Sunday, 22 May 2022

News Special: Food Shortages Are Coming

The Food System Is Set To Implode

Many small things are coming together to collapse the food system. That's the chatter coming in from all over the place. Get ready for 'shrinkflation' and inflation and outright stock runouts. Maybe this is a good time to get gardening, too, and I have one tip for you to get up and running quickly here.

This is a break from the usual recipe format, I'll put food news and occasional 'linkdumps' of food/foodie links I've been following here now from time to time, so I'll also have to go back and tag all my old posts and set up the search facility on the blog.

George Monbiot has a good explainer here, which I highly recommend. Various others have article explaining shrinkflation (where an item is quietly downsized but the packaging - and the price - remain the same, and sometimes the price even goes up. 

As discussed in that article above, food's grown into a monopoly or duopoly in many cases, with the various players all connected, colluding, and collaborating. In the middle of last century the various food corporations managed to drive a wedge between their customers and their suppliers. The disconnect left us with people unable to tell if chicken was an animal or vegetable, people swearing that fish didn't come from the sea but from supermarkets, and in general most people can no longer tell a mallow plant from a lawn any more. 

(Which is sad because mallow is a widely-growing plant that likes disturbed poor soil so it's a good fit for cities and in fact grows in a lot of them, it's nutritious, and can be cooked with like a spinach or other green - for free. You can see how well this plays to the Big Food playbook, can't you? On the way to the supermarket, to pay a dwindling supply of your income, to an ever-wealthier supermarket corporation, for ever-more-expensive spinach, you walk past three mallow plants and perhaps even kick them over because "damn weeds"...)

Is It A Purge? A Purification? (Spoiler: Nope.) 

It seems like everything's come together in an almost-too-perfect storm: COVID, hyperinflation, food systems under attack, and monkey pox. "Them" seem to be trying to kill us, starve us, give us one weird epidemic after another . . . But it actually IS a perfect storm. And it's mostly come about due to some very different reasons than we may be thinking.

It would be easy to blame our exploitation of the Earth's resources - without remediation or seeming care for the consequences - for the problems. After all, it's our craven greed that got us into contact with bats and monkeys carrying odd viruses. Isn't it? 

I'm convinced it's the very very VERY VERY large wealth inequality in the world today. 1% of the population hold somewhere between 70% and 80% of all the wealth in the world; Then a small middle class owns 80% of what's left; and then the lowest and largest segment own just a few percent of the world's wealth. 

It kicks everyone's survival instincts into high gear - "must on more! Must own more!" and that breeds greed, and that means we must use whatever means are at our disposal including dishonesty, exploitation, and killing others (including the planet) to survive. In a bit of a remarkable study I've read about, justice appears to result in a world where everyone can have enough. I can't locate that study but it'll be one of those in the table on the latter page.

Our survival imperative is to survive long enough to pass on our genes to a new generation. In the world that has existed until very recently, that was fair enough in a number of ways:

  • There were plentiful resources but it was hard for a single person to get enough.
  • There were plentiful threats to survival and therefore massive overbreeding was needed.

But we're now in a situation where everyone on Earth can have any resource they need. There are fewer and fewer existential threats to our existence. (Except ourselves...) But the old ways of thinking still rule us, and so we have inequality and injustice.

Because deaths are more common if you're of lower economic status, you need to breed more offspring in order to ensure your genes survive. But whereas before, this meant you had more peoplepower for gathering resources, now you have fewer resources so each person has less. 

In short: If everyone had been prepared to live a modest and adequate life, we could all have lived on the production of the world. There's more and more clean energy coming online, we waste more food each year than could comfortably support the entire poulation and overconsume the rest so that it feeds only a small upper percentile, and everyone is looking over their shoulder because for sure someone is coming after our share...

All because we still think we are the most unique and fit-to-survive organism on the planet.

What's The Solution?

You're not going to like it. Give up the idea of fast foods, give up on owning a car or a house or a boat, forget mindless seasrching for that one perfect entertainment. Give up on unbridled greed for money.

