The Giant was green against a backdrop of gray, while to the south, the Haupu range stood blue against a pale sky when Koko and I headed out on this sultry, still morning. Along the way, the sun rose, or at least, I assumed it did, because although I couldn’t see it, the gray became infused with pink and spattered, Rorschach-like, with paler clouds.
And then the rain came, first misting over the Giant, then growing in intensity just as Koko and I returned to our house, only slightly dampened by that life-giving force.
During our walk, I couldn’t help but notice all the dead toads along the road, some of them so desiccated by car tires, sun, wind and heat that their skins have been tanned into little gray hides. And I wondered why it is that certain animals get a lot of our consideration, while others get none at all — especially on the road.
I often hear people say that despite the rising gas prices, folks haven’t curtailed their driving. But according to cnn.com that isn’t true. Americans actually drove 11 billion fewer miles this past March than they did last March — the sharpest decline since the Federal Highways Administration began keeping records in 1942. So maybe we are changing our behavior.
It seems that kicking our addiction to oil is the only way to extricate us from some of our more nefarious military escapades, Afghanistan among them. I came across a very interesting interview with that nation’s President, Hamid Karzai, in the German Speigel Online International. Besides providing a compelling look into the politics of warlords and international coalitions, it served to remind me just how weak and puffy most American journalism is.
Speigel also had a fascinating interview with the UN's Assistant Director-General Alexander Müller on the growing food crisis, which delves into just how complicated the food-energy issue is. Here’s an excerpt:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is the main reason for food production no longer keeping up with demand?
Müller: Various factors, including very significantly the rising oil price. Traditional agriculture is itself very energy intensive: It needs oil for fertilizer, pesticides, tractors and transport. To get away from that, many governments are promoting fuels made from agricultural products. This is turn links the price of bread to the price of oil.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Has the food crisis reached its peak?
Müller: Quite the opposite, we're only at the beginning. Unchecked climate change would lead to farmland drying out or becoming flooded. New animal and plant diseases are emerging; yields could fall. We have to produce 40 percent to 60 percent more food, while there is a marked reduction in the land available for cultivation in the south.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But agriculture is actually responsible for one third of CO2 emissions.
Müller: That is exactly what has to change very quickly, otherwise the system will devour itself. We want to highlight this point during the summit: climate protection is the same as food protection.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Germany's Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer claims biofuels have no impact on food prices, because their production takes up only 2 percent of the arable land.
Müller: Our specialists, as well as other experts, have come to a different conclusion: 20 to 50 percent of the hike in food prices is the result of the demand for biofuel plants. …. In any event, feeding the world has to take precedence over energy production.
Muller’s remarks caused me to reflect on my own recent efforts to cook the taro I grow. Although I’ve been making yummy poi and laulau, my propane consumption has greatly increased because both taro and its leaves need to be cooked for long periods to dissolve the oxalic acid crystals that otherwise give you itchy mouth and throat.
The Hawaiians dealt with this by preparing taro and other food in imu. Wood was used to heat stones, which then did the cooking slowly, in sealed pits. When I visited Rorotanga, they did the same thing, cooking food on Saturday for consumption throughout the week. And it wasn’t like every house had their own imu, either. People shared.
Farmer Jerry told me the same situation occurred in the Portuguese sections of the sugar camps, where every five houses or so shared an oven. Again, just enough wood was used to heat the oven, and the bread was baked through radiant heat.
So it seems that sustainability isn’t just about eating what can be grown locally, but taking a more cooperative approach to its preparation. Maybe that’s what scares some folks about the concept. They just can’t fathom the thought of interacting with others to meet our basic needs — even though we did exactly that for thousands of years.