Food Crisis

Food Crisis

Postby BeckaSutton » Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:22 am

One of the apocalyptic novel our host recommends is "The Death of Grass" in which a plant pathogen wipes out all species of grass creating a global food crisis.

Honestly a pathogen that wipes out an entire family of species is probably not likely (though not impossible).

But then to create a crisis it wouldn't need to.

As a species eighty percent of our plant-based food intake comes from just twelve crop species - eight grain species and four tuber species . Sixty percent comes from Rice, wheat and maize alone.

Civilization - like an army - marches on its stomach.

A global failure in just one of those three would have critical knock on effects. Imagine if a pathogen wiped out just one of those three across the globe for several years the way the European Potato Failure destroyed potato harvests in the mid-1840s (most notably in Ireland (the Great Famine) but in the rest of Northern Europe as well). Or if we got grain harvest failures across the world due to drought as happened in 2007/8 but lasting more than two years. As a result affluent countries would attempt to buy up the remaining grain driving up the price, countries that were food independent would cling on to their harvest and those dependent on imports would have a real problem. Famine would result first in developing nations but eventually even in developed nations as the remaining grain was priced out of people's hands. Meat prices would rise too because meat is so grain dependent.

Hunger is a well known catalyst of social unrest and it's likely food riots would result. If the failures were protracted then it's also likely that riots would turn into a complete breakdown of the social fabric.

A slow, messy apocalypse of the worst kind that would eat the grace period alive.

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Re: Food Crisis

Postby lewis » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:40 am

Another related point is that since many of the cash crops grown intensively today are commercial strains there is little genetic diversity, and so it is more likely that the same pathogen could knock-out harvests across huge areas. Preserving genetic diversity for cross-breeding our way out of trouble is one of the major reasons seed banks like the Millennium seed bank or Svalbard global seed vault mentioned in the book were created. But yes, international famine would certainly be one of the worst ways for civilisation to collapse, at least from the point of view of any survivors afterwards.
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby Billy » Tue Sep 16, 2014 5:52 pm

Just hopping on this thread, hope y'all don't mind...

The conversation reminded me of the Chestnut Blight.

You all are familiar with the words to The Christmas Song "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"? I can remember my old daddy, now passed to his reward, he told me of the great steam trains when he was a boy - before the diesel electric engines killed all the romance - that would come huffing and chuffing out of the Appalachian Mountains, towing many cargo carriers, all of which were filled to capacity with newly harvested Chestnuts.

Bound for New York and other metropolitan areas, these trains would offload their cargoes of Chestnuts - millions of tons, combined - and the Chestnuts would eventually find their way to street vendors with their little pushcarts. These vendors would roast the chestnuts right there on the spot and sell them to passers-by in little paper bags, like popcorn. The Chestnut was an important staple, not only for wildlife, but also for folks like us - those of us who live in or near the Appalachian Mountains (I live in the foothills just to the West of the mountains proper).

Then the Blight got going good... it was imported into the US, they're guessing, around the turn of the century. But, nobody knows for sure. The legend is that one example of a foreign chestnut - either Japanese or Chinese - was brought to the botanical gardens in NY City. It carried the blight. The blight broke containment. It advanced 50 miles a year, relentlessly. Everything that was tried to stop it, failed. It killed only adult American Chestnut trees.

By the 1940's, billions of trees were dead and gone. It was one of the greatest ecological disasters of the 20th century for North America.

The end of the story hasn't been written yet... the American Chestnut still survives- barely - and there are many different groups attacking the problem from several different fronts - from backbreeding (which seems to be working) to genetic manipulation (also effective, but very new).

Thought I would relate the story... it seemed to fit the subject.

I've never seen an actual, live Chestnut tree. To see the old pictures of them, they were so huge, they blotted out the sun, and several adults standing shoulder to shoulder wouldn't span the width of some trunks...

