Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue: World Food Day and the Problem of Equity

Sharon October 19th, 2009

Yesterday was World Food Day, and the media dutifully paid a tiny bit of attention to the 1 billion plus people who suffer from chronic hunger.  All the usual problems were trotted out, including multiple quotations in many media from the Australian National Science Director Megan Clark’s observation that to feed a growing population, we will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than we have in all of human history. 

“That means in the working life of my children, more grain than ever produced since the Egyptians, more fish than eaten to date, more milk than from all the cows that have ever been milked on every frosty morning humankind has ever known.”

This is a brilliant quote, and stunningly evocative way of making clear how acute the problem is.  I hope that it does effectively bring home how large the question of our food security is – because I think most people in the developed world see food as largely trivial.  Even movements towards better food tend to work under the assumption that someone (farmers) will take care of providing better, safer food for us, if we simply “create demand.”  Thus we set ourselves up as baby birds, mouths wide open, waiting for someone to provide our needs. 

I would put the problem a little differently than Clark does, however.  Because while the quantities of food needed to sustain our population, even in the best case scenario, where we gradually bring that population down, are astounding, in some ways, that’s a secondary project – the primary one will be the pursuit of justice.

Aaron and I wrote _A Nation of Farmers_ to try and help end the baby-bird view of agriculture.  We argued that the days of agriculture as something we are not participants in, except perhaps as “consumers” are now over.  And one of the central questions we asked was whether we could in fact, feed a world of nine billion people.  The answer was a tentative yes -accepting that such a choice further degrades our ecology and can only exist in the context of a stabilizing population – that is, sooner or later we all starve to death if we don’t do something to continue and enable our demographic transition.

We presently grow enough food to feed 9 billion people.  That’s an astonishing realization for most people – that the world produces about double the number of calories we need.  That means that even if yields were stabilize, we could feed the coming population and gradually stabilize it (this is a large project obviously, and not my primary topic today, but we discuss it in ANOF), on just what we grow now.  The difficulty, of course, is that during the next 50 years, we are expecting radical reductions in our ability to grow food due toc climate change.  We can expect to see, for example, more than half of the 17% of the world’s irrigated land that provides 30% of the world’s grain harvest, taken out of production due the loss of water supplies.  For every 1 degree of temperature rise, rice yields fall by almost 15%.  Facing four degrees represents a disaster.  But it was more than just climate change that made us tentative about our ability to feed the world – it was the problem of justice. 

Our tentativeness wasn’t due to dependence on technological breakthroughs, or even fear of declining ability to do the work or make fertilizers in a depleted world.  Believe it or not, we don’t actually need any major technological breakthroughs to feed the world with minimal use of fossil fuels.  A lot of people assume that nitrogen fertilizers won’t have a substitute – but all those nitrogen fertilizers we’ve been using over the years are being recycled over and over, persistantly in human urine – we have all the high nitrogen fertilizer we will need, if we can tap it.  The same is true of rising prices for Potash and Phosphorus depletion – these problems have a solution – the fact that our bodies contain these minerals. Humanure, properly and safely composted at high temperatures, is a reasonably complete fertilizer.  Human and animal bones can continue to make up the difference.  We will have to return to a model of ashes to ashes and dust to dust, and do so with careful attention to the prevention of disease, but it is viable.

Nor do we doubt that human labor can replace fossil fuels – or rather, it can replace them in the appropriate model.  What has been found in the former Soviet Union and Cuba and in other places where fossil fuels suddenly become scarce is that small scale, diversified agriculture can match or exceed outputs – that is, the total amount of food, fiber and fertility produced by a small, diversified farm is generally more per acre, even if the yield of a single crop is lower – ie, a small farm might produce less total corn, but more total calories.  It won’t be easy to break up our largest industrial farms, or to shift our diets towards a wider range of crops, to develop truly local food systems, and to teach millions of developed world residents that they no longer have the option of acting like baby birds, that they have to take a role in their food system, but it can be done. 

We are not organic purists (that is, we both practice organic agriculture, but aren’t dogmatic about saying all farms need to be perfectly organic), but we recognize that the future of agriculture is much lower input than at present – and thus it is important to recognize that organic agriculture has kept pace in both yield and output with Green Revolution agriculture – that is, if we were dependent on fossil fuels for agriculture, we should see that organic yields haven’t risen along with chemical yields, but we haven’t seen that at all.   More importantly, there are two values to low input agriculture – where organic food is more expensive in the rich world, because of the high cost of human labor in relationship to cheap fossil fuels, in the poor world, the case is the opposite – one study found that even if yields were lowered overall, organic agriculture would result in less hunger, simply because people could afford more food that way.  If we imagine a world where fossil fuel prices eventually rise out of range of many people, we can expect to see this transition occur in the rich world.

