THIS OPINION COLUMN IS WRITTEN BY THE AWARD’S APPLICATIONS MANAGER, STEPHEN HINTON.
US drought threatens the food supplies of millions around the world, and as supplies dwindle before the next growing season produces more, we are likely to see food prices spiral upwards. That means the poorest citizens will be hit hardest and that in turn raises the threat of civil unrest.
This analysis comes from Michael Klare a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left (Metropolitan Books). Read his article here.
The world food situation is worrying to say the least. Despite being able to point with pride to many achievements including traveling to the moon, hunger is prevalent in poor countries and sadly, even in rich countries. Our applicant from the USA, Growing Power, points out that 65% of children in Milwaukee are under-nourished.
A growing population, increased mechanization and fossil fuel dependency despite warnings we have reached the peak of cheap oil production, climate change, soil depletion are just some of the factors pointing to a coming food catastrophe.
What is worrying, too, is that Michael Klare couples the current situation to the narrative of the book and film Hunger Games. The film depicts a time when food shortages, having caused major unrest that was brutally crushed, dominate society and are used by the elite to keep a massive underclass subservient. The degree of control exerted goes to the point where citizens are not allowed to forage for their own food, grow their own food or even sell food to each other. A merciless state makes children compete to the death just for food baskets.
Signs of these tendencies exist already, where citizen’s food gardens are destroyed by local authorities. Furthermore, the drive to efficiency is reducing the number of species and varieties of food crops, vastly decreasing resilience to challenges to the food system.
From my perspective, having the privilege of being insight into possibly some of the worlds most innovative approaches to food security creation, I also get an insight into the challenges facing our applicants and their communities. The situation is not getting any easier, either for the children of poor Milwaukee residents, or people living in villages in India affected by climate change.
The latest wave of extreme weather will have consequences: when the current challenged harvest has been consumed there may not be enough to go round. We need to prepare to show our best sides, we need community and we need kindness, kindness like that shown by applicants such as Incredible Edible in England. Making sure we all have enough food is too important to be trusted to supermarket chains, charities or governments: it is part of being human, understanding we all need food is part of our humanity. We feel good when we invite each other to food, and share meals together. We feel good when we see schoolchildren are well-fed like in the schools in the SEANET project. For government, peace organizations and even law enforcement personnel this could be a challenging time, hunger makes people desperate, even the threat of hunger raises tension.
I urge everyone to look around and consider, in your local community, in your garden, in your profession, what can you do to ensure water and food for all?
And please, as times may get tough, don’t make hunger a game.