Archive for July 2012

Food security hijacked?

July 22, 2012

For some time now, mostly at the behest of my lovely wife who opened my eyes on the subject, I have subscribed to the idea of food security and food sovereignty. I’m no expert – just a normal person living in a normal neighbourhood who has observed the rather alarming demise of the small farmer in North America in particular, and noticed the even more alarming increase of influence over our food supplies by massive corporations. I’m not a nut (not even an organically grown nut) – I’d describe myself as a concerned observer. The main result of my/our observations is that each year we try to grow more of our own vegetables and fruit (on an average sized and steeply-sloped plot) and hope to one day have the facility to effectively store our crops so that we can enjoy them throughout the year. To me – to us – it makes a lot of sense, and while we watch the growth of companies like Monsanto with trepidation, we are not fortifying our house or digging a bunker. Which brings me to my issue.

Using social media on a daily basis, I frequently receive posts from websites and facebook pages which reflect my own ideas about the development (or decline) of our culture in the west, many of which refer to the global issues rather than taking a parochial view from my own back yard. Many posts are accompanied by images of breathtaking ingenuity on the themes of recycling or sensible and sustainable consumption. I like the idea of sustainable consumption in particular – it’s as common sense as it gets, and for me reflects the fundamental idea of nature always seeking balance – if a secies of animal eats too much of their preferred food (through population explosion) for example, through starvation their numbers will wither until the food supply and their numbers once again reach sustainable balance. But there is a problem with ideas such as this. The principles are being hijacked by those with extreme views.

In a world (wide web) where the most aggressive “be like me or f*ck off” approach seems to be growing in popularity among the bullied-at-school-and really-pathetic-socially-inadequate keyboard warriors of the world, simple, balanced ways of living seem to be increasingly the domain of extremist ‘preppers’ – people for whom the end of the world is nigh (AGAIN) and ‘survival’ seems to involve shooting everyone else first and asking questions afterwards. It seems like I can’t receive a post about roof gardens or interesting garden innovations without comments containing a heavy sprinkling of dark warnings of doom and advice to own as many and as large calibre weapons as I can lay my hands on. And there always seems to be someone with the North American obsession with ‘The Apocalypse’ on their mind. I’m beginning to think that ‘the rapture’ (and what a mind-bendingly ridiculous notion THAT is!) actually refers to people pleasuring themselves at the thought of the world ending.

Here’s an interesting clip I found on the BBC which reflects some of what I have noticed;

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard of the world being about to end during my lifetime. The only thing I AM sure of is that whenever I die, my personal world will end, and that will be that. In the meantime I’d like to live a balanced life as far as possible, remove corn products (not corn on the cob – just processed corn products) from my diet as far as possible – it’s in almost everything – and live as long as I can, enjoying as much as I can. Let’s be blunt; there is no 2012 apocalypse, there is no global disaster on the horizon (unless Jupiter hurls an errant asteroid at us of course but I’ll accept the scientific odds that it isn’t actually very likely at all), and I don’t need to build a bunker to survive a three year nuclear winter.

What I DO need to do is live a sustainable life so that I leave behind as little mess as possible and rely on ultra capitalist corporations as little as possible. So for example we grow food, even in our front yard (gasp! maybe I AM a revolutionary extremist?), we’ll be getting some (illegal – oh boy I’m living life on the edge!) chickens one day in the near future, and tomorrow I’m taking my son fishing – which I love – for trout which usually provide enough for one person each meal. Not really radical stuff is it – instead a few things that would have been recognised as sensible a hundred years ago?

Unfortunately, however, the ideas of balance with which I agree are increasingly being taken hold of and bastardized and distorted into extreme notions of impending danger, and it’s getting tiring listening to such rubbish shouted at us across the airwaves. Over here in North America the TV has apocalyptic ‘documentaries’ available for viewing several times every single day. It is, in itself, almost a religion – and that’s without the evangelists preaching the same stuff on a number of their own goofy TV channels! And by the way, how do you get away with making a career out of preaching imminent doom? Doesn’t anyone ever notice that it never seems to happen?

I wish the extremist survivalists in particular would bugger off to their own camouflaged gun – totin’ websites where they can show photos of their gun collections and videos of their whole family shooting water barrels to pieces with assault rifles, to their hearts’ content. It’s all utter bollocks and evidence of how screwed up America really is. I recently heard that there is something like three million of these nut cases out in the United States (i.e. not in institutions for the permanently paranoid) – three million scared people and their guns can do an awful lot of damage if they get scared enough.

The real fight is, for me, not one of weapons and blood – it’s the fight against buying all our food in one place – buying food we are convinced is easy to find and cheap to pay for. Real food rarely comes in cubed packaging or out of a squeezable tube. Real food is the stuff you DON’T see advertised on TV these days – perhaps something to think about and, dare I say it – digest?

I love gadgets and I have a passing but not very deep interest in technology – some modern technology is patently favouring balance. Solar and wind power are two accessible technologies which I can see myself embracing in the not too distant future – I only have a couple of small portable battery charging solar panels and I’d love to have some for the house one day soon. So I am not an extremist – I’m trying to get there in a way which is itself supportable and sustainable, and I understand that many folks are much further down the road than I. I just happen to believe in finite resources – hence I believe that peak oil is a reality, but because we have the technology to create and exploit cleaner alternatives (Hydrogen anyone?) I don’t believe we will fall into a cataclysmic post-oil kind of hell. The technology will follow the money, and vice-versa. A kind of balance in its own right, I suppose?

In the meantime I’d like to live that balanced lifestyle, moving closer to sustainability and staying away from the bunker life which so many fantasists seem to embrace, and which is so consistently supported by the Hollywood film industry in particular. Because I live in an active volcanic/earthquake zone I have stores of drinking water and shelter and non-perishable food available in the case of a local emergency – I think that’s sensible, and I will take measures to protect the family and our stores in the event of a week – long (or more) regional crisis, but – the world ending? Nope.

I’ll leave that kind of hysterical planning (to kill anyone who sets foot on my property) for people who are off their medication, or who have yet to be diagnosed and prescribed their anti – psychotics. Three million (with lots of guns) and counting.


Senseless? Yes. Avoidable? Not any longer.

July 20, 2012

Another senseless and barbaric mass murder in the United States. Dozens of families and hundreds – if not thousands – of individuals directly affected by the sudden deaths and maiming wrought by an insane man. It is, tragically, a familiar story and the timeline will no doubt play out across the TV news channels for the next twenty four hours until another sensational news item pushes the story off the headline podium and the grisly details become yesterday’s story and therefore no longer news..

And when that happens – when the media dust has settled – what will have changed? Will the pertinent questions around gun ownership, licensing and use have been pursued to their logical conclusions? My guess is that the right wing and gun lobbyists will already be at maximum thrust, hungrily seeking out sound bite opportunities and playing down any link between this type of crime and frankly ludicrous levels of gun ownership or ease of access. Blame will be cast away from the gun lobby, away from those who seek to protect the right to own lethal weapons, and away from those who espouse the ‘wild west’ spirit of self governance and self protection.

Nothing will change. There will still be hundreds of millions of firearms in the United States. There will still be huge numbers of murders tonight and this week. People will continue to die at the wrong end of a gun barrel. America will never wake up to the truth.