Perhaps more importantly for the larger question of whether we can feed the world, organic agriculture, with its close attention to soil, has shown to be more resilient in times of stress – with fewer and fewer “normal” years for growing, and with farmers all over the world facing wild gyrations in weather patterns, it is of the utmost importance to emphasize good soil management and crop resilience – and soil conscious, small scale, low input agriculture generally exceeds the results of conventional agriculture in years of drought or flooding or other weather event.  These weather events will be the norm, not the exception as time goes on.

Along with organic agriculture, we have a number of tools that can at least soften the blow of climate change on our agriculture – there’s work to be done on the world’s soils, it is possible to shift crops in drying areas towards more drought tolerant ones, and perennial and woody agriculture offer crop possibilities we haven’t fully explored.  Climate change will be an enormous wild-card challenge to our ability to feed ourselves, no doubt – but it isn’t necessarily climate change that creates the deepest doubts.

But if we can manage yields in face of depletion, and if we can adapt our agriculture to climate change, we still face the deep root question of equity – and it is here where our hopes for a world without profound and chronic hunger across the board falter – because last year, when we crossed the 1 billion mark in the world, hungry and added 100 million people to the list of the starving, we had record harvests.

Think about that.  Last year, we did, at least for one year, grow more food than we ever have in human history.  And hunger still rose and overflowed, and millions died – most of them children. 

Why did they die and starve?  They died because we didn’t care enough about justice.  The UN FAO attributed 40-60% of the rise in hunger to biofuel growth – when cars and people compete for food, the cars win.  The rich world found a way to use their food to keep their oil addiction going, and we as a people said “screw the hungry.”  There’s simply no other way to read this – we knew that biofuels drove food prices up for the poor, and we burned them anyway.

Why else?  High meat consumption of livestock fed on grains – the average poor person eats virtually no meat, the average rich one eats eight times as much grain, mostly in the form of meat.  We care about the hungry, at least in principle, but not enough to stop eating factory farmed, grain fed meat and other animal products.

Other reasons include the rich world’s failure to make good on its pledges to help out the world’s poor in the food crisis – we promised money and then we backed out, because we were busy giving money to Goldman Sachs, who obviously needed it more than starving children.   There’s also the globalization-induced movement of large portions of the world’s rural population to cities, where they are dependent on grain markets.

There are plenty of other factors – poor management in the countries themselves, political issues, bad agricultural practice, lack of investment in the kind of crop research that would help – a whole host of them. But the majority of the factors simply come down to this – we don’t care enough about justice to actually feed the people we’ve got now, so why do we think we’re going to care later, as it gets harder?

There’s a really good reason to take up the banner of justice here – and that is this – we’ve already proved that most of the richest and most important people in the world don’t mind seeing people go hungry as long as it doesn’t interfere with their accumulation of wealth.  Having established that, why on earth would any of us think that they’ll mind seeing *us* go hungry? 

Unless we grasp that equity is the central issue here, we will see a world where more and more of “us” and more and more of “them” are hungry, and where the lines between us and them are badly blurred.  The good news is that we could decide that we care more about “them” than we do about other things, and focus *now* on justice, and on equity – on making sure that the world’s food goes ’round.

The truth is that in some ways, we’ve got the tools to handle the basic crisis of production – they aren’t easy tools to enact.  It isn’t easy to shift from a society where all you have to do is be a consumer to one where you have to be a producer.  It isn’t easy to accept that your diet and way of life have no future, and you have to change them.  It isn’t easy to learn to eat new foods, or grow them yourself.  It isn’t easy to change whole practices and economies around.  But in some ways, these projects pale against the giant project of creating a greater degree of human justice.

In the coming 50 years, in my life and my children’s  a great number of unfair, unjust things are going to happen to both the world’s poor and world’s “on their way to becoming poor” – we will be forced to flee the coastlines and the dryest parts of the world.  We will struggle to live with much less energy and fewer resources.  We will face crises we’ve never seen before.  We will struggle to keep up food yields, and to feed our world.  And nearly all of us, wherever we live in the world, will feel unfairly used – because, after all, none of us meant this to happen, it isn’t fair.

