the majority of democrats voted for this lot and the house and senate only a small minority of republicans voted for it. the majority of republicans voted against this law because they didn't like it and almost all of the major lawsuits that have been brought to try to get this law overturned, republicans have filed including two pending lawsuits right now, which are going up against the restrictions on the parties, which is frankly they win the case will help the independent parties also because these laws are for example about the restrictions placed on the parties for engaging in activity in state elections like the election's going on in virginia and new features the. two other points. just briefly. i think we are running out of time here. first of all the idea that having multiple parties instead of just two will somehow resolved and are solving many
problems we face today i think it's an optimistic assumption that doesn't really have the bases. don't get me wrong, i think there parties in the candidate should be able to get on the ballot. i am hopeful that in doing so will it in life in the political debate in discussions that go on in this country and i don't think any of the parties should be getting public funding of any kind and in fact there recently wrote an article in politico going against the latest proposal that is in congress proposed by senator durbin that would not only, we would not only have funding for presidential campaigns but he is proposing funding for congressional campaigns. but, look there are numerous countries in europe such as italy that have multiple parties that split the reins of power and they often find themselves unable to take any actions in terms of government policy better at all controversial because they find it impossible to put together majority
coalitions that can get anything done. the more party to have sharing control of the government i think the more difficult it is to have effective governance. i also don't like proportional representation encoding and i disagree with the idea that requiring candidates to win a majority of the vote is somehow a bad requirement for the democratic process. i think it is a good requirement. candidates have to feel the ideas and solutions to problems that a majority of voters think it's a good idea. when the majority forces candidates to try to build coalitions and deal with multiple interests groups which i think creates better overall representation. frankly it also prevents individuals who have radical ideas and only a small minority of voters agree with from getting elected to positions where they may have considerable power to implement their particular views of the majority of americans do not agree with. thus it can potentially prevent
changes in economic, social and government policy to go against the consent of the government and the consent of the government is the most basic philosophical and political belief that this country is based on. overall i think this is a very informative book that point that inequities in our laws that govern our election process that i think should be fixed. i would not agree with some of the characterization's contained in it but i agree with many of the proposed solutions such as simplifying ballot access in moving to a much less restrictive campaign finance system. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much hans. i'm sure the speeches we have heard today have given everyone food for thought and also brought some questions so we are going to have questions now. please raise your hand and wait for the microphone to come and then when you get it, identify yourself or the organization you are involved with org or
affiliation and also please direct a question to one of the people up here so that they can respond to it. let's go with the gentleman down here. mic please. >> i am robert steele. is this working? from virginia's 11th district. my question endeavor? that jackie salem and cynthia mckinney are not here, it is an honor to be in the room with ralph nader and all of you. why can we get everybody to play well together and take the ideas and ralph nader's book? their eight fundamental electro principles. why can't we get these saluda terry incent independents to basically demand of obama as the price of anything in 2010 that he passed the electoral reform act of 2009? >> i will assume everyone-- >> go ahead. >> i have no problem with that.
i think it is a wonderful idea. we just need to-- we need new choices in the voices and actually third parties, independent candidates to just what qada was trying to do and what heritage's trying to do. they are trying to increase the range of political debate. >> good to me you in person mr. steele, thank you for coming and i would like to say it is really, minear partisan third partisan independents don't have obviously the same platform, so they can get together and should get together on removing the systemic barriers to entry but after that they will compete for the votes of the american people on their own and from their own ideological perspectives and their various platforms. it is really not their job to fix the entire electoral process. it is all of our jobs as citizens and i want to make something clear so we can some questions here. i don't agree with most of what
mr. fan brusk-- bantz buzz kelsey said. i am for public financing of campaigns and instant runoff of voting. iver choice maximizing systems on how we are able to select our candidates and i am not for corporations being able to divebombing to people's districts in be able to finance in particular candidates. i don't believe they hold the same weak u.s. individuals and they certainly don't have the right to vote, at least not yet so i hope that will help inspire some questions and we will talk about it because we certainly don't all agree on what the solutions are even though some of us that to agree on what the problems are. that is why people, all political stripes have to not just talk to people on their own cultural cul-de-sac's come out and come toka cato income talk
at the other organizations that you pose these kinds of events. there are a number of organizations in this room, not only christina tillman's with freeney collections but also representatives from fair vote.org as well as citizens from charge, disincent charge foundations. there are a lot of organizations starting to work on the systemic problems and i hope they will pipe up too. >> my only response to that proposal is good luck trying to convince the press to do anything that might diminish his re-election process in 2008. >> this gentleman right here, we will go to the right side of the room now. >> mr. vans ben scott. >> , he said too many parties might make it impossible to govern, and what i want to note is one that go for one?
