It’s Official: The End is Near

Cheese doodles sandwiched by two images from a Qatar Airlines ad

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that the price of corn has got so high due to its use for ethanol, that farmers are resorting to feeding livestock, “cookies, licorice, cheese curls, candy bars, french fries, frosted wheat cereal and peanut-butter cups.”

GARLAND, N.C.–When Alfred Smith’s hogs eat trail mix, they usually shun the Brazil nuts.

“Pigs can be picky eaters,” Mr. Smith says, scooping a handful of banana chips, yogurt-covered raisins, dried papaya and cashews from one of the 12 one-ton boxes in his shed. Generally, he says, “they like the sweet stuff.”

Mr. Smith is just happy his pigs aren’t eating him out of house and home. Growing demand for corn based ethanol, a biofuel that has surged in popularity over the past year, has pushed up the price of corn, Mr. Smith’s main feed, to near-record levels. Because feed represents farms’ biggest single cost in raising animals, farmers are serving them a lot of people food, since it can be cheaper.

Connecting the stories and ads in the WSJ is our favorite game to play in the morning over our coffee. We’re not alone in playing this game. Richard Jackson, Director of the CDC National Center for Environmental Health connected the dots with stories in the WSJ during a brilliant lecture we heard earlier this month at a public health conference (read one of Dr. Jackson’s papers on our screwed up built environment here). Jackson held up the morning’s paper and pointed out that separate stories on childhood obesity, air pollution and suburbanization are all related.

Today’s WSJ is a reminder of how this associational game increasingly paints a picture of a mad and dystopic science fiction reality. Along with the story on feeding livestock junk food, we have a story on Fermat Capital Management L.L.C., a money management firm led by a biophysicist that sells bonds, “linked to natural catastrophes, such as hurricanes”. So called “catastrophe bonds” are a method for insurance companies to ease the danger of losses on an uncertain future of global warming related natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina. On another page we find an ad for “America’s newest stars” Qatar Airway’s direct service between Washington D.C., New York and Doha. Together these stories and ads indicate a country so hooked on driving that our business and government power elites jet off to Qatar to cut deals with corrupt and homicidal oil interests while simultaneously sacrificing our agriculture to our gas tanks, all the while covering the environmental consequences with increasingly exotic financial instruments.

Madness! We fear comrades, that it’s time to prepare,.

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