Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Excitable Headlines

Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists

Yea, that's an actual headline from The Guardian.The opening para is not too much different:
Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.
Let's review, shall we? The US is experiencing a drought that affects more than half its farmland. Food prices are expected to rise 5%. Animal protein will probably become more expensive because we feed so many animals on corn. While higher prices for meat may well lead to open warfare in American cities, its doubtful that this will happen anywhere else. Food prices will rise because of a slow inflation from corn being used to make ethanol, but the primary reason is speculative money's effect. The Guardian also points out, in a separate article from that quoted above:
Biofuels – which last year swallowed almost 40% of the US maize harvest – have also been highlighted as part of the problem. In the US, pressure is growing to abandon targets for biofuels in car fuel. Livestock farmers are warning they won't be able to afford to feed their animals.
But missing from the lineup have been financial speculators, who have piled back into the market. Want to know what a brewing food crisis looks like to them? Last week, US hedge fund manager Peter Sorrentino commented: "It's like a big money tap has been turned on."
By June, markets in food derivatives were awash with $89bn in speculative cash. That figure is courtesy of Barclays, the UK's top food speculator, which this year highlighted speculation as a "key driver" of rising prices.
But the fear-mongering continues. You'd think the US right would be the least crazy--after all, the market is supposed to sort this sort of thing out with no problem. The market is the great equalizer, after all, shifting resources from one place to the other, almost magically bringing supply and demand into balance. Yet, here's a video from YouTube.

Craziness comes from people without enough information and a deep and unshakable conviction that they have no control over their lives. Or, as Obama has said; "[I]t’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Its hard to see Novella Carpenter panicking. She's already experimenting with dry-farmed tomatoes in Oakland.

Novella Carpenter, who runs Ghost Town Farm in urban Oakland
All it really takes to not panic is a couple of bucks in seeds and a little bit of dirt and space. Maybe a tech of thinking ahead, too. I noticed earlier today that local carrots are selling at the market for $2/5 lbs. At that price, I can buy several bags and get them in the freezer for the winter--thus providing myself with a sense of control over my own life and a measure of food security. You could do worse than to do the same....

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