Monday, November 22, 2010

How We'll All Become Cannibals

In the Dark Knight, the Joker describes human kind as having only a thin line between civilization and barbarism, suggesting "these people will eat each other. All they need is a little push. And I'm gonna give it to 'em."

I use this line both literally and in jest, because surely it is preposterous to think that we would actually eat each other. But, what if we really thought about globalism in terms of food distribution. I've stated many times that they only thing that makes sense in a globalized world logistically is that which can be transported free or, once again more literally, virtually free. As in digitally: information, knowledge, and capital can be distributed and spread throughout the world as and where it is needed (or there is opportunity).

No food that you want to eat is spread digitally. The Jetsons aren't here yet, despite some of our cities trying to look like it.

It is with that stated that I came across this online PDF of a presentation from Toronto FoodShare coop regarding the way food distribution has played a role in shaping the city then and now. Here are the relevant slides applicable to all North American cities most critically:

These slides are pretty self-explanatory, but what it is showing is that Toronto, like many metropolitan areas (particularly North American ones) are much bigger burdens on the earth than their actual physical size. The reason, as stated above is: housing, transportation, and food. And if you think about each of those, the reason they are damaging is because of the sparse disbursement across the landscape and the energy required to traverse between house to work, house to house, house and grocery store, farm to fork, farm to slaughterhouse to processing plant to grocery... You get the idea.

And this shows the logistical web of, in this case, food, but could apply to virtually all the junk we buy. And not just Toronto, but like I said, all cities, but North American ones with our once upon a time real wealth and now just our imagined wealth, are the worst offenders. No big deal right?

Well, what happens if that logistical web breaks down? As this slide shows, Toronto has 3 days of food supply at any one time, dependent upon more and more arriving each day from parts unknown. An entire world's food supply dependent upon the price of gas and a few strategic distribution and logistical centers around the world. Hardly resilient, and in this country, the people are even less so.

Imagine if there is an interruption to this food supply chain. Where does Dallas get its food? Kroger, right? Oh, where does Kroger gets its food from? Kraft and Con Agra, right? Where does Con Agra gets its food from? All over the world. Where does Kraft get their food from? Oh well, that was a trick question, they invent their food.

If they can't get their food to population centers, what will we do?

I guess we'll just start eating each other.