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Archive for the ‘Peak Oil’ Category

I thought I might write about a BBC series which finished today, The Fisherman’s Apprentice with Monty Halls. It’s been a pretty thoughtful look at various issues within the fishing industry. I don’t think it went far enough in critiquing government policy and I feel that Hall’s idea to save sustainable fishing (Community Supported Fisheries) is the kind of consumer-led, niche idea that can’t really hope to revolutionise the whole industry. But, overall, it has been pretty good TV.

However, I couldn’t watch all of the last episode tonight as it had been rescheduled to make way for a brand new series, Our Food, in which “Giles Coren looks at how food is grown across the UK”.

I had seen the trailers for the series and had expected a well-photographed, rose-tinted view of agriculture, perhaps with some naive assertions about how people should really think about buying more organic and local food.

However, I was shocked at the content of this programme. It seemed to act as a cheerleader for industrialised agriculture and thus showed uncritical support for many of the things which are wrong with the way food is produced in Britain. (more…)

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I am currently applying to carry out research into the effects of energy input decline on agricultural employment. I wanted to resurrect this blog as somewhere that I can not only write publicly and hopefully gain useful feedback, but also somewhere to record all the useful media, references and stories that I come across.

But first, an idea of where I’m coming from…

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Saturday’s events in Tokyo

On the first full day of anti-G8 action in Tokyo yesterday, there were workshops held throughout the city from 1pm, consisting of various “working groups”. These were then followed by a General Meeting at 6pm, which I attended. The meeting was held in Bunkyo Kumin Center near Kasuga station and the main speaker was Susan George of ATTAC France and Transnational Institute. She is a long-time activist and the author of a number of books on poverty including How the Other Half Dies (1976).

The first hour of the meeting was given to introductions and the reports by the “working groups”. These groups covered issues such as trade, sexual discrimination and American bases on Okinawa and Guam among others.

Shut Down the G8 Summit - Working Groups report

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G8 2008

This year’s annual Group of 8 summit is almost upon us. From 7th-9th July, the leaders of the G8 countries will meet at Lake Toyako, on the northern island of Hokkaido, here in Japan.

Over the next two weeks I am going to be writing about various G8-related events, with special regard to world agriculture, domestic Japanese issues, and the alter-globalization/anti-capitalism movement’s reaction to the current world crises.

For a very detailed summary of issues regarding this summit please read “The 2008 G8 on Hokkaido, a Strategic Assessment”, written by activists, scholars and writers based in the United States and Western Europe.

It is a long piece, but reading it would be time well-spent. It actually preempts a lot of what I wanted to say in this post, (even down to my not-so-original title) and so I will intersperse my writing with some quotes from it.

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Meat market

Things are looking worrying for livestock farmers in Japan. The price of corn on the world market has risen rapidly and the Japanese government has responded by increasing the floor price of domestic, corn-fed pork and beef for a second time this year.

Japan imports almost all of its animal feed and so the price of corn here is being further affected by the rising price of oil, in the form of increased freight fees. It imports 93% of its corn from the United States. The other main ingredient in animal feed is soya, which is also mostly imported. From Bloomberg:

“Without additional support from the government, supply of domestically produced milk and other livestock products will eventually become unavailable to consumers,” Nobuhiro Suzuki, the chairman of the ministry’s livestock panel, told reporters…

This view is supported by groups representing farmers:

“An increasing number of livestock farmers are abandoning their business because feed and other costs have exceeded their incomes,” said Masataka Ishiguro, vice secretary general at National Confederation of Farmers Movements, representing over 40,000 farmers in Japan.

This confederation is NOUMINREN, also sometimes referred to as Japan Family Farmers Movement.

As the cost of feed continues to rise, the family farmers represented by NOUMINREN can either give up on farming altogether or move away from livestock and towards more sustainable produce, such as rice, fruit or vegetables. However, even if they wanted to diversify, there are signs that the Japanese government is not keen on supporting small-scale farmers any longer.

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Recent stories

It’s been a month since I wrote Part 5 – Consequences for Japan. The following is a round-up of some of the recent stories here, coupled with some of my thoughts.

The rising food prices in Japan are continuing to make themselves felt with pasta and vinegar the latest concerns. The Japan Times/Kyodo News reported on Wednesday that:

Starting Sept. 1, Mizkan Group Corp. said it will raise the price of 37 consumer-use vinegar products by 8 percent to 10 percent… because of rising crop prices. It will be the company’s first price hikes in 18 years.

90% of Japanese are now thinking of saving money when they shop, and there are reports of troubles in the restaurant industry. The most famous such establishment in Osaka, Osaka Meibutsu Kuidaore, is due to shut down in July, partly due to falling sales.

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Rising concerns

The World Food Program have declared that the food crisis is a “silent tsunami” sweeping the world which, like a large natural disaster, requires a global response. Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning harbour wave. Could this disaster-prone country be seriously affected by the crisis?

In a recent survey, over 40% of people in Japan viewed rising food prices as a concern. As Kyodo News reports:

(This) represented three-fold increases from a survey in January 2007 and marked record highs since this question was first asked in 1998…

It would appear that they are right to be worried. The price rises are hitting the poor in Japan hard. For widow-headed households, average expenditure is now higher than income. Is the recent rationing of rice in the United States and the United Kingdom just the tip of the iceberg for developed countries?

In Part 4 I looked at global agriculture, but in this post I will cover the likely consequences of peak food for Japan.

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