Snow in the Suburbs

Planning to go out but a fall of snow has delayed that a little. Very little compared to a friend I’ve just spoken to in Pembrokeshire and up north in Yorkshire where another friend hasn’t managed to get into work.
Just a little snow in the suburbs? Well a little flurry or to poses some bigger questions as we’ve been gripped in the cold for a week or more now. National Grid warns of shortages of gas and tells power suppliers to use coal. Can we now? We’ve got a huge supply of the stuff but although we continue to burn it most of it comes from elsewhere. It’s far dirtier than our own and quite a bit more costly. One of the effects of global warming is that the warming Gulf Stream could switch off making it much colder in UK. One commentator has asked “Is this it?”
First question – how far can we continue to depend on power derived from foreign sources? Which of course begs the question of how we pay for what we are now using given that the multinationals control supply and price.
The Guardian the power question quickly with that of the supply of food, with minister Hilary Benn issuing dire warnings about food sustainability.
Second question – how far can we continue to depend on the huge businesses that supply so much of the food we consume? Being New Labour the role of big business is not the issue so can remain unchallenged.

By the Way:
Small Farmers Bolster Food Security
FT: January 5 2010 02:00 | Last updated: January 5 2010 02:00
From Mr David Fullbrook.
Sir, Small farmers are fingered as one of the causes of “output troubles” helping to push “soft commodities prices to historic highs” (report, December 28) because they are unable to respond to rising prices. I beg to differ.
A small farmer can see the changes in prices with his or her own eyes and take decisions about what and when to plant with his or her own hands in his or her own fields. A large farmer or agribusiness concern invariably will come to a decision after proposals to respond to changing prices have worked their way through layers of managers, many of whom will have never worked the fields.
That small farmers are unable to respond to prices as fast as we may wish or access credit or insurance is not through lack of desire, but as much as anything because of how governments, development partners and multilateral agencies have structured policies, information, markets, access and regulation to favour large farms and corporate investors. Big is imagined as better, and easier.
Big, as we have seen the banking debacle of the past few years, is also dangerous, concentrating risk, piling up vulnerabilities while eroding redundancy and reducing resilience.
Small farmers are every bit as productive as large farms, as can be seen by comparing Brazil and China, as the World Bank’s Vera Songwe and Klaus Deininger noted in January 2009. Moreover, small farms create more employment, reduce poverty and almost certainly contribute to stronger food security. Furthermore, food systems in which there are a multiplicity of producers, processors, traders and vendors are less likely to present opportunities for oligopolies, oligopsonies and speculators. Which is more than can be said for the current system.
David Fullbrook,
Food Security Analyst,
I learned Thomas Hardy’s “Snow in the Suburbs” by heart as a child. Having failed to send me to a private school my Mother worried about my speech and sent me for elocution lessons, which did little for my street cred at the time, so I had to recite to a nice lady called Thelma.

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