07 October 2020

Duration of food security

 Canadians spend a bit more than twelve to a bit more than fifteen percent of their income on food.  (It varies by quintile.)  The overall is just over fourteen percent. (14.1%).  Canadians spend about half of their income on shelter and transportation.  (If you ever wonder why real-estate developers seem to have infinite political power, roughly 30% of everything goes to housing.)

I'd argue that food security is iffy now for the bottom quintile; I'm further going to argue that food security won't matter politically until the upper quintile is experiencing a standard of living drop due to increased food expenses.

That's somewhere around doubling the real price of food; the food budget expanding to about 30% of total expenditures.  I figure that'll happen by 2030; we're not getting nice linear climate change.  Someone with a real data set could probably predict this much better; the linear extrapolation is the outer/upper bound.

The essential question remains whether we can replace agriculture before hitting that bound.  (And we have to have a de-carbonised replacement if we want it to actually help.)

Could wish there was a lot more political focus on this.


JReynolds said...

Saw an Oglaf cartoon recently that made me think of food security. That one is SFW.

Moz said...

An awful lot of the food budget of the upper quintile is discretionary. You can buy the cheap caviar, snort your cocaine off cheaper prostitutes, eat at the expensive resturant rather than sending your chauffeur to pick up each course, and so on.

More seriously, there's generally a huge price range even within the expensive niches and you see this kind of economic management happening in the luxury food trade all the time. I'm sure that the canukstani maple syrup people are all over that as people shift from "ultra virgin superior Maple Syrup in premium packaging" to "contains traces of maple syrup, honest it does".

The kiwis are currently dealing with a collapse in premium meat exports, ditto dairy. People in the export markets are buying way more local mystery meat and almost no organic New Zealand Lamb.

My local organic sourdough craft bakery has cut some products and diluted/cheapened others, and one of the things they cut is my preferred "fruit bread like we used to make it and who cares about the price" (was ~$AU11/loaf) so I'm reduced to the $8 "it's still got fruit, shuttup" loaf. By comparison the supermarket "cafe sultana bread" is ~$3.50.

Moz said...

Relevant local-to-me article that you're unlikely to have seen:


Graydon said...


It's tough being an apex predator.

Graydon said...

+Moz --

That article is infuriatingly vague about the intended material outcomes. I am deeply mistrustful of anybody talking agricultural reform who doesn't have measurable targets for their preferred outcomes. (Soil carbon accumulation, and biotic zone depth, and, well, there's a bunch.)

And sure, they may well not want to talk about that stuff for "creates political difficulties" reasons. I am still somewhat skittish. (For example, "organic" labelling turns out to be a closed-guild mechanism, particularly about preventing non-white land ownership.)

Upper quintile in Canada starts at a bit over a hundred grand (CAD!) gross income. There's not a whole lot of caviar getting involved.

The point is not that people have flexible diets; most do. The point is that staple inputs are getting increasingly insecure of supply, and that this is a trend, and that all the available drivers of the trend (uncertain climate, ecological collapse, soil exhaustion) are presently getting worse. This is going to have political consequences by-and-by.

Moz said...

My impression is that Canada and Anglonesia are likely to do ok for food security pretty much until the SHTF, at which point the problem is likely to be less "not enough food for the pre-existing population" and more "gee what a lot of new people we have, and so many have guns".

The food production context in Aoteroa is a huge shitfight between legacy farmers who have been exempt from emissions controls (of any sort) because they have huge hissy fits any time anyone suggests they not fill our rivers with shit/ mine groundwater and subsidies like there's no tomorrow/ make up 25% of our total emissions and rising/ deviate from the mammonite cult in any way. Right now they're also furious about the destruction wrought by people planting trees instead of farming like their ancestors did. Given that, politely talking about the gentle end of climate change consequences and how perhaps it might be an idea to think about what to do... is pushing on some very sensitive hair triggers.

