Urgent Evoke

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It might be an interesting storyline, but does this really cast any light on how issues of food security emerge and are dealt with in the real world? Not at all. In fact, Episode 1 and 2 are very misleading in this respect.

Why does Tokyo have a food shortage? The story seems to imply that food needs to be produced locally, and that indeed societies need to be self-sufficient to be food secure. In an era of global trade, however, they don't--indeed, the basic principles of international trade suggests that countries ought to focus on the production of products where they have a degree of comparative advantage, and then sell those items to acquire items that they can't produce as efficiently. (There are a lot of qualifiers here, but they're unnecessary for now.) Why produce expensive wheat (like Saudi Arabia does, using desalinated seawater at 17x the world price) when you can buy it far more cheaply from Canada, the US, Argentina, Australia (etc)? Why grow tomatoes in (cold) Montreal, when we can import them more cheaply from (warm) Mexico? And so forth.

In other words, why can't Tokyo buy the food it needs? Why isn't imported food cheaper than the (presumably very expensive) alternative of growing food on rooftops, where the small size of individual plots would mean that one would lose the economies of scale associated with larger areas? Only in a comic book would this be an appropriate response to potential famine.

Food insecurity around the world sometimes arises from local shortage (and high prices), but it also arises from distributional issues, income inequality, increases in global prices (due, for example, to ethanol production), changes in the prices of inputs, politics, taxation policies, war and the use of food/famine as a weapon of war, blockades, environmental change. Western trade protectionism in the agricultural sector is also a key problem for many commodities. It is fascinating--but complex--stuff, and developing appropriate responses involves understanding all of those interrelated, multidimensional social, economic, political environmental factors.

Effective policy responses, and effective social innovation, requires a nuanced understanding on problems and their social context.
Interesting questions! I had a similar question after reading the Episode 1 comic last week, but never really bothered to ask it.

I think that yes, the premise for this project is that food should be grown locally. Is there any research which tries to answer this question? Online reports that we can consult.

i would be very interested to see the discussion coming from your questions - i wonder how they will be answered.

Rex Brynen said:
It might be an interesting storyline, but does this really cast any light on how issues of food security emerge and are dealt with in the real world? Not at all. In fact, Episode 1 and 2 are very misleading in this respect.
The reason Tokyo needs to grown their own food is that; while their are other nations with food surplus transporting that food is very expensive and difficult. Also it is not too wise for a country to rely heavily on the support of another, because if the recent economic collapse of America has proven anything it's that no nation is immune to crisis.
In fact, most developed countries do transport most of their food--whether within their countries, or from other countries. It is typically far cheaper to do so than to grow all foodstuffs locally—and that trade, in turn, means that households can afford more food. Farmers in the developing world often wish there was MORE global trade in agriculture--so that they could sell their product into Europe or North America (which often have tariff and other barriers to protect their own farmers).

The current recession hasn't made it any more difficult to trade in foodstuffs.

My broader point is that EVOKE is providing a rather distorted and inaccurate portrayal of food insecurity issues--which is problematic for an educational resource.

My broader point

Wintermute said:
The reason Tokyo needs to grown their own food is that; while their are other nations with food surplus transporting that food is very expensive and difficult. Also it is not too wise for a country to rely heavily on the support of another, because if the recent economic collapse of America has proven anything it's that no nation is immune to crisis.
The rooftop idea may be an option for big cities such as Tokyo in a state when it is actually impossible or difficult to get food from elsewhere. But I can't see this of much relevance to developing country contexts. Local farmers in Mozambique produce little and have difficulties to transport their goods to local markets. So to transport food 100km from the farmer to the next big city may end up in the same or higher price than flying in imported vegetables, even though the local farmer hasn't much of a revenue, really. Certainly, many developing countries could have a much more efficient agricultural system, and it is a pity that they still work with tools and techniques that have been outlived in other parts of the world long ago.

In summary, I'd agree with fellow posters that growing "rooftop food" doesn't seem all too promising outside developed world cities.
How do you have food security in the absence of
right tools for food production.
2 the right food preservation processes?
3 the right and appropriate knowledge and information?
4 corruption and lack of accountability from people in places of authority.
This is the bane of Africa. How can a people with both human and natural resources in abundance not able to feed herself ?
Despite the benefits of commerce, locally produced food brings many benefits in terms of local weather regulations, environmental services, improving the way a city looks, closer urban-rural link, etc.

I agree that producing ALL food locally could not be the best option in most developed countries as cost would rise because of expensive land and/or wages and because culturally people would want to plant food from other weathers to keep eating in the same way. However, growing locally at least part of the food people eat and doing this using local plants would increase local biodiversity. Locally grown food will also increase food security as this food doesn´t have to go though any market system, so it could be delivered to people who don´t have access to food because of its cost.

The comic suggest local production of food in public places, that makes me think that at least that food would be free which would indeed improve food security even in a context of corruption, poverty, crisis or war where market systems might fail or be highly inefficient
Free trade was taken to the extreme without much thinking...or with much evil thinking...Equilibrium needs to be maintained and some degree of independency on food security (by people, families, communities and governments, in that order of course.

Rooftop plantations can only be seen as some sort of supplement, not the real solution.

Second, logistics of food distribution -for people or farm animals mind you- are always a big issue, and local pre-existing networks are usually the best bet.

Finally and for God's sake, let's discuss human overpopulation and the way to stop it, not to grow it as free trade buyers..! If Tokyo wants to reach what in the past was known as homeostasis, then we have to stop multiplying...
It's harsh for developing countries that they have to face global warming which was hardly caused by them, isn't it? In how far do developed countries need to feel responsible to alleviate problems in developing countries?
I've sent you a message Ridhô - and would be happy to help. =)

Ridhô Jeftha said:
I am looking for an Evoke mentor... I am lost
Much of Africa's is developing, and there is a huge gap in wealth, the rich are extremely so, the poor on the other end of the scale. The problem is researching then developing, as well as distributing, solutions for bugs, lack of fertile soil, drought, and the rigorous labor that the farmers endure.

Tokyo will not have a famine. If absolutely necessary, they can go back to the rice paddies. But there are so involved in global trade, that is quite unlikely. Africa has had multiple famines, and so it is more important to help those developing countries, such as Bangladesh. They need to take advantage of technological advancements, such as electricity. Giving them free solar power and wind power isn't the answer either, because the company's that "generously" do so will also build factories to provide the people with "consistent" jobs, or in other words, take advantage of cheap labor. We have to invest in and fund Electrical power companies operating in Africa, and urge them to expand into the country.
I don't think that Episode 2 is advocating that all food for a region must be produced locally. The geographical predisposition for growing certain foods (potatoes in Idaho, oranges in Florida) is fact. However, systems disruptions (natural like hurricanes/earthquakes, terrorist, political) happen. Major metropolitan areas that are entirely dependent on distribution networks thousands (or tens-of-thousands) of miles are vulnerable.

I would hope the goal is not for every city to produce its own Kobe beef and caviar platters. A much more sensible goal would be for cities to be able to support some baseline of staples for its population if disaster should strike.

I also applaud Evoke for using Tokyo, a "modern" 1st world location, to illustrate food security. Rather than resort to tired stereotypes about where food shortages might exist they've created a narrative that is surprising. It makes one stop and consider just how secure their own supermarket supplies might be.

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