Here... notice the size of the men standing at the base of the trunks of these trees... ... s6-c30.jpg
“Life is slavery if the courage to die is absent.” - Seneca
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby germanforestgump » Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:48 pm

Hello Billy,
You speak out of my heart, because i like chestnuts very much.
In our towns in the pre-christmas-time, the little mobile chestnut-bakeries are very popular.

In my northwest-german homeland chestnut-trees are very seldom because of climate,
but when i move to the forrest Hunsrueck in 1984, i found one of the largest chestnut-forrest of germany at the hills beside river Mosel, planted between 1900-1950 for using the hard, weather-resistent wood for wine-stocks.

The most largest and oldest german chestnut-area is in the South-Pfalz, where an old kitchen-tradition exist with many recepts of using chestnuts in meals, making noodles and cakes.

When i thought about peak-oil and expensive tractor-fuels, permaculture and eatable landscapes, i think the chestnut would play a central role in this systeme.
So i collected the wild chestnuts and selected the best for to seed in my garden before 5 years.
Now the about 20 surviving seedlings has grown about 2 meters high, and i have to find secure places for them to get old.

But i worry whether it will be successfull because there is a new chestnut-disease coming from Italy;
so maybe it would be better to buy resistent seedlings from a forrest-school.

Besides, i had worked one year in an little grain-breeding enterprise.
So i have learned how long it takes to breed a new sort of grain by conventional breeding-methods.
I go very conform with Becka, that it is very important to diversify our food-basis in more species.

For example, i like to eat porridge made from buckwheat (Buchweizen); its not a grain, but we call the plant-family "Knoeterich-gewaechse".
I grow some in my garden, but it ist very difficult to harvest.
The same is whith "Amarant", which we call "Foxtail-Weeds" "Fuchs-schwanz-Gewaechse".
And "Quinoa", which belongs to the "Goosefoot-Weeds" "Gaensefuss-Gewaechse".
Both come from the andes and will probably not get grain diseases.
It is important to support andine indigenous communities to breed these species and maybe to transfer this culture to areas with similar climate as a backup of food-security.

in the hope of more good ideas,
Your Hans
Last edited by germanforestgump on Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby Billy » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:51 pm

Hallo Hans,

Ich muss probier meine Deutsche mit Sie. Ich weiss meine Deutsche ist nicht perfekt, besondere HochDeutche, aber Ich hoffe Sie können verstanden was Ich schriebe werden..

Ich war eine Soldat fur die Amis. StabsUnterOffitzier. Funf jahren im Deutschland Ich hab gewohnnen, und meine Frau war im Deutschland geborren. Wir sind zusammen fur 18 jahren jetzt. Sie is eine Schwab. Interesantliche, meine familie sind auch Schwaben. Ur-Opa war Kanzleirat auf Karlsruhe, zuruck vorher die Erste Weltkrieg. Geborren in eine kleine Stadt heisst Dillendorf, im Schwartzwald. Oh! Unsere sohn - Sebastian - war geborren im Deutschland auch. Im 2000 im Stuttgart. Wir sprechen Deutsch die haus herum, aber drie viertel die zeit, Ich hab keine chance fur Deutsche schreiben... so wenn meine Deutsche ist falsche, bitte verstehen..

Wir haben eine kleine Bauernhof, und die erste dinge wir hat gemacht war... wie heisst? Macht eine Obstgarten? Apfel, pflaume (Französiche u. Italienische), Walnussbaum (zwei andere), u. Mandel... Ich glaube wir können macht ganz viele gute essen von der Früchte u. Nuss... besondere alkohol. Heh.. :) Ich will nicht alkohol haben wenn Ragnarök hier sind... Wirtschaftlich Ragnarök. Schlechter denn die Weimar Republik oder Zimbabwe...

Die Kastanie Nuss, Ich hab nicht gegessen. Die Ami Kastaniebaum, dir sind nicht so viele... wir haben eins, in meine Gemeinwesen. Nur eins.

