Monday, March 8, 2010
The Hidden Crisis
time to stock up..
by ras, our youngest tribal sister. Thanks, ras!
Right now everyone is talking about the economy. The economy this, the economy that. The economy sucks, and we’re all screwed. That’s the short version of a long story. More and more people are losing their jobs and homes. Things are grim and only going to get worse.
Collapse is happening. It’s a fact, not a theory, not something your grandchildren will see in the future. It is happening now. Yes, it is happening slowly –but happening nonetheless. John Michael Greer likes to point out that a young girl about to get married when the French Revolution started would have been a grandmother when France finally stabilized decades later. The collapse of a society is measured in decades, at best; the collapse of a civilization in lifetimes. Now is the twilight hour, the golden moment between the day and the night when you know the end is coming but can still do something about it. Not to stop it - no, for what is coming is inevitable, but to cushion the blow and protect yourselves and your family.
The collapse of a society or civilization generally occurs in a series of crises. The first crisis in the current collapse was the 1970s oil crisis. I want you to note two things about this crisis: first, it occurred only years after 1970, which may be considered the peak of western civilization as measured by energy output and other factors; second, I was not yet born when this crisis occurred. I wasn’t born until 1983, and I’m old enough to have children in 5th grade. Think about that for a moment. This means the collapse of western civilization has now been going on for two and a half generations.
The second crisis began in 2001 when the events of 9/11 were used as an excuse to make a naked grab for the dwindling oil reserves of the Middle East. That crisis is still simmering, as the underlying cause of it was Peak Oil –and PO must still be dealt with. The third crisis began with the economic meltdown of 2008 and is still going on. Most of the jobs that are being lost now will never come back. Most of those unemployed now may never have another formal job. The longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to get hired. Companies assume that something is wrong with you. So these poor people (of which I am one, in a lot of ways) are going to have to either provide self-employment and/or migrate into the informal economy.
Many more crises are on the horizon: water, energy, climate change. Here I want to focus on a crisis that is occurring now but has not yet burst into the public eye and is getting very little attention. That crisis is food and food production. Those of us who read sites like this on a regular basis have been aware of the impending crisis for some time, but I think it is time to step back and take a long look at what is happening and where we are going.
Let’s start with the 2009 harvest. Officially, we had a bumper year. The USDA reports bumper harvests of every crop. Unofficially, the harvest sucked –and is still not completed in some areas. Here’s one, slightly dated, map of areas declared disasters due to the harvest: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_EZMGVwURo3M/SyrprCwQNvI/AAAAAAAACMU/M62Tivs9_6c/s1600-h/US_Declared_Disaster_Secretary+&+President_Finalv2-732348.PNG
Would you like something a little more up to date? Click here: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_EZMGVwURo3M/SyrprCwQNvI/AAAAAAAACMU/M62Tivs9_6c/s1600-h/US_Declared_Disaster_Secretary+&+President_Finalv2-732348.PNG Notice that EVERY county in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas has been declared a disaster –and all but one county in Georgia and Louisiana. The rest of the country isn’t much better off. (Click on each state to see the map.)
And yet, despite all of this, the U.S. had a record crop this year? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m officially going to call bullshit on this one. Yeah, I said it. Meanwhile, the number of people on food stamps in the U.S. hit another record high in December: 39 million. (Full story here: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/worldbiz/archives/2010/03/06/2003467306) The numbers are steadily growing. And remember, in some states it is extremely hard to get food assistance. How many people are going hungry but unable to get help?
So the U.S. had a bad harvest year. What about the rest of the world? Australia has lowered its crop forecast again due to droughts and flooding in various provinces. Asia did not do well either; rice and other crops had a rough harvest. Right now, all of this is leading mostly to higher prices. This in itself is a crisis for the billions of people who live on the edge of starvation or who are almost there. Here’s a good article about the problems in India: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/86d6533e-15e3-11df-b65b-00144feab49a.html?nclick_check=1
But the problems go deeper than this. Remember, the world has no stockpiles anymore. So at some point when the harvest isn’t adequate, no matter how much you raise the price, you are just going to be…out. What happens then? Prices will rise to the stratosphere well before then, and more people will go hungry, but when we do run out what happens? It probably won’t be this year, and probably not in this country –the U.S. still grows far more than it needs, and would undoubtedly use its buying power to steal food from poorer nations if need be to keep its own citizens fed, but what about the other countries? There’s an old saying I’m sure everyone is familiar with: any society is only three meal-less days away from revolution. I have the sinking feeling that statement is going to be tested again in the next few years.
Nor is the crisis likely to get any better this year. We’ve lost more farmers. They’re not making any money. They have to make enough to pay the bills, after all. Then there’s the little issue of credit. The way farming works these days, most farmers have to borrow money to pay for seeds, fertilizers, etc, which they then pay back at the end of the season out of the harvest proceeds. Some farmers weren’t able to get enough credit last year to plant enough, and a lot more weren’t able to pay back their loans at the end of the year. This year the credit crisis has gotten even worse. How many farmers won’t be able to plant at all, or be forced to plant drastically reduced amounts? Add in the uncertainty of weather, especially in these days of global weirding introduced by climate change, and we may have another recipe for disaster.
For the final bit of proof, if any is needed, go down to the local grocery store. Take a look at sizes and prices. The former has gone down while the latter has gone up. Considerably up. A year and a half a go you could get a can of chicken noodle soup for $0.50. Now that same can is $1.00. On sale. Flour has doubled in price in the past year. Doubled. So have eggs. (I buy mine from a local farm, but keep an eye on them just the same.) The organic milk we buy recently went up by $0.20 in a week. Prices are climbing dramatically.
All this adds up to an oncoming catastrophe. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. Some people will say “if only every just became a vegetarian…”. That isn’t going to happen. You know it, and I know it. Furthermore, given the number of people in the world, it would no longer be enough. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the politicians. All we can do is try to protect our own and as many other people as we can. Given the way things are trending, that means storing and growing as much of your own food as possible, and giving as much to the local food bank as possible. Things are only going to get rougher from here on in.
P.S. For one more in-depth look at the food crisis, check out this article: http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/12/2010-food-crisis-for-dummies.html