Humans Could Descend Into Cannibalism Due to Impacts of Climate Change, Scientist Claims
Wed, April 21, 2021

Humans Could Descend Into Cannibalism Due to Impacts of Climate Change, Scientist Claims

Cannibalism has always been a fascinating topic of interest in society. The bizarre idea of humans eating human flesh makes us wonder why our ancestors did this / Photo by: Wallenrock via Shutterstock

 

Cannibalism has always been a fascinating topic of interest in society. The bizarre idea of humans eating human flesh makes us wonder why our ancestors did this. Our understanding of cannibals is mostly shaped by early explorers, colonial officers, travelers, missionaries, and more. Despite studies on the social and cultural roots of cannibalism, it is still often characterized as part of the “darker side of humanity.” It is categorized beside slavery, rape, incest, infanticide, and male-desertion. 

Previous research investigated cannibalism in different societies in Papua New Guinea such as the Gimi, Hua, Daribi, and Bimini-Kuskusmin. The researchers suggested that the practice is linked to the expression of cultural values about life, regeneration, and production. Another theory is that cannibalism is an expression of hostility, violence, or domination toward a victim. This suggests that humans tend to eat their victims to inflict an ultimate indignity. A recent study also showed that cannibalism among prehistoric humans was more likely driven by social reasons than hunger.

Nonetheless, cannibalism remains taboo in our society, despite several cultures still practicing it. For instance, the Korowai tribe in Western New Guinea believes that it is the duty of a ‘witch man’ to consume the dead man’s carcass to take revenge for the man's death. The Aghori, a sect of Indian Monks, have been performing cannibalistic rituals to gain spiritual enlightenment. However, recent claims from scientists suggest that we shouldn’t treat cannibalism as a taboo because it has the potential to solve climate change and even help humanity survive. 

Climate Change and Food Scarcity

By 2050, it is expected that the world population will grow to almost 10 billion. Reports show that global demand for food could increase with over 3.4 billion more mouths to feed and the growing demand of the middle class for meat. Thus, the agriculture industry across the world needs to step up in terms of production. However, scientists stated that the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather, higher temperatures, and increasing levels of carbon dioxide, threaten to decrease the quantity and jeopardize the quality of our food supplies.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change examined how agriculture will be affected by global warming. According to NBC News, an online site that features breaking news, videos, and the latest top stories in world news, business, politics, health and pop culture, the risk of food supply instabilities “are projected to be very high” if the average global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial average. 

Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and one of the coordinating lead authors of the IPCC report, stated that the global vulnerability to food scarcity increases if food production is affected across several regions at the same time. “We see that there’s a growing interconnectedness in our food systems. There’s trade all over the place, and the potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” the scientist said. 

Climate change will not only alter food production and affect consumers, but it would also impact their livelihoods, especially those who depend on fishing or farming. While wealthy nations and temperate regions might be able to withstand most of the impacts, tropical regions and poor populations will face the most risks. The most susceptible to the changes in food access, safety and nutrition would be children, pregnant women, the elderly, low-income communities and those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

Climate change will not only alter food production and affect consumers, but it would also impact their livelihoods, especially those who depend on fishing or farming / Photo by: Piyaset via Shutterstock

 

Is Cannibalism the Answer?

“Food security is going to be one of the most pressing climate-related issues, mainly because most of the world is relatively poor and food is going to become increasingly scarce and expensive,” Peter de Menocal, Dean of Science at Columbia University and director of the Center for Climate and Life, said. 

Thus, the question is: how can we solve or address food scarcity? In a talk at the Gastro Summit in Stockholm, Stockholm School of Economics professor and researcher Magnus Soderlund suggested that the increasing problem with food scarcity might force humans to consider alternative forms of nourishment, such as eating corpses or cannibalism. However, this idea isn’t new. Last year, evolutionary Richard Dawkins thought if it possible to grow meat from harvested human cells.

According to Business Insider, a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals, Söderlund stated that humans might come to view cannibalism as less taboo when they gradually get accustomed to the taste of our own flesh. For these scientists, cannibalism could be a way to prepare for a future where food supplies are already wiped out. Reports show that the world could fall short of feeding every individual on the planet by 214 trillion calories per year. 

While Dawkins suggested culturing stem cells from a living human in a lab and allowing the mature cells to grow into the meat, Söderlund’s suggestion involved removing flesh from a corpse and serving it to humans. According to The Sun, a tabloid newspaper, 8% of the audience watching a TV interview of Söderlund on Swedish channel TV4 said they would be willing to try human flesh. However, there are several ethical problems attached to it. 

"The idea that we would be able to administer this in any kind of rational, systematic way is so absurd. It would mean our whole culture would descend into barbarism," Genevieve Guenther, director of End Climate Silence, said. She said that "to suggest that cannibalism is a solution to climate change is about as bad as climate denial itself."

Whether humans would consider cannibalism in the future or not is still not known. However, we could prevent this from happening by already doing all we can to save our planet from the impacts of climate change and global warming. 

Whether humans would consider cannibalism in the future or not is still not known. However, we could prevent this from happening by already doing all we can to save our planet from the impacts of climate change and global warming / Photo by: Augustino via Shutterstock