Was Sie hat geschreibt zu meine hertzen auch gesprochen... wir muss'n die Wald beschützen. Auch die Tiere. Wir sind Jaegers, aber wir ernten nur was wir brauchen.

Man! Schreiben in Deutsche nacht so lang ist schwer! Aber, Ich muss gehe.

Hoffe Sie können zuruck schreiben... gehe mitt Gott.

“Life is slavery if the courage to die is absent.” - Seneca
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby germanforestgump » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:48 pm

Hallo Billy,
Dein Deutsch ist ganz entzueckend und gut zu verstehen!
Ich hoffe, mein Englisch ist auch so drollig ;)
Vielen Dank fuer Deine Muehe!
(Ich schreibe lieber ue, weil ü,ä,ö sieht glaub ich auf englischen/amerikanischen Computern komisch aus, oder?)
Im Schwarzwald war ich auch schon mal.
Mit Deinem Bauernhof bist Du für die Zukunft schon gut aufgestellt.
Wir können uns ja mit PN Erlebnisse austauschen.
Lass uns aber Du zueinander schreiben!
Liebe Gruesse an Deine Familie!
Dein Hans

Aber hier schreiben wir lieber englisch weiter, sonst fühlen die anderen sich ausgeschlossen.
Now we continue better in english, because the others may feel closed out.
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby Billy » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:29 pm

Howdy Hans,

"Dein Deutsch ist ganz entzueckend und gut zu verstehen!
Ich hoffe, mein Englisch ist auch so drollig ;) "

Tell you what. I will speak Caveman German, you can speak Tarzan English. Heh.... we'll make it work.

And okay, we'll stick to English... like you said, don't want to exclude (keep out) the others...

I just stopped by for a quick second, but here's something I think you might find funny...

Back in 1996 or 1997, I was at Oktoberfest... well, okay, Volksfest in Stuttgart, since there's only one REAL Oktoberfest and that's over in München.

I was drinking with a bunch of German soldiers - KSK troops. One of them leans over and asks me this question:

"So! What do you think of us Germans?"

I thought about it for a few seconds, and then - totally serious - I said:

"I think you guys hang out in the Black Forest drinking Weitzen, then come out screaming every 50 years or so and try to take over the world."

It was DEAD SILENT for about 10 seconds... and then they all started laughing and agreed with me... I thought they were going to kill me for a few seconds there... :)

My family might be German, but it wasn't until that moment when they accepted me, that I really felt like I was "home"...

Anyway, I have to run...

“Life is slavery if the courage to die is absent.” - Seneca
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby germanforestgump » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:15 pm

But now back to topic:

In the last days i had to learn about the difficulties to overcome the ignorance of people learning to know new food ressources:

In our community there were planted "Turkish Nut Trees" just for decoration on public ground.
(Corylus colurna: )
Now they scatters big lots of nuts all over the ground.
But what are the people doing?
They are making the "litter" together and throw it away on the public bio-compost-heep.

So while i collected about 10 liters nuts in 2 hours, creeping on the ground between public house, kindergarden and playground, several people passed by, saying:
"Oh, you need not collect them, that are no really nuts, you cannot eat them!"
"I eat them since several years and i´m still alive.This are Turkish nuts an on Balkan people lived on them for thousands of years! Won´t you taste? They are really delicious!"
"Oh no, i don´t believe its possible to eat them!"

So i pinned a little notice at one tree: "Baumhasel - Corylus colurna - Nuesse essbar"
in the weak hope it may help that nobody says to the children, wich come from kindergarden or schoolbus:
"Don´t collect those nuts, they are poisoned..."
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Re: Food Crisis

Postby Strongbow » Sat Nov 22, 2014 6:13 pm

Interesting thread - look what happened in Ireland in the 1800s, with the potato famine. I believe a blight killed off much of the crop, leaving many to perish.
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