It’s hard to imagine how this assessment could be wrong. All the more reason to transform every single possible plot of ground into permaculture, as well as to aim for food sovereignty in each locality.
February 21, 2014
A few months ago I read an argument that the 1800’s really started in 1814 (I forget why), the 1900’s really started in 1914 (World War I), and something this year will draw a clear line between the century before and the century after. I was skeptical, but it might be happening. Over the last few days, protests in both Ukraine and Venezuela have been met with live bullets. These conflicts seem to be about repression vs democracy, or left vs right, but I think they’re about food.
Check out the chart in this article, The Math That Predicted the Revolutions Sweeping the Globe Right Now. There is a strong correlation between high food prices and political unrest, and the crazy thing is, cheap food is usually not what the protesters are demanding. Instead, hunger is the catalyst that makes them finally take the streets for other grievances. More generally, hungry people take bigger risks, so there will be more crime, more fights, even more accidents.
How hard is it to feed everyone? Right now the obstacles are mostly political. Ukraine is a massive wheat producer but most of it is being exported as a commodity. This leads to my favorite definition of the difference between a free market and capitalism: in a free market, money is used to convert one commodity into another commodity; in capitalism, a commodity is used to convert money into more money. Protesters are being shot because in the logic of the global economy, turning money into more money is a more important use of food than feeding people. This system is locked in hard, and I don’t expect it to change until the economy (as we know it) is in ruins and different economies grow through the cracks.
Even if we could magically convert the whole world to zero-growth socialism, it is still becoming physically more difficult to feed everyone as populations rise and climate disasters destroy crops. I don’t know how much room there is to increase efficiency, for example by feeding grain straight to people instead of feeding it to cows to make a much smaller amount of meat. Realistically even these reforms are difficult, and we are facing decades of global hunger and violence, and maybe history will mark this year as the beginning.