>> i think your mctear-- mischaracterizing what i said. the ballot access laws should be relaxed so third in fourth and fifth parties can get on there but the idea that that will somehow magically solve many of the problems we have i think the light by the fact that you can see, look at plenty of other democracies that have multiple parties then they face many of the same problems we do and we don't seem to be any better in finding solutions. >> let me use the privilege of the moderator two of the question here. the experts here, do you believe that their party is in the larger role for third parties implies proportional representation, either changing the system are also some voting procedure that would give you that or can you do it in a single member district? >> well, first of all i want to go back to put this in context.
nlf 30 years there has been a wave of democratization in the world where we have had a lot of countries to weren't democracies or democratic republics or what not to have chosen to become more democratic, and in that way, not one has chosen to adopt the united states system, and we should ask why. because it does not provide the same kind of representation. i do believe we should have proportional representation and if we don't get there yet, joyce surmising voting systems or combination thereof because for example how many saab the front page of "the new york times" where they talked about new york city had a runoff election and in a city of almost 8 million people almost nobody showed up to vote. 3 million registered democrats than you had some districts were
actually nobody came to vote. we can do better than this, so maybe, and i would start i believe we should start looking at things like the electoral college which are anachronistic now and i know those might be fighting wars here but i would be happy to engage in think about how we want to improve our system. our system was great maybe for the 18th century but were now in the 21st century and there have been kinds of systems the pies that can be applied they can do things, make the electoral system more reflective of the will of the people. at the end of the day of the want consent to come from the government we have to look at how we felt and the systems in place that offer choices for who we can vote for in order to be able to maximize consent of the government. >> i will second that. i think that is excellent. >> thanks very much. now, let's go down to the front
here with christina and the gentleman behind her. >> hello, my name is christina taliban. i am the founder and chair of the free elections-- and also the libertarian candidates. the libertarian nomination for california's secretary of state. currently an initiative in support of the top two primary is on the ballot in california for june 2010. how the demopublicans have rigged the system and left independents out in the cold primary at the top two vote getters in the primary the only names did appear on the november vali vinnette that means one political parties represented. the tup to primaries are the biggest threat to the existence of minor parties and over 50 years according to richard wainer cronon bellock access. my question is, and also i want to mention in washington state
of almost 200 races there are only 08 candidates that did not advance the general election, they are only eight candidates that did advance the general election because they ran unopposed racist. my question is what is your position on the top two primaries and how you think this will impact third-party independent candidate races nationwide? thank you very much. >> i don't like that idea because i frankly think each of the political party should have whoever their nominee is on the ballot during the general election and you know like is that the ballot access rules ought to be relaxed so you can do that. that is an extension of this almo of primary system that some states have tried to put them that can end up with two candidates from the same party being on the general election and everybody else excluded. i don't think that is a good
idea and i don't think that is the way we should be doing races. i have to say for all of the criticisms given the of parties and so forth, parties are simply an expression of a very fundamental right that is contained in the first amendment which is the right to associate with people who have the same beliefs and feelings that you do and i don't have a problem with political parties. effective think they are not that much different from other organizations people belong to like the sierra club or the national rifle association because they represent issues that the people that are members agree within political parties are like that. lied to think we have to have a system where people can form political parties easily come and get on the ballot. if nobody votes for them will come then they don't have the ideas that the minority voters like but the voters make that decision.
