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Food Price Protests and What to do?

April 24, 2008

For several years now I’ve been hosting a breakfast bible study group in my home once a month on a Saturday morning (you can check out some of the reflections here). Honestly, it’s been one of the most spiritually sustaining practices of my life. More recently, we’ve established a second group, which means two Fridays a month I go to my local supermarket, buy what’s needed and rise early on a Saturday morning to cook a fry for everyone.

When we started this five years ago I have a vague memory of spending between £13 and £15 per breakfast. Not bad for 7 men. Today, I’m lucky to get away with £20.

Now, a couple of things need to be said. If you are reading this and you frequent the Saturday morning breakfasts, you need to know I LOVE doing this. I consider it a privilege to have a home to share hospitality in this way, it is I guess, a ministry I can offer because I have a home, my health and an income, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And besides, an extra £5 is hardly worth fighting about is it?

I was thinking about this in relation to news of food riots throughout the world, and I’m just at a loss to understand it. When you’ve finished reading this, go and google ‘food riots’; the results are truly frightening. As I understand it there have been food riots or protests in Mexico, India, Morocco, Egypt, China, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Guinea, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Senegal. There’s a couple of things worthy of note: not all of these are in distant exotic places – Italy for goodness sake (over pasta) and Austria. And that these things are happening over staples, like bread in Egypt, tortilla flour in Mexico and onions in India.

The causes we are being told are rising demand in developing nations like China and India, and the diversion of harvested grain into ethanol production. I mean, how dare the new middle class Chinese eat more pork! And how much is the ethanol production about environmentalism and how much is about replacing dependence on oil? I just don’t know.

Is it really so difficult to feed the world? Apparently it is.

In the meantime, in the face of this horrendous situation, those from the more fundamentalist stream of Christianity are getting excited about the end times (no surprise there then) because it says in Revelation 6:6

Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages,and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

Which sometimes sounds to me like, ‘we’re getting out of here, so let the Haitians eat dirt.’ Watch this:

Thing is, I just don’t know what to do.

  1. And for secularist fundamentalists it is we’re staying here so let them eat dirt… Not so much survival of the fittest, but survival of the wealthiest.

  2. Mitch K permalink

    I share your concern and coincidently have come across a couple articles about food production her in the US recently. It gets worse. . . here are two articles that speak to ethanol production
    (Yeah, it’s Rolling Stone, but my farmer friend who knows a great deal about ethanol production says this article, while a bit shrill, is more right than wrong).

    and one about how our government continues to subsidize farmers, or rather, agri-business corporations.

    All this to say that “systemic evil” to use a favorite phrase of Reinhold Niebuhr’s, must be confronted by those who seek justice. And clearly we need many to rally around this cause for anything to change. It truly is sad when we throw away mountains of food in this country while people not that far away are making cookies out of dirt. . . Lord have mercy, and please show us the way.

  3. Marti permalink

    Have you ever read ‘The Long Emergency’ by Howard Kunstler? scary stuff indeed – scenes like this are part of his predictions – and I thought he was being a bit OTT when I read it a few years ago. This is just awful.

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