And it isn’t.  None of us individually made our situation.  But the only hope of having a decent and humane future is this – that we ally with our fellows – next to us and around the world, that we the future poor and the present poor tie our sense of injustice to the project of creating greater equity – of ensuring that food goes first to the hungry, of sheltering those who are most vulnerable, and of mitigating suffering as our central project.  Justice, justice shall you pursue.  And all the days of your life.

Sharon

32 Responses to “Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue: World Food Day and the Problem of Equity”

  1. Shamba says:

    This is a powerful piece for me this morning. the language seems so strong as to be extreme but I know it isn’t. I ‘m struck by the amount of “strong to extreme ” language used more and more as I read about climate change, resources peaking and financial frauds.

    That quote by Megan Clark is astounding, “more grain than ever produced since the Egyptians, more fish than eaten to date.” It gives a profound picture of the efforts we will have to make!

    I have a question about the last two lines of your piece, Sharon. “justice, justice …” etc., is that a quote from somewhere or just your own wording??

    thanks for your writing, Peace to All of Us,
    Shamba

  2. mims says:

    Hi sharon,
    long time reader, rare comment poster. I am contiually amazed at your well thought out postings from dairy herd management to social justice. And, this weekend, I happened to watch Middlemarch, and met the original Causaubon. He was such an ivory tower incompetent twit, not at all whom I would think of as a role model for this blog. But perhaps it is the idea of a key-to-everything type tome is what you were referring to. In any event, glad to finally have some inkling where the title came from. (methinks anyway!)

  3. vera says:

    Well, maybe I’ll get jumped on, but here goes. Remember “more food, more people”? (other things being equal, of course).

    Because the planet is forced to crank out food for 9 billion now, soon we will have 9 billion. Duh! If we stabilized food production at levels for 6.7 billion now, we would stabilize the population, and could focus on the real problem — making sure the food goes around properly.

    Instead, concerned people whip up the frenzy for “more and more food needed”! Nuts.

    You say, Sharon, “we don’t care enough about justice to actually feed the people we’ve got now”. But “we” do care. It’s just that the people who have the power to make the changes needed do not care. Which really turns it into a problem of power. What do you propose to address that?

  4. Sharon says:

    Vera, why do you think that if we stabilized our food levels, we’d distribute it more equitably – I’m not clear on how this would free up time for justice work – the people mostly working on increasing food yields aren’t usually the people doing social justice work. Nor would population levels stabilize immediately without an awful lot of death – and yet the people causing the deepest food problems aren’t the ones who are going to see their kids dying of starvation. So I guess I’m not really clear on how you think this would work. Can you clarify?

    Sharon

  5. P.J. Grath says:

    Vera is overly dismissive, I think, of the problems of caring and justice, but I think she’s correct that we can’t talk about world food supply without addressing world population. I’ve read that the single most effective factor in reducing birthrate is education of girls. Not just telling them about birth control–no, educating them in general. So schools for girls are part of the long-term population/food solution. Distributing food in the short term doesn’t and shouldn’t rule out other, longer-term projects.

  6. vera says:

    Let me see, Sharon, if I can be clearer. I am not saying that “we” would distribute food more equitably if we stabilized the food supply. I am saying that the problem is NOT not enough food, the problem is distribution.

    And then the next problem is that those who profit by creating scarcities (and it isn’t me and you) are not likely to attend to that problem. Either now, or when there are 9 billion of us.

    Look, if humans are forcing the planet to crank out food for 9 billion when there is 6.7 billion of us, and all the research and the hue and cry is for cranking even more food out of her poor abused soil flesh, er, doesn’t something smell fishy here?

    IF we stabilized food production and cranked out enough food for 6.7 billion only or so, nobody’s kids would be dying of hunger, provided the food was distributed. This is, alas, a theoretical argument, because “they” profit by scarcity, by food overproduction and underdistribution, and by endless population growth. If they didn’t, things would change very quickly.

  7. dewey says:

    Well, yeah, but if the excess food now being produced is going to gas tanks and well-marbled steaks instead of to poor people in Rwanda, its production can’t be said to be the cause of the unsustainable population growth in that country. I think that was Sharon’s point.

  8. vera says:

    Dewey, somebody is fueling the unsustainable population growth in Ruanda. And since it is not Ruandan farmers, by and large, it must be the farmers of the first world. Eh? I mean, who else could it be?

