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is the title of the second part of the Washington Post series on the Global Food Crisis.  Subtitled "Mauritania, and much of Africa, relies on imported food. As trade breaks down, destitute people face tough choices," it focuses particularly on that poor country as it tries to demonstrate the dimensions of the spreading problem.  Like the first part, about which I wrote yesterday in Hunger, today's piece has accompanying tables and sidebars to illustrate the depths of the problem.  For now consider just this applicable to Mauritania:

The price of sorghum, a major staple used to make porridge, has jumped 20% in six months, a sharp rise in a region where more than 60% of the people earn less than a $1 a day.

Before I proceed with the Post article, I want also to call your attention to Boston Globe op ed entitled Hunger affects us all.  In it James Carroll begins by telling us

OF ALL the marks of difference that separate humans, none is so drastic as hunger. Not only does the physical sensation of being famished set a person off from those who are sated, but the well-fed are hard put even to imagine the desperation that goes with an empty stomach. Among the relatively well-off, hunger is like a vague rumor, having little more substance than the report of bad weather in a distant part of the globe.

 And yet, as he makes clear, this problem is not merely that of poor countries overseas"

Here in Massachusetts, where the shelves of food stores are well stocked, it may seem that hunger is a phenomenon of the distant poor, but that is wrong. Government studies suggested in 2007 that nearly half a million residents of this state do not have enough to eat. In a place where the income gap between the richest and the poorest is vast, the high cost of living puts the supply of basic nutritional needs beyond the reach of many. If a silent tsunami has struck the globe, a quiet Katrina rolls in on Massachusetts families every day. In many households, three meals have become two.

 I will return to Carroll later, for there is a key point of which he reminds us that I must be sure you see.

Perhaps you have heard the expression of "eating your seed corn."  That phrase is meant to illustrate how attempting to address a short-term need of hunger can lead to long-term starvation.  The Post article addresses it another way, using the example of a poor family slaughtering a female goat for a few day's meat and thereby depriving itself of an ongoing source of milk.  Or equally as bad, attempting to sell a goat only to discover that so many families are so desperate for a little cash to purchase the crops whose price has soared that simultaneously the price of goats has dropped, further aggravating the desperation of those trying to sell.

Why focus on Mauritania?  

Like most of the world's poorest nations, Mauritania is caught in a global food trap, producing only 30 percent of what its people eat and importing most of the rest. As prices skyrocket, those who can least afford it are squeezed the most as the world confronts the worst bout of food inflation since the Soviet grain crisis of the 1970s.

Strong global demand and limited supplies are key factors driving up prices, but perhaps just as important is a massive disruption in the free flow of global trade. In recent months, food-producing countries from Argentina to Kazakhstan have begun to slam shut their doors to protect domestic access to the food they grow.

Agriculturally challenged countries are left out in the cold. Mahmoud, whose family dwells just beyond the dunes in a desert shantytown here, earns roughly $1.50 a day to support his family of four. His wages have not risen. But over the past six months, the cost of the imported wheat his wife uses to make a chewy local bread has soared 67 percent, cooking oil is up 117 percent and rice 25 percent. Though those are the staples of life here, Mauritania, with only 0.2 percent of its land arable, produces scant amounts.

That is partly because there are fewer and fewer farmers. In a nation girdled by the encroaching Sahara, the slums of Nouakchott, the capital, are swelled with former tillers of soil who abandoned hard lives growing subsistence crops amid years of drought. City life was comparatively better, but in recent months as food prices have risen, those already living on the smallest of margins have despaired.

Mauritania is illustrative of how heavily the food crisis has hit Africa, which has 22 of the 30 nations most affected, according to the UN World Food Program, by the perfect storm created in part by market forces.  

Hunger is spiking in parts of the continent in patterns similar to past bouts of drought, floods or civil strife. In Mauritania -- a nation of 3 million straddling Arab and black Africa -- the number of people not getting enough food is up this year by 30 percent in rural areas despite a relatively good annual harvest, according to the WFP.

And a key point to remember:

Globalization was supposed to eliminate this kind of recurring disaster. With economists radiating confidence about the new efficiencies of the global market, the need for food self-sufficiency seemed almost archaic. In that new reality, global markets would provide the long-term cornucopia that the arid earth here could not, and at reasonable prices.

So far I have only quoted from the first of four online pages in the article.  I will not quote that much more, as it is important that you read the article, and also the accompanying links to sidebars and tables.  You will read about how some import countries abandoned long-standing practices of subsidizing local agriculture only now to find they cannot help in meeting basic nutrition needs of their own people.  Wealthy countries depending upon imports, like Singapore, exacerbate the problem by hoarding, buying up more than their current needs to store, thereby further driving up the price and limiting the quantities of what is available to poorer countries like Mauritania.  

Meanwhile another source of food is not available to the locals.  Mauritania has a coast, but the country, desperate for foreign currency, has sold industrial fishing licenses to  foreign companies, often based in Europe.  Much of what is caught gets exported, at the same time the stocks available for local fishermen become diminished.  And as for grain, some nearby countries that are able to produce a bit more, like Mali, are now hoarding what they produce in order to ensure a food supply for their own people.

Let me return to Carroll.  His column has the intent of promoting a local (in Boston) walk for hunger.  If interested you can read his column.   I want to focus on one more paragraph:

Compounding the profoundly physical problem of those who are deprived is the imprisoning moral problem of those who are well fed, for the culture of consumption, while it overfeeds appetite, starves the imagination. Here's where the divide between those who are hungry and those who eat enough is most manifest. Not only do the well fed fail to perceive the despair and fear that hunger breeds, until it explodes in riots of rage, but the well fed are equally incapable of seeing the causal link between their own privilege and the suffering of the dispossessed - although the substitution of bio-fuel corn production for the growing of edible wheat makes that link unusually apparent. Filling gas tanks of automobiles matters, in effect, more than filling bellies of children.

There are many moral dimensions to the current crisis.  Millions upon millions face starvation, and some who survive direct death from starvation are so weakened that they are more vulnerable to otherwise survivable diseases.  In Mauritania and other poor countries, malnourished children die at a rate that would shock most Americans, usually in the first 5 years of life. And as both Carroll and the Post article remind us, lack of food can easily lead to civil disruption and open warfare.

