Michael Brownlee is the author of “The Local Food Revolution: How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times”. We glean tips and directions from his ten year struggle in Colorado localization. Robert Muir-Wood is a top adviser to governments, insurance, and business on preparing for natural disasters. Learn the real risks and how we all can do better. Radio Ecoshock 161102
Not everything is climate change. A little later we’ll talk with one of the world’s top disaster experts, Robert Muir-Wood about his new book “The Cure for Catastrophe: How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters.” By the way, my newest song “Wholly Nature” can be heard in this program, and downloaded at the bottom of this blog.
MICHAEL BROWNLEE – THE LOCAL FOOD REVOLUTION
When the banks and investment houses started to collapse in 2009, I saw once again how flimsy this civilization is. It wouldn’t take much to stop those food truck rolling, and there are no food warehouses in cities any more. A few decades ago I learned to grow and save my own food. In 2009, I resolved to do it again, and we’ve made some progress.
But even if this crazy world keeps rolling on, according to the Center for Disease Control, industrial food is killing thousands annually. With all that sugar, salt and fat (not to mention chemicals Nature never planned for) – more than a third of citizens in many countries are obese. It’s not just America. Then there’s diabetes and an epidemic of food allergies never seen before. Too many people are malnourished in the midst of plenty!
Meanwhile, chemical fertilizers and motorized agriculture is eroding the soil, wrecking water tables, and loading up the atmosphere with carbon. The food system appears to work for now, but it’s dangerous and unsustainable.
I’m growing more and more of the food we eat. The taste is amazing. Our health is improving. Now I can’t go into most restaurants, or even big grocery stores, without being afraid of what’s in those bright-colored packages. Am I just paranoid?
Michael Brownlee is the author of “The Local Food Revolution: How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times”. Five years ago, I interviewed Michael as a leader in the Transition Town movement in America. I think this goes even deeper, reaching into your refrigerator, into your body, and into our troubling future.
I begin by reading this paragraph from an article Michael wrote at localfoodshift.pub:
“a food system that keeps our population in control, herded into the CAFOs we call cities, fed a diet laced with chemicals and drugs that keeps our people addicted and trapped, and keeps the Unholy Alliance ever more wealthy and ever more powerful. We are in effect being ranched. This is tyranny through food.”
That’s big. Let’s unpack it a bit. In 2010 I did a program on Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations, or CAFOs. Is that really what we’ve become in the cities where most people live?
Or course it’s great for the few who made it to a patch of dirt to start growing food. But let’s face it, many of our listeners don’t have that option right now. Some work at least two jobs to get by, or they are students or parents with a part-time job on top. Others have health problems, or live in an apartment. How can the millions of people now disenfranchised from the land participate in this food revolution? Michael has some great suggestions everyone can do.
By the way, there’s an App for that. A new startup in British Columbia has a web site called “soilmate.com“. Hundreds of thousands of people across North America are already using it to connect up with local farmers, and grocery stores that sell local food.
If I were in the board room of a big food corporation right now, I’d have two hopes for defeating your food revolution. First, I would set a bunch of lawyers and politicians against you, along with media articles saying how dangerous local food can be. Then I’d sit back hoping the general population is too lazy, too fearful, or too out-of-touch to change. We’ll see.
Michael says that although there are good people trying for the past ten years to get more local food in Colorado, they have a very long way to go. The state is a major agricultural producer, and yet only one to two percent of food eaten by Coloradans is grown there. Most food (including beef) is exported, and the huge majority of what is in the grocery stores is imported. We talk about why, and what can be done. Certainly, the local food revolution means we have to be in it for the long haul.
I’d like to add another tiny tip from our own household. When we put away our potatoes, fruit and herbs, we label it as home-grown. Then we call out every local ingredient in a meal. We notice and celebrate every time local food makes it to our plates. Even that can help us grow more local.
One place we can look for guidance is into the past, when humans really depended on what they could grow right around them. I’m thinking of the early American colonists for example. They would do things like harvest rhubarb and other roots, and then “force” them to grow in dark winter basements, by adding heat. Can we get more tips from the past?
Among my favorite books are the Rural Science Series written by Professor Liberty Hyde Bailey in the late 1800’s, like “The Nursery Book”. That’s where I learned about soil supplements and fertilizers in the days before fossil-fuel-based junk and chemicals. Bailey tells you the straight dope on using wood stove ash, manure and organic supplements. It should be republished, or at least made available as e-books.
Guest and author Michael Brownlee
Here are a couple of articles by Michael Brownlee you should check out.
HAT TIP TO CAROLYN BAKER
I learned about this new book through this excellent review by another Coloradan, Carolyn Baker. By the way, I use her daily news service to help me find good issues and guests for Radio Ecoshock.
ROBERT MUIR-WOOD – THE CURE FOR CATASTROPHE
Nobody needs to die in natural disasters. According to a new book, there is a new science of prediction and risk management that can warn, prepare and save millions of lives in the future. So why isn’t it being applied now?
