Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Read It And Weep

This week, beginning with Sunday's edition, the Washington Post has been running a five-part series titled The Global Food Crisis: The New World of Soaring Food Prices.

The introduction to the five pieces gives the series' rationale, and in the four articles published so far, the writers certainly accomplish this goal.

The series explores the causes and effects of the world's worst food crisis since the 1970s. A complex combination of poor harvests, competition with biofuels, higher energy prices, surging demand in China and India, and a blockage in global trade is driving food prices up worldwide. Some countries, especially in Africa, are facing an increasingly dire situation while even consumers in wealthy nations are being forced to adjust
If you are puzzled by how this nightmare could have happened, seemingly overnight, and would like a crash course in understanding the complexity of a now worldwide problem, involving economics, politics, good intentions, uninformed decisions leading to bad policies and a host of other factors, this series is an absolute must-read. "The Global Food Crisis" begins with Sunday's The New Economics of Hunger, Monday's article brings us the painful reality of hunger in Where Every Meal Is a Sacrifice, Tuesday's explores the end of the days of cheap wheat, and the changes happening in American agriculture, in Emptying The Breadbasket.

But it is today's piece, Siphoning Off Corn To Fuel Our Cars, that got me started reading this series. It is of course about ethanol, and the link now being forged between grain and fuel. And how it appears that what looked like a miracle solution to the problem of fossil fuels may now be one of the main roots of this new world crisis. Tomorrow's final segment will be about you and me and Tankwoman down there in her basement with the cheap booze, rice, beans and flour: "Consumers in Every Income Bracket Are Trying To Save." (I'll put the link in tomorrow when the final piece is published.) Although it's not something that will solve this crisis, all of us can pitch in to help fill rice bowls (maybe with some other staple, and I'd suggest quinoa, if it's still available) of starving people in the immediate here and now. Anthony Faiola, the series' main writer, gives us links to organizations currently at work trying to feed this hungry world, here: How To Help. Maybe several dollars of that rebate check could be sent to the UN World Food Program, or Catholic Relief Services, or Mercy Corps, etc? When I read about people who are trying to feed a family on fifty cents a day, and then think about the salmon salad I made for dinner last night, it's an easy decision.

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posted at 2:55:00 PM by marigolds2

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