  9. Mark N says:

    Couldn’t unsustainable population growth in countries like Rwanda be also tied to the number of children being birthed per couple? Do we say, “you have the children, we’ll feed them”?

  10. Sharon says:

    I guess I’m not sure who “they” are – I think if the average we (maybe not the average reader of this blog, but the collective we) actually cared very much about equitable distribution of food, we’d be doing it – I haven’t seen a lot of political campaigns to ask developed world countries to actually make good on their food crisis pledges from last year. Biofuels seem to be stepping back, but because of low energy prices, not because of a massive campaign to cease starving people, etc…

    As for profiting from scarcity – that has a conspiracy feel to it – I’m sure some people do profit from scarcity, but the majority of the profiting seems to be from not giving a shit about people – it isn’t that they benefit by starving the poor, its that they make more money feeding the rich – and the rich always have more money. It isn’t that the scarcity itself is a goal, it is a by-product of a fundamental inequity – a system where whether you eat is determined by your wealth, to which many of us are complicit.

    Re:population growth in Rwanda – a whole lot of things do fuel it – but a lot of it comes back to that justice thing – for example, in India, where there is no social security, no care for elders other than family, a woman has to have five children to be sure (statistically speaking) that she will have someone to take care of her in her old age – otherwise, she goes out to beg and starves. In places with high infant mortality, you have as many children as you can to ensure that you have some children – HIV only puts more pressure. Where family is the only form of wealth and security, the larger it is, the better. That’s why I tend to think that population issues can’t be fully wrested from this question of justice.

    Sharon

  11. vera says:

    Heh. No conspiracy theory here, Sharon… creating scarcity is a fundamental underlying principle of this economic system. :-) Does that sound… wacko? I thought this was common knowledge…

    In countries where children are economically costly, people have few. In others, where they are economically advantageous, people have many. And there are other factors. Nevertheless… it is, at the very bottom, food that fuels it. If you crank out 9 billion food portions, soon you will have 9 billion humans (or deer, or mice, or owls, or whoever). Ceteris paribus.

    Who “they” are? The pathocrats who run things. You know… the same ones who don’t give a shit about people. Thinking that “political campaigns” will somehow turn them around is a dangerous illusion. IMO, of course. :-)

    Don’t take me wrong, Sharon, I am not saying we are not complicit… but there is tiny complicity and there is HUGE RESPONSIBILITY! And I think it is crucial not to confuse the two.

  12. Raya says:

    I once read that the single biggest drop in fertility rate was caused by The Late Show.

    Maybe we should be distributing I phones with you tube access instead of condoms :)

    On a much more serious note it is not only rich people in rich countries that keep poor people in Africa starving, but often the biggest hurdle is for the relief workers to make it through the warring factions and governments to the people in need.

  13. Nancy says:

    I disagree Vera. I think that there are millions of tiny complicities and tiny responsibilities

    As Sharon said the average poor person eats virtually no meat, the average rich one eats eight times as much grain, mostly in the form of meat. We care about the hungry, at least in principle, but not enough to stop eating factory farmed, grain fed meat and other animal products.

    That is true of pretty much all of “”us”". That’s an example of an individual complicity most of us indulge in and an individual responsibility none of us are prepared to undertake.

    The so-called ”pathocrats” that run things are just us with more power.

  14. Lori Scott says:

    If you think that issues are stacked against farmers, just wait until the touted emissions trading system (carbon trading) impacts on farmers. And not only farmers but food processors such as abbatoirs who use lots of electricity, water and refrigeration. Jump ahead and try and get your mind around this new danger to food production.

    And forgive me for saying that carbon trading will not reduce carbon emissions. Only lifestyle change can do that. It will impact on society’s most vulnerable members who are marginal at the moment.

    Re: meat eating. Grazing has traditionally been a production source of protein from marginal grasslands which are not suited to crop/ grain growing. It is not meat eating that is the problem, it is the method of grain feedlotting grazing animals which is cruel and unnatural. Use only natural grass fed meat and you are sustainably converting the energy of the sun to protein. Freerange your meat! Its efficient.

  15. Raya says:

    I ran across this quote today and thought you might like it.

