Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Greedy Planet

There was an alarming article in this Sunday's Independent newspaper detailing how the world for the 6th year in a row is not producing enough food to feed everyone on the planet. This is due to various factors which include: growing population (there are now 5 people for every two living in the last century) and crop failure. So far this food deficit has been offest by using surpluses that have been stockpiled in previous years but these stockpiles are running dangerously low. Farming more land is becoming increasingly difficult as we build more roads and cities to satisfy the growing population.

I can't help but wonder though if there is more that we in the west could do to help alleviate this situation. For a start we live in a cafe culture . I am not pointing the finger here, merely stating a fact, I have coffee out at least once a week, sometimes two or three times, and we are not drinking genteel little cups like we had in the 1970s - oh no, now we drink super sized extra strong buckets of the stuff. And all that coffee has to grow somewhere. That means that millions of acres of fertile land that could be growing food are devoted to growing coffee so that plump Europeans and Americans can sup a bucketful whilst stuffing our faces with cake. Hardly seems fair does it?

Someone should put their foot down. ban or minimise coffee production and grow some real food. We'd soon get used to doing without it if we had to. Then of course there's all the land given over to drug production - I'm not even going to go there. and of course the cow crisis, not only all the land they graze on but the millions of acres used to grow crops to feed them with - this has long been cited as a enviromental problem. Apparently we now have to add to all these factors the new push for bio fuels - in the U.S thousands of acres have been given over to growing corn to produce ethanol for bio fuel. Plus there are all the millions of acres used to grow other crops that are imported mostly to the west.

Take a look in your cupboard and you will find a whole array of food that doesn't come from your home country - just off the top of my head I know I have bananas, aubergine, olives, sweet potato - none of which are grown in the UK. I should be ashamed of myself. I used to have an organic veggie box delivered to my house once a week and I may just go back to that - try to eat more local produce and what's in season. One thing that really riles me is that here in the UK the supermarkets import food that DOES grow well here. Look round Sainsburys and you will be hard pushed to find an English apple or pear - yet apples and pears grow excellently here and we have an abundance of delicious varieties - yet we are importing apples from South Africa!

It doesn't take a super brain to work out ways to help the environment, but obviously there are no governments willing to stick their necks out and do something about it. How about for starters subsidising public transport - if it was cheap to travel by train more people would - it's certainly less stressful than the motorway. In Norwich it's cheaper to take your car into the city and pay for car parking than to take the family in by bus - that certainly doesn't encourage people not to use the car. And how about imposing a ban or tax on goods imported that could have bought here like apples for instance. If English apples were cheaper everyone would buy them.

You can read the article "The Hungry Planet" here.

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