>> and the comment? the following up, and i think it was peter that put meta-study in may of 2009 that said we are at our highest point in 70 years for people self identifying its independents in this country. i am not for the top two ideas. i think we ought to get away from the number two all together here because what is happening is that it is a bundling process than what it does is it it's very unlikely that an independent or third-party candidate whti mergence gnat top two. that kind of winnowing is the opposite of what we should be trying to do witches expand choice in the general election and people should learn more about the system. i don't want the media of reducing choice and i don't want to pay commissions are the parties for example how they tick that dennis kucinich and my rebel. i want to make it possible that more people in more choices are in front of the american people and they are able to participate and that is why i think the
federal election commission, going back, we need to view campaign finance laws which i am in favor of more like tax policy and we have to say we don't want to just not have the corruptive the fact that we want to also look at how can government facilitate the participation of people and how can good tax policy, we reward behaviors we want to see and discourage behaviors we don't want to see and we should use that mindset when we are looking at constructing the campaign finance laws. >> just a moment. we are going to run a little bit late because we got started a little bit late in because there is a lot of interest out there. >> with all due respect to theresa, the whole problem with having the extensive tax policy we have is because you have government bureaucrats deciding what social policy should be encouraged and what shouldn't
and i have to agree completely with what james bennett said menees of the biggest problem in washington as the government is too big, too powerful and that is why so many people spend so much time trying to influence to benefit them and what is true for tax policy is also very true federal campaign finance laws, okay? the commissioners i serve at the embassy were all well many people that they were six people over a federal bureaucracy of almost 400 individuals and you do not want government bureaucrats making decisions on what kind of political activity should be encouraged or discouraged in the political arena. people should be free to act as they want to man to speak as they want to end i would say to you, compare the federal system with two states, virginia, utah that have no restrictions on
contributions. they do require disclosure and governing magazine rates utah and virginia as having two of the best run governments in the united states. and you tell me whether you think virginia government or utah state government, are they somehow much more correct than the federal system? most people in those states would tell you they think they probably have a cleaner government than the federal government. >> i promised the gentleman behind christina. >> thank you. my name is aaron rose and i live in seattle washington. one question was just ask. back to the question then and i voted for ralph nader and i am still repenting for that sin. >> i hope that his tongue in cheek. [laughter] >> back to the question about the voter turnout. a very elementary question. is there a correlation between an increase in voter turnout and
support for third-party and even some of the campaign finance reform purses if there is a lower turnout, other then every four years high-profile elections voter turnout in the united states is very, very low and i just want to add to dr. bennett's point you mentioned iran which is a very good example. i believe afghanistan had up to 28 candidates on their ballots including some women so i think that is a very good point and thank you. >> any comments on that? >> you address this in your book. >> put it this way. if you honestly believe there is not that much difference between the democrats and republicans, white vote? that is the point. and i think a lot of issues that should have been debated-- now, ralph is a very good at this. you may not agree with his positions but the idea is he
wants to put this stuff on the table and get it out there and people want to talk about this. he wants to talk about labor issues and trade issues and you don't really get this very much. everything is clustered in the center and the idea is to spread the ideas about. hans has been talking about the fact that well, if you have multiple parties, the government may not be as easy, governing may not be as easy and it may be different. that may be a very good thing frankly. if you look at their government how effective are these people anyway? took about the sec and the madoff situation. hey we have the federal emergency management thing and katrina but there is always this thing called the united states postal service. i don't nowhere they get the service from but nevertheless,
it may be a good thing to have less government and a less effective government and we may be very fortunate we don't get all the government we paid for. >> can i answer the gentleman's question? there have been studies on this and a good book to read would be thomas patterson's the bin eshing voter ernie interviewed something like 90,000 voters but there's a correlation. first dca korelitz station in the interest itself when you look of the that turned out for ross perot compared to the other debates that did not have a third party in line and that is one of the factors that people cited by they don't go vote. the lot of times it is convenient, came to the polls, had to go home for my kids, had to work or whatever but it is one of the factors that there is not the range of choice so there are a number of stories that have been done on this and they are probably should be more. i am going to diff thorned-- defend the civil service and say i think it would be more fair to
say that there things that are in effectively regulated and there are things that are overregulated and there are things that are unregulated and we could probably be here another 2,000 years debating that here in this room. the system is broken and even though the commissioners of the fec sent a letter to congress and said please let's fix the presidential financing system so there is an admission that some parts of finance is the nest to be fixed. one answer is not this to do nothing or have no government. we have to work with these hard questions than they are not vessel answers. >> the woman on the aisle on the right-hand side. >> thank you. my name is annabel fisher and i live in northern virginia. at physio gwen moore negative tv ad in this governor's race, and i also lived in seattle washington so i know how things
