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Been saying this stuff -- at MoA before ET, and before that at WB, and before that in living rooms and via email to anyone who would listen -- for so long I feel numb with my own repetitiveness... Cassandra-One-Note.  It is really nice to hear others at last talking over these issues seriously, rather than regarding them as lunatic-fringe topics, tin-foil hat and black helicopter stuff.

But (as I've also said) mass starvation is not inevitable:  it's only inevitable if we go on doing things the industrial-capitalist way, where the purpose of life and civilisation is to generate wealth for an accumulator elite.  If the purpose of civilisation was to feed and clothe and house people, we could feed and clothe and house people -- even the numbers of people alive today.  But we would rather fight wars, build obscene monuments to our own cleverness and "wealth" (yes, moai) and wallow in dreams of supra-pharaonic luxury... while we teeter on the edge of biotic bankruptcy, yada yada.

The most "efficient" (in terms of external resources) way to cultivate food is intensive polyculture.  But that requires intensive human involvement and expertise, local knowledge, skill, and the distributed custodianship of land by the people (not its concentrated private ownership by a tiny band of absentee overlords).  Yields per acre with intensive polyculture and biotic (non-petroleum, nutrient-recycling) methods are well documented as higher than industrial ag yields per acre -- especially if we count the (documented) higher nutritional value of biotically-grown food and the (documented) accumulation rather than liquidation of topsoil, and the greatly reduced "need" for irrigation (relieving the pressure on another precious resource, fresh water).  But intensive polyculture flies directly in the face of a century of Taylorism and the centralisation of power and authority that Taylorism both promotes and enables;  and it flies in the face of technomanagerial hubris w/its rather campy fantasies of totalising control and the "rationalisation" of all productive activity.

We are at a juncture, like many civilisations before us, where the maintenance of power and authority by the elite, and the core civilisational myths which legitimise that elite, are directly at odds with the survival of the masses and of the civilisation itself.  We know from the historical record that our chances of doing the smart thing and changing course in time to avert a serious trainwreck are -- what -- not quite so good as 50/50?

I don't know which is worse ... an inevitable Doom rolling down on us, majestic and terrifying and fateful -- or the maddening sense that there is nothing inevitable about it at all, that it's merely stubbornness, pride, greed and petty-power-madness (the Four Horsemen of civilisational collapse) that prevent us from exercising our clever-monkey adaptibility and common sense and dodging the cannonball.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of speculation (in the financial sense) going on in the ag sector, as the finance capitalists who got burned in the subprime crash and real estate bubble take their government handouts and go play in a new marketplace:  staple foods.  This speculation is helping to create a "food bubble", aided by the genuine drawdown of essential food producing resources (such as fresh water, viable topsoil, unpaved acreage, and stable weather).  Genuine supply failures combined with aggressive speculative profiteering:  recipe for disaster.

I have long thought that we need a two-economy (at least) model, in which certain basic goods are not available for speculative investment.  This has worked before for other cultures and could work again...  Basic foods, basic clothing, baseline shelter, basic (village doctor) medical care, should not be subject to profiteering (aka economic blackmail).  Luxury goods and/or imported goods might be left available as a speculative playground, but in a separate currency (so that speculative booms and busts don't touch the subsistence or household economy).  iirc Tainter documents this practise in one or more S American traditional cultures:  two currencies, two sets of business rules, to provide a separation between a stable economy of necessities and a risky/aggressive economy of luxuries.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:29:16 PM EST
mass starvation is not inevitable

"There is no such thing as an apolitical food crisis."
  -- Amartya Sen

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:36:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
mass starvation is not inevitable

Oh I woulnd't deny that, but let's be honest, the changes necessary are unlikely. The status quo has far too many moneyed vested interests to allow such changes.

My personal solution is to buy land with water enough to grow my own.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 02:40:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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