Tuesday 30 September 2014

Blog 13 - The politics and economics of food - Part 1

I am indebted to Sally Fallon who belongs to the Weston Price Organization for some of these thoughts.  We both made presentations at the annual meeting in Amherst, Mass. for the North East Organic Farming Association in 2003.  Her thoughtful and intelligent remarks certainly helped me to understand what has to be done for the future of feeding people for the benefit of future generations. Since 2003, situations have changed and her reasoning is ever more imperative. I can justify giving talks about farming because I know how we need to grow and produce our food in order to be healthy, and my excuse for holding forth on these robust topics politics and economics rests on the fact that what we eat determines the kind of government and economic system we will have. It was Dr. Weston Price who formulated the principles of healthy diets and demonstrated the fundamental importance of grass-based animal husbandry to ensure that essential nutrients would be in our food, particularly in the butter fat of our milk and milk products.  Modern milk production takes our animal off pasture and puts our dairy animals in barns where they receive dry feed then ultra pasteurizes the milk resulting in a product vastly inferior to the milk Americans drank 60 or 70 years ago. In fact, more and more people today simply cannot drink modern, commercial milk.
Dr. Price showed how certain nutrients, namely vitamins A and D, found exclusively in animals foods like butter and organ meats from grass fed animals, protect us from cancer and heart disease and ensure that we have  healthy children generation after generation.  Dr. Price demonstrated that fact that the marker for a good diet is uniformly broad faces and straight teeth in all members of the population, physical attractiveness bestowed  not just on the few but the natural birthright of everyone. I will approach this subject economics of food in order to answer the following questions.  What kind of economic and political system would we have as a consequence of making food choices that are truly healthy, fundamentally supportive of optimal development and superb well being, instead of merely convenient.
I could say this is the blessing of technology.  Let me say that I am not a Luddite.  I am not against industrialization, I am not against machinery, I am glad I live in era of automobiles, airplanes, computer (which I can’t work very well), dishwashers and above all cuisinars! In fact, you can make the argument that industrialization and in particular modern reliance on oil has been good for the environment. We often fail to realize is that the need for wood for warmth, for cooking and to produce metal objects in  forges denuded large areas of Turkey, Greece and others parts of the middle east which use to be covered in trees.  The early sugar industry depended on wood to refine sugar resulting in the stripping of trees from the Madeira islands and then progressively westwards to the Caribbean and Latin America.  America has far more tree coverage than it did in 1900 because we have transitioned from the horse to the car much land was denuded to grow hay for horses.  Today the undeveloped hills are covered with greenery.  Photos from 1850 show these hills completely bare because Americans needed wood for fires. Nevertheless, like all other areas of life we need to be selective about how we use these modern inventions.  We can use machinery to build huge tractors or nifty gadgets and make it easy to plough with a horse.  We can use our industrial know how to keep our cows in huge confinement dairies or to management cows on pasture with solar powered electric fences.  Most problematic is the use of poisons to control weeds, insects and other impediments to the profits of industrial farming. These threaten to extinguish a large part of life on earth if we don’t come to our senses very quickly, just as Rachel Carson pointed out in her telling book Silent Spring.

Let’s talk about the economics of theft. Let us turn to the subject of economics – I am sure many of you realize that today we have a system in which money is created out of nothing.  Money is the medium of exchange that can be based on the productivity of a society.  In other words, the government prints money based on the gross national product, the sum of goods and services produced in the country, well money can be created out of nothing by private banks and loaned to government at interest. Because or money today is created out of nothing it seeks to get the clutches on oil production, industry, agriculture, trade and so forth. This has been called Vulture Capital which I believe is a very interesting word.  Vulture Capital is always in search of prey, it cannot live without eating up the real sources of wealth.  In her book Stolen Harvest, Indian activist Vandana Shiva, makes the following statement (she presented at the NOFA conference with some excellent talks – she is someone one needs to listen to and read her statements). She says, “After the past two decades every issue I have been engaged in as an ecological activist and organic intellectual has revealed that the industrial economy calls growth is really a form of theft from nature and people  in agriculture as much as in forestry, the growth illusion hides theft from nature and the poor masking the creation of scarcity as growth”.  She describes how the resources were of the third world poor – their  farms, their shrimp ponds, their health, even the life of the soil are being stolen to generate profits for giant corporations.  According the Catherine Austin-Fitts, a perceptive  commentator on realities of modern economics, the global first world economy actually has a negative return on investment.  So called growth comes from a four phase process which is a kind of theft.  The first phase is destruction through organized crime, covert operations, warfare, or a variety of all three.  Remember that famous line in Gone with the Wind when Scarlet asked him how he has managed to do so well during the Civil War, he says, “My dear, there is much more money to be made in a destruction civilization than building it up”, I fear this is true.  In the third world countries this destruction is accomplished with bombs that take out lives and infrastructure, for the American communities this destruction is accomplished through crime and drugs as our neighbourhoods deteriorate, or low farm prices that cause farms to go bankrupt.  The profit generated from breaking up is then used to buy or seize legal control at a discount.  This is the second step.  Phase three is the “fix it” phase.  Government funding, credit and subsidies are used to begin repair while harvesting remaining assets continues, including narcotics trafficking, sex slavery, and other forms of liquidating the human- intellectual- environmental- physical capital. In Iraq, the harvest is huge, not only of oil which is flowing into Tankers once again, but not yet directed to resorting essential services to the Iraq peoples, but also gold and archeological treasures. Phase four is to declare victory so that a flow of foundation and academic grants funded by the Break it-Fix it profits generate awards, photo opportunities and official archives and documentations for the perpetrators to be admired for their bringing of advanced civilizations to the natives.  In the United States, the result of this theft, the real assets has a total debt that works out to about $100,000.00 per person which is experienced as rising unemployment and seen visibly as the decline and quality and safety of our neighbourhoods, small towns and country sides. Fitts argues  the creation of solaries which she describes as investment databanks, investment advisors for a place, typically no larger than 10,000 people, that will allow global investors to generate high capital gains from building healthy people and beautifully safe and environmentally rich and cared for places, not just extraction and consumption, or as the poet Wordsworth said, “not just getting and spending”.  Fitts has created what she calls  the Solari index which is a measure of the desirability and safety of the neighbourhood.  She adds, `When I was a child growing up in the 1950s at 48th and Sarah Wood in west Philadelphia, the Solari index  was 100%.  It was unthinkable that a child was not safe going up to stores on Spruce Street for a popsicle and some pinball.  Today, she reckons that the Solari index in her neighbourhood is 0%.  No parents will allow their child go alone to the corner store.  A great deal of that decline she pins on narcotics trafficking and the people that narco dollars put in power on our street, in cities, in the banks, in  the congress, the corporations and investors downtown and that ring the city.  Fitts likens this system to a tape worm that parasitically eats away at its eco system.  The tape worm prospers by injecting a chemical into its host that triggers a craving in the host for what the tape worm wants for its dinner.  By managing its host`s desire, a tape worm manipulates its host to set aside self interest so as to please its parasite. So the tape worm proceeds to consume its host`s energy and health, with the host doing most of the work.  With that happy thought I pause and then continue with the next blog....

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