There is much the world could be doing, and is not.  Somehow the processes of globalization have exacerbated the problem of meeting basic human needs for much of the world.  International organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF have imposed on developing nations regimens and programs that make those nations dependent upon importing the food necessary to survive as they are forced to devote resources to things that bring in the currency necessary to meet the demands of those regimens, whether by turning to cash crops that are exported or to activities that remove people from local agricultural production, or both.

Thos of us who live comfortably in rich nations have a margin of error -  we can adjust our diet and our other activities and still be able to sustain our nutrition and our health.  For much of the world this is not possible.

The problem is becoming greater, at ever increasing speeds.  There are elements of a feedback loop amplifying the worst effects, or what some call a perfect storm as a series of factors comes together to provide an impact whose scale is for some people almost beyond imagination.

There are many crises in the world.  It is not possible for each of us to fully address them all.  And yet, we cannot use that as an excuse to turn away from what is so obvious, merely because it does not have the same impact in the US, not yet, or because it does not confront us and our families as directly.   Our actions and decision contribute to the world-wide situation.

The world's religious traditions have always recognized a moral responsibility to care for those less well off, whether it is the Hebrew mitzvah not to pick the corners of the field but leave that for the poor who perhaps had no fields, or it is the commands of Matthews 25, where Jesus is accusatory towards those who did not feed the hungry, reminding his listeners that whatsoever they did to the least of his brethen they did also unto him.

Whatever the basis of our own personal moral codes, methinks we have a responsibility to demand first of ourselves, and then of our society and our nation, that we act with mindfulness, with full awareness of the impact of our words and actions upon perhaps billions around the world.

So let me end with words of a sage more than 2000 years ago, Hillel.  Perhaps they can serve to remind us of our interconnectedness, in this crisis and in all else:  

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?

Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:22 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  reading this is insufficient (65+ / 0-)

    my purpose in writing is to challenge us all, to open our eyes and examine ourselves and our society and to accept our responsibilities for the impact of what we do, individually and collectively, and its impact on the entire world and all humanity.

    It is a very old question, illustrated by a tale told early in Genesis, the answer to which must be, if we are to be moral, in the affirmative:   Am I my brother's keeper?

    Peace.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:25:32 AM PDT

    •  Profound diary (11+ / 0-)

      that, hopefully, will move all of us to act in ways that will aid this crisis.

      I've been thinking a lot about my own wasteful ways these days, and they're subtle, but real.  

      It's time to do something, not just FEEL something.

      Thanks, Ken.

      •  Perhaps not eating meat is a start (10+ / 0-)

        So much more grain is used to feed beef than would be consumed otherwise. This along with ending biofuels would help our grain problems as well as our global warming issues. I am with you Shelley, it is time to do something.

        "Those that know, don't say, those that say, don't know"... Tao te ching... Then why am I posting a comment?

        by zenmasterjack on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:39:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  grass-fed cattle and bison might be okay (12+ / 0-)

          but certainly grainfed beef is a problem.  In the diary yesterday I quoted from the 1st part of the Post series that one pound of grain-fed pork takes 5-7 pounds of grain, and for beef it is 7-8.5 pounds.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:43:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And I'm with you, Jack, (8+ / 0-)

          not eating red meat is a tremendous way to add more grain into the world's resources.  Not many people realize that they're hamburgers and steaks are depleting the world of food.

          For anyone willing to even consider giving up their beef, here's a tip:

          Only promise to do it for 30 days.  Many people can't eat it once they've given it up for that long, so the choice to continue is much easier.  

          And think what it will do for your cholesterol levels.  BONUS!

          •  I ate grass fed beef on Kauai (5+ / 0-)

            It was local grown, inexpensive and tasty.

            Unfortunately, those amazingly cheap little fillets drove up my cholesterol.

            I stopped eating beef to keep from killing myself. I had a friend die young from a heart attack about that time. It hit home.

            I can still eat it in social situations, but that's about it.

            "It's the planet, stupid."

            by FishOutofWater on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:59:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Been A Veggie For 15 Years And It's Easy (4+ / 0-)

            Well, it is now.  Sliding in and out of veganism.  But, what I did was to "adopt" a kid through a care plan and that assuages my guilt for the bounty of food I have and I don't plan to have any kids myself.

            Still, doing this doesn't make me feel less guilty at all.

            I really hate this.  Our country has inflicted such immense suffering in this sad world.  And, I worry that our national karma is gonna bring this home to us.

            Recommended.

            You can't always tell the truth because you don't always know the truth - but you can ALWAYS be honest.

            by mattman on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:22:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I stopped eating beef, pork, lamb, etc. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Stranded Wind

            about ten years ago and hardly missed it. Last year I also stopped poultry and fish. Now I eat no meat at all, but I am not a "vegetarian." I dislike that label and find it annoying. My meals may be vegetarian, but I am not. How can I be? I'm made of meat.

            It's silly to speak in terms of being something when really it's just a matter of eating something - or, actually, of not eating something.  Calling myself a vegetarian would make it too much about me. It's not about me.

            It's about kindness and empathy toward others, whether they be human or not. Since I reject all religion, I also reject the notion of "souls" or the idea of any fundamental difference between my own overrated species and other sentient beings. So what if we can do long division and other animals can't? Pain is pain.

            (There are far too many uses of the word "I" in the passage above. Ugh, sorry.)

            Another thing. I love animals, but I refuse to have a cat. Cats are murderers and carnivores, which of course is not their fault. Dogs can live on a carefully designed vegetarian diet, but cats cannot. Pet birds don't need meat either. If people stopped breeding and having so many domestic cats as pets, use of meat by the pet food industry would drop. Surely some will take offense to this seeming slam against their beloved "pooties." Too bad. Facts are facts. Anyway the problem is the fault not of domestic cats themselves, but of people who insist on allowing them to breed.

            If Americans could be persuaded to at least cut back on their consumption of meat, say, 20 percent - it would really make a difference.

            "Lies return." - African proverb

            by Night Train on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:34:49 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  you're mental (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cathy Willey

              Cats are murderers and carnivores, which of course is not their fault.

               Murder requires intention, action, and completion - things within the realm of a self aware being. Does the cat know it's a cat?