    “This popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or tyrant, all citizens are responsible to share the burdens of governing, “that every man might bear his part”

  16. dewey says:

    Most of us are familiar with the story of Reindeer Island — reindeer left on an island without predators bred up to several thousand individuals, then died off when they had eaten all the lichen. At the point when there were 5000 of them, let’s say, a rational observer would have called that unsustainable. But that does not mean that some outsider had been supplying them with 5000 portions’ worth of lichen. There was a point at which they might have been starting to go hungry, yet were still able to find enough food to live and breed, only from non-renewable exploitation of local resources.

    To assume that specific Third World areas are overpopulated because “we” supply “them” with outside food, you need to demonstrate that in those specific areas, the number of calories imported and available to the non-rich exceed the number of calories exported for the global market. I would guess that this is not true in most cases. In the poor rural region with which I am most familiar, people live almost entirely on locally produced rice and cassava that they grow themselves or trade for at local markets. In population centers by roads, there are small stores that sell a few imported products, but with a household cash income as little as $200 or $300 per year, people simply could not afford to live on imported food that must be bought with cash. The soil and forest are being ruined far faster than they can be restored, and everyone looks malnourished, so maybe the locals are at the “5000 reindeer” stage, but for the moment they’re supporting themselves; you’re not supporting them.

  17. Greenpa says:

    My own calculation; not rigorous, but not guessing either, is that we currently produce enough food to feed at least 12 billion people.

    Pre-harvest and post harvest losses of ripe crops average 60% in the developing world; and 20% in the wealthy.

    And in both worlds- an average of 50% of that is simply wasted after leaving the kitchen.

    Plus everyone in the wealthy nations eats twice as much as they need.

    Really.

    People see those losses as “intractable”- so the answer is; plant more acres.

    We’re out of acres, though- and soil, and water.

  18. Sarah says:

    Plus everyone in the wealthy nations eats twice as much as they need.

    Really.

    There are plenty of people in wealthy nations who are starving; I’d be careful with statements like that.

  19. vera says:

    Nancy, maybe so. I go back and forth on that one. Still, though, I think that a significant portion of the pathocrats are sociopaths… which means, quite unlike you or me.

    Dewey, who feeds the cities? If their rural folks are barely making it, then their cities are fed by… first world farmers.

    Greenpa, are you serious? 12 billion? How do you figure? This is utterly insane. If there is 6.7 billion of us why are we devastating the earth by growing for 12 billion?! And there is propaganda to grow even more. Mindboggling.

  20. Greenpa says:

    Sarah: “There are plenty of people in wealthy nations who are starving; I’d be careful with statements like that.”

    Well, sure. It’s called poetic license, and hyperbole. Communication intended to reach the heart is sometimes more effective if you can ignore all the exceptions… :-)

    Vera: good heavens! Far from suggesting we want 12 billion people, my own desire is that we shoot for 2 billion, and see if we can make that work.

    “Can” never equals “should” to me! The point intended is that we have far far more food available to us today than is believed or admitted- and the need for bigger and faster stripmining of the Earth is fallacious at the outset.

    We’re swimming in food- and don’t know, and don’t care.

    And in case anyone has other assumptions, no, I’m not talking about 12 billion vegans, either.

  21. dewey says:

    In the nation I’m thinking of, the cities appear to be provisioned mostly from domestic agriculture and, in some places, fishing. Most urban cooking fuel is domestic charcoal; imported propane is for the fortunate few. And most people live in rural areas or villages, not in the big cities. And most of those people, I might add, work their scrawny butts off for the little they have. Given gross overpopulation and the fact that there’s so little environment left to destroy, I doubt things can go on for much longer. But right now, if all foreign goods vanished, many people would be out a couple of T-shirts and plastic buckets, and their life would go on much as it has. The Garrett Hardin portrayal of poor Third Worlders as passive, helpless welfare recipients is dehumanizing.

  22. vera says:

    Greenpa: that is the shocking part, isn’t it? We are swimming in food. (I was just wondering how you figured we produce enough for 12 billion right now…)

    And if we are swimming in food, then the sane alternative would be to redirect people’s resources and talents from trying to figure out how to crank out more food to inventing an economic system where everybody is fed, where food production is stabilized and population begins to decrease. Nah? But sanity does not seem to hold wide appeal these days… :-)

    Geez louiz, Dewey…. if the reindeer go into overshoot, someone has to bring in food from the outside. Or they um… go the way of all flesh. If the country you mean isn’t in overshoot yet, it will be soon. Then the first world farmers come in to put everybody on corn syrup. Yey!

