Monday, June 09, 2008
LET THEM EAT CAKE
Have you heard the latest in humanitarian news? The starving are to be fed the left over pressing from cotton seeds, known as seed cake. This way the cotton industry can keep right on rolling, the biofuel idiots who do not know what they are doing can use food crops for fuel, instead of using exisiting waste parts, and Robert Mugabe can get the Noble Peace Prize. We thought that he was 86'd from Europe, but no, they let the beast in to a hunger summit, maybe just to strike a note of irony. Not that much was needed to strike such a note, as the delegates were already gulping down veal and white wine, along with prawns served in vol-au-vents stuffed with pumpkin puree. Wonder where all the food came from and what the farmers who produced it made, but that may not have been an issue on the table.
The UN delegates who attended heard from Ban Ki-Moon that we were about to face food riots worldwide. Production, Ki-Moon warned, needed to increase 50% by 2030 in order to feed everyone. Not sure Mugabe was keen to hear any of this. When his highness did speak, at least one person had the guts to do the right thing and snub his talk - International Secretary Douglas Alexander. Well done mate.
UK MP Gordon Brown and Spanish MP Jose Zapatero weighed in with a remark about how the "world cannot afford to fail" on increasing food production, but neither of them really made any difference by outlining what exactly was to be done.
Since they left that to others to do, let me take up the slack here. We need to appropriate more land to food production. On a planet where only 4.5% of the land is arable, this needs real effort - and chopping down forests is not my recommendation. If we look at the way we are using land, we can make some intelligent changes, and this is a simple exercise. What do we grow lots of but do not use for food? Cotton. This is one of the world's most damaging crops, especially waterwise, and we need to change - but we are hampered both by large companies and petty do-gooders who have fallen in love with cotton. From Robert Mugabe to Katherine Hamnett you will find a common denominator - they are both wearing cotton. Everyone seems to love cotton - and why not, when both the right wing and the left wing press promote this thing to death? For instance, the latest issue of the Observer Magazine hands out all kinds of ethical awards to cotton companies - mostly owned the rich and famous (who can in turn afford to advertise in the Observer)! Money runs things just as much in the left as in the right, and previous posts on this blog have made much mentions of who is advertising in the Guardian, Observer, Independent, etc. OK, a little noise was made by Media Watch and George Monbiot echoed the noise, but the game went on.
So when we are in desperate need, do not expect these papers to give a damn except anything other than their hip and trendy image. They print on the trees grown in the Third World, and exhort us to use cotton and lots of it. Getting mention of a real solution is just not happening. In the meantime, people starve while reporters get paid for worthless stories.
But let me not just pick on cotton, when other crops are just as vile - I turn my guns next on tobacco, a plant that Thomas Jefferson warned against. Jefferson, a farmer himself, advised that we grow hemp. Tobacco might be grown in limited quantities for real quality cigars, but to just raise a crop to burn here there and everywhere is criminal. Lots of people think they are cool if they waste their money on this, but in reality they are causing land that could be used for food to be used for greedy tobacco companies. And while they burn up this weed, they are causing a rise in food prices. But tobacco is one of America's four largest industries, right up there with the arms industry. No one would need to suffer if tobacco were phased down to a minimum, as then Americans, many of them poor Kentuckians who are abused by the tobacco companies, would then grow food, which is becoming so much more of a luxury.
Growing hemp and other plants which produce food and biomass for ethanol is the sensible way to go. It does not take a genuis to figure this out. It takes lots of peopke to take action though, maybe there is some journalists out there who wants to take a look at this and do some reporting?
Many things that seem like they are complex are in fact simple, but the press gives out so much misinformation and prints excuses. For instance, recently there seemed to be a 'breakthrough' here when it was reported that there was the possibility of phasing out the ubiquitous plastics milk container used in the UK. People in North and South America are probably laughing! Of course there is, you use a waxed card square container which is easy to fold up and recycle. Doh. But the UK press acted as if some genius inventor was thinking of this and it would be a packaging miracle. Then nothing happened. Since then, about 6 billion of these plastic containers have been used. The truth is the press ignores people like me when we show them prima facie evidence.
And I suspect that they will give lots more space to Robert Mugabe, Kate Moss, Katherine Hamnett and others who support cotton. For those of use with not such short memories, the press did in fact support Robert Mugabe - especially the left wing press - they thought that Ian Smith was a terrible fascist. But there are starving masses in Zimbabwe who would love to have him back. Unfortunately, all they can look forward to is some more noise and no action, and of course, lots of cotton seed cake.