Posts Tagged ‘food’

Bracing for climate-driven food system shock?

A fascinating and somewhat scary article from Jeff Masters at Weather Underground paints a very plausible picture of how climate change could trigger a confluence of weather-related impacts around the globe that, together, lead to an unprecedented shock to the global food system.  He fleshes out a report put together by Lloyd’s of London, which posited several events around the world, including an El Niño-driven drought from India through Southeast Asia to Australia (triggering a 6-20% reduction in key grain harvests), along with floods in the Mississippi basin creating a 7-27% hit on US grain, and torrential rains and landslides causing a 10% drop in Pakistan and the Himalayan lowlands.  The addition of a couple of plant-diseases in South America and western Asia add some more 10% reductions to regional harvests, with the cumulative result being a world-wide food crisis.

We’ve had hints of this in the past, as when US floods in 1993 (pictured above) caused US corn production to fall 33%, or the 60% spikes in global food priced during two Russian droughts (pictured below); the more recent one occurred in the same year as damaging floods in Canada and Pakistan, both of which also contributed.

fao-food-prices

What’s different in the Lloyd’s of London analysis is the idea that climate change could trigger several large impacts at once.  Instead of 60% increases in food prices seen in the “bad” years within recent memory, they suggest we could see global food prices leap to 4 or 5 times the norm, which are likely to trigger all manner of social upheaval and tragedy of the sort that tends to trigger us to plunge our heads into the nearest hole in the sand. . . .

It will probably say something about your own comfort with risk to hear that Lloyd’s sees this worst-case scenario as having about a 20% chance of happening during the next forty years.  Even if we dodge those odds, the chart above is a reminder that one or a few modest disruptions can have a huge impact on the global food system.  It seems prudent for resilient investors to have at least an awareness of these risks, and, if possible, a plan in place for how to respond if food prices spike.

 

Tags: , , , ,


Slow money can jumpstart your resilient investing plan

Did you hear the joke about why the farmer crossed the road? The punchline is that she wanted to go to the bank to ask about getting a loan. Not very funny, except that by the logic of bankers and Wall Street, the idea that a farmer would qualify for financing might elicit a guffaw or two. Small-scale farming is considered a high-risk, low-return activity that any prudent investor should steer clear of.

And yet, wending their way across the highway to the farm, who’s that? Why, it’s a gaggle of Slow Money investors, taking action on their desire to build local food systems. Are they just being charitable, driven by idealism to donate a bit towards keeping a neighborhood farm alive? Not at all—they actually are investors, doing exactly what a traditional investor does. They are considering their own financial situation and how it fits into their overall portfolio. They are asking lots of questions, getting to know the business, assessing the risks, and looking for ways that not only their money, but their expertise, could help assure the success of their investment. And they are negotiating a deal that works for both parties.

Wall Street “professionals” can’t relate to this new breed of more creative and engaged investors because

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Small homesteads: a rich life now, ready for “what if”

Homesteads designed to increase self-suffiency are not just a throwback to the 60’s or a prepper fortification against total breakdown.  In today’s uncertain world, they are investments in personal and local resiliency that offer substantial returns in any future scenario.  And it doesn’t take much land to shift your family’s balance from total dependence on unsustainable (and potentially fragile) global food and energy systems, toward a much more rewarding and reliable balance of local, regional, and global supplies.  After a few years, you may even find yourself feeling a lot less nervous about the “what if” consequences of a major economic or environmental crisis that could disrupt your access to distant goods.

But where to start?  And why would you want to?  We recently came across a great introduction to these questions, in a profile of Melliodora, a 2-acre homestead in a rural village setting; click through for more details.

Tags: , , , ,



Growing Power: creating urban community food centers

Community Food Centers are local places where people can learn sustainable ways to grow, process, market and distribute food. One multi-pronged example is Growing Power, which has farms and related projects in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Madison. Their website describes the Milwaukee facility as “a wonderful space for hands-on activities, large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs. In a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, and bees.” Visit the Growing Power website.

Tags: , , , , , ,



Growing Veggies Up Instead of Out

The Vertical Farm demonstrates the possibilities of growing up rather than out in dense urban areas. It is a project of Growing Power, a Milwaukee-based land trust. The project expands Growing Power’s green house and aquaponics that have been historically spread over several acres. It will feature five stories (!) of south facing greenhouse, to allow year-round production of veggies and herbs. See more.

Tags: , , ,




Slow Money

Slow Money has catalyzed the formation of about two dozen regional chapters and over a dozen investing clubs that support investments in farms and other regional food enterprises, mostly in the form of loans. Slow Money also accepts donations in support of this work. This page features interesting examples of action and investment by local Slow Money chapters.

Tags: , , , , ,