Sharon December 4th, 2008
Several people sent this to me this morning:
Gerald Celente, the CEO of Trends Research Institute, is renowned for his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events, which will send a chill down your spine considering what he told Fox News this week.Celente says that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.
“We’re going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we’re going to see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Celente, adding that the situation would be “worse than the great depression”.
“America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.
Celente, who successfully predicted the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar, told UPI in November last year that the following year would be known as “The Panic of 2008,” adding that “giants (would) tumble to their deaths,” which is exactly what we have witnessed with the collapse of Lehman
Brothers, Bear Stearns and others. He also said that the dollar would eventually be devalued by as much as 90 percent.
Reading this, this morning, my reaction was a little different than my normal reaction to things that come into my “inbox of doom.” You see, I’ve just spent two years writing and revising a book about the food system that makes pretty much the same arguments that Celente is making – that both the economic and material realities of our food system are so fragile and subject to disruption that we’re facing hunger in our lifetimes. So you wouldn’t think this would bother me much.
Somehow, however, this hit me rather viscerally. At first I started to write one of my usual responses – an analysis of why this might be true and what we can do to prevent it, yada yada. I’ve written dozens, maybe close to a hundred such pieces about various bits of the food system puzzle over the years I’ve been working on this blog. I can do them in my sleep. Except, today, I couldn’t. I kept thinking over and over “Fuck rational – this is not a case for rationality.”
Oh, I know it actually is, but today you’ll have to ask Raj Patel or Paul Roberts or Michael Pollan or Frances Moore-Lappe or anyone but me to do the rational thing about our food system. I am not in writer mode, I am in Mom mode, and the idea that my food system could have gotten to this point, that my world, my country, my region, my community, my kids may have to live in a place where food riots are the only possible response to abiding hunger pisses me off. And because I’m in Mom mode, my response was pretty much the same as when three year old Asher asks (very nicely, and not forgetting to say “please”) if he can just this once drive the car.
My reaction to the idea that the US could rapidly decline in food security this was simply “No. I’m not having it.” I know it makes good press, a good bit of evidence supports the idea, but WE ARE NOT HAVING FOOD RIOTS! Dammit, I’m the Mom and people are going to get fed.
Ok, I realize that sounds a little insane, and obviously, I’m not your Mom, or the economy’s Mom. Nor does my Momhood confer “Empress of Everything” status, much as I might wish. Heck, it doesn’t even mean I can get the boys to remember to life the toilet lid every single time. But I’m still not having it anyway.
I started out exploring Climate Change and Peak Oil and their connections to our economy with a personal motive. Something along the lines of ”Dammit, my kids will not go hungry.” And I did a pretty good job of ensuring that is true – in seven years we’ve got our land, kept out of debt, built our food reserve, and made our land fairly productive. We’ve got our own milk and eggs, and gardens that could feed us and other people. And as I realized that I cared just as much about my friends and extended family and their kids, well, I did some planning for them too. Maybe it won’t be needed, maybe it will, but I’m not having the people I love go hungry either.
But of course a little ways along that trip, I realized that food security for me and mine was a slippery slope. Where does ”mine” stop? It certainly doesn’t stop at my neighbors’ yards – first of all, they are friends, but even if they weren’t, how could I be secure if they weren’t. So I started talking to them – gently, and started giving out plants and helping them start gardens and talking about food storage in my neighborhood, and my larger community. Is it enough? I don’t know, I hope so. But I’m not the only one here working on this, and there are more people trying it every month.
And then, of course, I started writing about it, and “mine” shifted yet again. First I was just writing to other peak oil folks on various lists, and then people starting asking if they could reprint my ideas, so I thought I ought to collect them somewhere. And that was first my old blog and now here – with an ever expanding number of people who tell me about their experiences and report the news and argue with me and pass my stuff on to other people. And I get enough emails from people saying they started a garden or bought a food reserve or talked to their neighbors about starting something that I feel like maybe we’re making progress too, however small.
Most of you don’t live anywhere near my neighborhood - you write me from Portugal and Sweden and Israel and Columbia and Japan and Morocco and India, and within the US from Alaska, New Mexico, California and Florida. Some of you even do live near me. But it sort of doesn’t matter, because I’m not having any of you go hungry either (I realize y’all can take care of yourselves – I didn’t say this was rational.) And yes, I know some people already are, and there are places where there are already food riots – and we’ve got to deal with that too while we prevent them in our homes.
I realize that we’ve now run up against the practical limits of my authority (actually, we probably ran up against them with that toilet thing, but who is counting?). But the good thing is that out there I have a whole bunch of readers, many of whom are Moms or Dads, Grandparents (the boss’s bosses), Teachers, Honored Aunts and Uncles and Family Friends. And every one of them has probably had the experience of saying, “No. Just, No.” and making it happen through sheer force of will, appeals to irrelevant authorities, and the mad conviction (which is sometimes true, even when it is a little crazy) that you can work and pray and love and fight the good stuff into being and the bad stuff away. Maybe the combined force of all that unreasonable conviction can be harnessed – and should be.
None of us can ever protect our families at the narrowest definitions of personal security. There are always more of “them” than there are of “mine.” The only hope is an expanded definition of “My own people” that covers as much of the world as we can manage. And while I think there are a lot of rational issues involved here, sometimes I think it is good to be a little irrational, a little crazy, at least on some issues. Because only at the point that we say “I WILL NOT HAVE IT” do we realize exactly how far we’ll go to make sure it isn’t true.
How far will we go? I don’t know the answer. Certainly as far as my garden, which will grow more food for the food pantry next year. As far as my animals, where I work on raising and breeding livestock suited to suburban neighborhoods. As far as my keyboard, my blog, my books and my talks can reach. As far as calling for tens of millions of people in the US to take up food production wherever they can – in their yards, on their farms, in containers on their roofs and balconies, in vacant lots, in community gardens, in their neighbor’s yards. As far as cutting my impact on the climate as hard as I can and trying to help other people to do so, and then going back and asking if I can do a little more. As far as I can with the bit of influence I’ve got. As far as I can, and then further, and then the rest of you will take it as far as you can, and that’s pretty damned far.
The book I wrote has plans and arguments, analyses and figures, policy recommendations and personal actions to take. And if you look back into the blog, you’ll find plenty more data and analysis of the food situation. But not here, today. Just as I will simply not allow my kids to go hungry, I’m not letting my country, or my world go hungry (or for those last two, hungrier, and I’m trying my best at less). And you would be perfectly reasonable and rational to doubt my personal capacity to keep it from happening. But right at the point of irrationality, of the good kind of madness, is a force I cannot name or fully describe, but that is dragged into reality by forays into territory beyond the land of reason. It sounds nuts, and it probably is – but it is also a Mother thing (and a Father thing, I suspect). And I don’t have to do it by myself – the world is full of mothers and fathers – and non-parents with vast capacity for love of some idea, person, animal, place life - who know that if they had to, they could do more than any reasonable person to protect their own. And the world is full of our own.