               You have teeth in the back meant for grinding things but the ones in the front are clearly meant for handling meat. So ... go and get those pulled and get back to us with photographic evidence of your total conversion to vegetarianism?

               Things like this are why large slices of the country roll their eyes and say "liberal" with a sneering tone.

              •  No, I am not "mental." (0+ / 0-)

                Of course I don't mean "murderer" in the moral sense. But killing sentient creatures is what cats do. It's the way they're made. Of course, wild cats in a state of nature don't rely on industrial agriculture to provide them with meat. Domestic cats do, though, and the onus for that is on humans. The proliferation of domestic cats in industrialized countries is just one more way in which people have driven up the demand for meat consumption.

                "Lies return." - African proverb

                by Night Train on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:16:20 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  What nonsense. (0+ / 0-)

                You have teeth in the back meant for grinding things but the ones in the front are clearly meant for handling meat. So ... go and get those pulled and get back to us with photographic evidence of your total conversion to vegetarianism?

                You didn't read what I wrote. I said I don't call myself a vegetarian - so it's nonsensical to imply that I've spoken of any "total conversion," as if choosing to refrain from eating meat were some sort of religion or "ism." It's a dietary choice, that's all.

                Your comment about teeth is ridiculous. It makes no difference what kind of teeth one has. What matters is how one uses them. Unlike cats, we humans are able to make that choice.

                "Lies return." - African proverb

                by Night Train on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:23:42 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Same here. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Night Train

              Don't mind being called a "vegetarian" tho.

              First of all, the livestock industry is one of the worlds great polluters and actually produces more CO2 than cars (and, indeed, more than the entire transporation industry.

              http://www.fao.org/...

              Second, I don't need to feel like a man by eating an animal that was penned up for a year or two then clubbed over the head by someone else, sent through a sawmill, then frozen.

              Anyway, for those interested, here's a free veggie starter kit:

              http://goveg.com/...

              BTW: The wife and I have cats, we feed them fish. It's not veggie, but it's as close as we'll go with them. There are ways to raise them veggie and keep them healthy tho, but you have to be careful about it. We plan to do it with our next kitten.

        •  Can't see that happening in America (6+ / 0-)

          Not anytime soon, anyway.  

          Perhaps reduction is the achievable goal--significantly smaller, grass-fed herds, a population wise to not eating 8-10 ounces of meat at one sitting.

          I only have to look at the local meat counter at Kroger to see things are changing.  Those big, expensive cuts of meats are gone.  The sizes of roasts are reduced by at least a pound.  I'm seeing mostly smaller, cheaper cuts all around.

          All those kids that refuse to eat their veggies and beans are in for a rude awakening.

          •  I do think there is a movement toward (4+ / 0-)

            smaller portions of meat, especially among the more expensive cuts of beef.

            Yet, on the other hand, Burger King and other fast food joints seem to compete by offering ever larger portions.

            So much of consumption is habit. I haven't cut meat out of my diet entirely, but I do limit myself to one serving per day.

            "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." JFK - January 20, 1961

            by rontun on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:04:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Restaurants are a *big* part of the problem (6+ / 0-)

              The portion sizes are out of control at better restaurants.  Fast food restaurants are just feeding us crap.

              •  The Economy Will Cure That (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                rontun, Stranded Wind

                For the price of a couple 'burgers', some fries, and sodas, I could buy a small cut of good meat, a bag of potatoes and fix up a real meal.  Fast food is nothing more than an act of pure desperation and impulse.  My shadow darkens those doors MAYBE 5 times a year, and 3 of those times are for a coffee milk shake only (an admitted vice).  Is it really that hard to make your spawn take an apple along to the animal rights rally when you think they might get hungry?

                For the price of a 'real' restaurant meal for 3, we could feed ourselves 3 days minimum.  It's getting to the point where 2 pizzas (sorry, NOT the garbage chains) are approaching the $40 mark.

                A few more years and they'll all be boarded up, overrun with weeds, and placed in the forgotten dustbin of this ridiculous era along with millions of gas pig transportation appliances.

                •  Yes! This is right ... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  AmericanRiverCanyon, rontun

                  I found I was gluten intolerant about three years ago - I promptly dropped fifteen pounds without trying and my food budget has been cut in half. I simply can't go into one of those places and get anything at all to eat, and I've actually grown quite grateful for this.

                  We're going to see a lot of restaurants closing as the Ginormous Banking Enema of 2008 really gets things moving and I imagine in retrospect many people will feel as I do - "I used to eat that stuff?

        •  Giving up meat is a beginning but there's so (12+ / 0-)

          much more we can do as individuals.

          Last year, for the first time ever, I planted a small vegetable garden in my yard. It was an amateurish effort that nevertheless produced far more than I could consume. By the end of the summer I had driven friends nuts with pleas that they take some tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peas, potatoes, squash, and peppers, all of which I had in great abundance.  (The corn didn't do well, I must admit.)

          I froze and canned enough that I really made it through the winter without having to purchase any of the items I'd grown except some potatoes.  This year I'm going to reduce the number of each of the plants I grew last year and try adding some cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and a few more herbs. I'm getting into this urban farming.

          "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." JFK - January 20, 1961

          by rontun on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:59:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You can start (3+ / 0-)

          by treating all meat as a special occasion food and as a flavoring.

          That's what people traditionally did and many many still do - eating a big piece of it every day was/is for the aristocrats who suck/ed the wealth to buy it out of everyone else.

          I've known plenty of third world families who see meat twice a year.  They're thrilled to see it when they get it, they do without the rest of the time.

          "Civility costs nothing and buys everything." - Mary Wortley Montagu

          by sarac on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:51:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  End biofuels? (0+ / 0-)

          The notion of ending biofuels is erroneous. Using feedstock that is food is the only issue. There are companies developing algae biodiesel that should not be discredited with their peers.

          Biofuel technology is great - we just shouldn't use a massive agricultural feedstock that is also people food.

          But to be realistic, we have too many people in the world, and many should probably starve. Ever seen the 11th hour? It's a bit scary.

