Suppose you produce more food than you need; what will you do?

Five options are at your disposal:

  1. You will work less as you don’t need that amount of food.
  2. You will eat more as you have more to eat.
  3. You will have more kids as you can feed more kids.
  4. You will feed the hungry as you have something to share.
  5. You will trade your food for all kinds of goods or services.

Please take a moment to decide which option appeals the most to you.

Now let’s consider each option.

1. You will work less as you don’t need that amount of food.
Well done, you know how to be satisfied! Others may think you are lazy, but they probably belong to the group that thinks life can always be improved. You know how to temper your ambitions and needs. At some point you are able to say what some others can’t say: enough is enough; it is good as it is!

2. You will eat more as you have more to eat.
So you are one of those who will eat chips until the bag is empty? Others may call it excessive behaviour, and you will probably have to watch your weight, but at least you have come to know the joy of abundance. You know how to postpone your worries and seize the moment of physically experiencing and celebrating that there is more than you need.

3. You will have more kids as you can feed more kids.
Great, you are a family person and have a lot of love to give. Your desire is to build and sustain a family that is characterized by life long commitment and care. And you know that families have always been the core units of society. So, more food and sufficient love also means: being able to nourish and equip more kids who can make a positive contribution to society.

4. You will feed the hungry as you have something to share.
Let’s celebrate your solidarity with the poor! You have more than you need and so you want to share it with those who have less than they need. You are also a family person, but your focus is on the ‘extended family’, including every one you are, or feel, related to. Your solidarity can be local and global, with humans and with nature. Wherever your solidarity is expressed, it is living proof of your ability to prioritize the well-being of others.

5. You will trade your food for all kinds of goods or services
Congratulations, you are the one standing at the cradle of civilization. If we mean by civilization a complex urban society, and if urban society is characterized by people who are fed by others to deliver certain goods or services, then you are the one making it possible. By trading food you are giving others the opportunity to specialize in making clothes, bread, pottery, houses, administrative tasks, military tasks, etc. And the more time these people can focus on their speciality, the more they can improve their skills and tools and eventually the quality of life. That is probably what you had in mind from the start: feeding others so that they can improve your life or the life of people you care about.

So there you have it: five ways of dealing with your own overproduction. Pick your favorite one. Don’t worry about civilization if you prefer one of the first four options. It is quite commendable to choose the option of 1) being satisfied with what you have, 2) enjoying abundance, 3) expanding family life, and last but not least: 4) sharing your resources with the poor! Only remember that if you limit yourself to one of these four options, the overproduction will not be spent on creating time for people to develop skills and tools to overcome difficulties and improve the quality of life. So, if you chose to help the poor, you may not be able to improve your way of helping the poor. And if you chose to be satisfied, you better stay satisfied!

Obviously, you can spend your extra food in more than one way. But choices have to be made, and they have been made in history and are still being made today. Satisfaction can keep people away from making progress, and seeking progress can keep people away from being satisfied. Being busy with making progress can go at the cost of helping the most vulnerable in society, but being busy with helping the vulnerable can also go at the cost of making progress. Those are the tough choices, of individuals and entire societies. And needless to say: what counts for extra food, also counts for extra money…

By the way, there is a 6th option I didn’t discuss, one that is actually quite popular in modern societies: if you produce more food than you need, you can also waste it.