Sunday, 10 February 2008

The rich will always be with us: and they are buying up our farms

Increases of up to 40 per cent in the price of UK farmland in 2007.
This Times article The hedge fund manager who bought a farm
(Feb 1) shows that big investors are "hurriedly moving their wealth out of stocks and shares and into farmland...."
For the rest of us, recession looms. Once again one is tempted to repeat in the tones of Cassandra the wise words of Richard Heinberg:
"Get thee to the productive side of the economy. Grow something, or learn to make or repair something useful."
The Times article suggests that, "Across the world, hedge fund managers, property developers and other investors" are all ready to buy up British farmland. The government's short-sightedness is allowing livestock farming to fade away, leaving the UK dependent upon cheap imports that may soon become very much scarcer - but the rich will always be with us, ready to profit from the situation.

Barton Briggs, one of Wall Street's most legendary investment strategists, is advising the rich and powerful to buy up farms and stock them with "seed, fertiliser, canned food. wine, medicine. clothes etc." (and the "etc" would seem to mean guns to keep away the rest of us. See also below)

"The key is going to be agriculture"

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph on Thursday was one of the first mainstream journalists to point out the grim corollary between oil depletion and famine. He quotes Jeff Currie of US investment bank Goldman Sachs:
"We have never seen this before when commodity prices were already at record highs. Over the next 18 to 36 months we are probably going into crisis mode across the commodity complex.
The key is going to be agriculture. China is terrified of the current situation. It has real physical shortages," he said, referencing China still having memories of starvation in the 1960s seared in its collective mind...."
The graph in the article showing the projected increase of land use for biofuels gives a stark picture of how biofuels made from grain, oil seed and sugar are drawing away food supplies at a time when the population of the world is still expanding by 70 million a year. Goldman Sachs forecasts that oil will be priced at $105 a barrel by the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, DEFRA is increasingly deprived of funding and the UK government is shrugging off its responsibility towards home grown food, farming and food safety. Relying on cheap imports that may become ever scarcer seems unwise.

One sure sign of the coming world food crisis brought on by environmental problems and increasingly scarce water supplies is the ever reducing major grain supplies - and China's present trauma.

The monetary system upon which Mr Brown relies is really just a reflection of our energy system and that is designed for one thing: growth. Growth requires a constantly increasing supply of energy. And now, peak oil is more and more referred to by those who pooh-poohed it only a few months ago. The dash to produce biofuels is pushing up food prices and, it seems, even adding to carbon emissions - as do giant wind turbines.

In denial of the urgent challenges
The report, Realizing Britain's Potential: Future Strategic Challenges for Britain purports to "outline the key long-term strategic challenges facing the UK"
Gordon Brown says,
" the real success stories in the coming years will be those nations that harness the skills of their people, attracting more than their share of the top global jobs and mobilizing the talents of all. I have referred to this as the Skills Race - a race we can win, and we must win."
As the world lurches towards recession (quite impervious to the pronouncements of the Prime Minister), we do indeed need fast, urgent action - but cooperative action, not a race. It's going to take more than "top, global jobs"; it is going to take a new direction from the bottom up.

To deny the desperate real global challenges faced by human beings in Britain as well as worldwide - energy, food and the environment - is simply to hasten civilisation's destruction. We have never been so urgently in need of good, safe, home grown food (and never less in need of empty political rhetoric harking back to a system that is more and more irrelevant.)

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