Sunday, April 25, 2010

The myth about the need to double food production

The Soil Association writes:

In the UK and globally the future direction of food and farming is being driven almost entirely by two frequently quoted statistics. Experts such as the UN Secretary General, the UK Government’s Chief Scientist, the current Secretary of State for the Environment, Hilary Benn MP, the Conservative Party, the National Farmers’ Union and Monsanto, are all saying that we need to increase food production 50% by 2030 or that it needs to double by 2050.

A new investigation from the Soil Association reveals that the widely used statistics are based on a ‘big fat lie’.

Telling porkies: The big fat lie about doubling food production, reveals that all those claiming we need to double global food production by 2050, or 50% by 2030, are wrong about the figures, are wrong about what the figures apply to, and are wrong to claim that achieving these figures will mean we will feed the hungry or end starvation.

The paper from Soil Association was noted by the Guardian

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A reminder

The vulcano eruption on Iceland and its consequences are brisk reminders of how dependent on nature we still are. I often hear people say that industrialism has made us less dependent on nature. That is an illusion. On the contrary, current society is dependent on much bigger parts of nature than any previous society was. Hunter and gatherers were certainly dependent on nature, but they just foraged on the surpluse of limited parts of the ecosystems. The didn't use all the mineral and fossil resources that we do today; they were not dependent on a lot of physical infrastructure like we are and they used less of the ecosystem services. A vulcano eruption on Iceland would have almost no impact on any people outside Iceland (which wasn't even populated at that time....). The same with changes in climate. We are more stuck in all our investments. ,Gatherers were of course also affected by change in climate, but they could move on or change their foraging habits quite easily.

Even compared to the agriculture civilization that preceeded us, we are as or more dependent on supply of product and services from nature. True, we produce a lot more per square meter, but we have increased the population so that all that extra surplus is needed. There is no more food surpluses today than before, rather the opposite. Storage of food is probably a lot less than in the agriculture societies. In Sweden all farms stored food for a year or so (with the less pleasant effect that they ate old food all the time). I am told that the Incas had food storages for seven years (!). True, one difference is perhaps that we can today ship food from surplus areas to deficiency areas with the help of cheap fossil fuel and modern technology meaning that local food shortages should be less devastating. But the fact is that we don't do that. 1 billion is short of food despite all our progress. (Most people forget that countries like Japan and England are less food self-sufficient than Africa, just because they can buy their food). Fodd trade is certainly nothing new, both the Greeks and the Romans were totaly dependent on food imports for their survival....

The industrial society occupies half of the biosphere, i.e. half of all biologicial production is directly in the service of human kind. In addition it uses so many minerals etc, that WWF calculates that we use like 1.5 Earth for our survival. See graph above

The illusion of that we are less dependent on nature is caused by that we live further away from nature. But that is just screwing up our perspective. The fact that we get electricity in cables and petrol frpm tubes in the petrol station doesn't mean that we are less dependent on nature for energy than the hunter sitting around the camp fire or the farmer putting another log on his hearth. On the contrary, we have never been so dependent on nature for our style of living.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Speaking of food miles and bio fuel

How far does a hive of bees fly to bring you one pound of honey?
More than 55,000 miles

How much honey would it take to fuel a bee’s flight around the world?

About one ounce (or two Tablespoons); no carry-on luggage is allowed!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Inequality is bad for development

Yesterday evening I went to a seminar with Richard Wilkinson, who, together with Kate Picket, has written the book: The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone.

For me the conclusions were hardly revolutionary, that inequality is not only morally unjust but also leads to more problems in society was something I thought all along. They prove it fairly well. The also show that econimic growth above a certain limit doesn't really contribute to our well being. Also that point is not entirely new,many has made the same case before. I add some graphs that might speak for themsleves.