the japanese contemplate food security, why don’t we?

Recognizing that they are dependant on foreign nations for an overwhelming percentage of the food they eat, the people of Japan have begun a dialogue on food security. The following video is a product of their Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries… I’m not aware of a similar piece existing for the American market, showing the importance of re-localizing food production, but there’s clearly a need.

[Via Metafilter.]

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30 Comments

  1. Chelsea
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Clearly. I’ve always considered this our most important “issue” because it affects *everyone.* However, John Edwards was the only candidate I know of to list food safety among the issues in his campaign platform.

  2. Posted November 18, 2008 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    But Mark, most food that people eat in America is grown in America. Japan and America can hardly be compared since Japan has a vast shortage of usable farmland relative to it’s population.

    I don’t see your point.

  3. Stephen
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    In America, as has been mentioned here before, the big issue is reliance on fuel. First, there are the number of miles that a vegetable or piece of meat has to travel to get to your plate, and then there’s the amount of petrol used to fertilize the crops. It’s not sustainable. It’s a different issue with Japan, but it’s the same problem – the need to relocalize the production of food. I think that’s what Mark’s getting at.

  4. Posted November 18, 2008 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s the same issue at all. Most areas of the United States can provide for themselves, provided you aren’t completely set on eating strawberries in October. Japan’s situation is much more dire. We could get by with the exception of some of the western states and Alaska.

  5. Brackache
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    We’ve got more land than Japan, true. What we don’t have are the means to very quickly produce enough crops and local livestock for communities dependand on trucked supermarket food to feed themselves in an unforseen emergency that disrupted transportation and/or supply.

    But yes, we’ve got a lot of land, most immediately in the form of our own yards, that I personally would rather use for subsistance farming than useless pretty grass. Unless I could have sheep to eat the grass.

    So yeah, it is a different situation, but we’re still underprepared.

  6. Posted November 18, 2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Does anywhere have the means to quickly produce crops? This is silly. America has no problem relative to the rest of the world. We have a working highway system, plenty of oil reserves, a working railway system, and more farming that we could ever need. Plus, here in Michigan we have plenty of water and a decent growing season.

    And no, your quarter acre of yard will not feed your family.

    I don’t see where our problems could even remotely be compared to Japan’s.

    It’s a funny video though.

  7. Brackache
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m not comparing our problems with Japan’s. I said so pretty plainly that I agreed with you it’s a different situation.

    It is possible for our food supply to be interrupted for some reason. Economic collapse (most everybody loses their income, inflated cash can hardly buy crap, rationing, can’t pay truckers, big farms go under, what have you, you never know), natural disasters (dustbowl or whathaveyou), fuel shortages (can’t truck food), and any manner of unforseen crap that always happens eventually.

    Look in your fridge and your cupboards. Figure out how long you can live on everything in there. Then figure out where you’re going to get food after that runs out. Then figure everyone else has the exact same idea as you and are desperate, hungry, panicked, and probably armed.

  8. Brackache
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    And no, I don’t expect my lawn can completely sustain us — that’s what cooperating and trading with neighbors is all about, and why it’s important to live in an area where a lot of people grow their own stuff and hopefully are allowed to raise urban chickens and goats and such.

  9. Karl
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    You’re wrong to think that because America is big we’ve got our shit together, Dude. Most American farms these days grow monocrops. It’s either all soybeans, or all corn. Fruits and vegetables in many cases, contrary to what you might think, are grown outside the United States. We could feed ourselves though, if we had to do so, assuming we had the water and fertilizer to do so. In Japan the problem is much more acute. Still, we do have a problem here. We need to eat more locally/regionally. We need to cut down on food transportation miles. We need to diversify regional agriculture.

  10. Posted November 18, 2008 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    You’re not going to get much argument out of me there, but I don’t think our situation is anything like Japan’s. We have too much of one kind of food in one place. They don’t have enough of ANYTHING and, for what they do have (which is not much), the farmer’s are dying out because young people don’t want to take over the farm.

    Either way, if there’s a crisis, crops don’t grow quickly and you can bet that country people aren’t gonna be sharing if there’s a shortage.

    I forget you are all city people and stuck in your precarious city lives. We here in the country worry about such things much less.

  11. Posted November 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    And no, I don’t expect my lawn can completely sustain us — that’s what cooperating and trading with neighbors is all about, and why it’s important to live in an area where a lot of people grow their own stuff and hopefully are allowed to raise urban chickens and goats and such.

    What’s up with this sharing shit? Do you really believe that anyone is going to be sharing when there’s no food? Why do you think parts of Africa are so fucked? It’s all about food and resources.

    Besides, the trouble with urban farming is grain. You need space for grain. I doubt that a bunch of post-hippies in Ypsilanti are going to have the space or the time to grow grains, aside from the fact that your toilets are going to be overflowing AND you’ll have no water since you likely won’t have a hand pump. Even if you get water, it will likely be contaminated since the sewer system has stopped working. Remember Detroit? Face it. You’re fucked no matter which way you look at it. Urban living comes at great risk and the only thing you have to protect you is a military that will go into the country and force people to give up their food to keep your sorry asses alive.

  12. Brackache
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I’ll let someone else handle this one first if they feel like it.

  13. roots
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Dude, you’ve successfully attained a tone of both intolerance and ignorance.

