Food & Food Prices : The Biggest Elephant In The Room?

Jeez, I know! There’s so many bloody issues now – if only it were as simple as keeping just dozens of plates spinning. Small wonder that lots of us just stop thinking about it, let them fall to the floor and walking away with fingers in ears for a moment.

But this issue really does matter, and it’s obvious why. When it comes to your immediate personal survival, after air and water, food is number 3. I won’t labour the point, but it’s easy to forget. We are more alienated from food production than almost certainly all civilisations known in history, and it happened pretty quickly too.

Now, thanks to various pressures, food prices are at a record high.

This obviously starts bottom up from staples, and thus proportionally impacts the poorer harder (observe how supermarket “basic” ranges have risen far faster than “own”, “name” and “luxury” brands).

The direction will be one way from now on, without very drastic action.

No apologies for this being a Mail article. There is a sense of doom to some of this piece (it gets better). The Mail is nothing if not good at “sense of doom”.

It’s often said that any society is 3 meals from revolution or “anarchy”, in the over-used negative sense of that word.

It’s harder to find out who actually started that phrase off, I thought it was Napoleon but it seems uncertain. Yet, as I skirted around trying to find out I got distracted by this fascinating piece

It calls to mind the little discussed fact that the protests of the Arab Spring were massively driven  by food prices, probably even more so than generations of festering resentment at autocratic, corrupt dictatorship. The issues merged of course. The hatred for regimes was often present in large amounts, but according to our press it was more or less 100% of the motive for protest. Why would they play down the idea of food prices being a large factor in rebellion? Not hard to figure perhaps.

Another fascinating fact I can’t help but throw in : We are often told that there’s only one “real” democracy in the region, Israel. In the year of the Arab Spring, which country in the region (possibly the world, I ain’t checked) had the most per capita involvement in anti government protests (which were mostly economic)? Ooops! Someone forget to mention it had all been kicking off in Israel as well.

Anyway, the huge food issue: Is there a positive solution? Yes.

Is it easy to implement? Not exactly, but it is certainly possible.

Is there an example of how to do it? Yes, it’s not just “how we did stuff within the past century” either.

Many people say this film is one of the most inspiring they have ever seen.

It is the story of how Cuba overcame the massive challenge of existing with next to no fossil fuel after their comrade regime, the USSR, went the way of all flesh. The films perspective is via the “peak oil” concept, but it’s applications to our food availability and pricing issues are just as strong.

Food also has immense national security implications. Normally we are presented with national security as our ability to kill lots of people, stop them killing us or stop us from kicking off if, for example, we got fed up with the government being a bunch of illegitimate and corrupt psychopaths (I always have to crowbar those 3 words in at the moment).

Having enough food to affordably go round without mass malnutrition, i.e  the proper sustaining of life,  must be at least as important as the governments ever present obsession with death.

When the brown stuff hits the fan, nations will tend towards stopping exporting.

Russia stopped exporting wheat years ago.  There are massive crop failures worldwide thanks to weather weirdness that is yet another issue.

We need to be self sufficient in food, or very close to it, especially as we don’t have vast amounts of other vital resources to trade. The main area of economy we specialised in for the past generation was the doubtless imaginative moving around of numbers on screens. But the “imagination” turned out to be a large problem and certainly little to do with physical reality of genuinely useful commodities in the long run. I discuss this plenty elsewhere, rather too much probably. Suffice to say, we now urgently need to re-assess some very basic realities.

As I said, we’re probably more alienated from what we physically are than we have ever been, in that we are what we eat. It need not be the case. In fact, the closer food production gets to us the healthier it is physically, socially, economically, environmentally and from the national security point of view.

It has to also be said that producing animals for food is massively wasteful, leaving the ethics aside entirely. That’s the region I started to move, at glacial pace, towards veganism as a teenager.

There are a shocking amount of countries where people starve while grain is fed to cattle to go to the wealthy either at home or abroad. Much of the destruction of the Amazon and destruction of soil globally is down to meat production.

The facts on water, land and grain use are generally astonishing to those who don’t know. This fairly randomly sourced link seems to cover it.

Back to the film, and the simplicity of us just growing more food –  Can you think of the kind of entities, increasingly and deliberately dominating food production, that would want to obstruct the sort of accessible and successful practice the film shows? Could they have lots and lots of money and power. Could they have more influence over “government” than we do?

We can not hang around for state operatives or capitalists to sort this out, especially when a particular strain of capitalism (to be fair,  some capitalists dispute it is really capitalism) has utterly captured the state and has a huge interest in controlling food, and us not doing so.

We need to be doing this ourselves, and plenty of people are. Look up “transition movements” – I personally find Transition Heathrow / Grow Heathrow very inspiring – a squat of unused land producing food in the exact same green space that used to provide for most of West London. When the land was first taken, the squatters were astonished to find dozens of large overgrown greenhouse frames.

Other stuff to bash into a search engine : incredible edibles, permaculture, seed saving

There are absolutely thousands of such projects throughout this and every country to get involved in, or you can do it yourself.

Go on the waiting list for an allotment, the more demand there is, the more pressure for the council to provide more space. Garden, window boxes, whatever and wherever.

Hell, I’ve even convinced myself. By Christmas I could be semi self sufficient in chillis and corriander. Is it the right weather?


About watermelonbloke

Policital / community activist (community, mutual aid, environment, animal rights, activist support, anti racism, anti corporate, anti cuts, things like that) In and out of context of above stuff: Green Party activist - on committee of north west regional party (note: This is NOT a party or party plugging blog. I have not been a candidate for 4 years and don't anticipate being one in at least the next 4) Musician - Plenty of of pro experience, mostly jazz and folk but rock / pop / soul etc all fine and groovy, just tell me the tune and I'd hope to be up and running on minimum fuss. Piano, accordian, vox. Teacher - about 16 years in schools, FE, Adult Ed, private tuition, workshops etc. Qualified in music but lots of random subjects done in supply.
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