go. i would like to throw a couple of things out to you all. i do believe, to the gentleman from seattle people don't vote because they don't have choices. alexandria just change the way, against the public opinion in alexandria va how we are going to elect the next mayor and council and school board in order to increase voter turnout so the election cycle with the president. washington state has a million things on the ballot in an election year. what i would like to throw out to you all, i am for a proportional representation. in virginia anybody and their mother can set up a pack and i think that would go against the campaign finance laws. for reform. what do you think of having open primaries where you have now the heads of the democratic and republican party saying oh yeah
you can vote in an open primary but you have to declare your party so rather and the general you can vote for whoever you want. that would be the first things so it would allow more people who choose to run for office to be on that ballot without perhaps the gathering the signatures. the second thing is i think if there is any movement and i to believe today with the health care reform debate, with other issues that are coming up today, there are many people now who are looking after voting for an independent person but i believe it has to start at the local level, the local and state level and you can't have somebody running for president u.s. never held office before so i am throwing those issues out to anyone out there and made the best person win in virginia and made the election be over soon. thank you.
>> jim, do you want to start? >> i am not quite sure what your question was but beyond that, i am just for anything, i think it is unamerican to try to close things down and oppressed people and keep people off the ballot in so on and so forth and i think we need whatever we can do to encourage new voices, new choices. i think it is very important and i don't know if moving elections for example to a presidential year would guarantee better people in office or what not, but it just seems to me that we need a lot more issues and ideas on the table and that is kind of where i come from on this. >> the open primary. >> that would be fine. that helps open up the process. that is exactly what i was saying, i am all in favor of anything that opens the process
up. >> the primary system, look, if yeah you won't have an election open system but you also want the parties to be able to have some control over what they do and i don't care whether it is the democratic, republican or libertarian party and all of those parties do not want people coming in and floating in their primary fights you don't really believe in their ideas but are only there to spoil the choice. i recall one of the green party candidates and cynthia mckinney said one of the reason she got defeated was because in the democratic primary election in one of her prior elections, republicans crossed over the line to vote for the opponent of her so that she would lose, and i think parties-- we have gone a long way as did jim bennett describes in his book, towards having the government take over many things that the parties did
previously. while i do agree with some of those, like it don't agree with the australian ballot which the main part of was to make sure we had a secret ballot which i think is vital to democracy but i don't think switching to a primary system where the parties have no control over the process and have absolutely no control about who comes into vote, i don't think that is necessarily a good thing unless you want to destroy having any parties at all. >> gentleman in the second row from the back. we will get away from the front a little bit. >> i am brandon, director of citizens in charge and the citizens in charge foundation. i want to give theresa an opportunity to expand on some of proposed solutions. one of my personal sections to public finances always been the funds would be presumably controlled by the existing party than the existing people empower and i wonder if you could address how that would help
third parties out if you have to go and essentially knock on the door of the existing powers to get into that? >> one of the reasons i am in favor of public financing is to encourage, help encourage participation so you don't have to be born a billionaire or have access to a millionaire's rolodex and ordered to be able to participate in elections in the united states. i don't think that is what the founding fathers had in mind in terms of citizens being able to run for office. public financing allows small sturge candidates seas, people who are running small parties to have at least a little bit of contribution and ordered to be able to get to the point where they can compete and have their candidates the in front of the american voter. i will give you an example. ralph nader is one of the only candidates in the last three elections who has qualified as a minor party for a third-party
independent for public financing for public funds in the primary. is jim pointed out the statute is written so that you are not going to get as a minor party or independent general financing unless you were proved that you can garner 5% of the votes of that is say no use in the current election if you are a minor ore in independent but what it does allow and what was critical in both the 2,002,004 in the 2008 campaign, is to be able to have funds to be able to overcome the ballot access problems and be able to actually get on the radar screen. if you are not on the ballot, you are not on the radar screen. write inflows rarely win in history and pride in those, another flaw are not even counted. one of the chapters in my book does talk about how the supreme court has enshrined the two-party system and is become the protector of the incumbents
in the two parties instead of the defender of people who are trying to participate in the system. the last chapter of the book does deal with the number of solutions, everything from whether not we touch the constitution and electoral college to how to make it more fair for people to have a chance to run. i discussed the national, the national vote plan act. i discussed redistricting. at the local level, to get back to this woman's question here, oftentimes we don't have to parties. we just have one party. there is nobody else even running in these elections so your choice becomes one individual. sometimes they even cancel the election. they did that in florida because it was a foregone conclusion. do we really want the government were the electorate are foregone conclusions because nobody else has a chance to run? i don't think so.