          My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

          by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:17:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  agreed - I am hoping to encourage (6+ / 0-)

        each of us to examine what we do and what we can do

        peace

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

        by teacherken on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:42:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  now in transit to school (5+ / 0-)

      will check on this when I can

      peace.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:55:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Case not proven, argued Satan's council. (0+ / 0-)
      If we view the human race as a single body of people, all of whom enjoy a right to a basic standard of living, then of course we should give resources to those that need them.

      However, in a capitalist society, we need to ask: what are they trading in return?  How long do we keep giving handouts?  At what point do we say "Whoa, enough: you've outgrown your local resources"?

      Aid is an emotional issue.  What are the rational, pragmatic arguments in favor of it?

      --

      The President is not my master. He is Chief among my servants.

      by DemCurious on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:56:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we'd better hope... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Night Train

        ...that a large percentage of the rest of the world doesn't ask this question of us:

        "Whoa, enough: you've outgrown your local resources"?

        Since all we're giving them in return for their oil, gewgaws, and, yes, even food, are dollars that we print with reckless abandon and don't back with anything real.

        •  Better that they do ask (3+ / 0-)

          so we can get started building a real economy again.

          Every economic crisis was caused in part by people putting off choices between mildly negative options, until they couldn't stave them off any longer and were faced with all of the bad all at once.  Many losses could be borne over decades, but not over years.  Thus, it'd be better to have to stop living on credit slowly starting now, than having to stop suddenly in a while.

          "Oaths bind not an ill man. Were I minded to do you ill, then lightestly would I swear any oath you desire, and lightestly in the next moment be forsworn."

          by jbelac on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:41:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Powerful diary, but there have always been (6+ / 0-)

      hungry children in this country. I know, I was one 60 years ago. There are still hungry children in this country, If we can not or will not find a way to feed our own children... Not saying we shouldn't do everything we can to mitigate the global food crisis, but there is something fundamental wrong with a people who can't even take care of their own. We pay farmers to leave their fields fallow, not a bad idea for lots of reasons, but when a crisis like this happens I have heard of nothing to allow farmers to start farming this acreage again without paying heavy penalties. We are by the way talking about MILLIONS of fallow acres.

      Changing our diets is a good thing, it is killing us. But poor people and those on the edge in this country rarely get red meat.  Food banks for those who are able to use them provide canned salmon on occasion and a chicken from time to time. Poor people here get their protein the same ways as the third world.

      We have had the opportunity for more than 50 years to bring better agricultural techniques to many of the places with on going food shortages and haven't. We ship them charity food, rice, beans. But the most important, powerfully long lasting thing we could do, the Christian thing to do, helping them feed themselves in the future we haven't done. But then there is no control to be had by helping them toward food sufficency. This perfect storm has been a long time building and there have been warning signs all along the way.

      Sorry to be such a cynic this morning but hunger is nothing new and we have never done anything constructive to alliviate it here let alone globally. Hopefully this will be the time we step up.

      •  I have almost never experienced hunger (3+ / 0-)

        there was one two week period where I was out of food and out of money.  But because I was employed and I had a credit card, it was possible for me to get through that period without suffering severe hunger - I was down to one meal a day, and lost about 5 pounds in two weeks (and I was already fairly thin).

        You are correct about the history of hunger in this country.  Here I can recall the impact on many of the magnificent documentary "Harvest of Shame."   We need to recognize that we have not conquered hunger in this nation, and that even programs designed to help alleviate hunger have been insufficient and far to easily manipulated to ends for which they were not designed.

        Thanks for your comment.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

        by teacherken on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:28:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I wish I could recommend this 100 times (6+ / 0-)

      though it wouldn't really help the situation.

      When I served in the Peace Corps in West Africa in the early 90s, pretty much all the farmers in our area were working themselves into early graves, going seriously hungry about three months of the year minimum, watching valuable plow animals starve because they couldn't store food for them during that same 'hungry season' (the next season after that was plowing season during which some poor animals would literally drop in their tracks), and going into more and more debt every year.

      Delicate soils, extremes of weather, deforestation going back to Roman times exacerbating the steady advance south of the Sahara, wells 45 meters deep, lack of infrastructure, lack of natural resources, the remnants of French colonial agricultural 'reforms' that did more harm than good in the long run - that's a lot of the deck that was stacked against them.  

      Every year they had to buy fertilizer and seed.  Every year, they grew just enough to feed their families but not to sell.  The men would try to find seasonal work in other countries during the off season, the women did what market gardening and other small business endeavors they could cook up, more kids passed the baccalaureate than there were jobs or university spots to take them, and most of them just kept falling farther behind.  

      Whenever I feel pinched financially, worrying about rising food and gas prices, those people rise up in front of me and say, you have plenty to eat every day, you can put shoes on your children's feet, you can buy medicine, you can buy (*&!#) cat food, you have an education and transportation and a house with a solid floor and roof that can't fall down when it rains too hard, electric light, a stove and oven and microwave, books and furniture and electronics and appliances and band-aids and aspirin and lotion and god knows what all.  You're rich.  And the fact is, they are right.  

      So I see how much more I can give to my local food bank this month.

      "Civility costs nothing and buys everything." - Mary Wortley Montagu

      by sarac on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:47:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Donate to Heifer International and/or Oxfam! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken

      Put your money where your ethics are. Heifer and Oxfam are both food self sufficiency organizations. Do not wait for the next election or governmental action. It will be late and probably inappropriate to the situation. Here are links with additional information:

      How Heifer Does What it Does
      Heifer has some innovative community events used to gather contributions, you might be inclined to sponsor one in your town.

      Causing Hunger: An overview of the food crisis in Africa
      Oxfam provides emergency relief as well as addressing underlying problems that make hunger an issue.

      If you can afford a dollar a day (one less bottle of water or cup of coffee) or a dollar a week, do it. Start talking to your friends and family about donating. They are both super efficient organizations, your money will go (mostly) to actual projects. If you already donate, great!
      After we do this, lets discuss what we want from our government and go after it. These diaries have been troubling and eye-opening. Time to do something, in fact, many things at once.

      "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

      by the fan man on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:27:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We are seeing some real conflicts (7+ / 0-)

    in the ideas of community and individualism. To solve the food crisis and other global or national level challenges requires a collective plan with forethought. Those types of actions take place at the government and supra-governmental level. In America though those types of long range collective actions seem to be considered anathema. We focus so greatly on the power of one person to change the world that we overlook the fact that often it takes a group to change the world. If the style of conservatism that this country likes to espouse continues we may have real trouble trying to meet those challenges.  

