Thursday, April 24, 2008

Harrison Ford provides the ultimate metaphor for global deforestation (food v fuels crisis)

Today major news outlets played up the global “competition” between fuel and food. Globally, grain prices are rising because of increased demand from developing countries (like China) wanting out diet, and because more arable land is being used to grow biofuels. In the United States, corn prices are at all time highs, whereas in the 1980s farmers were losing their farms because of low prices (sometimes growing marijuana to make ends meet, illegally, as on one 20/20 segment in the early 90s.)

This has catalyzed a new international political crisis, causing some countries to threaten stopping exports of rice, and some threatening economic action against the US. Even Britain has protested the US new "addiction" to protested biofuels.

It sounds like a canard. A good question is why developing countries cannot grow more of their own food. But global warming and rising seal levels (as in southern Asia) will be a factor. So will deforestation, as in Brazil and the Amazon, which reduces CO-2 re-absorption. Brazil uses a lot of its flat pampas to grow sugar cane for biofuel, and is largely independent of imported oil. Remember, corn is probably not the best crop; biofuels could be efficient to produce one day with sawgrass.

So, in steps actor Harrison Ford, who was a young man, and apparently smooth, in his first Star Wars movie. Now, at age 65, he has his chest waxed on camera (on Access Hollywood (episode link) on NBC) to provide a visual metaphor for deforestation. (The “Sherwood forest” anyone?) No one thought of this a couple of years ago when Steve Carell made the manly sacrifice. Or one of the Geeks in a beauty makeover designed by the devious mind of Ashton Kutcher. Or even John Travolta “Staying Alive.” (It ain’t cool.) Somehow I remember a funny sermon in Lawrence Kansas in 1967, “What does it mean to be a man?” in the days of the James Bond movies. Remember Sean Connery? Then, we remember that the Taliban and other areas of radical Islam insist on preserving the male beard at all times, yet a couple of the 9/11 TV films showed the hijackers shaving down completely in the motel the morning of their horrific deeds.

I can certainly imagine discos having "deforestation" parties, particularly on the circuits in Palm Springs. Inevitably, this feat will be replicated on Saturday Night Live, perhaps with an SNL Digital Short, teddy bears included.

In any case, it seems that the West is facing the sudden competition of the rest of the world for resources. We’ve heard this all before, as far back as the 70s with the Arab oil embargo then. This time it seems like it is for real. In the grand scheme of things, we live on a small planet, and it is our only home.

Update: April 27

The front page of the Washington Post has a major story with illustrations, by Anthony Faiola, "The New Economics of Hunger: A brutal convergence of events has hit an unprepared global market, and grain prices are sky high. The world's poor suffer most," link here.

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