We’ve reached an expert’s expert. As Chief Research Officer for the company RMS Risk Management Solutions, Robert Muir-Wood tracks global disasters. He travels into the crumbled or drowned chaos, and models the risk. Muir-Wood was a lead author for the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, and the 2011 IPCC Special Report on Extremes. Governments, insurance companies and investors listen to him. Now we’re going to listen, and we hear strategies that haven’t yet made it through the mainstream media. Be prepared to be well-briefed, as we talk about his new book “The Cure for Catastrophe: How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters.”
CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE RISK: IT’S GREATER THAN YOU THINK (and it can hit the world economy).
We begin by talking about earthquakes in California. Robert has some startling news. First of all, the idea of epicenters, those rings shown on the maps by TV news – isn’t what’s important at all! Maybe that’s where the quake STARTED, but what we need to know is where does it hit and do damage. That depends more on the length of the break in the Earth.
There’s new science out that shows California is in a far greater risk than previously thought. That’s because a quake on one fault line can jump to another fault line. They are not isolated, and that means there are millions of possibilities for quakes in California.
At the very same time, Robert tells us, fewer Californians are buying earthquake insurance. Maybe they can’t afford it, or maybe it’s been a while since a killer quake struck there. Less than 10% of Californians have quake insurance. That means, if a big one strikes, (and it will) – most people’s homes will not be covered. A lot of folks will be wiped out and walk away, resulting to a gigantic threat to the financial system. It could be 2009 all over-again, or worse, Muir-Wood tells us.
But the real drive of this book is to show that we humans could avoid so much death and destruction by (a) being real about what and where the threats are and (b) making intelligent adaptations. Just one simple example is for governments to stop helping people rebuild in flood plains. Or… we know how to build structures that can withstand most earthquakes (or fires) – but we don’t do it.
We talk about the ever-present risk for people in the developing world. There are strict engineering ways to use concrete with carefully designed metal reinforcing rods, properly installed. That isn’t happening in Mexico, Turkey and so many countries. As a result, schools, homes and factories pancake down killing thousands, or hundreds of thousands. Most of those deaths could have been avoided, Muir-Wood argues.
WHY NOT CLIMATE CHANGE?
I raise one strange point. Muir-Wood has been an advisor, and contributing author, for two reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet his new book hardly mentions the threats posed by climate change. I ask him why not.
My take on Robert’s book, and his reply on radio, is that climate change threats are developing over the next decades. The dangers he describes in his book are with us now, and have always been with us. It’s a series of known problems which we can solve, saving lives now. Muir-Wood is far from a climate denier. He just has a more immediate focus, and I think it’s really worth-while. We must remember we live on a dangerous planet, even without global warming. Not everything is climate change.
We do talk at length about coastal flooding. Of course I raise Miami, and Muir-Wood lives in Florida. But he’s tired of hearing people talk as though Miami was the only place with a problem. There are big cities in America and around the world who will be dealing with extreme weather and extreme storm surge. Not all of them are right on the ocean either. For example, Hartford Connecticut and Sacramento are two “inland” cities that are really on an ocean storm surge connection.
The costs of rising seas, in both money and human suffering, are going to be astronomical. I have several interviews coming up on that.
Finally, I have to pass on this. In Muir-Wood’s book, “The Cure for Catastrophe” there is a story that goes beyond Earthquake or tsunami preparedness. Following the 2004 mega-flood of Thailand, the Japanese Professor Toshitaka Katada devised a three-line instruction for children. It was a kind of tsunami Haiku, but I hear a value for all kind of preparedness. It reads:
“Don’t believe in preconceived ideas
Do everything you can
Take the lead in evacuation.”
In one coastal village in Japan, only the children taught that lesson survived. They didn’t know the protective sea wall in their village wasn’t high enough. While students in other areas waited for official instructions (which generally said ‘stay where you are’) – these kids started to run toward higher ground. Other kids (and their teachers) followed them. They lived, when children down the same coast did not.
Think about those lines when you consider a great many risks these days.
Listeners, I took the time to read all of Robert Muir-Wood’s new book “The Cure for Catastrophe: How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters.” It wasn’t a chore, because this stuff fascinates me, and Robert does a great job of keeping us there, in the scene, while we learn.
Dr. Muir-Wood is the Chief Chief Research Officer for the RMS Risk Management Solutions, and has a PdD in Earth Sciences from Cambridge University. He’s been a lead author in two important reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the author of six books, and has published over 150 scientific papers. He advises on high levels of business and government on large scale disasters.
You may find this You tube handy to get more from Robert Muir-Wood. He’s talking at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School in a video uploaded on Dec 16, 2011.
I found out a lot more about earthquakes and how they work in this Robert Muir-Wood talk on Vimeo. It’s from the “ILS Convergence 2015 in Bermuda, titled ‘Understanding Risk’ Adapting Earthquake Science to Expanded Risk Transfer.”
Thank you for listening to this program. I was a bit shocked by the amount of support coming in from listeners all over the world after my funding appeal. So many of you were generous, and there were some notes which helped me understand how and why you listen, and the topics you think I should cover. I’ll do what I can.
MY NEW SONG (such as it is)
Here is a song I’m working on, called “Wholly Nature”, as in wholly committed.