Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Principle of Unintended Consequences

Farmers are planting more corn than they have since World War II. Do you like corn with your summer barbeque? Well…this corn is not for eating so forget that ear dripping in trans fat that wasn’t so good for you anyway. This corn is being planted in response to the growing production of ethanol.

Here’s how it goes. Ethanol demand pushes corn prices up so farmers grow more corn. Corn is then diverted from becoming animal feed and people food. Feed and food then cost more to produce and the supply is limited. Consumers then pay more at the store. Fields planted in corn do not produce wheat or other crops and those items become more scarce and then cost more at the store. The bun for your burger costs more. The burger itself costs more as the beef costs more to raise. The consumer pays more all the way around.

Nothing has brought home the global connectedness more than the recent pet food recall. Imports from countries that have different (or non-existent) regulations about pesticides can pose a threat not only to pet food but to human food as well. As our wheat fields are planted in corn for bio-diesel, our dependence on imported wheat from China and other countries will increase.

Stack this up against the peak oil problem that is driving the war in the Middle East and the carbon emissions tradeoff calculator (thank you, Al) that is supposedly balancing the massive overproduction by Americans with the pitiful amount generated by destitute third world inhabitants. Along with global warming do we now face global starving?

What does it all mean? What can we do? Walk more, drive less. Shop at local farmer’s markets, eat locally grown produce. Eat more vegetables, eat less meat. Buy curlicue light bulbs. Start rationing water now so it won’t be such a shock when it is not so easy to obtain. Turn off the air conditioner. Turn down the furnace. Learn to generate your own power. (Those bikes are awesome!) Write your legislator and speak out.

Hopefully all of you are going to participate in your local Climate Change activity this weekend and offer your insights. Bon appetit!


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