We have organic farmers and and an increasing "regenerative agriculture" movement which in many ways parallels the permiculture movement in Australia (but 30 years later). I'm pretty sure organic certification NZ is very much a corporate branding exercise with a "cheap option for hippies". In Aotearoa sensible people do not fuck with Maori corporate interests, and I suspect Australia is going to get a lesson in that over the Manuka Honey issue (Maori are also big in the development of "manuka honey" as a health-giving potion of immense power*). So organic is not really something that is racially biased by intention or effect.

Sadly we also have complete fuckwits on the green and left (to channel Greg for a second), who advocate in the same breath taking the climate catastrophe seriously and banning fluoride. I may have mentioned that I quit the Green Party in Aotearoa when a couple of MPs started dominating policy areas in which they were negatively qualified. They have since ragequit the party and things have improved, but I'm more permanently in Oz now so have merely started donating money again (probably illegally, I'm a citizen but not a resident or voter).

* https://www.afar.com/magazine/the-wild-story-of-manuka-the-worlds-most-coveted-honey for a fluffy overview and a less awful than it looks at first glance article: https://www.self.com/story/manuka-honey-skin-care

Graydon said...

The whole model for SHTF is (I believe) utterly mistaken. Single catastrophic events aren't all that likely; mosaic collapse (on the model of several previous collapses!) seems far more plausible. (e.g., the parts of the US coast that won't have the infrastructure rebuilt before the next destructive hurricane will tend to become larger over time.)

And, well, no. Nobody's food production is secure as the climate shifts; even the IPCC acknowledges that two and a half degrees of warming runs them out of comforting suppositions, and even the IPCC acknowledges that we'll hit that much under business as usual by 2050 or so. And that, too, will be patchy and unpredictable. All it really takes is 2012 twice in a row.

I would like there to be someone, somewhere, with a sense of urgency about this and actual political skills.

Moz said...

I'm not suggesting a single event SHTF model other than "climate catastrophe", more that there will be identifiable single events in the mosaic. But it will be incremental - as we saw with covid, Canada will steadily gain US citizens who will bring their culture with them. At some point the US may decide that a few more northern states would be a worthwhile investment, and none of those silly laws and treaties will stop them (or they'll move NAFTA more towards an EU model). Australia will similarly continue to gain Chinese investment and attract immigrants from nearby areas, and the latter may or may not arrive with full approval from the Australian government (who still oscillate between "are you white" and "are you rich" as the definitive qualification).

I think this style of collapse will affect cooler parts of the world long before it becomes impossible to grow enough food to feed their populations. I wouldn't be surprised to see Australia still exporting a lot of food when the first large wave of refugees arrives.

Moz said...

I would like there to be someone, somewhere, with a sense of urgency about this and actual political skills.

I believe there are quite a few of those people, but you left out "running global powers". Rod Donald was awesome politically and had a strong sense of urgency, but I think he was correct to decide that running the NZ Labour Party would not be effective - if you're charitable you could argue that Jacinda Ardern has just proved him right. Her "moral challenge for our generation" has been literally cock-blocked by the geriatic fuckwit she's in coalition with. But that means that Rod was left (co)leading a Green party in a minor country far from any global power.

I don't think it's possible for anyone who has that sense of urgency to get into global power. There are too many vested interests with veto power. And that power ranges from the blunt not putting money into those politicians to the brutal "Russia will be capitalist" stuff. Much as we see in the USA with the left refusing to play dirty while the right burn the rulebook, we just haven't seen the same terrorist campaigns and assassinations from the green as have been common from the brown since before global warming was a problem. That's how we got Iran and Iraq out of Persia in the first place. If it wasn't the Kochs in the US it would be some other fossil billionaire, and if it wasn't the US installing oil regimes it would be whatever empire we had instead.

Change is always hard, and fossil fuels are addictive.

For my own sanity I focus on stuff I can actually influence, whether that's supporting local politicians or trying to build a community that might survive the catastrophe. Wishing we had more green extremists sending delegates to the UN is a side project.

Graydon said...

I think this style of collapse will affect cooler parts of the world long before it becomes impossible to grow enough food to feed their populations.

There we differ in expectation; I think the food shortages have started, and will be pretty comprehensive by 2030 or so.