Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Feed my Sheep

Spruce Winter

Sunset, December 8, 2012
“Backed by $50 million in public and private funds, a new research institute at the University of Saskatchewan will try to find new ways to feed the world.” (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, December 11, 2012)
               It’s unclear in the article quoted above what is visualized by “new ways,” but inasmuch as the bulk of the $50 million is coming from Potash Corp, I’m guessing that it has something to do with increasing the amount of food an acre of arable land can produce.
The taxpayers of Saskatchewan are chipping in a mere $15.00 per person.
That a growing population requires a growing food supply is obvious; whether or not the earth’s capacity to keep pace with the present rate of increase is not as clear. “According to a United Nations report, world demand for food will increase 70 per cent by 2050, thanks to an estimated global population of nine billion people.” (ibid) The newly-minted Global Institute for Food Security at the University of Saskatchewan will bring together all disciplines related remotely to food production under one umbrella to research possible solutions.
In cattle country, the phenomenon of too many feeders on too few acres is called “over-grazing.” The feeders in our case (the human population) are dependent on earth’s ability to produce in proportion to growing demand. Meanwhile, there’s ample evidence that we have seriously “over-grazed” our oceans, for instance, and unless a way can be found to revive, increase and sustain fish stocks, one source of food, at least, is in decline when growth is desired.
Growth mentality does strange things to our heads. In Canada at this time, public rhetoric is almost exclusively about economic growth, about more, more, and always more. In Saskatchewan, the propaganda is currently about increasing population, burgeoning production and growing GDP. These are the signals of success and well-being into which we so easily buy. Ask any mathematician; a geometric progression is bound to peak sooner rather than later unless the growth space (the feeding acres, in this case) is infinite.
Wild animals that overpopulate an area end up starving. A good rancher knows that grazing must be controlled, knows how to match population to resources and acts on this knowledge.
If  the Global Institute for Food Security helps us to be good ranchers, it will be worth the $30.00 my household is contributing, but since it’s funded primarily by a fertilizer corporation and secondarily by a growth-oriented government, I have serious doubts about its achieving anything more than postponing the inevitable awakening by a few minutes.


  1. $15.00 per person, that is a lot of my beer money

  2. It seems it is human to be as progressive as possible, given what resources are available, be those education, economic, natural resources, etc. I find it difficult to critique any industry which I rely on to support my excessive lifestyle.

    I've often said when folks pass judgement on eg. banana producers. They don't just decide to go burn more forest for fun. Mrs. Jones goes to the grocery store, and complains about the price of bananas, the grocer tells his supplier about the complaints, and so it goes up the chain. The only way for the producer to get the price down is to burn more forest. So it's Mrs. Jones' fault ( not the Mrs. Jones you know, a different one!).

  3. Thanks for your comments, A. Nony Mouse. I'm a believer in the effectiveness of boycotts; if demand drives the whole system, that's a tool that's available to anyone.
    I'm not sure I agree with your analysis of the relationship between Mrs. Jones (not the one either of us knows) and forest burning. It's hard for me to believe that Dole increases production in order to bring the price down--motives are usually driven by corporate profit.