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The greasier the city, the fatter its residents

Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON – If you live in a city with more places to buy double-doubles, Big Macs and Mama Burgers, you’re more likely to get really fat, new research from the University of Alberta confirms.

For every extra fast-food restaurant per 10,000 people, a city’s obesity rate goes up three per cent, said Sean Cash.

Cash is a health economics professor who drew up an “obesity map” that plots obesity rates and the density of the top 10 fast-food chains in Canada.

“The strong relationship really suggests that access to fast food may indeed be one of the issues that may explain increasing obesity rates,” Cash said…
(19 December 2007)

Can Britain Feed Itself?

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Clearly, in the context of energy descent, this is a question we should all be asking, yet amazingly no one has really asked it in any depth since Kenneth Mellanby’s book ‘Can Britain Feed Itself’ published in 1975. In the most recent issue of the excellent publication The Land, editor and planning reform campaigner Simon Fairlie returns to Mellanby’s report and attempts what he admits is a “back of an A4 envelope” update, and the results are fascinating. You can download the pdf. of his report here, it may be the most fascinating and important piece of reading you take away with you for the Christmas break. His conclusion is similar to Mellanby; yes Britain can feed itself, but the key is the amount of meat we consume.

The UK can feed itself organically, he argues, but the weak point is the production of meat. In the scenario he sets out which is of most relevance to Transition work, which he calls the “Permaculture approach”, he allocates land for meat (83 grams of red meat per person per day, the equivalent of a family roast on a Sunday, and about half what people eat now, as well as some pigs, chickens, fish and sheep), for intensive horticulture and fruit, for wheat (both for grain and for thatching), for textiles, firewood and for biomass, and argues that this can all be done organically, with 2.8 million hectares left over to play with.
(20 December 2007)

Living on the Fife Diet
(local Scottish food)
Finlo Rohrer, BBC News Magazine
Food miles have become a burning issue in the climate debate as campaigners call for people to eat more local food. What happened when a family tried to survive on food only from Fife?

Whether it’s avocados from Peru, green beans from Kenya or lamb from New Zealand, people are constantly being told that their dietary choices have an impact on carbon emissions.

In the US, the term “locavore” has been applied to people that eat locally-sourced food.

And in response to this, green activists in Canada conceived the “100-mile diet”, with volunteers trying only to eat food from within a hundred-mile radius of their home.

But another group of volunteers in Fife have adopted and adapted the idea. They’ve created the Fife Diet and are trying to live on a diet of food that is largely from within the area, shunning air-freight goods.

Writer Mike Small is one of the volunteers and he and his wife Karen and children Sorley and Alex have now been on the diet for two months.

“Its incredible we’ve come to the situation where people find it inconceivable to eat food from near where you live,” Small argues.

“Our food system is failing us all and is unsustainable. In a few years local will be as mainstream as organic and it will be thought ridiculous to purchase air-freighted goods that you could get from Scotland or your own region.”

Here is a week in the life of the Fife Diet, as well as the likely menu for Christmas lunch.
(20 December 2007)

World food stocks dwindling rapidly, UN warns

Elisabeth Rosenthal, International Herald Tribune
In an “unforeseen and unprecedented” shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.

The changes created “a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food,” particularly in the developing world, said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The agency’s food price index rose by more than 40 percent this year, compared with 9 percent the year before – a rate that was already unacceptable, he said. New figures show that the total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25 percent, to $107 million, in the last year.

At the same time, reserves of cereals are severely depleted, FAO records show. World wheat stores declined 11 percent this year, to the lowest level since 1980. That corresponds to 12 weeks of the world’s total consumption – much less than the average of 18 weeks consumption in storage during the period 2000-2005. There are only 8 weeks of corn left, down from 11 weeks in the earlier period.
(17 December 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

Food prices soar in America

Aaron Smith, CNNMoney
John Norris’ family is drinking a lot less milk these days. He said he considers the higher prices and has cut back on his kids’ milk consumption. But between work and family obligations, he still drives almost as much as he used to.

“That’s the reason I cut down on milk consumption – so I can drive my car,” said Norris.

And Norris should know. He’s the director of wealth management for Oakworth Capital Bank and a food price expert.

The Norrises aren’t the only family getting pinched at the grocery store. Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 4.7 percent since the beginning of the year through November, outpacing the 4.3 percent increase in the overall cost-of-living, according to the federal government’s Consumer Price Index.

Everyday foods like fruits and vegetables, beef, poultry and cereals are on the rise. The price of milk is the biggest culprit
(20 December 2007)