Friday 21 January 2011

Food For Thought

What is striking about the media coverage of events at present is not only the relentless attention given to some of the grubbier aspects of our political culture but what appears to be a loss of focus on the nature of the present problems and the means and ends of dealing with them.

Sometimes a head bravely appears above the parapet. Laura Sandys M.P. for South Thanet in the latest “Ecologist” newsletter deals with food security. She points out that in many ways we have been living in a fools paradise that is about to end.

What did catch my eye was the short part where she more or less says that we will need a Royal Navy suitably equipped with Special Forces to ensure that our supply lines are viable and protected. Not only that, but we need to spend more time thinking about our own ability to produce both a wide range and sufficient foods.

To do that and other basic things to enable us to more or less survive economically if it all turns nasty, as it has done so often in the past, our policies need to take into account not just short term fixes or Ra Ra prestige stunts but making sure about all the various elements of the continuance of the polity.

In terms of education the government is going in for Academies. We have those which specialize. The performing arts is one favourite designed to prepare people for a strictly service sector notorious for its very high levels of unemployment, insecurity, low wages for the many and riches for the very few as well as being one of most vulnerable to all sorts of rapid change and fashions.

The there are sports and business studies. It seems we need more gold medalists in the future. Has anyone calculated just how many we are likely to win and so the average cost of each one? At present rates of expenditure each would cost roughly the same as a new Olympic Stadium.

As for “business studies”, in effect what they mean for the vast majority of them is training for the very middling and low paid jobs they can aspire to because not many of them will ever get anywhere near the highest paid. As entrepreneurs of the future will need capital, they are unlikely to get it in the foreseeable future.

For a smack of reality look at what is happening at the LSE which claimed that in 2007 around 30% of its graduates went into the City and related finance sector with many others doing a variety of business and public sector management courses.

I quote what the Director, Howard Davies, will be talking about shortly in public:

“In December the coalition government agreed a new fee regime for EU undergraduates in British universities, along with other changes to the regulation of higher education, following the Browne Review.

Over the next few months universities will need to decide how to position themselves in the new environment. The consequences for the LSE are quite serious, involving the loss of all grants for teaching.

A final decision on fees will need to be made this summer. But how is the School addressing the challenge? And what kind of future can it look forward to under the new regime?”

As it happens the LSE has a great many students from abroad. Indeed it is arguable that its present undergraduate number from the UK is not many more than forty to fifty years ago. My guess is that numerically there are certainly far fewer UK working class men there now than in the 1950’s.

At the same time, the bankers want to import top people, the retailers want to import routine line managers, some sectors are being out-sourced and others rely on contact and particular agency supplied staff. Not least in the media and other parts the use of interns and short term contracts creates obstacles to those who need a real living wage.

Under the previous government the “management” of agriculture has resulted in the reduction of the numbers of farms and farmers and the driving of key skills off the land and out of the rural communities. These are not skills that can easily be dealt with by people with only general management or business studies education.

Much of our food supply is in the hands of large producers and processors under the thumb of the international money men. They are not using much in the way of UK management and even fewer workers.

If the banks are not going to give credit to the middling and small farmers and the subsidies have gone to Europe just what can happen to the UK food supply if the world supply begins to fall well short of basic needs elsewhere?

Again, if you doubt that food can be short, just read some history. I do not need to because I remember all too well the 1940’s.

Anyone for leftovers?

1 comment:

  1. No seat, Demetrius, our EU masters will starve us into the euro.