Welcome to The Coast's 666th edition, the Issue of the Beast. A couple weeks ago was the paper's 15th anniversary, and around then I was in a meeting with some local business owners and I mentioned the birthday. The group burst into applause, a thankfully brief ovation that I felt a little embarrassed accepting for the paper. The entrepreneurs in the room clapped because they know it's all too rare for any Halifax venture to survive five years, let alone 10 or (gulp) 15. How could I tell them that for a bunch of Coast staffers, those of us whose teen years included massive doses of satanic kitsch from bands like Iron Maiden, issue 666 is a more exciting milestone than 15 years?
For this issue's editorial, I went looking for something appropriately diabolical to write about. Although at first I worried about finding a topic, turns out the world really is going to hell. For just one local instance, it feels like the devil's hand must be steering the Chebucto Road fiasco, with last week's blessed stop to the madness getting undone at city council this week. (See "Reconstruction" on page nine for the full report.) But what really strikes me is the attention being paid to the triple threat of global warming, rising oil prices and increasing fears of famine. These problems link together like a perfect storm or a new take on Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades.
The United Nations recently held a meeting to talk about ethanol and the fact some countries are using corn for gasoline, while people in other countries are starving. "After three days of squabbling, the UN's final declaration did nothing to halt, even slow, the rise of the biofuels industry," writes Eric Reguly in the Globe and Mail. "Turning food into fuel was, in effect, sanctioned by the very UN food agencies that had called the summit to find solutions to the food crisis. People can go hungry. But heaven forbid that you can't find biofuels to fill your tank."
The addiction car drivers have to oil is obvious. The worse, and more insidious, addict is the industrial farmer.
In a horrible feedback loop, this modern agrarian burns fossil fuel at practically every step of the growing process, both producing greenhouse gas emissions and helping keep the price of oil up. As gas prices rise, so does the pressure to use crops to feed cars instead of people. And that's without trying to account for how escalating global warming is sure to fuck with the food supply, by causing unexpected trouble for farmlands and growing conditions all over the world.
Cue "2 Minutes to Midnight."
Using less fossil fuel is a big key to solving all the world's problems. Car drivers, power companies, airlines, factories, farmers, governments, anyone and everyone needs to evolve past the culture of waste that's brought us here. It's simple. Just like Adam and Eve's instruction to leave the apple alone in the Garden of Eden.
In the real world, profiteers are happy to reap further rewards from today's chaotic times. The chemical fertilizers and pesticides that enable industrial farming are manufactured with fossil fuels and most farmers are so out of touch with pre-industrial growing methods they have no choice but to pay more when the price of chemicals follows oil. William J. Doyle, president of a potash fertilizer company, recently wrote a Globe and Mail article describing how "potash companies are increasingly profitable and shareholders are being rewarded for their investment in the industry."
Doyle certainly wasn't using his pulpit in the Globe to warn farmers off the oil teat. Instead he called for governments worldwide to help spread the plague of industrial farming, noting that potash "application rates in many countries have been far below the scientifically recommended levels." If his vision holds sway, corn farmers from Peru to Laos can one day dream of selling their corn to our cars, in deals the devil would be happy to broker.