  14. Posted November 19, 2008 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Ignorance? You are the guys that decided to live on a quarter acre of land and plan to rely on the good will of some hippy raising chickens in Ypsilanti for survival when society collapses. If you’re worried about a food crisis, that not ignorant, it’s just absolutely stupid. Assuming that you are indeed worried about this.

    Look, if there is a food crisis that is the fault of some type of transportation snafu, then likely there are going to be bigger problems than that given how strong our infrastructure is. While post-hippies may like to paint dire doomsday problems of food production in the US, really we (at least in the midwest) very few problems at all.

    Farms raise grain for beef but they can be easily converted if the market starts to dictate that people will buy other types of food.

    The big concern should not be whether there are food distribution problems or not, but what to do when the power goes out. In the country, it won’t be nearly as much of a problem as in the city. You guys are screwed. Remember how bad Detroit was after that black out? It took 2 weeks before people were even able to drink the water. My point is Brackache’s liberal fantasy of waltzing into the Ypsi food coop during the “food crisis” and having the hippie lady behind the counter give him a bag of rice in exchange for some homemade art are just dumb.

    Intolerance? No. City people don’t realize how precarious their lives are. No matter how you slice it, you’re screwed if the machinery stops working. In the long term, things will work themselves out, but in the short term, TOTAL CHAOS AND DESTRUCTION.

  15. Posted November 19, 2008 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Brackache, you have my vote. Brackache in 2010!

  16. Posted November 19, 2008 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Now, there we go. Brackache 2010!!

  17. Steph's Dad
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    If you’re just out for yourself, the country is the place to be. Lots of razor wire. Lots of ammo. Short of that, you’re better off in a city, where it’s easier to distribute goods and services. The place to get get screwed is in-between. The suburbs where people don’t have enough land to subsistence farm, and can’t make it easily to urban hubs. We need to relocalize food production, and, just as importantly, we need to reurbanize. If you aren’t a farmer, you should be in a town.

  18. Posted November 19, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Absolutely. Either way though, if there’s a sudden crisis, it’s going to be like a mosh pit at a Slipknot concert, with burning bodies, bulletholes, contaminated water and infection ripping through the population like wildfire, seeping pustules pouring out onto the streets and maggot filled bodies piled in what used to be kids’ playgrounds. It will make Katrina look like a community knitting festival. Snake Plisskin will have to come out and save the President from the people remaining, everyone forced to survive by eating their neighbors and watching the world burn around them, while being forced to hole up in their houses to protect them from the stinking zombie death.

    Most likely, though, it will be a slow process with the market and people making adjustments to face challenges as they come.

    People in the country will just chill like they did in the depression and wonder why anyone would live in the city. You may be out of work, but at least you have food.

    Stock up on guns though and protect those 2nd amendment rights. You’ll need them when the population starts to kill each other for food.

  19. Brackache
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Well, I’ve now been called a post hippy liberal. Seems like I should get a medal or have a ceremony for that one.

  20. Posted November 19, 2008 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Totally. Maybe you could get branded and be a modern primitive.

  21. Brackache
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    If any fellow city dwellers are thinking to themselves, “who the hell would reference a slipknot show like it’s the epitome of being all hard and shit,” or are interested in being a little more prepared in case of such an urban disaster scenario, I highly recommend this book.

    A friend who I thank God I live near let me borrow it, and it has very practical advice (like how to access a ready supply of emergency drinking water in your water heater if the water is turned off, for instance). Not alarmist or Mad Maxian, either. Just good practical advice.

  22. Brackache
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Here, also, is an article about a guy in Brooklyn who decided to turn his yard into a subsistance farm, and all the informative screwups that went along with it. It’s a pretty good article if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Features humorous urban chicken and urban rabbit foibles as well.

  23. Posted November 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I liked this article. He didn’t come out of it with any of the stupid DIY myths that it’s easy to raise your own food. It’s expensive and backbreaking and society is very fortunate to not have to do it anymore. Farm based agriculture frees society up to do other things like kill each other, rent porn and study the DNA of bears.

    By the way, Slipknot suck. I figured noone would know who Cannibal Corpse were.

  24. Brackache
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    That was a good comment, dude! Holy shit!

  25. roots
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    “People in the country will just chill like they did in the depression and wonder why anyone would live in the city. You may be out of work, but at least you have food.”

    Uhhh…can you say Dust Bowl?

    My grandfather and his entire family lost their asses in the countryside during the Great Depression. Just sayin’.

  26. Posted November 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I tend to view the world through a Michigan lens cause we’re the only state that matters.

  27. Brackache
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Even so, dude, I hope you’re already growing crops or your neighbors are, or have abundant hunting out there.

    On a side note, I had an interesting time imagining something today: I think it might be fun if we dissolved the union completely. So every State was its own country. Fuck it. No confederacy, no union, just a big North American continent full of different countries. Most of the States are just as big as other countries anyway. We could have our own currency and name it something particularly Michiganny, like a Petosky, or a red wing, or a chilly crack ho or something.

    I don’t know. Just fun to think about. I’d rather be patriotic about Michigan.

  28. Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Totally. We could trade exclusively in Petosky stones. Or chicken wings.

  29. Robert
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I thought the video being done in the style of the SIMS was both clever, distracting, and somewhat ironic.

  30. mark
    Posted November 30, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    As I mentioned earlier, my point wasn’t that we were importing too much, so much as it was we were shipping food cross-country and using a hell of a lot of petroleum-based fertilizer to grow it. I just read in this report, however, that one quarter of US food is imported. So I guess that’s part of the equation too.

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