Winona LaDuke, a White Earth activist, was the keynote speaker at the Back to Basics conference last weekend. On White Earth reservation, they are gaining local control of two-thirds of their economy by developing local food production and wind power. With local control over our economy, they will no be longer at the mercy of Wall Street and the global economy.
How can we gain local control of food? We can buy our food from members of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota; we can send our children to the Moorhead State University Sustainable Food Production Program (which has an online component). We can landscape with native plants, which don't require lots of commercial fertilizer and other resources to be successful. There are cottage industries producing local clothing, such as the Alpacas of Whistling Wind Farm, and Courtyard Boutique in Nisswa.
How can we gain local control of energy? By investing in geothermal, solar, hydroelectric, and wind energy, and by reducing our use of petroleum with more energy-efficient forms of transportation, heating, and lighting.
We can even go further and share skills with our neighbors, thus reducing outsourcing of other services. The more self-sufficient our community, the less we will be affected by economic recessions.
Food costs lead to revolution
We watch as the winds of freedom seek to blow down a long standing Egyptian dictator. I suggest that it is not a yearning for freedom but Egypt’s rising price for food and fuel which is toppling President Mubarek.
Throughout history, rulers have maintained power by subsidizing the masses. Roman rulers held power with bread and circuses. In Central America, when rains failed and the corn withered, Mayan kings were exposed as mortals who could not control the weather, and that civilization perished. French bread prices soared as crops failed in 1788 and 1789. That sent Parisiens to the streets to topple the French monarchy. Today, in the Middle East and Venezuela, long standing regimes use oil revenues to content their people.
In Egypt, declining oil production and rising domestic demand will turn the country into an oil importer in 2011. Since the mid 1990s, Egypt’s annual oil exports have declined from well over 100 million barrels to near zero. In the same period domestic food and energy consumption rose sharply as the population grew from 60 million to 80 million. Arid Egypt imports 40 percent of its food and is one of the world’s largest importers of wheat, paid for in the past by oil exports. World food prices are near record levels, driven in part by a new demand, as hundreds of millions of motor vehicles edge in at the dinner table for their diet of biofuels.
President Chavez of Venezuela has drained his country’s oil industry to support aggressive welfare programs. High oil prices are propping him up for the moment.
Differences about political philosophy usually don’t send men to the streets to confront guns and tear gas. But when they can’t afford to feed their children, they are in the front ranks of the marchers.