Twenty-five thousand people die per day from starvation, while as many die of obesity-related conditions. This was just the start of what I learned at the launch of Jason Drew and David Lorimer’s new book, The Protein Crunch at The Bay Bookshop in Cape Town. If these words are a fracture of what’s contained in the book, I thought, it is going to blow my mind. And that’s exactly what happened.
Using updated research and statistics, The Protein Crunch summarises the problems of our current capitalist era, and gives us an idea of what is yet to come. Drew started doing research on our environment and food systems intensively after having two heart attacks. His motivation? He realised the only game worth playing is living.
‘The credit crunch has shaken our global economy, but it will recover. ‘The Protein Crunch’ is far more serious and, if we open our eyes, it is unfolding right in front of us. Our food – protein – comes from three sources: our water, land and seas. All of these natural resources are under increasing pressure from our burgeoning population: when more demand meets less supply, we arrive at ‘The Protein Crunch’.
It seems that the way we do things, just doesn’t always make sense! Which is surprising, since we consider ourselves the smartest, most intelligent species.
‘Has the world gone mad or is capitalism and its food system simply failing us?’ Drew asks. ‘Climate change is here and it is now. Have you seen the major increase in food prices?’
There are daily riots in the Middle East around lack of food and fresh water.
Looming social food riots
The Hongkong and Shanghai’s Banking Corporation’s (HSBC) senior economist, Karen Ward, warns that the UK will also soon experience these social food riots:
“Even in the developed world we have very, very low wage growth, so people aren’t getting more in their pay packet to compensate them for food and energy, and I think we could see social unrest certainly in parts of the developed world.”
“In the 70s the phrase ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was introduced. Today, with the reduced quality of food we are consuming, it needs to change to ‘Three apples a day keeps the doctor away,” Drew says.
A good example of riots with food and water scarcity as one of its causes, is the current situation in Yemen.
Ancient water sources are not replenished
“There is virtually no water left in Yemen and they have nowhere to go,” Drew says. “What is their solution? Mass migration from Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, to Abu Dhabi and other Middle Eastern or African countries for water. What will those countries have to do then?”
A few years ago economic migration was huge, but according to Drew, environmental migration will be the next big thing.
Water is one of the important topics The Protein Crunch covers.
“We take water 100% for granted,” Drew says. “It takes 30 000 litres of water to make your phone. Everything is touched by water. Nearly a billion people live on ancient water, which means their water comes from underground aquifers, which aren’t replenished again.What do we use most of our water for? 75% of water is used for agriculture.”
Water is part of everything
“Everything we eat and use is, in fact, a form of condensed or virtual water – even the water we drink takes water to clean and produce. We react to crises as they arise, without taking the necessary action to avoid them. British farmers spend 500 million pounds a year on pesticides, and it costs a further 120 million pounds to clean the residues out of the drinking water. Cod were once so plentiful off the coast of Newfoundland that they impeded the passage of ships.”
We like to leave our readers with hope and creative solutions, I said. What could be said that’s positive?
“Here is one ‘up-side’ to our crisis,” he said, “the good news is, we’ll all live long enough to see how stupid we are.”
“One of the first steps toward a solution is to make eco-entrepreneurship the next big thing.”
“When the government sees how many people are interested in this, it really does make a difference. Truth is, what the government really wants is to keep their jobs.”
Facing the truth is not for chickens, but this is what our times call for. Embracing the dragon, we can learn to use its own power against it. How are you going to respond? Share your ideas with us.
By Willemien Calitz