Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

1,000,000,000 to Go Hungry in 2009

That’s not a typo.  According to the United Nations (as reported in this article in The Independent), one billion is the number of people expected to be without sufficient food and nutrition this year.

That’s despite two consecutive years of record-breaking harvests.

Obviously, it’s not about the amount of food; there’s plenty to feed the world over.  It’s about access.  Currently, with food prices climbing alongside poverty rates, more and more people are finding themselves without the monetary resources to adequately feed themselves and their families.

Fingers point to biofuels and to the inability of those in developing nations to buy expensive seed and fancy fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, but that’s not the whole story. The global food crisis brings into sharp focus the importance of food security.  Food security involves a lot of different details, including access to space to grow food in one’s own community, whether that’s through backyard, rooftop, or community gardens. It involves knowing how to grow, harvest, and preserve that food.  It doesn’t require fancy biotech seed, especially when that seed is meant to create a dependency on the chemical giants through features such as special seed “activation” products or the terminator gene, which renders a second generation sterile and forces farmers to buy more seed.

Let’s clarify something.  I don’t believe that wealth is the opposite of poverty.  I think self-sufficiency is.

So, what can we be doing to help struggling individuals and families worldwide become more self-sufficient?  What are we as a nation doing already?  How much of food aid takes the form of actual food, and how much is takes the form of building self-sufficiency?  It’s a question I don’t know the answer to, but I’m interested in finding out.  Perhaps I have a research topic for when the class I’m currently taking is done.

And for those of you who were still looking for a New Year’s resolution or two, let’s bring this issue home.  What can each of us be doing to work towards ensuring our own self-sufficiency? Perhaps a goal for the New Year is a step in that direction.  Things are tight economically for a lot of people right now, and many of the steps towards self-sufficiency are also ones that will save money in the long run.  Think about it.  It’s never too late to set a new goal for the year.  Maybe one of these will be just what you’re looking for.

  • Plant a garden, even if it’s just an herb garden.
  • Learn to save seeds.  Talk to a master gardener or visit a permaculture group in your area.
  • Learn a preserving technique: drying, canning, or freezing.  Permaculture groups are also good for these things…or at least the one in Phoenix has been.
  • Learn to cook, or improve the skills you have.  Find someone who knows how, and see if you can hang out and cook with them a few times. Friends, neighbors, and family are all great.
  • Establish and maintain a well-stocked pantry with dry and preserved goods to see you through a natural disaster or potentially to help you buffer inflation or a short period of joblessness.
  • Look into volunteering at a local CSA farm or food co-op.  You can often get great benefits in trade, and working at a farm can teach you quite a bit about growing and harvesting that you can use for the rest of your life.

And just because I’m a bit of a nosy Parker, what are your New Year’s resolutions?  Do you have any goals related to food, health, or self-sufficiency for 2009?  Do tell, if for no other reason than that I’d like to try to help you with those through my posts here!

By the way, don’t forget to vote in the New Year’s produce poetry contest if you haven’t already!  The race is tight so far; we had outstanding entries from everyone!


2 Comments so far

  1. Mangochild January 8th, 2009 2:40 am

    Oh my. What an eye-opening post. I just read that and my eyes bogged out. Your ideas for improving self-sufficiency make sense, I know I can do more than I have been. While I feel I am working towards sustainability in my own life (storage, CSA, garden, etc), I have recently started to feel as if I want to broaden my scope too, reaching into my local community and working to both raise awareness of just the issues you name and the idea of looking beyond the well-recited “recycle” and “reduce carbon footprint” to sustainability and renewal of what we take from the world, especially in food. This involvement is something I have as a goal in 2009, finding groups and ways to become involved in my community and state.

    What scares me is that I see so many economic/transport problems that are either real, or real enough in people’s minds to block sustainability or food in the world overall – I don’t have stats, but I think the food production is concentrated, rather than evenly distributed among all of us in the world. This just seems wrong. Sustainability and self-sufficiency seems so far away for people in many countries for geo-political reasons, its hard to know how to wrap my head around it. Yes, there are issues of what can be produced in various places, but each area has its own possibilities that struggle to be realized, unfortunately. How to help with that? Yipes.

  2. Laurel January 8th, 2009 11:44 am

    I totally agree. It’s a huge and overwhelming problem, which is why I think small, individual steps are so important. It’s going to take a long time for governments and international organizations to effectively treat these problems (they’ve purportedly been at it for a while, and you may have noticed that things aren’t exactly perfect), which means that individuals need to do what they can for themselves. Ideally, governments and NGOs will continue to work on the bigger issues while also establishing policy and practices that support and encourage the successful efforts individuals have been making (tax credits, financial incentives, land allocation, etc).

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