The Great Famine occurred 1845 through 1850, with what is known as Black 47, being the worst. If you have heard me lecture on The Great Famine you know there is much we can learn from the death that swept through the Irish homeland.
|Skibbereen 1847 by Cork artist James Mahony (1810–1879),|
one town in Ireland horribly afflicted by
the Great Famine.
The Irish, because of poverty and an onerous legal system which put them at the mercy of ruling British officials, had come to depend solely on the potato for food. It could be planted and harvested without tools, the potato can be cooked and even eaten without utensils and provided not too shabby of a diet. But the Irish grew only two varieties of potato: The Lumper and the Green Apple, both of which were highly susceptible to the Potato Blight that swept Europe prior to 1845. When the blight hit Ireland, it went through the potato crop like a hot knife through butter. The Irish watched their only food supply rot in the ground overnight.
You might be inclined to think, "So?" But one of the lessons humans might have learned from the Great Famine would be to not plant so much of only one crop and especially without some genetic diversity in that one crop.
Let's think about the number of items in our supermarkets that are made from corn. What would happen if the corn crop in the US suddenly were to be the victim of a pathogen? Do you realize that most of the millions of acres of corn in the United States are very similar - like the Irish potatoes - genetically? Try to imagine a supermarket from which corn or corn derivatives are no longer there. What do you come up with - how many empty shelve on how many aisles? It is apparent our government has not learned from history. What's that line, "Those who know history are doomed to watch those who don't know history repeat it without fail." It's enough for an ulcer. Or high blood pressure.
We are affluent and have a good deal of political will which the Irish did not have. The seed library movement is one way we can move to prevent or, at the very least, ameliorate the effects of such a pathogen destroying our food crops. First off, begin to grow some of your own food - to the degree you can, become independent from the supermarket near you. Encourage your family and friends to join with you in finding ways to avoid the supermarket and to grow more of your own food.
And above all, acknowledge that the only way to be Food Secure is to be Seed Secure. Imperative in this, we need to plant a diversity of all types of our foods and to have plenty of different genetic varieties in abundance. If a blight takes out one, another will survive. One of the most troubling characteristics of our food supply as proffered by the multi-national corporations is a huge loss of genetic diversity. We must find that diversity and re-establish that as our hallmark of famine prevention. The only way to abundance is through changing this lack of diversity.
We can do a lot to prevent a repeat of food famine like the famines that cursed Ireland. Let's take a moment of this remembrance day to reflect on what we can do now. The Seed Library of Los Angeles meets May 17th in the Learning Garden on the campus of Venice High School at the intersection of Walgrove Avenue and Venice Blvd. Check out our website too.