Instead, look forward to free housing, free food, free transport anytime and anywhere you need it for any purpose whatsoever, turning your hand to anything you feel you have a knack or talent for, and forget about a system that created a world where over half had to live in abject horrible conditions to give you a fraction - a mere fraction (less than 16% of the world's wealth overall shared between 30% of the population) - of what's in the first paragraph.  

Well - let me correct that. McDonalds and Wendy's and Subway et al feed a relatively huge portion of that middle income band and a smaller portion of the lowest. But the 1% - aside from a few notable exceptions - don't eat junk food like that. But if you could have great tasting healthy food without the hassles, I imagine most people wouldn't be too put out by those big food chains to subside into the background.

But - right now - we can already get a taste for this. Form a 'community dinner club' locally - everyone chips in some amount for fresh food, some for the energy cost, and some for the cooks. You name the cooks, the buyers, wait staff, and recipients. Food ingredients are kept all around the community, brought to whoever's the cook place for the day, the people nominated as staff for the day get busy cooking the meal(s) and the person whose home is being used for cooking gets a bit to put towards the energy bill. 

For maximum economy see if anyone can grow some ingredients, and buy them for the cooperative. Everyone gets meals for the family, fresh and tastier than fast food, and no doubt also a lot cheaper. And that's how food would work in the future, except for the part about money.

Because, given the choice of working for money and working for a community, I'd rather work for the group. If I was good at putting up housing, I'd ask someone who's good at drawing house plans for a plan, then ask the guys down at the hardware for all the bits, then go and find a group of us and make a house.

The guys down at the hardware would ask the guys at the fittings factories to send more hardware and fittings, and someone that enjoys driving a truck could sit in the mostly self-driving delivery truck and deliver all the stuff.

If someone wanted to create art - create art! If someone wanted to go fishing - go fishing! And so forth.

If that sounds a whole lot like a fairy tale to you, it's because we've had the fairy tale beaten out of us. Deliberately, because to some people there's never enough, and it's never enough to have enough, you also have to have extreme 'have-nots' to compare and measure yourself against. If you think hard enough, I'm sure you can think of several billionnaires who could end world hunger and housing shortages using just a tenth or a quarter of their enormous fortune that they'll never ever use - and aren't doing it. 

The fact that this attitude is prevalent at all strata of human society doesn't mean it's right - it just means the top 1%'s propaganda's still winning.

Stuff to be aware of: Living in the country and a breadbasket region as my wife and I do, we don't have as many worries sourcing food. And the region is still sending as much of the produce to the city so everyone has enough.

Except. 

When the pandemic created chaos in the supermarkets, the people from the city would basically send 'raiding parties' down the coast and buy everything out from under us. That's set to start becoming a feature of food shopping here when this particular famine hits. One person hoarding triggers hoarding behaviour in others. And then the few that have held back must hoard too or starve. And THAT is also all down to money, greed, and the imperative to survive better than anyone else, at any cost

And funny, but 'famine' is going to be the exact right word to use, and as mentioned elsewhere in this article, climate change has been one of THE triggers for this FoodApocalypse. The Climate Food Apocalypse of the Early Anthropocene, it'll be called in the history books. IF we have anyone left to write history books, anyway. 

Also funny is that every famine has come down to our actions or inactions. Here's a site where you can make a difference.

There ARE things we can do now - I'm not going to make this a huge long article, but I hope it's given you some news about food that's becoming important and will become VERY important VERY soon. If you can help in any way, get in touch with me. If you have a crop going to waste let people around you know and let them come pick some up for others to use to survive on.  Use every buy-swap-sell page, every social media, every noticeboard, but don't let a largely engineered food shortage develop.

And I'm writing this stuff up here and on my other blogs, and will help coordinate efforts where I can.

So please - if you can at all spare some time, take a look at my News Stand where you'll see live updated links to everything I publish; Or take a subscription to my weekly newsletter where you'll receive the same information automatically once a week; Or contact me via email; Or donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee, or even make a regular monthly donation there. 

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