The so-far silent tsunami: Global Food Crisis Growing

January 27, 2009

Two reports this week underscore the need for families, neighborhoods, and communities to take action this year to ensure their ongoing food security.

famineThe first report is somewhat longer in term.  The head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), acknowledged on Monday that global food production — already under strain from the global credit crunch — must double by 2050 to head off mass famine.

Jacques Diouf said that the unfolding global food crisis pushed another 40 million people into hunger in 2008. That brought the global number of undernourished people to 973 million last year out of a total population of around 6.5 billion, he said.

“We face the challenge now of not only ensuring food for the 973 million who are currently hungry,” Diouf said, “but also ensuring there is food for nine billion people in 2050. We will need to double global food production by 2050.”

Diouf warned the global economic crisis was already undermining efforts to tackle food insecurity. The credit crisis makes it harder for farmers to get loans to buy materials and equipment to grow crops.

“This silent tsunami is completely unacceptable,” Diouf said of the mounting global food crisis.

Meanwhile, of more immediate concern, consumers may soon be paying even more as they chase a shrinking supply of fresh and frozen vegetables. According to news reports, many California farmers have started abandoning their fields in response to a crippling drought.

California’s sweeping Central Valley grows most of the country’s fruits and vegetables. But this winter thousands of acres are turning to dust as the state hurtles into the worst drought in nearly two decades. The consequences of the drought will soon impact store shelves and consumer wallets.

The credit crisis, ongoing instability in the realm of oil prices, the drought, and other mounting conditions make it important now – this year – for citizens to take steps to implement local and sustainable systems of food production.

Hearing the land’s call now: a painful gasp

January 19, 2009

heinbergbook2As I did research for writing The Call of the Land, I interviewed Richard Heinberg, the author of several books describing our environmental and economic status quo. His works include  Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World, and The Party’s Over.

Heinberg recognizes that agriculture is a primary root of our current environmental and economic crises. He shared some observations.

“I am sorry to say that the call of the land right now is a painful gasp. We have been systematically destroying topsoil, ecosystems, species, waterways, dead zones in ocean, you name it. Every biologist I know believes we are in an extinction period right now that rivals and possibly exceeds any in history.

“The land still in many places offers healing and respite from the dreary urban experience with birds, trees, and so on – but it’s hard to escape the realization that for most species the ecosystems are being stressed to the breaking point.

“There is a surreal quality to watching all these things unfold. It’s one thing to study the trends and to theorize that industrial agriculture is unsustainable, then it’s quite another thing to see fertilizer prices skyrocketing, food riots breaking out, the airline industry convulsing, and the auto industry contracting. The reality is that it’s alarming and frightening to see it happening, and to see the speed with which it is unfolding.”

In his books and on his website, Richard Heinberg, now senior fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, lays out the facts, and explores healthy and sustainable ways to be upon the land.

Select Seeds Now for the 2009 season

January 5, 2009

sunf1As the new year gets underway, seed companies publish their catalogs for the growing season ahead. Wise gardeners and farmers will want to select and acquire their organic, open-pollinated seeds promptly this January. Changing economic conditions will make food growing a widely popular pathway this year as people look ahead.

Open-pollinated seeds produce food plants with seeds that can be successfully saved at harvest time, and then used to plan new crops for 2010 and beyond. Hybrid and genetically engineered seeds cannot be saved.  To locate sources, just enter “organic, open-pollinated seeds” in your search engine, and the Internet will serve you up a wide array. Here’s a link to a page listing some seed companies.

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