    Colin: Its symbolic of our struggle against oppression! Reg: It's symbolic of his struggle against reality.

    by Liberal Youth on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:32:06 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary (5+ / 0-)

    It would seem we really need to change our intention to global matters as well as local. This is the true mark of an advanced society. Active involvement in solving some of these issues would do so much more for our countries security and prosperity in the long run, so much more than all of the current saber rattling  and tought talk.

    "Those that know, don't say, those that say, don't know"... Tao te ching... Then why am I posting a comment?

    by zenmasterjack on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:32:31 AM PDT

  •  Europeans take Mauritania's large fish (8+ / 0-)

    and leave the poor people with bait fish to eat, if they're lucky.

    Global agriculture and global trade has raped the planet and left the poor struggling for crumbs that fall off the table of the rich.

    Our corn ethanol fueled cars have added to the crisis. SUVs are literally burning food while the poor are starving.

    Thanks for writing this article up.

    I read it last night but couldn't do it.

    Too depressing.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:51:56 AM PDT

  •  Last night watching TV, (10+ / 0-)

    not sure which station, it was said that it costs 40,000 dollars to run the trucks of a food bank for  a week.  If I am not mistaken this was NYC. So in the middle of the food crisis we must also count the cost of delivery of food help. Starving people are in thrid world countries, cannot just walk a hundred miles to get food.

    "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

    by Owllwoman on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 03:52:52 AM PDT

  •  My question is, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Buckeye BattleCry

    how much land in this Country, are people being paid not to grow crops? We could easily free up those dollars and or reward them to grow crops. If we set our minds to it, we could help greatly in the World Hunger.  It is our problem because it will not stay in the poor Countries. If fear takes over, we may well wish we had done more.

    "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

    by Owllwoman on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:10:00 AM PDT

    •  The problem here... (4+ / 0-)

      In theory, it's great -- stop paying farmers to not grow stuff.  Bigger-picture-wise, it's a bit more complex, though.  The reason that we pay farmers to let land lie fallow is that the land gets horribly depleted if you farm it year after year.  That's why the Dust Bowl happened, and preventing another Dust Bowl is the reason for this program which, admittedly, does get abused horribly.  Basically, we'd turn all of our farm land into an infertile, dusty parking lot within a decade if we just went balls-to-the-wall, forcing farmers to farm every arable acre.

  •  Excellent diary. (5+ / 0-)

    While I understand that hunger and malnutrition are global problems, it seems to me that attempting to address them as global problems is a futile exercise inducing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  The problems are just too large for most people to get their minds around.

    A more effective way to address the problems, in my opinion, is to address them as a series of local and national problems starting right here at home.  Let's knock them out one at a time.  As we achieve successes, we can build on them to gain the confidence that we can defeat the problems globally.

    Our first step should be to eliminate hunger and malnutrition right here in the United States.

    Am I my brother's keeper?

    We don't need to go back to the writers of the Genesis to answer that question.  We only need to look to our Founders who wrote:

    ...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    America - FUBBBAR (Fucked Up By Bush Beyond All Repair)

    by George Gould on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:16:56 AM PDT

  •  The Gnomes business plan (5+ / 0-)

    Globalization was supposed to eliminate this kind of recurring disaster. With economists radiating confidence about the new efficiencies of the global market, the need for food self-sufficiency seemed almost archaic. In that new reality, global markets would provide the long-term cornucopia that the arid earth here could not, and at reasonable prices.

    In other words:

    1. Collect Underpants
    1. ???
    1. Profit!

    John McCain: A Bush by any other name still stinks the same.

    by slippytoad on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:21:00 AM PDT

    •  Protectionism (0+ / 0-)

      The free market may not work as well as its proponents say, but it works better than the semi-free market.  Agricultural protectionism in the developed world, combined with the willingness of countries to ban exports, are what's taking what would otherwise be a short-term problem and turning it into a systemic crisis.

      "Oaths bind not an ill man. Were I minded to do you ill, then lightestly would I swear any oath you desire, and lightestly in the next moment be forsworn."

      by jbelac on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:44:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree, but when your population cannot feed (0+ / 0-)

        itself and wages cannot be adjusted quickly enough (or at all) this is a very old method to prevent the overthrow of your government. Protectionism absolutely makes this crisis explosive, as does market speculation.

        "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

        by the fan man on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:31:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm mainly referring to (0+ / 0-)

          protectionism in developed countries.  U.S. farm subsidies, etc.  These make it impossible for the developing countries forced into not having protectionism to get any benefits.

          It's a prisoner's dilemma, sort of.  The system would be best-off in the aggregate with completely free trade, but it's always in an individual country's best interests to have protections, so you wind up either with complete protectionism or with the politically powerful countries reaping all of the benefits at the expense of everyone else.

          "Oaths bind not an ill man. Were I minded to do you ill, then lightestly would I swear any oath you desire, and lightestly in the next moment be forsworn."

          by jbelac on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:06:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not advocating protectionism (0+ / 0-)

        I'm just pointing out that the plan to use "globalization" to solve recurring food crises seems to have a gaping fucking hole in it.  And that it exemplifies the kind of sloppy, jerk-off thinking I'm very used to seeing come from the free-market cheerleaders who have driven our society to the edge of a goddamn cliff.

        John McCain: A Bush by any other name still stinks the same.

        by slippytoad on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 08:13:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The point is (0+ / 0-)

          that because of the protectionism imbalance (rich countries have it, poor countries don't), either freer trade or less free trade would make things better.  It's a matter of debate which would be the most optimal, but where we are right now is the absolute worst for food security.

          Globalization, in and of itself, wouldn't solve or exacerbate the crisis.  But it's never in and of itself--it's associated with other trade policies that make or break it, and they're breaking it as things stand.

          "Oaths bind not an ill man. Were I minded to do you ill, then lightestly would I swear any oath you desire, and lightestly in the next moment be forsworn."

          by jbelac on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 11:03:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Some folks are eatin' high off the hog (5+ / 0-)

    One out of every two dollars spent on food in the United States goes into the registers at restaurants, according to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C.

    Americans are hungrier than ever to eat out. Last month, they spent $36.2 billion in restaurants. This year, they are on track to spend $511 billion, a record high. But the most impressive number? $446.

    According to the Zagat Survey, that's the price of dinner for one at Masa, the high-priced sushi restaurant in Manhattan's Time Warner Center.

    At Alinea in Chicago, diners feast on 12 ($125) or 24 ($175) course menus that feature small, inventive dishes like bison served on a glass tube holding smoldering cinnamon sticks.

    2006 MSNBC

    Maybe these chic eateries throw some scraps to
    Second Harvest, or maybe they don't want to get their hands too dirty.

    Did you know that every dollar donated to Second Harvest provides 16 meals...not at these restaurants but..

    Tellin' you all the Zomby troof Here I'm is...

    by Zwoof on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:21:16 AM PDT

  •  If we start growing our own food, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, mattman, Stranded Wind

    what will happen to the excess? Will it go to thrid world countries? Or will it rot in a warehouse? Our Gov. often uses things such as food aid to get favors in return. This must change.

    "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

    by Owllwoman on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:22:23 AM PDT

  •  Seven Fat years followed by seven lean years (5+ / 0-)

    was the Biblical prophecy ignored by all the Republicans who got rid of government support for grain surplus storage. This was supposedly farm policy reform and removal of price supports but as highlighted now it was just one more removal of people support and also a good way for big agri-biz to get a one-up on family farms.

    Obama: Pro-Defense. McCain: Pro-War

    by OHdog on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:27:02 AM PDT

    •  Wheat from Alberta and Siberia? (0+ / 0-)

      One likely benefit of global warming is the extension of the growing season in Canada and Russia.  Each degree of global warming probably extends the growing season on the order of a week, which can push the 'arable frontier' north scores if not hundreds of miles.  

      The world needs at least experimental agriculture programs that systematically try to grow our staple crops considerably farther north than where they've been commercially successful so far.  

      If I remember correctly, in the 1930's the Soviet Union did something along these lines.  They'd looked at recent weather patterns to the north of areas usually farmed, and predicted that out of every 10 years they could expect 2 crop failures, 2 marginal years, and 6 bumper crops.  (The thirites may have been an era of warming, also.)  

      Climate change is almost sure to improve the conditions for agriculture in some areas.  It's urgent that we find those areas quickly.  Quickly almost requires some kind of program to move farmers farther north, have them try to farm those areas, and bail out the ones who fall victim to crop failures.  
      Without some program of 'exploratory agriculture', people would eventually find the newly arable land and start farming it on their own, but that might take decades.  By then we'd have had famines.  We need the new production by next autum's harvest.

      We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

      by david78209 on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:07:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If only we could move the sunlight north. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        david78209

        Yes, we'll get a more favorable climate, but not more sunshine. These areas will be opened up to grains, hopefully it will offset worsening conditions in the midwest.

        "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

        by the fan man on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:42:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  but typhoon destroying crops is one cause (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        david78209

        Bangladesh (and simalar places)under water will not help feed the population that will flee to higher ground. Global warming makes all the other problems worse.

        fact does not require fiction for balance

        by mollyd on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 12:45:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You know what would be interesting, teacherken... (4+ / 0-)

    If we could get Kossacks to comment on the prices in their local groceries for a few standard items (bread, milk, eggs, etc.) and track their rise in the various regions of the country.

    I am a just a regular person, trying to save my Constitution and my country.

    by David Kroning on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:51:26 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this evocative diary. (4+ / 0-)

    Such strong and morally enlightening diaries are essential  ties for hose of who are blessed with realities that are perhaps detached if not entirely severed from the calamitous miseries of the world.

    It is true than I am not an island, and by virtue of an earthly existence I am responsible for my fellow man and woman; Be they of my blood or of my enemy's blood. Be they known to me or of a land both unknown and unknowable to me. Be they kindred to my nature or alien to my nurture, I am responsible for all who share this globe with me.

    It is my duty to act against or failing action to speak against or failing the facility of speech then, in the meekest gesture of faith, to feel the iniquitous fate of he who is other.

    Too many of us in caught in the illusion of helplessness and the need for self protection choose to turn our heads towards that which is pleasing rather than towards that which would by its mere acknowledgment add to the already laden conscience.

    It is intimate and communal epistles such as this diary which force towards that which we wish to forget or disavow and for that I thank you Teacherkin.

    May Peace and mercy be upon you.

    Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt. William Shakespeare

    by notquitedelilah on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 04:56:00 AM PDT

  •  this is why fasting is a spiritual exercise (4+ / 0-)

    it creates solidarity with the poor at a visceral rather than an intellectual level.

    everyone who has never tried a 24 hour NPO fast or a 24 hour water fast should consider it (check with your doctor first, of course).

    even 24 hours is not enough to create the real aching gnawing hunger that billions of people live with daily, but for most privileged Americans it will be a stunning eye-opening experience.

    Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D.
    Give to Populista's Obamathon 2.0!

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:18:07 AM PDT

  •  The one thing I should like the critics (0+ / 0-)

    of biofuels to consider is that not only do we grow grain for fuel, we also grow food deliberately to convert to alchohol to drink.  I don't know what the global production of alcohol for human consumption is, but I rather expect that it actually dwarfs biofuel production.  Is it subsidized?  Yes - wine production is subsidized in at least a few countries.  

    So remember, every time you pour your favorite alcoholic drink - it's not just biofuels at fault.  It's our millenia old habit of fermenting perfectly edible food into alcohol.

    Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

    by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:41:58 AM PDT

    •  I did a quick, and probably wildly inaccurate (0+ / 0-)

      count of acreage devoted to alcohol production, for just the reasons you mention. It may reach 3% of world grain acreage.  Not negligible, but certainly well below other uses. Spent grain is a good animal feed as well. Grape wine production is separate from this analysis, but man does not live by bread alone. Finally consider that as much as 40% of food harvested is lost to spoilage.

      "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

      by the fan man on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:54:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Alcohol is also a big export product. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        the fan man

        Australia is both an exporter of wine and suffering crop losses (wheat) due to drought.

