Dimensions of the food crisis
Patricia Howard: Can We Govern the Ungovernable? Meat, Biofuels and Land Use Change with Peak Oil / Robert Albritton: Let Them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesity
Can We Govern the Ungovernable? Meat, Biofuels and Land Use Change with Peak Oilby Patricia Howard
Current debates about land use change driven by peak oil and biofuels generally presuppose that correctly formulated policies can lead to sustainable bioenergy production, and that competition between feed, fuel and food can be managed through technology development, regulation, certification and appropriately targeted subsidies. Like others, I argue that peak oil is giving rise to massive competition between biomass production particularly for fuel and feed, which has planetary repercussions for food, forests, biodiversity, ecosystems and global ecological tipping points. Unlike others, I argue in this paper that, through this competition, oil prices will come to determine the price of land. Generalized increases in land rent will become a primary driver of this competition, whereas a secondary driver will be increases in the prices of agricultural inputs, which are also driven by oil prices. The soil, which represents both carbon sink and the ultimate sustainer of biomass production, will be massively robbed of carbon in the process, leading to a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions as well as declining yields, at the same time that the value of soil skyrockets.
Both oil rent and land rent represent transfers of value from oil dependent sectors and regions toward oil producing sectors and regions. These transfers represents both a massive redistribution of wealth at global and local scales, as well as a major brake on technological innovation precisely when such innovation is most necessary, leading to economic and ecological crisis. The attempts that governments and private agents will make to address this economic crisis become a further driver of this competition. The paper will lay out the conceptual links, present current scientific data for these arguments, and show that, although major leaps have been made recently in conceptualising these links, the science continues to lack sufficient integration since it lacks an understanding of rent, and hence cannot conceptualise the ways in which competition over land is generalized through markets for land, land rent, and value transfers.
Let Them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesityby Robert Albritton
I use three levels of analysis to show: 1) That the inner logic of capital cannot rationally manage the food system; 2) The post WW II phase of capitalism shaped a type of food system that was yet more irrational; 3) The current food system is not only unhealthy for people and for the environment, but also is radically unjust.