The canopy of stars that gleamed in the night were gone by the time Koko, Pa`ele and I went walking, smothered by clouds and dimmed by the first light of day. Yet Venus twinkled on, sandwiched between two gray smudges.
I’m often struck by the vibrancy of dawn sound: the roar of the ocean miles away, the intense twittering of waking birds massed in the trees, the whisper of wind slipping through the trees, and today, the grunting of a pigs in bushes right alongside the road, which got the dogs very worked up.
As frequent readers of this blog well know, I tend to get worked up over rich people acting like piggies. I thought about that when I went to Kauapea Beach yesterday and saw the Keep Out and No Trespassing signs posted by wealthy landowners whose plants, sprinkler heads, irrigation runoff and greenwaste extend into the public easement. I wanted to turn the signs around so they were facing into the “private property,” but I figured the owners likely wouldn’t catch my drift, or even see it, because in so many of these places, the lights are on, the refrigerators, dehumidifiers and pond/pool pumps are running, but no one is home.
I thought about it when a friend told of being sent to a remodel job overlooking Hanalei Bay, where he saw a perfectly good, very new, upscale house being totally torn up — we’re talking jack-hammering the slate around the pool, ripping out custom-made cabinets, covering over a marble floor and more — because the new owners wanted "something different." It left him with a sick, disgusted feeling, he said, and the others on the job felt the same way, seeing all the hard work of the tradesmen before them destroyed, all those expensive materials being trashed and sent to the dump, though they salvaged what they could.
And I thought about it when I read about the Oxfam report that warns the price of food staples will double in the next 20 years, pushing even more people into poverty. Already, some 925 million people go hungry every day. As the Guardian reports:
A devastating combination of factors – climate change, depleting natural resources, a global scramble for land and water, the rush to turn food into biofuels, a growing global population, and changing diets – have created the conditions for an increase in deep poverty.
[Oxfam] said global food reserves must be urgently increased and western governments must end biofuels policies that divert food to fuel for cars.
It also attacked excessive corporate concentration in the food sector, particularly in grain trading and in seed and agrochemicals.
The Oxfam report followed warnings from the UN last week that food prices are likely to hit new highs in the next few weeks, triggering unrest in developing countries. The average global price of cereals jumped by 71% to a new record in the year to April last month.
The World Bank warned last month that rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty since last June.
In this case, the rich piggies are all we “First Worlders,” especially Americans, with our addiction to cheap energy, insatiable hunger for double bacon cheeseburgers, propensity to buy more than we need at super stores like Costco, and then throw much of it away, and tendency to eat too damn much.
And then there are those who speculate and trade on the misery of others. As Reuters reports,
"This report from Oxfam re-emphasizes the need to address food security in the context of poverty alleviation," [Martin Mortimer, director of the University of Liverpool's Food Security Network] said.
The report said the shortcomings of the food system flowed from failures of government to regulate and to invest, which meant that companies, interest groups and elites had been able to plunder resources.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports, demand is increasing, even as production declines:
The average growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of one percent in the next decade while increasing regional and local crises could double the need for food aid in the next 10 years.
But it doesn’t seem we piggies are too good at heeding warnings. I mean, how many have we gotten about the need to reduce carbon emissions NOW? Yet as the International Energy Agency reported yesterday:
Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history.
After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt.
In addition, the IEA has estimated that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today.
“This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2ºC,” said Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the IEA who oversees the annual World Energy Outlook, the Agency’s flagship publication.