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This week, food riots are erupting in the poorest countries of the world, such as Haiti, where the majority of the population lives on under $2 a day. The protesters are calling for the resignation of their government, for its inability to provide basic necessities to the population. See this BBC News short video.
The price of grains, especially wheat (which has doubled in the past year), has been on a steady uphill trend for the past few years, causing major food shortages across much of the Global South.
(image from BBC)
I want to highlight 4 underlying causes of this global food shortage:
1) Growing Inequality between the wealthiest and poorest people. Greater affluence in industrializing countries is driving larger levels of meat consumption, which requires far more wheat, other grains, and water to be consumed in order to produce the same amount of food. In fact, the majority of grains produced in the world are now fed to animals for meat. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people in the Global South are on the brink of starvation, or literally already starving.
2) Global Warming is causing unreliable and chaotic weather patterns across much of the food-producing regions of the world. Arable lands are turning into deserts as droughts worsen, while other regions are flooding with unseasonable downpours. These combine to create massive agricultural loss.
3) Biofuels like ethanol from corn production in the U.S. are quite literally food being used to fuel industry and automobiles. This manifests in driving up the cost of food for everyone, especially the poor, so that the largest agribusiness firms can earn huge profits, and the illusion of American prosperity surrounding large cars and wasteful consumerism can be maintained at all costs.
4) Most fundamental, The Global Oil Production Peak, which took place in 2006, is causing declining supplies of oil while demand surges across the industrial and industrializing world. We have seen a drastic and increasing rise in the price of oil over this period, which most Americans recognize in the high cost of gasoline. But for the poor of the world, a much more dire situation is emerging with food, because oil and other fossil fuels are the sources for most industrial fertilizers and pesticides, and because the modern system of food production and distribution are heavily dependent on oil for transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and cooking. In fact, the average American consumes over 10 calories of fossil fuels for every calorie of food eaten! Most people in the world can’t continue to afford this oil subsidy, and the crisis will only deepen as oil production declines in the coming years.
(Image courtesy OILNERGY)
“The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex”
by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
2007 South End Press
This is a pretty wonderful collection of essays, put together by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, covering the rise of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex and it’s vampiric and co-opting effects on radical movements for social change. Some of the essays are more compelling than others, but I particularly found the historical background of the NPIC undercutting and distorting radical movements of the last 25 years revelatory. Plus the case-studies of groups that went for the 501(c)3 tax status and got the foundation grants, only to have it delegitimize and undermine their organizing, were extremely worth reading. Read the rest of this entry »
Check out this awesome essay by Paul Kivel – it really helped me understand my class background (as a member of the “buffer zone”) and how I can relate to others in an accountable way to achieve social change! – Alex
Social Service or Social Change?
Who Benefits from your Work
by Paul Kivel
MY FIRST ANSWER TO THE QUESTION POSED IN THE TITLE is that we need both, of course. We need to provide services for those most in need, for those trying to survive, for those barely making it. We need to work for social change so that we create a society in which our institutions and organizations are equitable and just and all people are safe, adequately fed, adequately housed, well educated, able to work at safe, decent jobs, and able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Although the title of this article may be misleading in contrasting social service provision and social change work, the two do not necessarily go together easily and in many instances do not go together at all. There are some groups working for social change that are providing social service; there are many more groups providing social services that are not working for social change. In fact, many social service agencies may be intentionally or inadvertently working to maintain the status quo.
The Economic Pyramid
I want to begin by providing a context for this discussion: the present political/economic system here in the United States. Currently our economic structure looks like the pyramid in Figure One in which 1% of the population controls about 47% of the net financial wealthii of the country, and the next 19% of the population controls another 44%. That leaves 80% of the population struggling to gain a share of just 9% of the remaining financial wealth. That majority of 80% doesn’t divide very easily into 9% of resources, which means that many of us spend most of our time trying to get enough money to feed, house, clothe, and otherwise support ourselves and our families.
Illustration by Alberto Ledesma Read the rest of this entry »