Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Last Feudal Government in Europe Falls

Being as there are only 600 people on the island of Sark, one of the Channel Islands, their move from what was essentially a feudal system to a democracy didn't get much news coverage. I'm amused to note, though, that since the old ruling body had 52 members, and the new one 28, the proportion of representation has gone down. I don't imagine that in what's essentially a large village, a change in the exact rules by which they operate will make much difference, though.

Food Shortage & Western Impacts

It's been a busy few months for me, so while I've been keeping track of the news - and taking more interest than usual in the US presidential elections - I haven't had much time to post here.

However, an article about people not being able to buy rice in California is so unexpected that it's making me sit up and take notice. This is one of the wealthiest states in one of the world's wealthiest countries. The notion that global food shortages are already at the point where people are noticing there means that things are already pretty bad, even if it's just an inconvenience, rather than starvation. And this whole thing centres on rice.

It's not easy to point at any one cause, but there are a few likely culprits here. First, the last year's incredibly poor rice harvest in Australia has a lot to do with it. Second, the desire in many parts of the developing world to eat more meat reduces the land that can be used for rice, giving it over instead to pasture. There's also land being devoted to biofuel production, and finally, the rising price of oil is having an impact on transport and agricultural machinery use.

A few months back, I wrote a short piece elsewhere on what I thought I'd be doing in ten years' time. A lot of that basically said, I'm going to be taking a mild survivalist tack. I'm going to plant vegetables, get in touch directly with people who have farms, and make sure I'm living well above sea level, and not in a major city. I'm sure a number of people saw it as being a bit on the crazy side, but this is exactly the kind of event that makes me think I'm on the right track.