November 29, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

I’ll eat my money – or my hat

Clive James has gone on the radio as a climate change sceptic, yet he is not a scientist. He is too clever by half, to my mind. And as we progress painfully to Copenhagen, the silly billies in the Liberal Party are also hell bent on not taking action. The ETS should fail, but because it is useless and rewards polluters, but I’m sure you know that already.
Lucky Clive, he will never have to scratch for a meal, and hopefully neither you or I will either.
But this weekend I’ve been preparing a talk about food security and climate change, pulling together all the tidbits of information that have come my way in the past few months on this topic. The listeners will be investors, and as it happens I also spoke to a financial advisor last week. The advice is always consistent: diversify, put money into super/the stock market, and ride out any bumps. But I just can’t bring myself to trust in any managed, balanced, hedged or other fund that works on the assumption that the market always goes up, in the longer term.
And the more I think, research (well, in a randomised sort of way) or scheme, the more I come back to food security and what the advisor called stocks of necessity. That is food, shelter, health, education, but of these, really food and shelter are the least escapable.
If the Indians are investing in farms in Ethiopia (which apaparently has some beautifully fertile land, too bad about the government) and the Chinese investments in Madigascan farms toppled that government, well, surely a tiny investor like myself should also have a bit of land and a few fruit trees to barter with. The Economist last week said global food prices went up 9.8% last year, with the possibility of another surge similar to 2007. Some basic food commodities are trading at their highest levels in 30 years.
If my convictions are so strong, then that’s where my money should be: in my mouth. And the list of imperilled protein sources and risks to cereal crops, not to mention the honey bee collapses are enough to make anyone a bit nervous. Food prices already seem to be getting higher, and I read that Australia exports 2/3 of what it produces. Rice and wheat stocks are down, population’s up. We all like to eat, some of us take it for granted. It’s really a miracle of civilisation that we have done so well, in the rich world at least.
roses and plates 004.jpg
In the 19th century an American Indian chief made the famous quote: ‘someday the white man will learn that you can’t eat money’.
Well, if push comes to shove, maybe I can eat mine. Either that or my hat, and with that I hang up my gauntlet.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:10 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. Hang-on Ronda. Fair cop that Clive James isn’t a scientist, but if that is a valid criticism where are your scientific quals?

    Comment by Graham Young — November 30, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  2. touche, perhaps. I’d like to think my half degree in physics and whole degree in maths count for something in that regard. And I wonder if he does as much reading on this topic as I do, although he is a prodigious polymath and I’m only normal.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — November 30, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

  3. Didn’t realise you have that much science in your background. I actually find physcists more likely to question the IPCC than other disciplines, apart from geologists. Figured it was because the physicists actually understood the physical processes and the limits of models, especially ones that put arbitrary positive factors in to represent unknown forcings.

    Comment by Graham Young — December 1, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  4. I wouldn’t claim to be able to understand the models, but I can integrate empirical reports from widely different areas, such as agriculture and urban planners. I’ve always maintained that climate change is a stalking horse for wider environmental crises, most of which are driven by population, which drives militarism, which further drives environmental destruction.
    I would claim to have a reasonable understanding of complex systems, and know that these things interact in surprising ways, but that bifurcations and dramatic changes are common in the history of the planet and of people.
    All this leads me to conclude that we are in for it. But I am open to evidence of progress, in fact I search for it, and some exists. Is there any good news about the sustainability of Queensland, given current growth rates?

    Comment by ronda jambe — December 1, 2009 @ 7:14 am

  5. Considering Clive James’ (ahem) vast experience – oh OK, he’s old – he is probably hoping he pegs out before climate change gets to be more than an inconvenience for him. Considering Abbot’s loss of hair, he’s probably taking the same position. Look to some younger people for opinions.

    Comment by Chris Grealy — December 2, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

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