By Russell Libby
MOFGA Executive Director
The United States, and the state of Maine, have no strategy that is any more sophisticated than “more of the same” to deal with problems in the world. After all, any attempt to deal with issues of hunger, of climate change, of high and rising energy prices, of high grain prices must directly address the root causes. Instead we get to watch a theatre of the absurd in the election process, where no candidate dares to describe the current situation as anything other than a slight aberration from the past.
Oil prices in May were just over $123 a barrel. Exxon-Mobil reported profits of over $40 billion for the past year, $6 for every person on earth to one company. Oil demand, despite surging prices, continues to grow, since our entire system is designed around inexpensive transportation of everything.
James Hanson, the outspoken climate scientist at NASA, says that we need to hold CO2 levels at 350 parts per million. Last year we were at 390 ppm, on a rapid trajectory toward 500 ppm.
The majority of homebuyers who took out mortgages in 2006 owe more than the current value of their houses. Mortgage companies that wrote the loans never documented capacity to pay in their rush to profit from a false boom in housing.
Speculators are making the problems worse. “Investor” money on the Chicago Board of Trade has increased from $5 billion to $200 billion this decade. These investments are all about making money on grain trades. The result: Wheat moved from $4 to $6 to a peak of $16 a bushel last winter before dropping some in April.
The Federal Reserve used public funds to bail out Bear Stearns in the J.P. Morgan deal to the tune of at least $30 billion. The Fed is busy creating new ways to get the public to assume many of the bad loans made during the speculative excess of the past decade.
The UN reports food shortages in 38 countries around the world, with riots in Egypt, Haiti, Somalia and elsewhere. People in Haiti are selling mud pies – mud plus oil plus sugar – at roadside as a way to keep empty stomachs feeling full.
Forty percent of the U.S. corn crop will be used for ethanol this year.
Meanwhile, the local Food and Drug Administration office is busy investigating one local orchardist for not pasteurizing cider, despite 30 years of safe production. Across the country farmers are tearing up hedgerows to keep wildlife away from vegetable fields, destroying years of conservation work.
The Maine Department of Agriculture sent a letter to the Town of Montville trying to undermine its recently-passed “no GMO crops” ordinance. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control sent a similar letter.
You tell me, which are the crimes and which should we be encouraging? Should greed be the basis of our economy – or, instead, finding ways to help one another?
This is a year when our gardens and farms will need to become even more of a resource for our households, our neighbors, our communities, but we can’t ignore the big picture of a world living beyond its capacity, both ecologically and economically.
As MOFGA members you are already providing leadership on food and related issues. Now we need to be more active and vocal on the solutions that will be needed in the years to come. That will mean intelligent use of energy, rebuilding local food systems, thinking about the whole community, and remembering that we are all part of the larger world. You are all part of the solution.