Monday, November 10, 2008

Famine is coming

Famine is coming.

I understand hunger. I understand it bone-deep, in the way that only someone who has been hungry can understand it. My childhood was spent in extreme poverty and only rarely did we have enough to eat. I sometimes joke that my small size is due to childhood malnourishment. Going to bed hungry was so common an occurrence that it went unremakred upon. When I started school the free lunch (and later, when they started the program) the free breakfast were often the only meals I had. I have eaten out of trashcans. I have lived off of food stamps and donations and dented cans pulled out of the garbage and fish caught from a nearby pond and been happy to get the meal. To make matters even worse, my mother was not all there. That is an understatement. She was bipolar and borderline schizophrenic. She sometimes thought it was fun to get food and eat it in front of us. Particularly me, as I was the scapegoat in our very dysfunctional family.

So I understand hunger. It affects me in ways most people in the so-called developed world can not fathom. When I read that 25,000 people a day die of hunger (or did before the numbers started climbing this year), I feel that in my gut. I know what that means and what it is like to be that close to the edge. When I saw Gone With The Wind in high school the one time I empathized with Scarlett in the entire movie was when she swore she would never be hungry again. I understand that feeling.

The food crisis this year has horrified me. I know, deep down what it means: starvation. It is going to get so much worse next year. Early this year food agencies warned that without record harvests there would be famine next year. We did not get record harvests. Not only that, but next years crops are going to go down even more. When I read stories like the one discussing the impact of the credit crisis on farming, which states that wheat alone is going to go down by 4% (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aox4ZwDlWkvQ&refer=home) I get a chill. It gets worse when I read about the water supplies in California being cut by 85% next year. A lot of food comes from California. (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081031/ap_on_re_us/california_water#full) Then I read about grain shipments stalling due to credit problems and wheat rust and climate change and I get physically sick.

All of this adds up to one thing: famine. Massive, widespread famine. The developed world has no concept of famine. We have not experienced it since the 1930s. The few remaining survivors remember it and the lessons it taught; I think my adopted grandmother could live off her food supplies for 6 months without leaving her apartment. But most people have no idea what famine is, no concept of it. If this gets too bad, they might learn. The number of hungry in this country is all ready going up. NPR said yesterday morning that almost 30 million people in this country are on food stamps. That’s about 10% of the population, folks. What is going to happen with the economy crashing, food prices going up, and food supplies going down? The answer should be obvious: shortages and hunger. Famine.

I can not explain how badly this scares me. I have been down this road and I know where it leads. Famine is coming, and trouble will follow on its heels.

Of course, I could be wrong. We could end up with bumper crops next year and everything will be fine. The Easter Bunny could also be real. If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to celebrate.

I’ll leave off today with the words to Famine Song, a song I have performed many times with my choir:

Famine Song
arr. Matt Culloton (b. 1976)
Ease my spirit, ease my soul,
please free my hands from this barren soil,
ease my mother, ease my child,
Earth and sky be reconciled.
Rain, rain, rain.
Weave, my mother, weave, my child,
weave your baskets of rushes wild.
Out of heat, under sun, comes the hunger to ev’ry one.
Famine’s teeth, famine’s claw on the sands of Africa.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give "SEED" packets for Christmas this year, and get those community garden groups started now.

11/10/2008 11:21 AM  
Blogger SoapBoxTech said...

Thankfully, I have never had to bear anything near to what you have seen, Ras. I have to say that your spirit, which comes through in your words, really amazes me.

I did grow up, however, without much money and with many stories of the Depression. My one remaining grandparent, Grannie, to this day bears many habits (issues) that I believe developed during the Depression experience. Her stories of feeding her young family, having only an egg left over for herself for the day...have always stuck closely with me, as have the countless stories of others.

I agree with you totally about what is coming. I saw it coming when I was in high school in the late 80`s, although I had no idea it would come this quickly. It makes me ill as well, every time I see it happening, and more so when I see people arguing that it is not.

I agree totally with the anonymous person urging the formation of community groups. I am also urging people that live in a city or town, to try to find farming groups or families nearby who may accept labor for food.

I really feel, however, that the best hope is trying to create communal rural groups. This is going to be important for defensive purposes as well as for the potential to share labor and food. I wish it was not the case, but I hold little hope that "civilization" will hold up on a grand scale.

11/10/2008 4:40 PM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

life in the North Korean gulag's:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FZMwoY7DyM

11/10/2008 7:28 PM  
Anonymous freeacre said...

I think you are right, ras. The Die Off is beginning. We can counsel people to localize food production, grow or raise at least one thing to be used for trade if nothing else. But, the greater culture will have to be functional enough for even that to work. When I lived in Jamaica, nobody could get ahead. Because as soon as someone started to raise a few goats or some sweet potatoes or something, someone else would come along and steal them. It was really depressing. People who are poor in spirit will ensure that they will be materially poor as well. This is going to be a time of great reckoning.

11/14/2008 3:58 PM  

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