>> one last question. the gentleman here and then we will go to lunch. just mate-- just wait for the microphone. >> my name is arnold king and i live in a one-party state. i would like to thank you for having this discussion. my question is, what can we do to get-- to understand the election process? in other words understand their rules and procedures? also how can we get the electorate process working in the 21st century because allowing the state-- when in the self they had another party and so forth. thank you. >> thank you. >> jim, comments? >> well, i think that line the fact that we need to do is remove the impediments to participation and the main
impediment is ballot access laws and making it easy for people to get on the ballot, have a free-for-all. you know, the more the merrier kind of thing and have it sorted out. by the american people. that is what i think we need to do is to open up the process rather than have it closed as it is now, to a great degree. >> well, the easy thing, the shameless for me to say would be to read my book, grand illusion, the myth of the voter choice into party tyranny because they do talk in the last chapter in detail about the kinds of things we can do in this country to make a mark their system and have, have maximized voter choice and importantly, fulfilled the voters' right by helping acknowledge the candidates rights to be able to run for office.
thank you. >> in that light it also may be a contribution to the cato institute with the bands that. >> don't forget heritage for that too. i actually want to go back to an earlier question real quick to make one final point. there is a fundamental problem with public funding and trees to mention the fact that the fec commission wrote to congress saying they had to fix it. what they were talking about is there is enough money in the fund to pay for it. why isn't there enough money? the american people don't want to fund it. it is purely voluntary. when the program for swindon to place in jim talks about this in this book, 30% of the american people did the voluntary checkoff for the presidential funding program. last year they did numbers down to 8%. the only way you can fund a public funding program for elections and i don't care whether it is on the federal level, the state level, is
through taxation and that is a fundamental violation of my first amendment rights to associate with people that i want to associate with, to use my tax money to pay for that political campaigns of somebody who i fundamentally disagree with? that is such a violation of the bill of rights it is hard for me to believe people keep pushing the public funding idea and frankly raising money when you are a candidate raising private money, look my experience is that people give money to people whose ideas they like. when you are out raising money, and nobody wants to give the money? it is because people don't like your ideas than they'd like your solutions you are proposing for the problems we have. i don't have a problem with people going out to raise money to run the campaigns for the tick of the limits to campaign contributions people will be able to raise the money to run campaigns and they are not going
to have to be billionaires' to do it. >> those of you did not get to ask your questions, you will be able to answer when we talk to lunch. i want to thank you. please go upstairs and have lunch. no taxpayer money involved. [applause] >> theresa amato a practicing lawyer, was the campaign manager and in-house counsel for ralph nader in both 2000 and 2004. mr. bennett is an economics professor of george mason university. >> lester brown, president of birth policy institute, presents his thesis on how best to save mankind. the university of chicago hosts the hour and 15 minute event.
