Cassandra (of Greek mythology) the daughter of King Priam, foresaw the destruction of Troy by the invading Greeks (who of course had come to retrieve Helen). Cassandra warned her father of the impending disaster – but no one believed her! It seems the God Apollo, who had given her the gift of prophecy, had also cursed her by preventing anyone from believing her.
Well, they are just two of the modern Cassandras, who are trying to help us wake up to the impending collapse of the modern industrial food system. But it seems Apollo is still up to his old tricks….. because based on our behavior, it seems we are still ignoring the warnings.
We didn’t listen to Tristan Stuart who reminded us in Waste, that “infinite abundance is an illusion.” Nor did we hear Carolyn Steel, who claimed in Hungry City “our food system is no more secure, ethical or sustainable than Rome’s was.” And Julian Cribb’s new book about food, The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It, is also likely to go unheeded.
Its all just too depressing, isn’t it. The “foodies” seem to be too wrapped up in what Fraser and Rimas call “the New Gluttony,” which, in their words “turn food into fashion – and undermines the critical danger we face.” Of course, most people don’t think much about the food system and just take the current food system for granted.
If you are one of the majority of people who seem to believe that somehow the food in the grocery store will always be plentiful, will always be cheap, and somehow is actually good for you – you should read Empires of Food. Most astute observers of the modern industrial food and farming system recognize that the industrial food system is harmful to people, society and the earth…. and is vulnerable to collapse. Not convinced, well read what some of the experts are saying…..
I suspect I’ll be accused of being “alarmist” by some readers who would prefer not to be disturbed. But when there is danger in our path, an alarm is exactly what is needed. A billion people hungry, another billion malnourished, and another billion ‘overfed’ sounds like a problem. Students often ask how do we wake up those people living in denial.
Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people that a system built on cheap fossil fuel is at risk in a peak oil economy. I won’t argue that continued erosion of the natural resources upon which our high level of productivity is based – is a prelude to disaster. Nor do I like to point out (especially to people who are just not interested) that a system that allows a few large corporations to control the food supply is fundamentally unjust.
I’m actually much more interested in working on solutions; like tax incentives for small, integrated local farms, public investment in bioregional food production and distribution systems, changes in zoning laws which support the “homegrown food revolution”, and public education programs encouraging family, neighborhood, and community self-sufficiency.
Relocalization may not replace the system of international trade which presently dominates the global food economy. But there are surely things we should consider to help us build much-needed resilience into a food system in crisis today in the poorer nations – and on the verge of collapse in the industrialized world.
Next week’s blog will explore some of these solutions.
I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends. And for more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.