About six weeks ago I announced that I was going to do a short course on global food security, courtesy of Reading University.
I’d hoped that trying a structured course would give me enough reason to keep up with the reading and assignments. Unfortunately, that was nowhere near enough. I started at the beginning of February and there are still tasks from Week 1 that I haven’t finished.
It’s a shame because it means I’d struggle just as much with any other distance learning I would like to try.
This is in no way a criticism of the course material, which when I did read it, was very interesting. I think it’s the non-fiction conundrum; I love the idea of learning more about a huge range of subjects, but without knowing that I have to do the work, it’s too easy to put it off and give in to other distractions.
However, it’s not all bad news. I’ve just finished ‘Feeding Frenzy’, a book on the same topics. This was also hard to read, despite how much I enjoyed it, but I managed to get to the end. There’s so much about agriculture, food politics, and the complex intertwining forces that I had never heard about before.
It’s not about how much food we produce (the world already grows enough to feed a population of nine billion), it’s about access to that food. And the obstacles to access are all social and geopolitical.
From the atrocities of the Irish Potato Famine to land grabs in Africa, the world has a global responsibility to develop more sustainable practices. Author Paul McMahon sets out some ways this could be achieved, all without placing the full blame on any one of the heavily invested parties. It is far, far more complicated than that.
Common ideas to solve an impending food crisis run along mistaken lines, he says, and there are better ways to distribute food fairly. We don’t all need to turn vegan overnight, and imposing modern technology and practices onto small undeveloped farms won’t work out.
But we can lobby our leaders and governments to invest in agriculture, and in more ecological methods. We can have our cake and eat it too – as long as we change the way we make and share it.