>> some time ago, in fact many years ago now, when i was being introduced by the late senator paul simon of illinois, a longtime friend and he was holding up the latest book i had written in the set, lester's has written the kind of book that once you put it down, you can't pick it up again. [laughter] if you don't get a chance to read the book, there will be a movie. there is a to our special now in production on plan b. when i mentioned to one of our founders that i was going on a book to work, this was in june of last year, to promote several of the early translations of
plan b.4.0 and i mentioned i would be in japan. we would be launching the japanese, korean, chinese, handy, turkish and italian versions on this particular swing. she said, would it be great to get that on film so we mentioned it to where production team who is producing for dbs. the geren that planet airs series that has been on for several years. they thought it would be a good idea so are funder came up with the funding so that they could go with me but what they didn't realize is they were going to hear the same plan b top 23 times and after a bit, about a week he said, you know i have got this talk down now. i think i can do it pretty well. i had to tell him about a physicist who worked for the european space agency and was on tour drumming up support for the
european space program and he was being driven from town to city and so forth around europe on this tour and his chauffeur came up with the same response and after a week or so he said you know i can give this topic of the physicist's just kind of laughed and he just kept bringing it up. next tuesday night we will be at a small town but i am concerned about the q&a session if you do it. and the chauffeur said what i've learned is that always ask the same questions. stobbe said that won't be a problem. so that physicists said of knx tuesday night we are going to change uniforms. you put on my jacket and tie and i will put on your show for its uniform. the show. up there and he was excited about it in he really gave a good talk. dan he was doing q&a and he was doing very well. and zille physicist, another physicist in the group stood up and ask one of these very
technical questions, if that and this and so forth then how would this affect that? the guide lists and then he said you know that sounds like a complicated question. he said but it is actually pretty simple. i will bet my chauffeur could answer that. [laughter] well, so i told how to be sure and have a chauffeur with him. one more washington story and then i will try to get serious. this one goes back to 1990 or so when gorbachev was visiting washington for the first time, and some of you may remember detante was in full bloom then and u.s. soviet relations were improving dramatically. when his entourage was driving down k street he actually have them stop and they got out and
walked out to the sidewalk, shaking hands with everyone. it was really quite a spontaneous thing on his part because he was so excited by being in the united states and able to beat with people on the streets. so then, he had reciprocated the invitation and president bush went to moscow. flake one afternoon after they finished their formal meetings and they were just sitting around with their feet up and the interpreter and they were talking about the problems of governing. bush said for me one of the difficult things is getting the right person and the right position in the cabinet. he said that is really challenging and he said how do you you go about doing that? gorbachev said well, i have a list of questions that i ask the candidates and i evaluate their abilities based on their response. bush said, well, what sort of
questions? he said when i was interviewing shiver banowsky for foreign minister and i asked him to is your father's son who was not your brother? boys said, what did he say? gorbachev said schaub janofsky said, that is me. bush thought about this for a bit and the got back to washington and he called in dan quayle. he said dan, danny said i have got a question for you. yes mr. president. danny, who is your father's son who is not your brother. let me get back to you on that mr. president so out he went and the day or two wind by. who is your father's son who is not your brother? then he was walking down the hall pass henry kissinger's office. he said ah-hah, henmon knows everything. he said henry, i have a question
for you. he said he was your father's son who is not your brother? that is me. really? sure. down the hall the goes to the president. he said mr. president you know that question you ask me who is your father's son who is not your brother, it is kissinger. [laughter] sometime later bush was calling gorbachev about something and he said you know that question you asked, who is your father's son who is not your brother? he said i asked dan quayle that into you know what he said? he said it was henry kissinger and i said no, it is shover banowsky. [laughter] from time to time, i am going to get serious now. from time to time i go back and read the literature particularly for any new articles during--
journal articles are what have you want early civilizations and their decline in collapse, the ones whose archaeological sites we study today. and what i have come to realize is that more often than not, the reason for the decline of early civilizations was a decline in their food supply. with the sumerians, it was the rising salt level in the soil, based on a fault in the design of-- otherwise an exceptional irrigation system. for the mayans it was deforestation and soil erosion quite possibly exacerbated by a prolonged drought. and so whether it is them for the easter islanders or the north settlement dead jared diamond writes about on green lands, it was the food supply that brought them down.