  23. Corinne says:

    I’ve just finished reading a book which clarifies just how much food is being produced, and wasted, in the world, and more specifically in the developed countries: “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal”, by Tristram Stuart, published this year. The author has pulled together an amazing amount of facts, information and personal research to try to pin down exactly how much food is being wasted at each stage: grower, manufacturer, distributor, household.

    From reading his book, I gather that up to half of the food worldwide is wasted, and in the U.K. for instance, the estimate seems to be at around 70%. He includes a chapter with a wonderful historical accounting of food surpluses and their role in the rise and fall of populations as well as empires. And the later chapters recount various efforts around the world to reduce, re-use, recycle food waste.

    In short, highly recommended.

    Corinne in Paris

  24. Kate-B says:

    The average poor person in the US doesn’t (or hasn’t) thought overly much about food. They know they haven’t much money and they eat what’s cheap and easy. Truthfully, most of them dont want to think about food.

    Priorities for most American poor people, food is more like a secondary issue. First, a place to live (or sleep) for family then self or health concerns. Next, things like clothing that immediately identify you as destitute or not (unless you gave up caring). Next come other issues such as whether you feel despair and want to escape (alcohol, drugs, gambling, movies, cable tv, etc) or education and planning for the future. Food fits somewhere into that category.

    Most of the folks I’ve seen trying to address this issue of food security are middle-class, but poor folks get inspired once they feel they have some dignity and yes, much of that sense of dignity is derived from a feeling of gross injustice.
    My perspective for what it’s worth.

  25. Greenpa says:

    Vera- sorry, I grew up with an engineer father who had the times tables up to 15 100% accessible in his head at all times- we were supposed to just calculate with anything he threw at us. I wasn’t good at it.

    Anyway- everything is there in my post;

    We’re keeping 6.whatever billion alive at the moment; current crop production can be called 100%

    Pre and post harvest losses, from crop reports, are 20% 1st wrld, 60% 3rd; if you figure 1 and 3 are each about half of world total (a fair guess), then 40% of total is lost there. So; we’re at 60% of crop total feeds 6.whatever.

    Plus- 50% of THAT is thrown out in the garbage; now we’re down to 30% of crops produced.

    Theoretically then, if we actually delivered 100% of crop to feed people, it could be keeping at least 3X 6 billion alive. Oh, wait, that’s 18 billion, isn’t it? More, actually.

    I DEhyperbolized that number because it’s too freaking unbelievable.

    There are a TON of other changes possible too. Read Mark Bittman’s post from a couple days ago, and look at the chart. This is what we in the US are spending our food dollars for-

    http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/16/what-were-eating/

    quite horrifying- and another massive spike in the coffin of the idea that we must produce more crops.

    People starve for politics; and profit. Period.

  26. Greenpa says:

    Incidentally- if anyone thinks my use of food statistics is just incredibly amateurish- I invite you to examine in detail the arena of world food statistics. You’ll find my loosey-goosey uses a step up from standard.

  27. vera says:

    Thank you, Greenpa. I have seen some of the stats you refer to! Bah humbug.

    Staggering statistics… time to downcrank the food machine and give the planet a break.

    Problem is… the people who see the wastage and maldistribution as a fixable issue tend to be blind to the underlying systemic problem: the artificial creation of scarcity to make a profit.

  28. PKS says:

    See, the biofuel “feed cars or feed people” choice is a guaranteed mug’s game, solution unsatisfactory. Even if you ignore the human misery implicit, starvation will eventually be a threat to all of us, because of war and conflict.

    This is why the only viable biofuel is biodiesel from algae. It can be grown (has to be grown, for decent yields) in bioreactor tanks, but that means you don’t have do displace food crops. You can grow it in marginal areas or in deserts or something.

    I like your writing, but I disagree with you on the need to scale down our lifestyles. We’re really lucky that the climate crisis brought us to this point now, instead of say 50 years ago, when a number of techs didn’t exist.

    Our society is going to, I believe, live or die as a high energy one. The idea of living a lower energy lifestyle is basically a non-starter politically. But existing tech is completely capable of maintaining our current high-energy lifestyle, but with zero carbon emissions.

    All the problems are political and economic. No money for health care? Well, almost all US large corporations paid virtually zero taxes, for example. They can afford, I think, a non-zero level of taxes.

    TINA – there is no alternative.

  29. [...] yields continue to improve around the world. As Sharon Astyk notes in her brilliant blog Casaubon’s Book,“We presently grow enough food to feed 9 billion people.  That’s an astonishing realization [...]

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