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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/158

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158
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

demonetization of silver. The whole tone of that investigation and of a large part of the treatment of the wheat question in Great Britain has been one of complaint and of alleged wrong to British agriculture because the United States had succeeded in supplying the masses of the people of the United Kingdom with cheap bread, with sufficient profit to themselves to keep up the supply.

Now comes what may be called a cry of alarm from a scientist of highest repute lest England may be deprived even of an adequate supply of wheat, and lest the price should be forced to an exorbitant point. This view of the case was stated at great length by Sir William Crookes when assuming the presidency of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at the recent meeting in Bristol. This address is published in full in the Times of September 8th, the portion devoted to the wheat question filling three out of six columns of closely printed text; the other three are devoted to a complete review of the existing conditions of science. I venture to give a few extracts which will convey to the reader the aspect of the wheat' question from this essentially British point of view. Sir William Crookes begins with a sort of apology, which the writer can fully appreciate. He says:

"Statistics are rarely attractive to a listening audience, but they are necessary evils, and those of this evening are unusually doleful. . . . I am constrained to show that our wheat-producing soil is totally unequal to the strain put upon it. After wearying you with a survey of the universal dearth to be expected, I hope to point a way out of the colossal dilemma. It is the chemist who must come to the rescue of the threatened communities. It is through the laboratory that starvation may ultimately be turned into plenty."

One of the singular facts which becomes quickly apparent to any one who deals with this subject in Great Britain is the inability of the English farmer to think about agriculture except in terms of wheat. Now we have an example of our English scientist of the highest repute who seems to ignore all other grain and to predict future starvation on an expected deficiency in the supply of wheat. Sir William Crookes proceeds:

"The consumption of wheat per head of the population (unit consumption) is over six bushels per annum; and, taking the population at 40,000,000, we require no less than 240,000,000 bushels of wheat, increasing annually by 2,000,000 bushels to supply the increase of population. Of the total amount of wheat consumed in the United Kingdom we grow twenty-five and import seventy-five per cent."

He then deals with the impending scarcity, saying: