Sunday, November 30, 2008

Post No. 68b: Financial Meltdown Worsens Food Crisis

The following article of interest is taken from the October 26, 2008 electronic edition of the Washington Post. We suspected that because of the impending presidential election at the time of the original publication of the article, many readers would pay little attention to it and the significance of the issue.

We purposely held it in abeyance with the intention of bringing it to your attention once the election mania subsided. The situation described in the article should cause us all to pause.

It should remind us that all conduct has consequences, and possibly consequences beyond our immediate circle. It suggests that we should always consider the long-range (both in space and time) ramifications of our conduct. It should further prompt us to consider that responsible conduct is always bigger than us, and always bigger than the here and now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/25/AR2008102502293_pf.html

6 comments:

  1. Oddly enough, the increase in fertilizer cost seems to be tied to the increase in demand for alternative fuels, specifically biofuels. As the demand for these increase, the pressure on fertilizer demand increases resulting in higher prices. Add in the increase in cost of natural gas (a source of nitrogen for artificial fertilizers) and you have the problems outlined in the referenced article. Going "green" may have some unintended consequences.

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  2. Thanks much Douglas. As Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University often says, there are undoubtedly negative and positive consequences associated with any change involving technology. However, he suggests that we are intelligent enough to recognize them, and theoretically capable of minimizing the negative aspects and maximizing the positive aspects, IF WE HAVE THE WILL and leadership to guide us. We suggests that we think more collaboratively as people.

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  3. Addendum: I learned the other day from a farmer in Tennessee that the government is encouraging farmers to plant switchgrass by the use of subsidies. Switchgrass is used in creating ethanol and the idea is to lessen the impact on the corn crop and to ease the impact growing corn has on farm land (apparently, corn is hard on the soil). The unintended side effect, though, may be a growth in switchgrass production at the expense of the corn crop which will just maintain, or increase, the corn as food shortage. That's just my opinion of one side effect.

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  4. Switchgrass once cover the central plains of what became the United States and Canada. It is drought resistant in a way that corn is not and as witness by the millions of buffalo that once grazed freely through the plains, it can provide fodder for herd animals as well as fuel.

    Jim Clark, an ecologist at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences in Durham, North Carolina has done work covering the massive periodic droughts of the Great Plains over the last 4,500 years. According to many climatologists these events have a role to play in regenerating plant life in the plains much the way fires do in forests. The problem is that we have stripped the plains of these grasses with their deep roots and planted what has been the most profitable cash crop of corn ( which through high fructose corn syrup has sabotaged the American diet). That plus global warming has placed the plains in great danger.

    Financial meltdowns always hurt the poor the most. In many parts of the world this means starvation. That so many people in the world should be effected on the fickle financial markets is tragic. As people who have much we need to do whatever we can to help those most hurt.

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  5. Thanks much Douglas for commenting on one of our earlier posts. Based on our prior reading about switchgrass, it appears to be a fairly positive choice with lots of advantages over the use of corn. We're not quite sure why switchgrass necessarily has to supplant the production of corn. Why can't the folks who previously specialized in the production of corn continue to do so, while the production of switchgrass presents new opportunities? Arguably, opportunistic corporate agricultural concerns will pursue whichever production they consider to be most profitable.

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  6. We found it interesting that this post about something so significant as food in developing countries generated so little in the way of comments. Do you think that our domestic economic concerns will result in our paying less attention to the plight of those less fortunate around the world, as suggested in the article?

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