        I buy all juice fruit juices and fruit juice sweetened preserves.  Not only does it keep money away from the cane sugar growers, but the grapes, apples and pears that provide the juice are much more likely to be locally or regionally grown than cane sugar.  (Beet sugar and corn syrup are regionally produced sweeteners as well.)

        I do love a good glass of wine or beer, but I'm finding it easier to turn them down when I go shopping.  After all, the most ecologically friendly libation is drinking at a brewpub - produced on the premises, no CO2 cost for transportation and no bottles to recycle.  Or I could brew my own.  

        Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

        by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:25:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You'll love this, I'm near a beer distributor (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian

          where you can "byo" jug and take home a gallon or two.

          "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

          by the fan man on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:34:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've got about a half dozen (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            the fan man

            gallon brew jugs waiting to go back to the brew pub.  It's across from the farmer's market, so I have the perfect excuse to for a two-fer trip.

            Ohio makes some very nice microbrews.  It's nice to be able to support local businesses while not sacrificing on quality.  Now if we only could grow coffee.....

            Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

            by Fabian on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 08:05:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I have not been paying very much attention (0+ / 0-)

    this being another crisis that I cannot solve, but I do have a few basic questions.

    How much of the problem is actual supply of food materials? That is, you could imagine a situation where something like global warming (or a large volcanic eruption) caused massive crop failure around the world, but that's not my sense of what's happened. There may be some fluctuation in supply, but is that the main issue?

    How much of the problem is economic? As in are there contributors like demand for ethanol conflicting with basic food needs? I imagine that the high price of oil is also a contributing factor because globalizing food supply does mean that food has to be transported.

    How much of the problem is infrastructure? It is a truism that food aid to war torn or otherwise damaged countries is of limited use when roads are not kept up, or are made dangerous by warring factions. Still, I assume that the political situation in these countries has not significantly changed recently--or not enough to explain everything that's happened.

    So my quick read is that an economic situation has pushed poor countries that had no reserves to draw on over the edge, while also affecting richer countries, especially the poor in those countries, who also had fewer reserves to draw on. So while I think examining the composition of the food we eat is always a worthy exercise, I'm not sure if that does much for the immediate problem, which seems to be one more of access than supply.

    Juxtapose this with the presidential race, where huge sums of money are raised and then given to who? Media companies? It does make things seem a little out of whack, doesn't it...

    Barack Obama will only become president if enough people pay attention, so pay attention, dammit!

    by JMS on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 05:52:02 AM PDT

    •  Actually, you can help solve (0+ / 0-)

      this crisis by changing your consumption habits - like most problems in America. We are a consumer society but what many do not realize is that being in a consumer society, as a consumer, you have the collective power.

      Stop buying meat and animal products, and products imported from around the world. Glacier water from Europe? Seaweed from Japan? Blueberries from Chile?

      T.h.i.n.k.

      My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

      by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:34:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I suspect (0+ / 0-)

        that my "helping" in this situation amounts to the same amount of help that my voting does or my switching to CFLs does. Which is to say, that you don't want to not do it, but you don't want to overstate how much effect one person can have.

        In any case, I'm really not sure how much that helps people where the actual food riots are taking place. If they are being hurt by having to have food shipped in, THEIR countries need to find a way to circumvent their food supply being held hostage by high oil prices.

        A lot of the comments here seem to be conflating the chronic situation (which would be helped by a comprehensive long term plan to reduce--though not end--dependence on a far flung food network, and helped by people eating less meat etc.) with the acute situation which seems to me to be related more to specific economic shocks and problems.

        Barack Obama will only become president if enough people pay attention, so pay attention, dammit!

        by JMS on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:10:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  triage via biofuels (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AmericanRiverCanyon

     We're going to run smack into peak natural gas here in the next two to four years - supplies in Trinidad will be gone by 2014 and then we get to have the Mauritanian experience here - this place is the source of 40% of our ammonia fertilizer.

     I've long suspected our push to biofuels was not so much about fuel as it was a method to engage in triage. Due to peak oil and its handmaiden, peak natural gas, many places in the world that currently have a million humans living in a place that will support only fifty thousand are going to get "rightsized", albeit in a brutal fashion.

     I'm not going to lift a finger to directly do anything about this. It pains me to write that - I'm Buddhist and thusly interested in protecting all sentient beings - I'm totally focused on making sure this isn't a campaign issue in the U.S. for the 2012 election. Having just come from Iowa to a hill farm in western Massachusetts I can assure you that is a whole lot close than you'd care to think.

  •  A meat-based diet is inefficient.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nanobubble

    ...and unsustainable in the long term.

    •  No infinite population growth is sustainable (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cathy Willey

      Even if we only ate 'air' there would be a point in the future when there are too many people, since the population is always increasing

      Therefore, people need to die in the long term, because infinite population growth is also unsustainable.

      My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

      by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:23:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  stopping the war best way to cut oil rise (0+ / 0-)

    I know many analysts warn that a quick departure from Iraq might lead to a disruption of mideast oil. I suggest the opposite might occur. Especially if the US began a program of conservation, starting with the Air Force, the world's number one consumer of oil related products.
    This would allow the rethinking of ethanol products and lower food prices. This country needs to be shamed somehow into seeing the results of our policies from sources other than over stocked super markets. Commodity futures markets are more evil than all the terrorists is the middle east and are doing more to disprupt the world than communism, Islam, and immigration combined.
    And f*#k abstinance. Let's teach the poorer populations of the planet that without population control we are in a never ending viscious cycle that will leave them at the mercy of godless capitalist bent on stealing resources and keeping them in poverty.

  •  Too many people = people starve (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AmericanRiverCanyon

    Isn't this basic determinable biology?

    My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

    by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:18:23 AM PDT

    •  If this was a population problem. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mollyd

      It is a problem of supply, distribution, trade, development priorities, and the movement of massive populations to a more animal protein based diet.

      "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't, someone is wrong on Dkos!" - paraphrased from XKCD comics

      by the fan man on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:57:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One thing we can ALL do (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nanobubble, the fan man

    I say this as someone who, over the 59 years of my life, has done pretty much the opposite of what I'm advocating, but two events coincided to convince me that it's important:  (1) The realization that I was now, for the first time in my life, fully 100 pounds over my ideal weight, and (2) an increasing awareness of how many people in the world are hungry, and how rapidly the problem is getting worse.

