Monday, May 19, 2008

what is the world coming to?

my jetlagged brain awoke me at about 4 a.m. it was full of a jumble of thoughts. a strange mixture of images from murakami's wind-up bird chronicles, some gorilla show watched on animal planet before bedtime, work colleagues, returning a rental car (that's a weird one, i haven't rented a car in months) and the shipload of water that recently arrived in barcelona. needless to say, these thoughts were not immediately conducive to falling back asleep.

my sunday berlingske tidende had a 4-page in-depth reportage on rising food prices around the world. the article looked at ordinary items that go into people's grocery carts. here in denmark, a loaf of good rye bread has risen 20% in the past two years. milk has risen 28% and eggs 15%. however, it's worse other places--take china, for example. food prices across the board rose 22% in april alone and the price of meat has risen 46% in a year. the article indicated that this was not ordinary inflation, but the disturbing signs of a new era.

an era in which climate change has already had drastic effects on farming around the world. an era in which the use of corn for production of ethanol to feed thirsty american cars rules over using the same corn to feed people or to feed the animals that feed people.

either the world needs new priorities, or we, as individuals, need new habits. the far east had better get used to eating less rice--recently, the philippines imported $2billion in rice from thailand because they had only 2 months' worth of rice reserves. either the philippines has to make more efficient use of its' rice-growing fields (which won't happen overnight), or people have to get used to eating less of their staple food.

the article interviewed danes in a large grocery store and found that people had noticed the rising prices, but that most hadn't really changed their habits as of yet. but, that's because this is a wealthy society--people's salaries have risen in tempo with the rising prices, so it doesn't feel the same. we might consider the odd meatless meal, but overall, i personally continue to choose the more expensive organic foods whenever they are available. this is a luxury choice to have. and it may not be here for long.

what about poor people in developing countries who don't have that choice? the article showed a woman in haiti sitting on the ground making "clay cakes," a blend of clay, salt and vegetable fat dried in the sun and used to close the hunger gap caused by the fact that rice and bean prices in haiti have risen 100%.

articles like this always make me think about what sort of world we have left to sabin. what will be her reality as a grown-up? for one, i suspect the flying around the world she has become accustomed to as a child will be a thing of the past. it will simply be so environmentally indefensible to fly that people won't do it except when they absolutely must. i fear that will make her awfully sad. she expressed amazement just yesterday at the fact that a teenage friend of her big sister had never flown in his life. she's been flying since she was 3 months old and loves it and sees it as an integral part of her identity.

but, it's not all gloom and doom here on a monday morning--perhaps the food crisis will cause people to eat more locally-produced foods and to eat less processed foods, to eat less meat and more vegetables from their region. maybe we'll all waste less of what we buy--i know that i myself throw far too much away because i am a sucker for those 3 for the price of 2 kind of deals.

maybe the smaller farmer, who is using ecological, organic methods will have a better chance in a world where the big countries aren't exporting all of their grain at lower prices than it can be produced for locally and handing out indefensible farm subsidies. perhaps the market for a lamb fed locally on green grass in the pasture down the road will increase, so that the meat we do eat will be worth it--both taste-wise and environmentally-speaking.

and, humans have an amazing adaptability and spirit of invention which cannot be discounted. there will surely be more wind power. someone will come up with an effective method of desalinating water. hopefully, boeing and airbus are already working on planes that use alternative energy sources that leave a smaller carbon footprint, so sabin won't have to give up flying.

it's difficult from this vantage point to know what will happen. but, here and now, we need to change our habits--use more of what we buy, throw less away, choose what goes into our grocery basket in a more conscientious (and conscious) manner, don't let the water run forever until it's cold enough to drink, take a shorter shower. there are countless ways that we as individuals can collectively make an impact. so that the world is still here in a reasonable state for her to enjoy:


Barb said...

Welcome home, This is a wonderful post to remind us all to carefully guard our environment. We are such a self destructive society. Where will it end .. in the destruction of our very selves.

Thank you for this post to remind us all to watch over the delicate balance of Mother Nature.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

No, we never know what will happen to the world, how it will change. So we need to be ready for anything, be educated and kinder to everything and pay more attention to the impact we have on the planet. Even if no disaster happens- it would be best to be living an honest, healthy life.
I get scared but I'm trying to change and do the right things...

julochka said...

barb--thank you for your kind words. it is important to be aware of taking care of our planet! i think i'm trying to remind myself of that as much as everyone else. :-)

elementary--i get scared too because the scenarios look pretty bleak. i really worry about the world we're leaving to sabin and about our ability in our tiny little corner of the planet to have any real impact. but, i guess that's why i think it's important to write about it! :-)

Jaime said...

Thoughtful post.

I try to do whatever I can to be as green as I can. I am looking forward to all the little veggie stands opening up for the warmer months. There are many of them in the area that I live.

Funny, just on Saturday, I was sitting on the beach with a friend, and I said to her that I couldn't believe in this day and age, that someone hasn't figured out how to get the salt out of sea water. It seems like it would be just a simple filtering process...but what do I know? Clearly, it's not that simple. Still, we have made so many incredible strides, yet we can't desalt the water???