Wednesday, April 16, 2008

what does hunger look like?

Question. What does hunger look like? If you live in America it’s likely you don’t know. It’s true that in the US 12% of our population is food insecure, meaning about 1 in 8 of us don’t regularly get enough nutritious food to eat. But the majority of us don’t see those people or their hunger very often. It’s more likely that most of us associates hunger with a dark skinned and dusty child sitting quietly with flies buzzing about, a la Sally Struthers commercials and her plea to save the children. I’d like to speak for a moment to the politicians, the leaders in this country so that they might get a better idea of what hunger really looks like, because not all hungry people are going to sit quietly and die waiting on someone to send donations.

Haiti’s government fell on Saturday when senators fired the prime minister after more than a week of riots over food prices.

Stone-throwing crowds began battling U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police in the south on April 2, enraged at the soaring cost of rice, beans, cooking oil and other staples… The unrest spread this week to the capital, Port-au-Prince, bringing the sprawling and chaotic city to a halt as mobs took over the streets, smashing windows, looting shops, setting fire to cars and hurling rocks at motorists.

“It has not been lowered enough,” said a young man who identified himself only as Givens. “If they don’t further lower the price I think people are going to protest more. There will be problems, more unrest. Even the National Palace could be set on fire because we are in trouble.”

[President] Preval reiterated that Haiti could not afford to cut taxes on food because it needed the revenue to pay for longer-term projects that create jobs and boost agriculture.

And here in lies an interesting point. The future is almost certain to mean less energy available and fewer resources with which to grow food, including less fresh water and healthy topsoil. It’s easy to imagine how hard it will be, in such trying times, to launch a cohesive, coherent, top down change in our model of agriculture. Just as it becomes obvious that change is absolutely necessary, those who currently have the power to institute large-scale change will find their power waning. I remain skeptical that even a major change in terms of who holds office will provide the capability of those in political power to significantly cope with the scope of this problem- the growing shortage of a basic human necessity.

Need proof? The World Bank announced today that, “The world is moving towards a food crisis that may lead to wars and riots…” You think? Thank you for such a clear “prediction” of what lies ahead. Of course when asked about hunger around the world and specifically in Africa World Bank President Robert Zoellick suggested, “that sovereign wealth funds around the world allocate $30 billion – 1% of their $3 trillion assets- to investments for African growth, development, and opportunity,” which means he just doesn’t get it. Mr. Zoellick suggests throwing money at the problem. What a novel idea! The problem is we’re eating their food you moron, with our land export model of agricultural commodity production; to say nothing of the food we are burning in our gas tanks, our overly meat-intensive diet.

Ready for the scary part? The resulting rise in price has already caused instability with only 6.5 billion people on the planet. Population projections point to more than 9 billion people by the middle of this century. The people of the African continent don’t need to grow their economies and develop as Mr. Zoellick suggests in order to feed themselves. To be sure there is ample room for a rise in the standard of living of the average African but what they need more than anything is for us to stop acting like we’re somehow entitles to more than our fair share of this planet.

ABC ran an article today entitled, Food riots ‘an apocalyptic warning‘. What are they thinking? That’s the kind of headline that could ruin a rich world leader’s day. Because anyone with half a brain must realize that people are not going to just sit quietly and starve in the real world. This is not a television commercial. Recently there have been food riots in Haiti, Morocco, Egypt, Bangladesh, Mexico and in others Countries. Last October the Director of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization had this to say. “If prices continue to rise, I would not be surprised if we began to see food riots.” There’s at least one leader who saw this coming. But the rest of them, and to be fair many of us, haven’t given much thought to the day when our gluttonous eating habits might bite back. Because of our abusive attitude towards our environment and its resources, which we have taken for granted, that day might be arriving shortly.