    I'll never be a vegan, or any of the less strict varieties of vegetarian, but I've become convinced that EVERYONE would be much better off if Americans and others in the developed world changed to the diet that most of our ancestors had through the vast majority of our evolutionary history:  A largely plant-based diet, with animal protein used as an occasional delicacy.  The land that is presently used for the production of grain and soybeans that are fed to cattle, hogs, and chickens, could feed vastly more people if it was used to produce food that was eaten directly by humans, rather than fed to livestock which is then butchered and fed to humans.

    One of the major causes of global hunger, and of expanding waist sizes in the developed world, is our addiction to meat.  And it's devastating for the environment, as well:

    Each pound of steak from feedlot-raised steers that you eat comes at the cost of 5 pounds of grain, 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about twenty-five pounds of eroded topsoil. Indeed, over a third of the North American continent is devoted to grazing, and over a half of this country's cropland is dedicated to growing feed for livestock. What is more, the livestock industry consumes over half of the water used in the US.

       In every one of these ways, as discussed below, a vegetarian diet exerts less strain on our resources that does a carnivorous one. First let us compare the energy efficiency of plant foods to meat. Among plant foods, oats are the most energy efficient. For every calorie of fossil fuel used to grow oats in the United States, 2.5 calories of food are yielded. Similarly, potatoes yield just over 2 calories of food per calorie of fossil fuel input, and for wheat and soybeans the number is 1.5. On the other hand, the most energy efficient meat produced, range-land beef, produces only one-third of a calorie of food per calorie of fossil fuel expended. Feedlot beef, the most inefficient meat, produces one calorie of food every 33 calories of fossil fuel consumed! The numbers for poultry, lamb, eggs, and milk production each fall somewhere between the numbers for range-land and feedlot. In general, this means that growing crops is at least five times more energy-efficient than grazing cattle, 20 times more efficient than raising chickens, and over 50 times more efficient than raising feedlot cattle! In this way, the meat industry wastes energy resources such as fossil fuels that were naturally formed over millions of years, and in the process spews pollution into the environment through burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.

       The modern meat industry also wastes a huge quantity of water. The amount of water needed to produce a pound of meat is fifty times that necessary to produce a pound of wheat. As Newsweek put it, "The water that goes into a 1000 pound steer would float a destroyer." As a result, underground pools of water around the world are drying up. Animal production is the major cause of falling water tables and drying wells across cattle country from western Texas to Nebraska, as the Ogalalla Aquifier, a huge underground lake that took fossil fuels millions of years to create, is consumed.

    http://dolphin.upenn.edu/...

    What's more, most rainforest deforestation is caused by the economic drive to use the land either to graze cattle, or to grow grain which is fed to cattle -- largely for the North American and European markets.

    Most of us would be far healthier, and the world could feed far more people, if we changed our diet to one that contained far more plant foods, and far less calories from animals.  My wife and I have begun having several days per week where we eat vegetarian meals, and I've discovered that I actually LIKE them.  And already, after only a few weeks of doing this, I'm seeing the difference in the hole in which I fasten my belt.

    "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security." -Ben Franklin

    by leevank on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:23:05 AM PDT

    •  You need more than diet (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man

      to reach your ideal weight. We are animals. Our body is built to work. You need to exercise.

      My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

      by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:24:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Quite true (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nanobubble

        But a bad enough diet can sabotage any exercise program, and there is still the factor of the impact of our diet on the environment and global hunger.

        "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security." -Ben Franklin

        by leevank on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:27:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh yes (0+ / 0-)

          I agreed with everything you said. I've been a vegetarian with vegan tendencies for more than a few years now, for personal and ethical reasons.

          But I work with a woman who is an obese vegetarian because she is lazy and does not exercise. Every.possible.moment. she takes the path of least resistance, and it is many things but most notably lame and unhealthy.

          My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

          by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:31:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  All that fertilizer, water, care... for grass? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AmericanRiverCanyon

    Suburbia should be growing CROPS for all the expense they put into their lawns of GRASS.

    It would be hilarious if it wasn't so destructive!

    My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

    by nanobubble on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:40:17 AM PDT

  •  "Kens" vegan/vegetarian recipe of the day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    my wireless network just froze Hope this isn't a dupe!!!

    Teacherken..
    Thanks for another amazing diary..In honor of you

    Shroomie (not Shrumie)Seitan

    1 container of Seitan ( wheat meat) I have never made it but doesn't look to hard. You can use the google for recipes to make
    1 large white onion
    1/2 cup  mushrooms I use button ones

    saute onions in olive oil til they carmelize. Add mushrooms and cook together till mushrooms are cooked and browned. Take it of pan. If you need to add a little more olive oil to cook seitan you can Add seitan. . Cook till Seitan is browned like meat. Maybe 5 minutes.add back mushrooms and onion mix to seitan and cook for about 5 minutes.

    Some other alternatives..
    throw in some red wine.Marsala is nice
    a little fresh lemon juice with white wine

  •  wall street levers at play here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AmericanRiverCanyon, SciVo

    According to Bloomberg's News, speculation is at the heart of this situation:

    Commodity-index funds control a record 4.51 billion bushels of corn, wheat and soybeans through Chicago Board of Trade futures, equal to half the amount held in U.S. silos on March 1. The holdings jumped 29 percent in the past year as investors bought grain contracts seeking better returns than stocks or bonds. The buying sent crop prices and volatility to records and boosted the cost for growers and processors to manage risk.

    Another area I have been reading about (sorry, no link, but see Grist for more info) is that the WTO, IMF, and other cluster****ers have been requiring a gradual drawing down of nations' stores of grains as a condition of their loan policies.  Supposedly, this so-called neo-liberal tactic is being done in order to allow greater freedom in commodity markets.

    Meanwhile, we watch the spinners blame it all on the worldwide "rising middle class".   I am speechless at this level of evil.  Hedging in futures is one thing; speculating on the necessities of life just because of the new affluence of the poor is parasitic.  There oughta be a law.

    The only way to change this country is if money follows politics, not the other way around.

    by jcrit on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 07:44:10 AM PDT

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