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Vernon Nolan

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A World army to supply food free for all.

This whole monetary crisis & the expected recession would not be so serious if it were not fraught with the real danger of many people dying for lack of food. As unemployment & business failure grows inexorably, fewer people will be able to buy food. There are many soup kitchens & feeding places but they too will be finding it more difficult to source food.
The situation is very similar to wartime, & we will have to take action similar to that which some people had to during the wars. Except that the changes will be permanent. We cannot take temporary measures hoping the 'war will go away. The 'old times will never return.
Everyone now needs to find ways of producing food. Whole communities need to join together to do this, so that major facilities can be constructed. All areas where it is possible to produce food must be converted to food production as efficiently as possible. All the latest & best techniques for growing must be employed to get maximum yields at the least effort. Everyone must try & produce enough for others. If we find ourselves being the only ones with any food we would be very vulnerable.
This is a global issue & everyone must take part. The commercial growers will be unable to operate profitably so they might as well join in. The objective will be to create a glut of food which can sustain everyone. Eventually, we can form into a volunteer army which will take over all food production & distribute it to everyone on the planet. Of course governments will have to be involved, But the overall objective will be guarantee adequate food supplies to everyone for ever. Everyone will be expected to contribute, say, 250 hours each year. Of course, they will receive all their food for life.
This seems like dream, but imagine the resulting effect on the whole world. Never having to worry about going hungry, the major stresses we suffer will diminish & this will automatically promote World peace.
Comments please.Any useful suggestions?

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    Nov 2 2011: Hi Laurens,
    Of course it is Utopian. What is the point of aiming for less. I believe people are already changing, there are plenty of signs. Think how you were just 5 years ago, before the Internet.
    Most people are egotistical, not just capitalists.That is what is changing, no matter what system they follow. We have moved on from specialization. Now a single machine can do many different tasks. They even set themselves up by changing tools etc. Versatility will be the theme in future. The robots will be almost human and will be programmable to do anything a very strong man could do. They will utterly efficient.
    The nasties are everywhere, not just Capitalists. We will have to tame them one way or another.
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    Nov 1 2011: Yes Terry, we must be wary of such a possibility as you describe. Such a body would need to connive in secret with people all over the World. Hackers would expose any suspicious activity.
    In any case, I believe most people would live in relatively small communities scattered around the globe. Each community would have it's own food production facilities. Working in these areas would be the most consistent occupation. So, living around them makes eminent sense. There will be very little need for gathering otherwise. The reasons living in cities are fast disappearing.
    There will be a need for a global co-ordination body, but they need not have any authority outside their function. This would be to collect statistics from around the Earth, & advise the many production units as to quantity of each type of produce that will be needed, & where. By this time we should have a register of all 7+ billion people on Earth. They will have to sort out any surpluses or shortages, calling on particular communities as needed, to adjust the discrepencies, or supply a disaster. Each production unit must provide for their whole community + make a surplus for any contingency.
    Maximum efficiency would be the motto for all food production, consistent with the primary objective of ensuring the supply of sufficient, sound, healthy food to their communities. Gluttony will be discouraged. Food waste will be a cause for community punishment, such as; ostracism, or other social justice. Surplus food must be returned for pig food or fertilizer.
    There are many details that need to be worked out. All I am doing is providing a starting place. Everyone seems to be busy criticising. Now let's try to think of what we want to have happen. Everyone's ideas and comments are of value. We are all equally special.
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      Nov 10 2011: I am all for distribution as a risk mitigation model but as an economic model you are suggesting that we revert back to the tribal hunter gatherer days. Perhaps you feel that the ubiquity of information that exists in todays "centralized and specialized" society would carry over and if that were true I could see your point. Take the distributed model of human relationships and overlay an global community compliments of ubiquitous communication and voila!

      Now let's think it through. Global communication doesn't exist as the efforts of local tribes most of who's time is spent providing food. The hackers or self proclaimed "police" of the greater good would also have the capability to corner power by withholding information so information warfare would decimate your global tranquility.

