Thursday, February 17, 2011

is the world producing enough food?

NYTimes | Food inflation has returned for many of the same old reasons: the demand for meat has returned with the recovery of middle-income economies; the price of oil is up, which both raises the cost of food production and transport, and stokes the diversion of food crops into biofuel production. Speculators are taking pounds of flesh in the commodity exchanges. And, of course, freak weather has disrupted production in key export zones.

But what makes the weather matter? This is hardly the first La NiƱa weather cycle, after all. Every human civilization has understood the need to plan for climate’s vicissitudes. Over the centuries, societies developed the tools of grain stores, crop diversification and "moral economies" to guarantee the poor access to food in times of crisis.

Global economic liberalization discarded these buffers in favor of lean lines of trade. Safety nets and storage became inefficient and redundant – if crops failed in one part of the world, the market would always provide from another.

Climate change turns this thinking on its head. A shock in one corner of the world now ripples to every other. The economic architecture that promised efficiency has instead made us all more vulnerable. Little has changed in this crucial respect since the last food crisis. But this isn’t simply a rerun of 2008.
food protest in JordanMuhammad Hamed/Reuters Rising food prices caused protests in Karak, Jordan, in January.

While the global recession has turned a corner for some people in some countries, unemployment remains stubbornly high for many, and hunger has trailed it. There are 75 million people more undernourished now than in 2008. At the same time, governments are cutting back on entitlement programs for the poor as part of austerity drives to fight inflation.

Urban families are unable to afford food and fuel, and governments are unresponsive to their plight. Under such circumstances, as Egyptians know too well, food prices and climate change are revolution’s kindling.

7 comments:

Ed said...

The food shortage and the youth unemployment and the rising oil prices will make an interesting 2011.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_07/b4215058743638.htm

All indications seem to indicate 2012 may be more interesting than predicted.

ProfGeo said...

I was going to mention Daniel Quinn's non-gorilla theory of world hunger (more food production seems to correlate with more population and more hunger) but I'd rather go local with the following. I was not in the Haight in the '60s but I was in and out of there in later decades. I think the reference to "gutter punks" in the story is a good summation of the current attitude.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/17/BAFP1HO09F.DTL

Supermarket signals a new day in the Haight
C.W. Nevius
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just as the grand opening for Whole Foods in the Haight was about to begin on Wednesday morning, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and a rainbow touched down across the street in Golden Gate Park.

It was only fitting. A full supermarket on Stanyan - finally - is epic.

"This signifies change in the Haight," said Kent Uyehara, who owns FTC Skate Boarding on Haight Street. "Hopefully it demonstrates that when communities organize together they can get things done."

The Haight has a long and proud tradition of hippies, activists and powerful neighborhood groups. But this is a snapshot moment of how things have changed for the better. A new organization, the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, was formed in 2005 because residents felt they weren't being represented.

The traditional power in the neighborhood, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, did a lot of good work when it was formed in 1960, like stopping the Southern Freeway from cutting through the neighborhood, but now it has become stuck in the past.

It battled development of any kind, recently quibbling over the Whole Foods addition. It opposed the sit/lie measure to make it illegal to camp on the sidewalk, and is now calling in the troops to keep its recycling center in Golden Gate Park open, even though its lease expired back in 2001 and curbside recycling is the norm...

Chris1999 said...

hahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Tom said...

1999?  I got a pair of shoes older than that.  I'm wearing a pair of shoes older than that.

CNu said...

This is the 6th highest ranked page in the google search and Chris came to us from Seoul Korea...,

Tom said...

Sorry, Chris1999, for my unwelcoming attitude.  

Tom said...

Wow I'm seeing a  #4 on this topic.  Good to see the subrealist pov getting out there.