George Monbiot finallly makes the point today in the Guardian, that I have been wanting to make about the emerging global food crisis. While some stories on the subject in recent days have mentioned the epic drought in Australia, likely due to global warming, most blame the situation on biofuel use of corn. The fact is that most corn, and indeed most food grain is fed to livestock. Livestock can eat a lot of things beside grain, but grain feed allows for factory production, where massive numbers of animals can be housed on small areas rather than free ranging on pasture. Corn-fed beef and pork are also more “marketable” than pasture-fed.
Monbiot says this:
But there is a bigger reason for global hunger, which is attracting less attention only because it has been there for longer. While 100m tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760m tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals - which could cover the global food deficit 14 times. If you care about hunger, eat less meat.
He proposes eating farmed tilapia which is very protein-productive and efficient. I’m looking into raising a few in my new mini-pond, when it gets dug later this year. This is the first I’ve heard anyone mention tilapia outside Permaculture circles, although a commenter mentions problems with Chinese and Taiwanese farmed tilapia.
In energy descent, rather than centralized grocery shopping, fed by centralized distribution centers and trucking, fed by monoculture stockyards, fed by monoculture grain production, we need a system where most of the food is much closer to the point of consumption.
In other words, grow a garden. Farm some tilapia. Raise some chickens for eggs and perhaps meat, and maybe a goat for milk. Grain production may still be more efficient on medium to large scales, from an energy standpoint, but most industrial vegetables and fruits are clearly energy losers, even before they get shipped from Chile or California.
One point raised in the comments to Monbiot’s article indicates that the financial crisis does in fact play into the food crisis. Speculative excess capital has flowed into commodities of all kinds over the last two years and this is having a huge cumulative effect on grain prices, including energy and fertilizer input costs and a new midwestern land price bubble. Without being able to systematically untangle the skein of interrelated forcings, we can’t say for certain how much any of these factors —ethanol, oil, climate change, meat habits and speculation —directly contribute to hunger; we only know that they do.