Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Food Security - the mess of pottage dilemma

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob in exchange for a "mess of pottage" (meal of lentils) (Genesis 25:29–34). But that was then. Some areas of the world are now selling both the birthright of their own agricultural land and the “mess of pottage” that it can grow to foreign investors and governments!
Developed countries are becoming increasingly aware of the ramifications of global population growth, climate change, peak oil, peak water, peak phosphorus, peak grain and peak fish. These future pressures on developed countries, which will end up with inadequate local food sources, are causing them to invest overseas to help their food security. In Britain it is said that there is currently only between three to nine days food supply available before food riots would break out if the links in the supply chains start to fail.
This image below is taken from ABC news Australia. It shows areas that are having their agricultural resources bought up by foreign nations. Click this link  for the original article  - the map markers in the original article are clickable so you can see who’s buying what, where and why.

agricultural purchases
“Selling the Farm”  on the great Cruxcatalyst blog inspired this post.
During the 2008 election campaign Daniel Wimberley, Chris Perkins, Mark Forskitt and myself repeatedly mentioned that food security would become an issue in the future as the twin drivers of climate change and peak oil disrupted agriculture. I don't think the man in the street has been very well informed by the powers that be of what is in our future.  Whether that is because the "powers" are ignorant, particularly locally, of the facts and the probabilities or whether they are aware but are keeping it quiet, for Machiavellian reasons, is anybody's guess.

I will be commenting on and suggesting things for Jersey's Rural Economy Strategy White Paper, which is open for consultation now, in order to try and give issues such as peak oil and food security the more appropriate higher profile they deserve.  A quick glance through shows that the White Paper contains many switched-on ideas, including the idea of a triple bottom line - people, planet, profit although unfortunately they put them in this order - profit, people, environment!! However, the paper is still a bit coy about mentioning the full scenarios and potential consequences we face. The problem with consultation exercises like this is that when they are finalised, the wording is set in stone, so to speak.  Having taken part in them before, I can assure the reader that the people responsible for collating responses will tend to reject the more hard-line ideas in favour of a sort of bland consensus average - as if this sort of distorted democratic view will somehow accord best with the realities that we need to face up to. It won’t. The popular vote never changed the laws of physics, biology and maths.

Once these bureaucrat-written and edited documents are set in stone, like the Ten Commandments, they tend to become holy writ to some, thus attracting a spurious faith in their content which unfortunately is to often non-divine… If they are not successfully challenged before they are finalised they will become a deadweight in future because their inadequate scope will be used to shape other policies and documents which will just not be sustainable enough - we would end up jumping 6 feet over a twenty foot crevasse which will initially give (to the naive) the impression of moving rapidly towards our sustainability goal but will end up with us broken at the bottom. It was just such inadequate pseudo-sustainability thinking that was in evidence in the decisions and strategy of the T&TS Department vis à vis our almost complete incinerator...

Here’s a video about the general subject of food security and climate change etc.

The Food and Climate Connection from WhyHunger on Vimeo.
Hunger may not just be for others in future… Click for website – food security learning centre


No comments: