Food and water supply

… continuing the discussion on heat.

In California, January 2009 was the driest month in modern history further proving the case that global warming is happening now(*). January is generally the wettest month of the year where water reservoirs are recharged. Consequently, the water reserves that the state normally relies on were not built up. This means that California faces severe water restrictions in the coming year and that farming will be impaired. A state of agricultural emergency has already been declared in Nevada.

(*) It is interesting to note that wholly 2/3 of American’s still believe that scientists generally disagree on the issue of global warming. In fact agreement and consensus amongst scientists now exceeds 99%. This shows that the subject is overwhelmingly dominated by political/ideological rhetoric rather than science. Scientifically the case is closed. Global warming is happening.

One third of the fruit of the US is grown in the central valley. Here we are looking at a projected job loss of 40,000 workers and the loss of one billion dollars in revenue. The problem is that fruit trees can not be fallowed. Growing fruit rather than what is more naturally grown in the area is a do or die decision that was made long ago. Big mistake.

It is doubtful that the rest of the US food system can compensate for the disturbance of a factor one third in production capacity. Fruit and vegetable prices are therefore likely to become volatile over the summer just like oil prices became volatile when supply had problems meeting demand(*).

(*) Classical “static” economics predict that prices should simply go up, but in reality the economy is a complex dynamical system with feedback loops. It is better to consider such systems to be systems where tension exists. The more tension that is put into the system the more explosive it gets when reacting to sudden changes of external circumstances. Consider for instance the current state of the stock market. The extreme leverage (tension) means that stock market swings are easily 3-4%/day and sometimes 10% or more whereas in 2007, a 2% swing was if not rare then not seen very often.

Naturally if you are retired early or otherwise depend on a fixed income, volatility is not what you want whether it is economical, food, or climate. Rather than be reactive, it is best to be proactive like I talked about the recession in spring 2008 (and look what happened).

Food wise, you should prepare by stocking up (before everybody else does). I would get several large 10lbs bags of beans (if you are in the east bay area, I know a good place) and store them in a plastic container and slowly rotate through them. Adding a supply of canned tomatoes and you have the sloppy joe meal. Given the overall rate of food inflation, storing food may even be a good “investment”. Expect food to comprise a higher percentage of your budget in the future(*).

In light of the agricultural problems trying to make your own garden is likely to be futile especially since watering days are likely to be cut. Hydroponics might be worth looking into as would sprouting.

(*) Interestingly this should mean that more people would be working to produce food, which means fewer people will be working producing something else. Draw your own economic conclusions.

If you have a yard, consider recasting it into something that is more fitting to the climate you are going to be living in, a semi-arid desert. Make a rock garden. If you have a pool. Get rid of it or cover it. Either water prices will go up or water will be rationed or a combination of both. Take shorter showers to keep within budget.

Read Dune to get in the right mood.

And if you live in CA and own a company, please do consider putting an end to the inane idea of pouring hundreds of gallons of water on the sidewalk every night to water a small strip of lawn around your corporate building. It is evil.

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Originally posted 2009-02-03 21:57:49.