But here’s another question. How long until we see food riots here in our country? Do you think the citizens- ur, ah, consumers in this country haven’t noticed the rising price of everything, including food? Do you think we still believe in the stupid core rate of inflation thingie that doesn’t include the cost of food, let alone the cost of the gasoline needed to drive to the store and buy that expensive food? The following is from Forbes (that leftist, conspiratorial, commie rag)

Kimberly Stevens, a 42-year-old resident of Lewisville, Texas… is also refusing to buy into the official Washington line that the nation’s inflation rate is only 3.4%. This outraged reader says, “As far as I am concerned, Bernanke, President Bush, Clinton, Obama and the rest of them live in a fairy-tale world. They do not go shopping each week and have no idea what the cost of goods is.”

A gallon of the Horizon organic milk she buys for her two boys has soared from $1.99 to over $5, an increase of 250%. In the past year, a loaf of bread has surged nearly 50%–to $2.29 from $1.59. Her Kraft cheddar cheese has gone from $1.99 to $2.50 for an eight-ounce package–a 25% rise. A dozen extra large eggs are up from 79 cents to $1.19, or about 50%, while ground beef, Stevens insists, is up more than 60%, from $1.79 a pound to $2.99.

Croesus’ source in small-town America doesn’t think “people will be able to afford to go to work this summer” when she predicts gasoline will hit $4.50 a gallon. “My Jeep cost $35 a week to fill in 2005 when we bought it. It is now over $60 to fill. In the past month gasoline has gone up over 75 cents (a gallon).”

The cost of food and fuel for a month are $1,300 higher, “a big hit in a family budget,” she insists. “American people cannot continue to survive and fund our great economy with more and more of our income going to pay to get us to work and home again.”

“You cannot tell me that is 3.4% inflation,”

Please don’t assume I am actually in favor of food riots or that I condone them. I think that form of violence is counterproductive, not to mention a calorically expensive activity! Better to stay home and grow your own. But I’m wondering, as food gets more expensive everywhere, including here in the United States of America, will everyone think like me- that we should have a homegrown agricultural revolution in light of resource depletion, energy descent and widespread political impotency- or will they come for those who play politics while the world begins to go hungry? Perhaps those in charge should stand aside and allow us a more peaceful revolution. We’d like to grow our own food in local communities all over America. And we’d like to work with others all over the world who would like to do the same. When I talk about WWII Victory Gardens people ask me what victory might look like this time? Perhaps it’ll look like anything other than people rioting in the streets over food.

The following are all really interesting, at least to me.

Russian oil production drops for the first time in a decade.

Potatoes! A staple food that isn’t getting ridiculously expensive. Note: They are also ridiculously easy to grow. And don’t forget about sweet potatoes. The good news is I still have sweet potatoes from last year. The bad news is I still have sweet potatoes from last year.

A great audio recording of Tim Robbins almost speaking to, and then yes, actually going through with his speech to the National Association Broadcasters. This is one of THE BEST bits I’ve listened to in a while. Highly recommended and an excellent example of the power of the Tubes.

How might the gov’t best assist in food rationing, even if it will never come to that here.

Quick, leak-proof and consumer-oriented distribution of affordable food is critical to our nutritional security in these inflationary times. But a tectonic shift in efficiency will only come when two drivers stop controlling the same car.

And lastly, good news! Brazil might have located enough petroleum to power us for all of 2018!


klara said...

great post. I uploaded it to (like digg but centered around sustainability). It’s a great resource and I am trying to spread the word on it. Please upload your posts there if you can! Also I wanted to give you a tip about a company called climate counts. They are about to launch on may 7th. Here’s the link….
If you end up posting on this please let me know. I’d love to read it!

take care,

Alyclepal said...

I've started my first potato box. Do you know if sweet potatoes can be grown up in a potato box as well? Thank you.

buy viagra without prescription said...

The situation in the world today is so difficult,I do not accept that many people in the world do not have any food to eat, I think that the picture in the blog is like the people in Africa who died by malnutrition! 22dd

Anonymous said...

That poor people die just because another human crap like them wants they die and that's it... suck huh ? humans should dissapear.