The end of 2006 saw warnings from each end of the political spectrum. First there was a report issued by the Green Party, demonstrating how modern food markets place food supplies at risk from a fuel crisis, and second, an investigative piece revealing the far-right British National Party (BNP) strategy to capitalise on such a crisis to take political power.
Peak Oil, if you have never heard of it before, is a term meaning the point at which the global flow of oil supply, from the Earth's crust to the market, reaches it's maximum amount, and can thereafter only decrease. Because oil is the most fundamental resource to modern economies, the implications of it's supply beginning to decrease are so profound, that - from food supplies to financial markets - almost no aspect of your life would be untouched. (You can find out more by reading here (short) and here (more detailed). So far the only political parties to (publicly) acknowledge the issue, in the UK, are the BNP, who were shortly followed by the Greens, both of whom first published on the issue in 2005.)
Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Dwindling oil stocks and EU trade and energy policies threaten food price hikes – and could cause the UK to be vulnerable to food shortages for the first time since the Second World War, according to a new report by Green Party Euro-MP Caroline Lucas.
Fuelling a Food Crisis examines the dependence of the EU’s food supplies on oil – for production, processing and transport – and concludes that food prices are becoming increasingly linked with those of oil, and therefore more exposed to the price volatility of the energy sector.
"Higher energy prices are here to stay," said Dr Lucas, Green MEP for South-East England and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment and International Trade Committees.
"Future oil price rises will have a massive impact on food security, and unless we address the problem now, we could face the prospect of food shortages in the UK - one of Europe's largest food importers - and the possibility of starvation in some developing countries."
The report warns that we must change energy, trade and agriculture policies at an EU level if we are to avoid a food crisis precipitated by 'Peak Oil' – the point at which half of global oil production has been consumed, and beyond which extraction goes into irreversible decline, and prices rise accordingly.
Dr Lucas said: "Peak oil is happening whether we like it or not: the fact of dwindling finite fossil fuel reserves is simply non-negotiable.
"Oil prices have already risen 7-fold in the last 7 years. Our food supply systems have become increasingly dependent on fossil fuels. Industrialised farming techniques use about 50 times more energy than traditional methods – and we are importing more and more of our food from overseas: a staggering 95 per cent of all fruit eaten in the UK is grown abroad."
Whilst researching the report, Dr Lucas asked the UK’s major supermarkets and several Government ministries what steps they were taking to prepare for the impact of peak oil on their food supply systems. None of the organisations contacted gave a serious response ... She commented: "The level of ignorance about peak oil amongst UK food retailers is absolutely staggering. The era of cheap oil is ending, and this will have a massive impact on the way supermarkets do business – but they don’t seem to have considered the issue at all."
This investigative piece appeared in the Guardian, outlining the strategy of the far-right:
Friday December 22, 2006
Mr Griffin's [Chairman, BNP] ultimate aim is not to win control of a local authority or even take a seat at Westminster, but to position the party for a time of national crisis.
Mr Griffin is convinced that the support of just 18% of the British electorate would put the party just "one crisis away from power".
This strategy was laid out by Mr Griffin in a speech to a closed meeting of American white supremacists and European far-right party activists in New Orleans last year. In a recording of the speech obtained by the Guardian, he tells his audience to prepare now for "an age of scarcity that will be a once-in-200-years opportunity".
He not only believes that an economic crisis of catastrophic proportions would present a great opportunity for the BNP: he appears to be convinced that such a crisis is inevitable, the result of global warming, fuel shortages and mounting debt.
"When the revolution comes, the revolution which is going to sweep away this nightmare, it is going to come in Europe, and it's going to come very suddenly," he told the New Orleans audience. "Bang: one month they don't support you, the next month - if you've done your homework and the circumstances are right - they are prepared to support you."
In the UK, we believe Nazism to be a distant memory, or at least the sole preserve of a tiny minority of strange people. But with the wealth inequalities and economic mass-migration inherent in globalisation already providing support for the far-right, it is not difficult to imagine that should we leave things to get to a point where supermarket shelves are empty and gas stations have run dry, then Mr Griffin could well be proven correct.
Fortunately, there is a movement, that is gaining momentum, which activists, NGO's and regular concerned citizens alike can unite in influencing politicians to do the right thing.
The Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign, is aimed at addressing global problems that transcend national boundaries, and hence individual national governments cannot resolve by acting alone. The current SP policy proposal includes measures such as the oil depletion protocol, contraction and convergence, third world debt cancellation, protection of water rights, make all trade fair, corporate law reform, monetary reform, abolition of WMD and reduction of conventional arms.
To avoid governments' fears that the unilateral implementation of stringent environmental controls would see capital and jobs moving elsewhere, the Simultaneous Policy is to be implemented simultaneously, only when all or sufficient governments have signed up. In this way, supporting SP poses no-risk to any nation's international competitiveness and is helping to build international and cross-party support while opening the way to far more robust measures being adopted than those presently envisaged under agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol.
The fear of competitive disadvantage is rapidly being recognised as the key barrier to solving global warming and many other global problems. The Stern report recently warned governments to act urgently to curb carbon emissions, but the Financial Times (6th Dec. 06) noted that "governments remain reluctant to address this threat because any country acting alone to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, without similar commitments by other governments, risks damaging the competitiveness of its industries." David Milliband, UK environment minister, confirmed this problem, noting that: "There is a collective action problem internationally."
To short-cut inter-governmental paralysis, the design of SP's range of global policies is undertaken, not by political parties, but by thousands of citizens around the world who support SP, known as Adopters. To secure sufficient international support for SP, Adopters vote in their respective national elections for any candidate, within reason, who has signed the pledge to implement SP alongside other governments, or to encourage their preferred party to support SP. In this way, politicians who fail to sign the SP Pledge risk losing their seats to those who do. With more parliamentary seats and even entire national elections being won or lost on fine margins, only a relatively small number of Adopters may be needed to make it in the vital interests of the main politicians and parties to support SP. In this way, citizens around the world are adopting SP as a way to seize the political initiative and to drive even uncooperative governments, such as the U.S. administration, towards the internationally co-operative solution that SP provides.
Apart from the UK, there is support for SP in the EU and Australian parliaments and SP campaigns are under way many in other countries. SP is supported by the prime minister of East Timor, Dr. José Ramos-Horta, and by many ecologists, activists and economists.
Caroline Lucas thinks it's a good idea, she signed the SP pledge back in 2004. So what are you waiting for? Visit www.simpol.org and click "Adopt SP".
The full report "Fuelling a Food Crisis" is available on Caroline Lucas' website.