I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. I guess you could call me a reasonably discerning but practical omnivore but I’m becoming rather desperate to find something I can eat without feeling guilty about the harm I am doing to someone, something or to the environment.
Abstract (Part of the original paper; useful, so I'll leave it here.)
This paper attempts to map out a definitive route to human “happiness” based on the notion of a human reconnection with nature through an appropriate heart-brain balance. The consequences of this for human society, especially agriculture, are explored. The content focuses specifically on Japan, but is thought to be adaptable to any society in the world.
Click here to see an excellent film interview with Christopher Cook, who wrote, Diet for a Dead Planet about the industrialised world's grossly inefficient industrialised food processing and distribution system (notably the US branch.) A quite rivetting book that goes into the destruction of small f
Food garden in White House
In the aftermath of breaking ground on the new, 1100 square foot White House garden, Michelle Obama named chef Sam Kass to head the White House Food Initiative. And Kass isn't a fan of big agriculture and mass fertilisers.
An article quoting Dr Brian Keating speaking at the Australian Society of Agronomy Conference under the title "On The Brink Of A New Agricultural Revolution" says:
"In a keynote address to the Australian Society of Agronomy Conference, the Director of CSIRO's Agricultural Sustainability Initiative, Dr Brian Keating, said there is evidence that rates of increase in agricultural productivity are easing both in Australia and overseas."
Vermont writer David Grundy argues that it is well past time that religious extremists in the United States were disregarded in order to permit desperately needed family planning aid be to be delivered to the Third World in order to stop the current food shortage crisis from getting worse.
Note from Candobetter Editors:
The chapters I submitted to The Final Energy Crisis 2 are the ones on the connections between fossil energy resources and food production in Japan and North Korea (DPRK). If you have any questions or comments about the content of these chapters, I will be very happy to hear from you, and also to reply to you on this blog. If it is necessary to give more than a short answer, I may start a new blog topic based on your question or comment.
The Australian Government is set to pass laws ending the single desk marketing of Australian wheat this week.
Working the land - or not of 23 Jun 08 by Jenny Hume on WebDiary. Describes the intricate dilemmas faced by an Australian farmer in the west of NSW – whether to continue grazing of livestock, which can be done sustainably, but which provides an insufficient income or to turn part or all of the farm over to mechanised monocultural wheat cropping, which, whilst far more lucrative, is at a frightening cost to the longer term viability of the farm. …
A 10,000 year misunderstanding in Science Alert, Thur, 01 May 08 by Peter Salonius
Many keen thinkers have understood that the driver enabling our numbers to shoot so far over long-term carrying capacity has been the one-time gift of fossil fuels, ...
... the other major factor that has enabled our numbers to shoot so far over long-term carrying capacity has been the one-time gift of erodible soils and the vast store of nutrients they contained until we began to irreversibly mine them about 10,000 years ago with cultivation agriculture.
Christopher Cook on US industrialised food production: the author of Diet for a Dead Planet describes the dysfunctional state of the US's industrialised food manufacturing and distribution system on YouTube.
Business-as-Usual Not a Viable Option
Lester R. Brown, 16 Apr 08
A fast-unfolding food shortage is engulfing the entire world, driving food prices to record highs. Over the past half-century grain prices have spiked from time to time because of weather-related events, such as the 1972 Soviet crop failure that led to a doubling of world wheat, rice, and corn prices. The situation today is entirely different, however. The current doubling of grain prices is trend-driven, the cumulative effect of some trends that are accelerating growth in demand and other trends that are slowing the growth in supply.
14 Apr 08 from CNN.
(CNN) -- Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday. ...
by Justin Norrie, Tokyo , 22 Apr 08 in The Business Age.
Food fears: Being a rich nation is no protection for Japan, which faces the fallout of relying too heavily on foreign food to supply domestic needs. ...
Lynda Hurst, 12 Apr08 in thestar.com.
Riots over rising grain prices are ripping through the developing world and the United Nations warns there's worse to come. Was Malthus right? Are we getting too numerous to feed ourselves? ...
"Agricultural challenge" is passing the buck
Achim Steiner's 21 April article "For future peace, step forward for the great agricultural challenge" succinctly identified many of the issues surrounding the current "food crisis" and the future challenge. However, he incorrectly implies that technological salvation can be bought for the cost of a little more agricultural R&D. There is no evidence that "sustainable and profitable farming that generates food security" for 9 billion people is physically possible even if today's economic and environmental conditions persist, let alone in a low-carbon economy suffering the impacts of climate change.
He is wrong also to predict that the current food shock will fade. The oil shock of the 1970's was political. The current price hikes for both food and fuel are driven by fundamental production limitations. We are living the limits to growth.
Indeed, there is evidence that biofuel production has diverted some food resources. There are also legitimate claims that commodity speculation, governmental mismanagement, corporate monopolies in developing country commercial agriculture, the Asian middle-class demand for red meat, the debt burden of poor farmers and poor nations, and underproduction in Europe and the former USSR all contribute to current food shortages. Addressing each of these issues offers opportunities to avoid hunger, at least locally and temporarily. Agricultural research and innovation will also contribute, there is no doubt. But they are not the underlying cause of the problem, and they will not bring food security.
The issue Mr. Steiner failed to identify was food demand. The growth in the human population is driving the current crisis. The "scapegoats" above have been with us for some time, but we could afford them while fossil energy was cheap and environmental capital essentially free to be converted and degraded. As population grows, our tolerance for wastefulness and inefficiency declines. But there is only so much slack to be taken up.
