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Given “S C A R E D”, how should we respond? Realistically, that’s how

Posted on 11th January 2018 by Kate Cooper

As I said earlier, we need be careful about the words we use. They betray careless thinking. And careless thinking costs lives.

Realism again: Images as well as words . . .
We need to be careful about the images we choose, as well as the words. Take, for example, these three images all used to promote this event:

A mushroom? A mushroom?

A few brightly coloured fruit? (Birmingham has a population of 1.1M with another 0.5M commuters; London has a population of 8.5M, and a further few million commute into the city.)

More brightly coloured fruit, along with some neatly contrasting coloured veg too.

There can be a lot of good stuff that is said by people who think these images are appropriate. And, as they often say, there is a lot wrong with our current food system. But to continue the quotation from Jay Raynor’s witty account A Greedy Man in a Hungry World:

The problem lies in the solution they propose, which is too often based on a fantasy, mythologised version of agriculture [ . . . ] We are disconnected from what real food production means, and therefore afraid of it. We need to understand how it works, be unembarrassed about it . . .

Embarrassed about it? Maybe that’s the reason why it’s impossible to find royalty-free images of the inside workings of the food sector. Be that as it may, I suggest that, just for starters, the image at the top of this blogpost is more helpful than these three others — which are misleading. And here are some others that inform, rather than sidetrack our thinking:

New York, like London, has a population of 8.5M, plus commuters. And 60M tourists a year.

Shanghai has a population of over 24M. Don’t under-estimate China’s drive to meet the challenge pollution is generating, on their food system included. Unlike the UK, they do have a food strategy too.

Feeding cities, even one as small as Birmingham, take a global food supply network:

Grain silos in Wisconsin.

A food depot somewhere in the UK

A distribution centre somewhere in the UK

Sinai. Much of the Magreb as well as the Middle East, plus swathes of the Sahel are desert, or becoming desert. Already, many millions across these lands are dependent on the imports from the global larder.

Hurricane Maria making landfall on Dominica on 19th September 2017. With climate change, extreme weather events will increase in ferocity and frequency. In addition to the human misery caused by such an event, crop recovery takes time; for example, 6-10 years from planting a fruit tree to harvesting its first produce.

Livestock, too, are affected by what’s rapidly becoming more run-of-the-mill flooding across Europe. And, last spring, the fruit and veg price hike in the UK was because of flooding in southern Europe. For a few days, while wholesalers scrambled to find alternative supplies, you couldn’t get cucumbers, avocados or lettuces for love nor money.

Staple food shortages inevitably lead to sudden migrations of people — there are 65M displaced people worldwide.

And war.

Notice the ground under the solders’ feet . . . Syria is entering its 10th year of drought.









Or the ground here in this Eritrean refugee camp.





The next generation depends on us. Careless thinking costs lives.

See also our just published (troubling) report: Back from the Future: Horizon scanning report.



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