3
$\begingroup$

Context: In 1921, Russia suffered from a famine which killed an estimated 5 million people and survivors resorted to cannibalism. The Great Chinese Famine killed a potential 43 million people. In North Korea suffered from a famine, named the Arduous March, which killed up to 3.5 million people. Famine is an ongoing and consistent problem across the African continent.

That is small selection from the List of Famines

Question: Given the advanced level of technology, economy, security and political institutions; what would have to be true for a famine to affect the European continent which resulted in a 1-5% mortality rate (or even higher) leading to a breakdown in civic society and the implementation of centralized planning.

Out of Scope: Total anarchy is out of scope for this question

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How about nuclear winter? $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Apr 11 '17 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ Embargo by the rest of the World creating financial collapse and shortages. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Apr 11 '17 at 12:32
8
$\begingroup$

Adapted species.

Colorado beetle

There was a little small guy called Leptinotarsa decemlineata or more sporadic "Colorado potato beetle". It was simply an innocent, good-looking creature discovered 1811 and native in the USA and Mexico.

1859 the beetle mutated und was now able to eat potatoes. Not only that, it had an enormous appetite and procreated fast. It ravaged potato fields and was seemingly unstoppable. It came to Europe during transport and began conquering the whole continent of Europe up to Russia; worse, in Europe there are still no natural predators for the beetle.

Australia and rabbits.

Settlers imported rabbits into Australia. Big, big mistake, because rabbits had also no natural enemies there. They ate crops and their frugality meant that their population literally exploded. The settlers did everything in their might to kill them: Awards, Myxomatosis, a gigantic fence system, nothing really helped. They are still considered a pest and the Australians try now different diseases to combat their numbers.

Red fire ant

People from the south of the USA, especially Texas, will know this specific pest by heart. It causes damages to crop and livestock in the range of hundreds of millions dollar per year and it is one of the few species building super colonies, colonies with an unlimited number of inhabitants, numbering in the range of ten billions.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Southern Africa is currently having major problems with a strain of Army Worm. They consume about any crop and spread like a plague. So far they've hit Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia. They originate from South America, and there isn't much that can be done to stop them at the moment. TLDR: This guy knows what he's talking about $\endgroup$ – Lu22 Apr 11 '17 at 13:44
3
$\begingroup$

All of the famines you mentions are man made. So the answers is: a person. He/she just need to want to kill people by starvation.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The person (or collective leadership) doesn't even need to want to kill people. They just have to believe that their ideolory is superior, so that they can't/won't abandon it, or admit to needing outside help, when it fails to produce enough food to feed the population. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Apr 12 '17 at 5:28
3
$\begingroup$

BY advanced level of technology, I assume you mean where we are currently. Tech is really not your only stumbling block here. The real one is this: a global economy.

The EU is currently the largest global importer and exporter of agricultural products.

So there really isn't a way to isolate this, to make the EU suffer exclusively if there's a famine. Nope. It's not likely to kill people so much because they can just import more from other places, but it IS likely to screw the world economy in a big, big way.

However, if you do want to kill people in Europe and you don't care about your mortality rate in other countries, certainly, you should make it a global pandemic.

The other option is to have it be discovered as a thing--like an eco terrorist does it and lets the world know after it's begun spreading in Europe, but before it gets out to other countries. If it's bad enough and it's caught just wrong before it goes elsewhere (or it does go elsewhere, completely devastates a region) and they totally quarantine Europe.

The economy is going to take a hit before people start dying directly from starvation. And they'll die because they can't afford food. For 1%-5% to die, raise food prices as a result of this--not all of them will die because they have starved. Some will die because they are unable to afford their rent, because food prices have skyrocketed.

You want to do this with a minimum of Anarchy, so, all along, the government can be providing assistance, if you qualify and things are orderly.

However, if you really think that people are going to go hungry without some kind of riot and anarchy on some level, then you forget most of human history.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Severe global warming? Having a climate change so severe our current crops will no longer grow. This can either be by global warming or the reverse, an ice age. Both will reduce our ability to produce crops.

Cutting of Europe itself will be pretty much impossible though. We already import large portions of our food. So the only way is to reduce food worldwide to such a degree we lack to funds to import them.

You could go the Interstellar route. A virus that wipes out several key crops in quick succession. A super bug, might be manmade, might just be bad luck on our side. If we for example lose wheat or corn that will have a tremendous impact.

For this to work you need to either have it worldwide or have the world put Europe under quarantine. If severe enough I can totally see the rest of the world, at least the Americas, Oceania and Africa closing their borders by force. Asia will be harder if not impossible to cut off.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You don't need to invoke much. Crops are routinely infested with fungal pathogens. They can spread worldwide. They can be devastating. Look up 'wheat blast' in Bangladesh - it wasn't there a year ago, it was contained in South America. It's now in India. Crops are pretty much monocultures. A lethal fungal infection can do a lot of damage in a small amount of time $\endgroup$ – DrDanielSwan Apr 11 '17 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ An Ice Age is more likely. Anthropogenic climate change is projected to increase crop yields in temperate latitudes through carbon fertilisation. $\endgroup$ – ifly6 Apr 11 '17 at 12:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.