Nine Meals Away from Anarchy

Aggravated by impending climate chaos and policies like Justice in Time delivery, most of the industrial food system is about “nine meals away from anarchy.”

| January/February 2013

It started in Greece, where a national debt crisis led to millions of laid-off workers and cut-off pensioners. Suddenly unable to afford basic groceries, formerly middle and working class people started buying low-cost staples in bulk from local farmers. City governments set up drop-offs where people bought sacks of potatoes for a fraction of what supermarkets charged, but more than farmers ever got from middlemen.

The potato revolution is a sign that food emergencies no longer only happen to desperately poor people in faraway and desolate areas of Africa and Asia. Food emergencies have become as globalized as everything else.

Until the potato revolution defined a fresh response to crisis, the precedent for Global North reaction was when British farmers and truckers, outraged by fast-rising gas taxes, blockaded delivery of oil trucks in the fall of 2000. On day one of the blockade, there was a panic buying at gas stations. On day two, panic buying spread to supermarkets. On day three, panic turned ugly, provoking a sound bite heard around the world.

Civilization is only “nine meals away from anarchy,” said the head of the UK’s Countryside Agency, Lord Cameron of Dillington. The Lord liked the statement so much that he repeated it in 2007, again to widespread media coverage, warning that on day three, “there will be rats, mayhem, and maybe even murder.”

Lord Cameron’s alarm resonates with a fear—that the veneer of order, complacency, and civilization depends on food being readily and effortlessly available, which in turn hangs on threads of transit routes that can be shut down on a moment’s notice. Chain reactions could be critical with frightening speed, thanks to both the short timeline from disruption to collapse of a logistics system, and the short fuse from civility to civil breakdown when food runs out.


1/31/2018 10:34:42 AM

We lose 24 million acres of soil to degradation and loss per year To feed humanity we through 2050, we need 12 million acres of new soil per year for 30 years. We are losing soil 2X faster than we need more of it. Emissions have to 0% by 2060 for 2 C. Emissions have to go below 0% beyond 2060 for 2 C. We need 1 billion acres of new land to even try to do this. Humans and livestock make 97% of land vertebrate biomass and eat 40% of earth's net primary production of chlorophyll, or nearly half the green stuff growing on earth. Yet energy demand will double by 2060 because infrastructure construction is 50% of emissions. 2 C = Disaster says James Hansen, We only have a 5% chance of keeping it under 2 C says Kevin Anderson. This means we have a 95% chance of not staying below 2 C, where 2 C = disaster. 1 billion people on earth walk a mile for water each day, in 15 years it will be 2 billion.