Ag 2008 Hawai’i Agriculture Conference / Even as presidential campaigns ratchet up the rhetoric about outsourcing and fuel prices and the like, it’s increasingly apparent that globalization is yesterday’s news. The erstwhile-nascent system of planetary trade worked wonders for corporations and relatively wealthy American consumers by keeping production (read: labor) costs low, but it turns out you have to keep feeding the global transportation octopus with massive amounts of cheap petroleum. Jack up those gas prices and, well…things fall apart. Quickly.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our food supply. As author Paul Roberts discusses during this week’s Ag 2008 Hawai’i Agriculture Conference, we are likely facing The End of Food as we know it. In his book, Roberts, who’s also the author of 2005’s The End of Oil, explores our far-flung food culture the old fashioned way–by getting out and talking to growers, shippers, buyers and preparers all around the planet. What he finds is startling not so much in character as in extent. Food-borne illness, malnutrition, obesity and other problems are veering rapidly out of control as transportation costs rise and actors at every link of the supply chain begin to cut corners to keep a suddenly grinding system moving.