      I'm afraid we can't go back in time and recreate the past with new technology and have a better world. The cosmos moves on and we must as well and work for the best. The last time I heard someone selling "the good old days" it was the 80's and Ronald Reagan was offering "morning in America" for the price of turning back to clock to the 30's. Congratulations! he succeeded. We now have a 30's style depression with even more global consequences.
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        Nov 11 2011: Of course Terry, everything has to be worked through by many people. I am just throwing ideas for consideration.
        The future must continue to improve on the past, but not limited by it. For a start the whole thing has to be Global. It has to work for everyone. Certainly, I am for the future, but a future with at least the highest degree of happiness as was ever achieved. Depressions give us all a chance to change the status quo. The people must decide what to do next not rich men covering their backsides.
        Producing a glut would render food not commercial but no one need be hungry. You see the World does not have to run economically.
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    Oct 31 2011: Any entity which supplied something as fundamental as food with no competition would by definition have unlimited power. What do you suppose such an organization would do with that power? History gives us many examples and none of them ended in world peace.
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    Oct 31 2011: Hi again Jorgen, I understand your caution about the future. I am much more optimistic about the future generations. Correspondence like this is happening everywhere. To achieve a World such as we all seem to long for, will require a massive change in human nature. But that miracle seems to be actually happening. One thing all of us can do is create food. If we can create a glut of food we will have a buffer to keep us all alive while all the other problems are sorted out.
    Most of us probably spend at least 250 hours aq year fetching, preparing and cleaning up food. Requiring everyone to serve in this way, should not be hard to achieve. Especially as they.will be getting adequate food all their lives. We will not be encouraging gluttony. Some countries require service like this for military purposes already.
    Over population, crime, greed, violence, are all caused by fear due to insecurity. If we can eliminate this basic fear, most everything can fall into place.
    The Elite leaders are driven by this same fear. They can never be satisfied that they have enough money to keep them safe. The poor need more and more children to support them in their old age.
    Food is not so difficult to create. Just now the seven billion baby was born. Because we are all alive at this moment, there must have been enough food for us all. In fact, there must have more because so much is wasted. Commercial growers will stop or slow production when they cannot make enough profit on further sales. Most of them could easily produce more and they must be persuaded to do so. Their hearts, too, must be softening.
    Without money future leaders will not act in their own self interests, as the current world leaders seem to. Leaders will be chosen on their proven ability to do the work in hand, not on what they promise.
    There is a way to ensure a bright future for all. Let's do it
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    Nov 11 2011: I love the way you have thought this through and I adore that heart that conceived the idea. Having everyone involved in the common sense approach to encouraging food to be grown in every viable location around the world is a wonderful idea. Even in many senior's residences they are encouraging gardening in raised beds. On another TED question the other day, I encouraged Raul to add nut trees to the fruit trees he is already planting. I loved his statement that while he might never see a crop from them, others planted the trees he enjoys today. I would be happy to put in my 250 hours!
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    Nov 4 2011: I understand the abhorrence of war. but what do you call it when millions are expected to die as a result of this financial crisis. ( I cannot find the references, but there have been several). Pooling resources to produce food is one of the better aspects of war. I suppose most people will not believe it until they find starving people at their door. I am not scaremongering, but obviously, something is about to happen. It is in Greece already.
    All I am suggesting for now, is that people think about it and figure what they could do. Turning flower beds into veggie gardens is only an interim measure. But I do believe food does not get nearly enough priority. Future administrations must do this instead of frivolities such as space exploration, professional sport, entertainment, etc. It is not money we need to do it. It is manpower. With 7 billion people, surely we can do all the necessary work first. Save all lives first, then go out and play.
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    Nov 2 2011: By the way, I got a glimpse of what free energy could look like in Justin Hall-Tipping's talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/justin_hall_tipping_freeing_energy_from_the_grid.html If you are interested and watch it, I hope you enjoy it too
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    Nov 2 2011: Hello Vernon. I think that it is a fantastic idea. The practical aspect is indeed extremely challenging, I will agree with some of the comments posted, and no doubt many will call it unfeasible. But the idealism that I sense in your words is admirable. When we are in places of despair, dreams are what can push us out and in the right direction.

    I would embark in this task with the equally idealistic goal of producing free energy. And of course I would do it in phases. First focusing on research on renewable energy only, then focusing on one that can be mass produced cheaply. As you have mentioned, each community is different and would have to take advantage of their own local resources. Then working slowly to increase efficiency to reduce the cost. I would bet that by selecting only a few technologies, in less than a hundred years (yes I didn't say it was a short term project!) you could bring the production cost to nearly zero. Once you have a way to produce energy nearly at zero cost, you can apply this energy towards production of potable water, irrigation for farming, transportation, etc etc. An enormous cascade of side effects comes out of it. Maybe somewhere in that path your dream could start to take form?

    Keep in mind that either free food or free energy would require a conscious effort to minimize (if not eradicate) dependency on others. One of the truest meanings of promoting independence, is to give something with no strings attached.

    I will be eagerly following your project.
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      Nov 2 2011: Of course Andres, I reckon that everything aught to be free, but we must be responsible not to waste any of it. While sustainable energy has to maximized, the most obvious thing we can do is stop using as much as we do. Do we really need street lighting? What about garden lights? And advertising? So much lighting is used, even when there is no one around. Why not have all lighting with motion sensors.
      Wind farms cluster together. It has to be reticulated and that takes as much energy as the pay load. Why not put each near a small community instead of sending it all round the country.Why do we need 100% backup power? A few hours without power will not really hurt anyone.
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        Nov 3 2011: Hi again Vernon. I agree with you, eliminating wasteful activities would be a very important goal in this quest. We might not need all the excessive energy commodities that we enjoy today, and I think that for some of them the effort to eliminate waste is not as big as people would think. The examples and ideas you suggest should be looked at. Nothing prevents us from walking both paths in parallel.

