exactly 50 percent of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s 323,900 total accounts were delinquent as of March, according to the Detroit News (via Nexis), with a combined $175 million in unpaid water bills outstanding. The department announced at that time that it would begin an aggressive campaign of water shutoffs, and a DWSD spokesman said that it has shut off water to nearly 7,000 separate clients since the beginning of April. DWSD mailed warnings about the shutoffs in March, but the People’s Water Board report says that some residents it interviewed either never received a warning notice or had their water shut off before the payment deadline printed in the notices had passed.

“There are no sacred cows. We aren’t discriminating in terms of individuals or businesses,” DWSD spokesman Bill Johnson said in an interview. “In one month we shut off about 3,600 accounts, both businesses and residential. Everybody is getting cut off who is $150 or 60 days in arrears. That is our policy and we’re ramping up our enforcement of that policy.”

Do we really want all of our food and water controlled by a few corporations interested only in profits? There are certain areas of our reality that should not be subject to the sociopathic greed factor and certainly our access to food and water should be a bright line for us all. If we do not get up off our apathetic lazy asses soon, someone sitting in a glass tower is going to decide whether your children live or die. That may sound a bit dramatic, but we have reached that point. Is that OK with you?

The oligarchs and mega-corporation will not stop trying to maximize profits and control the political game. What we must understand, that contrary to even the Supreme Court, corporations ARE NOT people and they do NOT have the same rights as individual human beings. They are, by their nature, sociopathic institutions that require regulation and sanctions to prevent their excesses from destroying the fabric of our economy and our civilization. That is what we should be demanding in the most forceful peaceful manner we can muster.


Author: redhawk500

International business consultant, author, blogger, and student of life. After 35 years in business, trying to wake the world to a new reality. One of prosperity, abundance, and most importantly equal opportunity. it's time to redistribute wealth and power.

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