(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘hunger

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings”*…

Tim Flannery considers George Monbiot‘s (@GeorgeMonbiot) new book, Regenesis, in which Monbiot argues that neither the industrial farming that become our norm nor the most rapidly spreading alternative farming methods can help save our food system from impending crisis…

What will we be eating in the future? Will it be wholesome, locally grown organic produce or some Soylent Green–like nightmare food? The only certainty, George Monbiot argues in Regenesis, is that we cannot continue to eat what we eat today. Climate disruption will see to that. And even if climate impacts are less severe than some project, industrial agriculture and the so-called global standard diet it creates are environmentally unsustainable and are destroying the planet’s soils so rapidly that we already stand on the brink of a worldwide catastrophe. We have, Monbiot warns, a very brief period in which to reshape our food systems…

[There follows a fascinating (and chilling) diagnosis of the challenge, and a consideration of possible answers…]

Humans have been farmers for only around 10,000 years. Before that we were hunter-gatherers, and the planet could sustain just a few million of us. Then we moved down the food chain by harvesting the seeds of the grasses that fed the great herds. With that innovation, many millions could be nourished. But the agricultural system that produced the grain was damaging to the environment. We now face the prospect of one further leap down the food chain to bacteria. The benefits could be enormous. Yet we have fetishized our food so thoroughly that it’s difficult to think of a yellow powder made of dried bacteria as being healthy, fresh, and good for the planet. Perhaps the first person to hand out baked cakes of crushed grains at a barbecue serving mammoth and bison steaks to Paleolithic big-game hunters faced the same problem…

It’s Not Easy Being Green,” in @nybooks.

A pair of shorter-term views that raise some of the same issues (and conflicts): “The U.S. diet is deadly. Here are 7 ideas to get Americans eating healthier” and “The next threat to global food supplies.”

* Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

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As we contemplate comestibles, we might note that National Procrastination Day was yesterday.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 7, 2022 at 1:00 am

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”*…

Staying yesterday’s agribusiness theme: George Monbiot on the extraordinary challenges facing the world’s food system…

For the past few years, scientists have been frantically sounding an alarm that governments refuse to hear: the global food system is beginning to look like the global financial system in the run-up to 2008.

While financial collapse would have been devastating to human welfare, food system collapse doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet the evidence that something is going badly wrong has been escalating rapidly. The current surge in food prices looks like the latest sign of systemic instability.

Many people assume that the food crisis was caused by a combination of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. While these are important factors, they aggravate an underlying problem. For years, it looked as if hunger was heading for extinction. The number of undernourished people fell from 811 million in 2005 to 607 million in 2014. But in 2015, the trend began to turn. Hunger has been rising ever since: to 650 million in 2019, and back to 811 million in 2020. This year is likely to be much worse.

Now brace yourself for the really bad news: this has happened at a time of great abundance. Global food production has been rising steadily for more than half a century, comfortably beating population growth. Last year, the global wheat harvest was bigger than ever. Astoundingly, the number of undernourished people began to rise just as world food prices began to fall. In 2014, when fewer people were hungry than at any time since, the global food price index stood at 115 points. In 2015, it fell to 93, and remained below 100 until 2021.

Only in the past two years has it surged. The rise in food prices is now a major driver of inflation, which reached 9% in the UK last month. [Current estimates are that it will be 9% in the U.S. as well.] Food is becoming unaffordable even to many people in rich nations. The impact in poorer countries is much worse.

So what has been going on?…

Spoiler alert: massive food producers hold too much power – and regulators scarcely understand what is happening. Sound familiar? “The banks collapsed in 2008 – and our food system is about to do the same,” from @GeorgeMonbiot in @guardian. Eminently worth reading in full.

Then iris out and consider how agricultural land is used: “Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture.”

… and consider the balance between agriculture aimed at producing food directly and agriculture aimed at producing feed and fuel: “Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare.”

Hélder Câmara

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As we secure sustenance, we might send carefully-observed birthday greetings to Dorothea Lange; she was born on this date in 1885. A photographer and photojournalist, she is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange’s photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of the Great Depression.

Lange’s iconic 1936 photograph of Florence Owens Thompson, Migrant Mother [source]
Lange in 1936 [source]
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