Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

"Alchemy called. Tokyo," I said as I rinsed the winter greens. I shook them off.

"How bad is it?" asks K, my sixteen year old daughter as she runs the knife over the steel to true the edge.

"Bad enough that Alchemy called ... people expect food shortages in India or Africa or well, most of the world, but Japan. The Europeans will think they're next." I said as I handed the greens to K.

C, my son, 11, looks up from his school work. "How come?"

"Any takers?" I ask.

M, my fourteen year old daughter chimes in "Because they will be next if they aren't careful and lucky."

"Why?" I get the hazelnuts we shelled earlier today having saved the shells for the pyrolytic stove - cradle to cradle - waste is food for something else - and began toasting them over the wood stove.

The kids are smart, but they have to chew on the question for a bit. K chops and bins the roots and stems in the compost bucket. She used to be squeamishabout the worms, but nearly a decade on and off the Farm has cured her ... mostly.

"They don't grow enough to support their own populations ... especially with the climate migrations. France has added, what, a quarter more in population. And then the desert latitudes moving north ..." said M.

"Or south, if you are below the equator," added C.

"And for that brilliant observation, why don't you go to the root cellar and get some dried fruit - apples, persimmon, strawberries, and cherries. The raspberries are always too seedy. And five good sized potatoes."


"Just be glad I didn't leave in the ground or you'd be digging them out ..."

C closed his book and headed for the door grabbing a bucket on the way.

"Growing population. Not enough food. Why worry? They still make a lot more than a worker in Chengdu. They can just buy the food on the international market ..."

K had retrieved some cheese we had traded for with the farmer about three miles up the road. She rolled her eyes.

"Father, even you know a little about financial markets. Mom taught you some stuff."

"What stuff?"

"According to Mom, the global rice harvest is down 30% between the blight in the Southern US, warming in the tropics, and all that flooding. Add the extinction of blue fin and yellow fin in the pacific and the reduction of allowed catch of most other wild species by 75% - like lack of fish wouldn't force them to do it anyway - and you've just eliminated two big components of the Japanese diet. And don't get me started about tea. Mom is still trying to get you to grow some bushes in the greenhouse. Tea in Wisconsin! Ten years ago, it was still a commodity."

"And what?"

M looked disgusted, "Like you don't know already. The moment Tokyo turns to the world markets to try and buy enough food to get through the crisis, speculators start running up the futures markets. Food prices soar. Tokyo gets more desperate and tries to buy more, but food prices only go up and up. Panic
sets in. Other net importers begin to freak out and buy. Food exporters freak out and worry about whether they have enough for their own people and local politician demoagog the issue. Soon, ttrade barriers come up and even wealthy European countries can't buy food. That is why the Europeans will think they are next. Are you done with the lesson?"

"What lesson? We're just making dinner." I said as I took the bucket from my son as he came back in.
"You, rinse the potatoes. You, cut the fruit. You, set the table. And what should Alchemy do about

"Summon Godzilla and have dino tempura for years?" suggested C. "With Mothra as an appetizer."

"You do realize, they are not real," replied K.

"Just like your boyfriend," C shoots back.

"Can't America ship some food?" asked M.

"Some, sure. But that won't solve the underlying problem. Besides, with the plains states drying up and the aquifers running out, not many people are feeling generous. We have plenty of climate refugees in our own borders. Do you remember what happened when they closed the tap on Phoenix? It's just the start." I replied.

"So they permaculture up the place. Perennial polyculture. Trees, shrubs, all the rest, just like us." said C.

"Great, for the future. Our farm went permaculture 15 years ago and the plants are still coming on. Oaks take decades. They need food sooner than that. In months, they need annuals on not much land."

"How about aeroponics? Like that guy was trying in Singapore?" K said.

"Okay, so we order up 100,000 aeroponic farms ..."

"I'm not saying that, Dad. They need to build them with what they have on hand. Maybe hydroponics ... I don't know," said K.

"Fires!" said C.

"How is arson going to help?" replied M.

"No, fire sprinklers. Every office tower is going to have plenty of them. What if people in Tokyo used the offices on the southern side or whatever got decent light, reworked the plumbing so that the sprinklers in those areas would water the plants, and presto - food." said C.

"What about fertilizer?" asked M.

I grated the potatoes for the rosti and let the kids work. Besides, I never would have thought of the fire sprinklers.

"Poo." said C.

"I'm serious." said M.

"No, poo, poop, crap, human waste," said C. "Except you have disease issues ..."

The kids were quiet for a time considering and putting together the salad of cheese from the neighbor, winter greens from our winter greenhouse, hazelnuts harvested last fall, and dried fruits harvested and dehydrated in the solar dryers last summer. I heated the pan then cracked some eggs into the grated potatoes and mixed them in.

"Biodigesters in the basement," said K. "You'd have to restrict what went down the toilets, but treating
the black water then recycling it up to the plants should be possible. It would mainly be repurposing the
plumbing. The infrastructure would already mostly exist."

"How do they get the seeds?" I asked.

Silence, except for the sizzle of potato on the griddle.

"Instead of seedballs, let's send them seed envelopes. An envelope with say twenty or more seed in it." said M.

"How do you get people to do it?" said K.

"What? Everybody likes a contest. Get a little sponsor money, pick a random resident of Tokyo, and whoever sends seeds to the person first wins a prize. You could even advertise it as a practical joke. You could get more seeds than you could afford otherwise and nobody would jack up the price, because
they wouldn't see the need." said M.

"Okay, dinner is almost ready, but no one has told me what the growth medium would be." I said as I flipped the rosti.

"Gee, maybe that can be your job, Dad. Since we already figured out the rest." said K.
The other two agreed.

"Okay, okay. I will try to come up with something. And won't your mother be surprised that we one a free trip to Tokyo. She can visit her friend in Yokohama. Now, call her for dinner and NOTHING about Alchemy. She'd never believe it."

The kids bellowed up the stairs then headed to the wash room to wash their hands as I tried to figure out what I'd need our farm manager to do while we played"tourist" in Tokyo. But he wouldn't be short handed. The nearby town had added a thousand people as refugees from the growing dust bowls in the Dakotas headed east and a lot of the local farmers were employing and feeding as many as they could manage. There was talk that the government would come in with a program to solve the refugee problems, but most around here shrugged their shoulders and didn't wait for someone far away to finish talking.

I put the rosti and hazelnut-fruit-cheese salad on the table with some watered down honey mead (the kids had mostly water).and waited for the family. One of the cats wanders in and looks to the table.

"No meat tonight," I tell him, "but I'll share what I've got."

Views: 14

Comment by Bongumusa on March 22, 2010 at 11:00am
A lot of information. Thank you for giving us such infor.
Comment by Michele Baron on March 22, 2010 at 2:47pm
interesting posting again!
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 22, 2010 at 4:41pm
Great writing style! So many points you make, from what I understand the disease issue with humanure is only if its not processed correctly (its highly regulated here in the states), but the contamination with hormones and antibiotics is much harder to deal with without complex mycoremediation...


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