Mr. Steiner rightly referred to the environmental problems generated by modern agriculture, and the need to move to more sustainable farming systems, adapted to new climate conditions. However, in most cases such changes require a reduction in edible output, even as profitability may be maintained.
Why is population not central to the food debate? Why is the prediction of 9 billion mouths by 2050 regarded as inevitable? Some believe nothing can be done about it. Others refuse to consider it a problem through religious or cultural prejudice. Still others have a vested interest in the economic growth required to service more people. Yet slowing population growth is a far more achievable endeavour than an agricultural revolution that will sustainably produce more and more from less and less each year.
Mr. Steiner is tilting at windmills.
The BBC news service of 5 May reported that Bolivia's left wing indigenous President Evo Morales has moved to renationalise Bolivia's foreign energy and telecommunications companies. These had previously been privatised behind the backs of the Bolivian people in a process of IMF mandated 'reforms' which began in 1985 under the guidance of shock doctor Jeffrey Sachs.
Evo Morales came to power promising to nationalise the country's energy industry and redistribute wealth to Bolivia's poor indigenous majority. Exactly two years on from his decision to place the country's rich natural gas fields back under state control - and it's clear the project has some way to go.
Bolivia is buying controlling stakes in four energy companies - one in an agreement with the Spanish oil company, Repsol, and the others through state decrees.
Mr Morales is also re-nationalising the national telephone company, which was sold to the Italian firm, Telecom Italia, more than a decade ago. The Bolivian leader has accused the Italian firm of failing to honour a deal to invest more than six hundred million dollars in the national telephone system.
Morales and other Latin American leaders take stand against biofuels
The Guardian reports:
The leaders of Bolivia and Peru have attacked the use of biofuels, saying they have made food too expensive for the poor.
Speaking at the United Nations, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, said the increased use of farmland for fuel crops was causing a "tremendous increase" in food prices.
The Reuters news agency reported that the Peruvian president, Alan Garcia, called on developed countries to grow more food. In the last few months, food prices in Peru have run ahead of the country's general rate of inflation.
Their attack coincided with a report published today by the environmental group Friends of the Earth warning the EU of the perils of expanding biofuel use in Latin America. Last year the EU agreed on a target of 10% biofuel use for transport by 2020.
The report says the certification schemes being set up by some South American countries to ensure sustainable production of sugar cane and soya bean crops are not enough to prevent damage to the environment and "fail to address the biggest problems" caused by the cultivation of land currently covered by forests or smaller farms.
Morales called on developed nations to accept that problems created by biofuels in developing countries were partly their responsibility. After his speech, he told a news conference that "it is not an internal problem, it is an external problem".
Morales criticised "some South American presidents" for pushing biofuels. This was assumed to be an implicit criticism of Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had claimed that developing countries have enough land to produce both food and biofuels.
"This is very serious," he said. "How important is life and how important are cars? So I say life first and cars second."
In his UN speech, Morales called for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to take action against the biofuel industry "in order to avoid hunger and misery among our people".
Reuters reported Garcia as saying biofuels were "creating very serious problems for countries that have to import these (food) products. We believe there are alternative energies that do not put the world's food in danger."
Peru's government has been forced to hand out food to the poorest in the country's capital, Lima, because of the crisis caused by rising food prices. It has cut tariffs and raised interest rates to try to curb inflation, which rose 4% last year.
Right wing opponents force Morales to hold recall freferendum
Morales, like other popular left wing leaders has to confront rebellions by priveleged groups within Bolivia. Recently in more prosperous regions such as Sant Cruz they have won local referenda in favour of local autonomy.
The Guardian of 10 May 08 reports:
Morales agreed on Thursday 8 May to hold a nationwide recall referendum within three months, in a risky attempt to break the political deadlock over reforms designed to favour Bolivia's impoverished indigenous population.
"If we politicians can't agree, it's best that the population decide our destiny," he said in a nationally televised address.
The measure will also require the vice-president and Bolivia's nine state governors to face the voters, a crucial test for the government and the opposition in a polarised country.
The recall referendum requires the political leaders to win more votes as well as a greater percentage of support than they did in the 2005 general election. Failure to do so will oblige them to run again in a new election.
Morales, the country's first indigenous president, first came to power with 53.7% of the vote, which by Bolivian standards is a huge landslide.
He used the victory to champion the country's long-excluded indigenous majority, based in the western highlands. The former llama herder promoted socialist policies and forged links with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.
Opinion polls put Morales's popularity at around 50%, suggesting he has a good chance of winning a referendum and regaining the political initiative. He may also be able to pick off some opposition governors.
The president proposed a referendum last December and won the approval of parliament's lower house. The proposal stalled in the opposition-controlled senate until Thursday, when it was unexpectedly revived and then approved. The opposition appeared to calculate that two years of deadlock had weakened its once-mighty foe.
Morales embraced the challenge and said he would sign the measure the moment it reached his desk. The state governors did not immediately respond, but most had previously said they would also accept the challenge.
A recall referendum in Venezuela in 2004 threatened to unseat Chávez, but the socialist leader went on to win handsomely and emerge more powerful than before.
See also Morales sets Bolivia recall date from BBC News of 12 May 08, Morales: The Problem is Capitalism, from La Prensa of 17 May 08 Bolivia's Red Ponchos call to arms Youtube broadcast about Bolivia's indigenous pro-Morales militias - 04 May 08