The Green Gap

In the Cold War, we feared a Missile Gap was a strategic weakness. Nowadays, we must awaken to the fact that the Green Gap is true strategic weakness: the nations whose economies will thrive in the coming years will not be those with the biggest factories, but those with the most sustainable, efficient, and ecological markets. What we require is a Strategic "Green Reserve" of ecological design to weather the coming changes that both climate and resource scarcity will force on the international economy.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Pollination and Food Security

Now, most people will recognise that - if you work in a company that extracts resources - the best way to do it is to get workers who know their trade, extract resources safely and efficiently, and do so with minimum impact on their environment. It's of course a good idea to give your workers adequate safety gear so that the expertise you maintain in your workforce is protected from harm. A company that harms its workers physically or mentally is going to be hard pressed to hire more workers (well, unless the money's more important than all that). The case study of Chinese mining companies in Zambia shooting their workers when the workers militated for reasonable pay is perhaps the example of the worst way to maintain a cadre of loyal and productive workers in your company, perhaps doubly so because the Chinese mining company also found a way to make sure not one of those bosses was touched by the long arm of the law.

It's funny how corporations - entities described by one of my friends as being solely developed for the purpose of diffusing blame - are able to get away with treating their workers so badly. Well, there is a very troubling case of worker mistreatment going on in North America that is threatening the very food security we enjoy on our vast open expanses of farmland: the killing of millions of honeybees by pesticide use. Though USDA scientists have previously danced around the issue, the topic has been broached more openly at a DC luncheon where - while blame was not directly assigned to the people at Bayer - the causal lines could be drawn by the observant. What's more obvious is the fact that the UK is acknowledging the source of the problem directly and several nations in Europe have banned pesticides that have been shown to harm bees. Never mind the fact that the call to ban these pesticides is years old.

What really ticks me off is that we pay bees nothing and they provide - free of charge - both honey and an invaluable pollination service that secures our food resources but also allows for the multiplication of our biomass. We're shooting workers who work for free and provide us with two invaluable services. That's just bad labour relations strategy right there.

So food security is one of the most incredibly fundamental factors in the survival of a nation. China is exposing its Achilles' Heel by importing more than it produces in recent years. Food, as China has known from decades ago, is one of the most basic strategic resources. China instituted a draconian system of internal movement control called the Hukou system that was essentially used to force farmers to stay in the countryside and grow food. We need to understand food with the same level of importance. The world is running out of productive arable land, and we want to make certain we don't go hungry. If we kill off the honeybees each winter, our pollination services die with them, and with those services our biomass. The less we produce, the less we can export, the less we can use to feed ourselves. Scarcity will drive prices higher, and we will wonder what we thought we were saving by using pesticides in the first place, because in the end the cost to the consumer will be higher than that of a temporary crop failure due to pests. The long term economics of pesticide use equals high priced food plus pesticide. The lack of pesticide means higher priced food minus pesticide.

The math isn't that hard. Food will rise in price. We can control the why and the how, and in my mind, we save more money and time overall by eliminating pesticide rather than maintaining it.

No comments:

Post a Comment