Who Eats What?


I have been working this week on hunger conditions around the world to use for publicity for a Hunger Sunday at church. There are huge quantities of data out there, but somehow they rarely answer the questions I ask.

Along the way I found some interesting facts about food crops. Do you know what the fourth largest – and number one non-grain product – is?  Potatoes.  Do you know which country is the largest potato producer in the world?  China.

I was interested in the basic grains, because I was trying to figure out who, where, eats how much of what. The top three crops are 3. rice, 2. wheat, 1. corn.

One can grow more rice than wheat per acre, but it takes a lot of water. Rice is the source of 20% (1/5th) of all calories consumed by humans. We can guess that a lot of this is in Asia, but don’t forget the popularity of rice and beans in Latin America!

Another stray fact from another source: Cambodians eat a lot of wheat bread along with their rice. It’s the influence of the French who once controlled the country.

Wheat in the Field

Wheat in the Field

Wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein for humans worldwide. It also takes up a lot of space – more than corn – partly because it can be grown in colder, drier places.

Corn is a staple food for the majority of sub-Saharan Africa. It is also, as we know, feeding cars as well as humans.  My source, being about the business side of crops, not the hunger issues, did not consider this a problem.

Even with the cars taking a share of the corn, there is enough food in the world to feed everyone; the problem is distribution. Finding out the end result – who gets how much of what to eat – has proven difficult.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/10-crops-that-feed-the-world-2011-9?op=1#ixzz3G5Lbl1wx




Thinking About “Stuff”


I have been reading posts from Jubilee Economics and Simple Living Works, so I decided to try listening to their podcasts (See http://www.jubilee-economics.org/podcast/tag/common-cause).  I recently listened to Number 28, which focused on “Stuff” and reducing our stuff.

I was disappointed.  Gerald Iverson’s main example of reducing stuff involved moving to a retirement home.  He and his wife did very well to reduce their “stuff” down to 30 percent of what they had.

But downsizing for retirement, or moving into a care community is as much pressure from conditions as it is a choice.  It’s part of the life cycle, and seems almost to justify a cycle that goes: acquire, acquire, acquire, then divest, divest.

When my husband and I moved to a smaller retirement home, we calculate that we reduced our “stuff” by about 50 percent.  A few years ago I began to wonder how to do more.  This is partly due to the expectation that I will eventually have to move to a continuing care facility apartment, and to the feeling, “I don’t want to leave this for the kids to deal with.”  But I also wonder what justice really calls for.

The question of justice arises from Lee Van Ham’s “One Earth Project,” which demonstrates that while we claim to understand that there is only one earth, our society operates as if there were five.  Check the link in my blogroll, on the right of the page.

Three years ago I decided to try getting rid of one thing for each day in Lent.  Including Sundays that means 49 items, rounded up to 50.  It turned out to be easy.  I was way over the number before Holy Week arrived.  So the next year I tried again.  It was a little more work, but I had a bookshelf I could turn into a display area, and my storage was much less crowded.

This past Lent I tried again.  It was getting more difficult.  I decided to count folders of old records I discarded (in the category of the things the children won’t have to deal with that’s good, but it doesn’t help anyone else, as gifts to thrift shops and worthy-cause rummage sales do.)  I realized, afterward, that I had hit a psychological snag.  What was the point of giving away things that would leave a gap on the shelf, or an empty space in the china cupboard?  Since I can’t assume that someone will find these items to be just what they want and buy used instead of new, why not let them sit?

I need to do some thinking about this and I was hoping the Common Good Podcast would give me some new insights.  Maybe they’ll take this up again.