and i have long rejected the idea that food could be the weak link in our modern civilization, but as i thought about it over the last couple of years or so i have come to realize that the environmental trends that are undermining the world food the economy that we have been tracking now for decades are trends that we have not been able to reverse, whether it is soil erosion, of what for depletion, deforestation, the grassland deterioration. these have been going on now for some time and we have not turned a single one of them are brown. you do not have to be an ecologist to see that if you continue, then eventually we will be in serious trouble.
there used to be one source of additional demand for food. that was population growth, for the beginning of agriculture up until today. we are now allowing 79,000 people here and that continues to be a major additional source of demand. the second is mostly ports world war to end that his people rising up the food chain, consuming more and more grain intensive livestock products. that has now become a major source. we have 3 billion people on the day trying to move up the food chain and then the third thain, the third source of additional demand for food is the conversion of grain into fuel for cars. this year we will harvests in this country just over 400 million tons of grain. that 100 million tons will be going to ethanol distilleries to
produce fuel for cars. so, it is no wonder now with the resources of growing demand for food in the world that we are seeing these extraordinary price rises. from the beginning of 2007 until late spring of 2008 we saw arise in wheat rice and corn prices, roughly tripling and also soybean prices and then the worst economic meltdown since the great depression to curb that rise and begin to bring grain prices down. they are still not anywhere near back to normal by the of these they are not at the level they were. so we are facing real challenges on the demand side now. then on the supply side and i am not going to talk about all the trends but i want to talk for a moment about why. we drink about 40 liters of water a day as water, pop word
or coffee or whatever. about 4 liters of water a day. the food we consume requires about 2,000 liters a day or 500 times as much. the food production is extraordinarily water intensive. i remember writing an article a few years ago which i use these numbers and pointed out if we in effect e2 felsen liters of water a day and the editor circle this and in the martin said, don't you mean 2,000 liters a year? this is not surprising because it is not clear that we actually eat so much water. it takes a lot of water to produce food. what we are looking at now is a world where water tables are falling in countries containing half the world's people.
that includes the big three grain producers, china, india and the united states. one of the most dramatic water stories that is the unfolding in the world is in saudi arabia. after the arab oil export embargo in the 1970's the saudis realize they would be vulnerable to a counter grain export environments because they were importing much of their grain so they began to figure out what to do. using their oil drilling-- they found an offer, and not cofer where there is not naturally recharge so they started pumping it and they had a support rhee for price about the market level and for more than 20 years they have been self-sufficient in wheat production, but last year they announce that the aquifer was largely depleted and they
would be reducing their grain harvest 518 each year until by 2016 it would be out of the grain production business entirely and dependent on importers to feed what will then be a population of 30 million people. what is interesting about this is not so much the effect on the world grain balanced because the saudi wheat harvest was under half of 1% of the world harvest but what it does show us is what happens when countries deplete aquifers. yemen, which borders saudi arabia has been much in the news in recent days because of that troubled border area. it is also losing its irrigation water supply of. the yemeni aquifer is replenish a bold but they are pumping it at four times the rate of recharge so they are going to lose most of their irrigation water within a matter of years.
