Monday, June 19, 2006

Weekly Roundup - Hungry Planet

(W)heat production to decline sharply
The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday that the nation's wheat production will decline sharply this year. According to the latest monthly crop report released by the department, the forecast of winter wheat production of this year is estimated at 1.26 billion bushels, down by 16 percent from last year's production.
The report also said that U.S. winter wheat harvest is in full swing in Texas and Oklahoma, where production has plunged to lows not seen for decades,
The latest U.S. wheat production forecasts also dropped by 4 percent from the estimates made in last month while price estimates increased by 10 cents a bushels over last month to 3.60 dollars to 4.20 dollars per bushel.

Last fall, a few friends and I were chasing some crypto – windmills in and around Northern Oregon. We didn’t find any that day, but did stumble across a region of farmland which had two visible exports – huge, oversized pickup trucks and winter wheat. My guess is the harvest is fine this year in Northern Oregon.

Not so lucky are those parts of the country being ravaged by the weird convergence of energy culture karma. Think global warming induced drought and / or flooding, coupled with the high fuel prices of peaking liquid fuel supplies. Throw in the giant sucking sound of water tables melting into grit. Food supplies are dropping shockingly fast.

To wit:

Grain Stocks Fall, prices rise.
This year’s world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand. As a result of these shortfalls, world carryover stocks at the end of this crop year are projected to drop to 57 days of consumption, the shortest buffer since the 56-day-low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices.

If charts and graphs aren’t enough for the skeptics and the algae munchers, let them explain the theft of fish…

Fish theft means chinook season closes on Icicle River
Sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, someone broke into the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery and stole 200 adult spring chinook in the holding pens. With each fish averaging about 15 pounds, that adds up to 3,000 pounds of stolen fish.
"That was basically all the spring chinook we had return up to this point," said Travis Collier, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife acting hatchery manager in Leavenworth. "The early returning portion of the fish are the larger 4- and 5-year olds, and that is roughly 20 percent of the production goal that is now missing."

It is a sad day when simply dropping a hook in the ocean is insufficient to meet the demand for fish. The answer, obviously, for the hungry fish eaters, is to pay such incredible prices that a devious criminal mind somewhere is risking a fishy felony to rob the freaking FISH ZOO of their breeding pairs.

Needless to say, this practice is not sustainable. I’d have a hard time eating Chinook this month. Actually, Alaskan salmon should be favored at this point in history. It is a subtle fact of salmon runs that the individual salmon have a sense of terroir. Salmon return to the exact rivers and stream of origin. Sub-species of salmon have died out because culverts replaced their original free-flowing paths to nirvana. When a run vanishes, it is permanent.

40 arrested at L.A. urban garden eviction
About 350 people grow produce and flowers on the 14 acres of privately owned land, in an inner-city area surrounded by warehouses and railroad tracks. The garden has been there for more than a decade, but the landowner, Ralph Horowitz, now wants to replace it with a warehouse.

What is more valuable, an empty warehouse or a city garden? Check back in five years.

Japan warned of food shortage
According to the stark warning of Akio Shibata, director of the Marubeni Research Institute, the rise of China and the intensifying global race for commodities mean that the rich and highly varied diet of modern Japan could be savagely curtailed within the next 10 years. If imports to Japan were slashed, sushi, teriyaki beef, tonkatsu pork cutlets and other favourites could be swept off the menu and a Spartan diet of plain white rice, pickles, radishes, miso soup and sardines would become the norm as Japan struggled to feed itself.

Hey, picked up the trend yet? The global food supply is in serious trouble. An entire country may be reduced to eating pickles. Beats flies, I guess.

(Less) ice may cause polar bear cannibalism
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea may be turning to cannibalism because longer seasons without ice keep them from getting to their natural food, a new study by American and Canadian scientists has found.
The study reviewed three examples of polar bears preying on each other from January to April 2004 north of Alaska and western Canada, including the first-ever reported killing of a female in a den shortly after it gave birth.

Bears eating bears. How did we come to such a pass. Next come the hungry, hungry hippos.

In the movie, meat, bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables are scarce and extremely expensive (example: a six-ounce jar of strawberry jam is 150 "D's", equivalent to $150 US dollars), and the government dispenses rations of synthetic food substances made by the Soylent Corporation: Soylent Yellow, Soylent Red, and the newest product, Soylent Green, the most popular version derived, according to the Soylent Corporation, from plankton. As the name suggests, "Soylent" is derived from soybeans and lentils.


At 1:03 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger James Moe said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:05 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger James Moe said...

Regarding the urban garden in L.A., I'd tend to agree that a garden is probably a better use of the land than a warehouse. However, I don't think there's much at which one can be outraged.

Not so long ago, a widely criticized Supreme Court ruling granted very broad eminent domain powers to government. Are you arguing that any random person or group of people should have the same power?

As dramatic as it was to have firefighters drag her out of a tree, Daryl Hannah and other celebrities waving the banner for the garden had a much more effective recourse in that they could have banded together and simply purchased the property. But maybe, like the actual owner, they didn't want to pay tens of thousands in taxes for land which gives them no benefit.

At 9:23 AM, June 29, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had followed the story up until recently. It is complex. City originally owned the property, sold it Horowitz, people start garden, garden management is heavy-handed with people getting kicked out and charged fees, Horowitz ready to sell for Walmart warehouse, people protest, city offers to buy it back, not enough money says Horowitz, now he has an attitude and will not sell at any price.

It's complex and a mess - what a shame. Most CSA (community supported agriculture) works out great though.

At 10:23 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger JMS said...

Actually, Gerry, I understood the timeline to be like this:

City bought property from Horowitz 15 years ago; didn't use it for intended purpose, allowed it to become a inner city garden.

15 years later (last year) city sold it back to horowitz.

Horowitz has been acting in the press like he is the benevolent landowner who let people garden for years, but that is horsepuckey.

The city basically gave him a sweet deal. The land has value because it is in the city.


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