The Next Big Pandemic will not be a Virus. It will be a Food Shortage.
Take back your power with a Victory Garden.
Victory Gardens were termed during World War II when people needed to conserve resources and bring resilience into their lives. In 1942, the US populace’s efforts were devoted to those fighting overseas, including providing food rations. It took two years from the time the US declared a national effort to plant and grow food and get 15–20 million gardens on rooftops, balconies and front yards to yield 8 million tons of food, enough to meet almost half of the US consumption of fruits and vegetables. Now, 67 years later, times have changed. Food has become a massive industrialized activity with supply chains reaching into every part of the world for bringing everything from rice to spice.
Industrialization has also introduced a calorie economy that has had health impacts, packing methods harmful to the environment and animal rights infringements. The food chain itself is at risk from aggressive agri-business like Syngenta, Cargill and Monsanto. Monsanto has recently lost a multi-billion dollar lawsuits for its cancer-causing chemicals used to treat crops, weeds and pests. These companies also want food totalitarianism by engineering and patenting seeds as intellectual property to create farmer dependency on their methods and chemicals. Monsanto’s list of gestapo tactics have led to more environmental damage and health problems to mention here, suffice to write, they have a long history of activity that runs counter to people empowering themselves with ideas such as Victory Gardens.
What we achieved in the last fifty years of building extreme wealth, the resultant inequality has left a good portion of the population at risk, and not just economically. Backwards taxation policies conflict with homesteaders and reward the mega-corporations. The environment is stressed to the point of collapse in many parts of the world, from fisheries to soil depletion so we have to be eco-friendly no matter what we decide. Until we see a paradigm shift in the way we address sustainability and independence, we face an uphill climb. Business as usual is not an option. Growing Victory Gardens can help take the power back and do good for the environment.
Aside from land rights and housing discourse (which is another article on its own), food and water must be declared human rights to make this work. If anything, this pandemic and the associated lock-downs have shown us the instability (and unfairness) of the current system. We can save money, improve the environment and develop resilience with a community food security plan. This is what the food growing town of Todmorden did. If you have bigger aspirations you can go for more than food and also address housing, energy and community governance like Findhorn, Scotland or Auroville, India. Perhaps get into the tiny home movement and find a community of similar thinkers to buck the rat race. With almost ¾ of Americans living paycheck to paycheck while putting between a third and a half of their income towards rent, tiny homes are a social revolution and a way to get your freedom back. And the food revolution is growing. Ron Finley, guerilla gardener, has inspired thousands (almost 4 million according to his TED talk views) to get growing in their urban neighborhoods. Why does he do it? “For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.” You should see what they have been doing in Detroit since it went bankrupt.
To shift the mindset of a population measured at 42 per cent obesity by the Center for Disease Control, we will need education and a systemic overhaul to our logistics and food development policies. For example, when Harvard showed that adding fluoride to drinking water reduced intelligence quotient by up to 7 points, we needed to follow other countries in banning the toxic additive. We must inspect our food production through the same lens. This type of awareness and education followed by community action will make the difference. After all, when was the last time the monarchy led the revolution?
Global food chains must remain alive or we will face what David Beasley, Executive Director for the World Food Programme calls, the ‘hunger pandemic’. Combine human ignorance, climate change, pollution and water scarcity and many regions will see a diaspora unlike anything in history.
Harvard showed that adding fluoride to drinking water reduced intelligence quotient by up to 7 points. We have to address food the same way.
Plans will have to consider regional differences for climate, water availability, crop type and urbanization. It’s based on population, supply chains and the type of food we produce, otherwise know as the ‘footprint’. We also cannot mow over our forests and bury rivers or we destroy the biodiversity that maintains plant and animal health (and ours) in the first place. We have to work with nature.
Here are some statistics to ponder.
Americans throw away about a third of produced food.
In a comparison between cities in the US and India, a Princeton University study found that India far lower than in the United States in consumption of meat — “an annual average of just 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) per person in Delhi and 16 kilograms (35 pounds) in Pondicherry, compared with the U.S. average of approximately 59 kilograms (130 pounds).”
The typical American spends about $1,200 on fast food annually. That breaks down to $100 a month and roughly $12.50 spent per meal — average two times per week.
34 million Americans have diabetes with 88 million in a pre-diabetic state and costs the U.S. more than $327 billion a year.
And there’s more if you wish to look. For now, suffice to also write, ‘normal’ was (and is) unsustainable.
This is a glimpse of what it will take to get out from under defunct practices as we enter a post-industrial economy:
· A universal basic income to meet basic needs going forward (housing, tools, education for re-skilling)
· A tiny home (or equivalent), self-sufficient in energy, affordable and secure from the elements
· Community development with members who can share skills, wisdom and exchange goods
· Education to focus on sustainable development, particularly how cities can adapt to the problems of resource scarcity
· Community gardens, seed banks and a food share program
· A truly democratic republic in which the rights of the minority are protected from the will of the majority — becoming a sustainable community will not find the support of big business and big government (otherwise known as the ‘grid’) until a shift occurs in decentralizing policy making.
“For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.” — Ron Finley, Guerilla Gardener
This is blue sky thinking but hardly impossible. We spent the last fifty years building up an elite class that has bought countries and public property on a global scale. We can spend the next five course correcting, reforming government and labor, and reversing the damage done by our distracted sensibilities. Get off Netflix and plant a garden — our future depends on it.