but what really makes the difference is the big countries. a world bank study of india points out in 2005 study, points out that 15% of the india's people are being fed from grain produced by over pumping. that is 175 million people. we have done a comparable as the men for china. it is about 130 million people being fed by over pumping in you can go through the list of countries, pakistan, iran, mexico that are also over pumping. but one of these days, and the thing that is so, so disturbing about this is that water tables are following in so many
countries at the same time. countries in the middle east that imports, that they are pushing against the limits of their water supply, and north africa and throughout the middle east including iran, when they need more water for cities, they usually take it from the irrigation water supply and then they import grain to offset the loss of productive capacity. the reason for this is that since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain the most efficient way to import water is in the form of grain. crane becomes the currency with which countries balance their water books. and the world grain market is in a sense a world water market. to the extent that we have a world water market it is embodied in the grain market. countries with water surpluses
can export and countries with water deficit can import. so the water issue is a big one and because it is underground you cannot photograph that and it is largely out of sight but that does not make it any less real. then we have some new trends. beyond the soil erosion and aquifer depletion and so on, and that is i.c.e. melting. idea the peace, we call them plan b update's that justin referred to entitled the copenhagen conference on food security. and i did that piece because this is sort of the bottom line it copenhagen. 193 delegations that are planning to gather have various concerns on the climate front for countries in east asia and the caribbean it is more powerful and destructive storms. for southern europe, east africa
and australia it is the intense heat and drought in lower crop yields. for the low-lying island countries, it is rising sea level. i was that a u.n. conference on population and development a few weeks ago and i was pointing out to 113 or so delegations who were there, the national delegations that we are almost certainly going to see a decline in unmembership. i said why? because there are so many low-lying island countries that may not exist 30 years from now. simply because of rising sea level. some of them are so close that it does not take them much for them to begin planning evacuations and some of them are already at that stage.
the i.c.e. sheets are melting. the greenland i.c.e. sheet and the west and arctic i.c.e. sheets. if the greenland i.c.e. sheet built entirely, sea level rises 23 feet. west antarctica breaks up completely and it is already started to break up, sea level rises 16 feet. so we are looking at potentially substantial rises in sea level over the longer term. the latest projections are that during this century we can now expect wrathily, we can expect arise in sea level up to 6 feet but he finn 83 foot rise in sea level according to world bank map would put half the rice land in bangladesh under water. bangladesh is a country of 160 million people, roughly half
that of the united states. 83 rise in sea level would put a good part of the mekong delta and beneath the sea. the mekong delta of provides half the rise for vietnam and a country that is the world's second ranking rice exporter after thailand. in addition to bangladesh and vietnam there are another 18 or 20 rice growing river deltas in asia all of which will be affected in varying degrees by the rising sea level. imaginist eyes melting in the far north atlantic. it will shrink their rice harvest of asia. but, this is not the most serious thing. that is coming from melting, not
the glaciers. the world glacier monitoring institute in switzerland has now reported the 18th consecutive year of shrinking mountain glaciers around the world. the monitored glaciers in the andes and the rocky mountains, the alps and the tibetan plateau and what they are reporting is that glaciers are shrinking everywhere. it is the ice melt from the glaciers in the himalayas and on the tibetan plateau that sustains the major rivers of asia during the dry season. the changes, the gang sea and the yellow and it is that i.c.e. meld that sustains the rivers that also sustains the irrigation systems of the india and china for example. china is the world's leading wheat producer. the india is number two and we
are number three. a lot of people think we are number one, we are not. china, because the irrigate most of their week were as we hear gave very little of our feet. with rice, china and india totally dominate the world rice harvest so what happens to the glaciers in the himalayas or of the tibetan plateau will have the most massive effect on future food security than anything we have ever seen. we have never had a projected threat to food scale on-- to many americans thinking about the melting glaciers on the tibetan plateau, that is china's problem. it is china's problem but it is also our problem because if china comes into the world market for massive quantities of grain as it has done over the last decade or massive quantities of soybeans, it will
come to the united states because we are far and away the world's largest grain export. for american consumers, us, this is a nightmare scenario because we are looking at the prospect of competing with 1.3 billion chinese with rapidly rising incomes for our grain harvest. now, historically when we faced a situation like that in food prices were rising out of control, we restricted exports, as in the 1970's for example. the problem today is that china is our banker. every month, the treasury department auctions of treasury securities. this is how we cover our fiscal deficit. and one of the big buyers every month, some once the biggest
buyer, is china. they now hold over a trillion dollars of u.s. treasury security, $8 trillion. that is 1 trillion. like it or not we are going to be sharing our grain harvest with the chinese. big time. the world is changing and changing so fast i don't think that most of us who don't have the luxury as i do of tracking these things all the time realize how much. we also have rising temperatures affecting grain harvest. the rule of thumb that has emerged among ecologists, and this is included in a paper published by the national academy of sciences is that for each 1 degree celsius, 1.8 degrees fahrenheit rise in temperature during the growing season we