        However, if there was only room for one of those activities, either either apply efforts to cutting wasteful activities or applying them to the development of free energy, I would still pick the later, and my motivation is simple: free (or near free) energy goes long ways to empower (pun intended) and promote true independence for a larger percent of the population

        Now, going back to your goal of an army to supply food free for all... Are you aware of other efforts (in particular small scale local efforts) in other parts of the world? If so what have you learned from them?
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    Nov 1 2011: Interesting idea, but highly utopian. Your idea should take into account such mundane facts as:

    1. in capitalist consumer societies people are egotistical - so you have to change the capitalist system first, in order to produce the desired psychological effect of solidarity (not charity, but solidarity)

    2. modernity is based on specialisation: a small group of people are experts in farming; if everybody has to become a farmer, you will end up with a mass of inefficient hobbyists - which is an ecological danger

    3. don't underestimate the incredible nastiness, violent nature and power of capitalists - examples of bioterrorism commited by U.S. agribiz companies on other countries' agricultural sectors are rife (think of the United Fruit Company which destroyed millions of acres of land in Latin America by creating artificial plagues...).

    Apart from that, it's always good to dream.
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    Oct 31 2011: nothing is more dangerous and evil than the war metaphor. in war, one can crush lives, oppress dissent, waste extreme amount of resources, destroy liberty and property, suspend rational debate and hinder progress and wellbeing in many other ways.

    in times of such thinking, everyone rushes to propose what we all must do, before others manage to push their ideas. this desperate quest for power leads to the very suffering we want to alleviate.
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    Oct 30 2011: I was about to suggest that you read Jared Diamond's book "Collapse" ... when I saw that it had already appeared as "related".

    I'm afraid that some of the steps you suggest, would be impossible without a centralized world government, which would have to limit people's freedom pretty severely. I don't object to such a government as a matter of principle - I'm willing to reduce my own freedom if it could help other like you suggest - but I don't think there's any example anywhere in the history of mankind, of such a system actually working. In fact, I believe it would end up destroying the economic system that's brought us this far - and hasten the inevitable collapse.

    It's already happening, in places like Somalia, Afghanistan and Haiti. The big question is what'll happen when the world becomes so interconnected, that these "local" collapses become global. You can see the fall of the Twin Towers as a striking example of what happens when a society in the process of collapsing, gets to interact too easily with one that's still growing - through the medium of cheap air travel and cheap communications. They didn't even need our cheap high-tech explosives or other weapons.
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      Oct 31 2011: Thank Jorgen.
      I am sure there are many people who have similar ideas, but do you think the idea itself,is sound? Yes, I think there will be a global authority, bu it does not have to be a Government. It could just be a co-ordination body. Their purpose would be avoid duplication and encourage joint action between countries. Everyone is calling for Freedom,so they are not going to accept more government.Future leaders must arise from the grass-roots level, not from the Elite
      The objective of free food for everyone, may seem impossible now, but what do the unemployed and poor people do now?
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        Oct 31 2011: I've been comparing the status of today's unemployed with the status of slaves, as we had them in our society less than 1000 years ago. The laws back then had lots of rules protecting the slaves. The ownesr couldn't randomely "set them free", for erxample, and demand that they take care of themselves. Also, the ultimate punishment at that point was not death, but to be placed outside society. It has struck me that that's what we're doing to today's "wage slaves": Randomely "setting them free", and pushing them outside the limits of society by foreclosing on their houses and denying them medical coverage.

        Unfortunately, I don't believe that we'll get a world government or anything like it as things get worse. When people don't have enough to eat, predatory and parasitic behavour tends to escalate. And it's unpleasantly rare to see good leaders come into power, when when the grass-roots level rises and takes over power from the elite. I predict that the world will be sliding towards a "somalia" style chaos, rather than towards a rational "United Nations" order.

        Which makes it all the more important to solve today's food problems in a rational manner. Our short-term problem is not a lack of food, but that a lot of people llack enough money to buy it, while other people have enough money to convert grain into (for them) cheap meat, and eat themselves to death. Our long-term problems arefar worse: Soil erosion, salinization, deforestation, and drying up of our most productive agricultural areas.

        I'm also afraid that "free food for all" is going to be a very short-term solution: The population will again expand to the point where lack of food (or epidemics) prevents it from growing further.