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#foodcrisis offers a genuinely novel and engaging overview of what is quickly becoming a critical issue for many global citizens: international food security. Equal parts imaginative storytelling and literature review of recent empirical research, the book by University of Guelph’s Evan Fraser serves as a unique introduction for anyone interested in the current state and future of food systems.
#foodcrisis is divided into two sections, beginning with the fictional story of a global food crisis in the year 2025 and concluding with 13 brief background essays exploring the various topics raised throughout the preceding story in greater depth. The story revolves around several main characters, including U.S. Democratic Senator Clifton Ross and his young activist daughter Sonia, Republican Senator Terri Barnes, Guatemalan guerilla leader Benito Barros, and local grassroots organizer Muriel Luther. As a result of investor speculations, global food prices begin to skyrocket and millions of people find themselves unable to access affordable food. Sonia Ross joins Muriel Luther’s political rallies to demand a more equitable distribution of food resources, though is eventually framed for an act of bioterrorism by an agent of Senator Terri Barnes. Following Sonia’s arrest and imprisonment her Father Clifton is forced to resign, with his political rival Senator Barnes replacing him as chair of the national food security committee. Meanwhile, Guatemalan farmer Benito Barros becomes frustrated with both his inability to overcome economic exploitation in his native country and his futile attempts to emigrate to the U.S., and so decides to lead a guerilla warfare campaign against his government.
While the story itself is somewhat rushed, the real interest of #foodcrisis is the creative means by which Fraser introduces and addresses real world issues pertaining to global food security, which are highlighted in the 13 essays of the latter half of the book. Background Essays 2 (“The Importance of Food Distribution”) and 6 (“Food Security an Financial Speculation”) address the various economic and political influences on global food supplies and prices. In “Background Essay 7: The Psychology of Food Riots”, the underlying causes of food-related civil unrest and their relations to one another are analyzed in greater depth. Additionally, the importance of understanding the relationships between food and environmental sustainability is detailed in “Background Essay 3: Climate Change, Plantations, and Fertilizers” and “Background Essay 5: Climate Change, Drought, and the Role of Adaptation”. These sections, along with several other background essays, further serve as a way for the author to specify which elements of the story are pure fabrications or creative speculations, and which are reflections of contemporary issues in the global food system. For example, “Background Essay 8: A Short Mention of “The Beast”” profiles an existing Mexican train used regularly by thousands of South American illegal immigrants attempting to gain entry into the U.S., many of whom flee due to an inability to continue making a livable income as farmers (98). Conversely, Fraser also acknowledges that many of the plot’s Chinese influences are fabrications - based mostly on Lester Brown’s speculative 1995 book Who Will Feed China? Wake-up Call for a Small Planet (83-84) - whereas the story’s bioterrorist acts are pure imagination (99-100).
An interesting subtext throughout the book is the growing issue of large-scale animal agriculture as an inefficient source of global food. For example, Fraser explicitly references research suggesting that many deadly diseases to human populations have come from animal agriculture (29), that it takes many kilograms of grain to produce only one kilogram of meat (75), and that these sort of issues are only worsening as the rising middle class in developing countries attempts to mimic wealthy North American and European countries‘ high consumption of meat (17; 75). Yet while animal agriculture is mentioned sporadically throughout the book as being problematic for the future of global food security, the author does not offer any solutions to this issue. Specifically, “Background Essay 13: 10 Ways of Preventing the Coming Food Crisis” includes a reflective list of potential ways to address many of the issues discussed throughout the book (including strengthening local food systems, which Fraser notes is only partially effective) (106-107), yet does not offer any solutions to the issues attributed to animal agriculture.
In terms of its production, the book is also unique in that it is the result of a successful crowd-funding project, through which Fraser was able to raise over five thousand dollars. The book is also an extension of the feeding9billion.com (with which Fraser is heavily involved), which has the overall goal of educating the public on contemporary food-related issues. As a self-published, crowd-funded graphic novel, #foodcrisis presents an interesting and easily accessible introduction to the current issues surrounding global food security.