Monday, 12 May 2008

What shape is your food chain?

I remember learning about the food chain when I was a kid.

I grew up in JHB so my education may differ slightly from the British way, but I'm quite certain the principles that underpinned the food chain were the same: all creatures enjoy the abundance of the land and then become part of this land for creatures that are bigger, stronger and wiser.

In the year 2008, in the first part of what looks set to be an enduring recession, I see a food chain that's very different. And big business is perched right at the very top.

Most of us (certainly every person I know) rely on business for their most basic human right to food. In fairness, I am yet to meet a self-sufficient allotment-owner, (and if you are one do drop me a line). As for everyone I have met, we rely on the businesses around us to stock (or over-stock as the case may be) our fridges and feed our children.

For as long as I can remember this has been part of life's natural course. No big deal. But now, in this bizarre climate (both literal and economic) this little fact is making me feel more about more vulnerable.

Without these businesses, I would literally have no food. Other people I talk to are feeling the same. The lack of self-sufficience is scary enough. It's even more scary when viewed in the context of our current international economic meltdown.

Yesterday The Observer reported the huge and petrifying thrust of it:

Butter - up 60% since 2007
Beef - last year farmers lost £150 on every animal they sold
And bread - 7p in 1990 but you'll pay £1.15 for the same loaf today

If there's one lasting thing that I've remembered about the food chain it's the shape.

Not a graph with ups and downs, nor is it a big fat arrow pointing out of the local community.

The food chain was always represented as a circle. Human beings have seemed to have forgotten that they are part of a dynamic eco-system. What we put out there comes back to us - so it only stands to reason that by putting money in big business that takes our money away from us and towards shareholders in another country will reveal a shorfall sooner or later.

What do you think? Have you noticed things getting unreasonably more expensive? Where do you buy food and why? I'd love to hear from you.

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