Air, Water and Food (Part 1)

What I have been told is that humans can survive 3-5 minutes without air; 3-5 Days without water and 3-5 weeks without food. These are the very essentials of life.

In the western and “first world” nations food is plentiful. In many parts of the world hunger and starvation due to lack of food is a crisis. Yet, even in the western and industrialized nations we are at risk.

My grandparents were subsistence farmers. They had land to grow wheat, which they harvested and stored, taking some for future crops and taking the rest to the baker to make bread. Fruits and vegetables were grown for the family to eat and what was surplus was sold. My grandfather would harvest weed, like oregano and pick mushrooms from the local forest to eat and sell to the town’s people without farms. One grandfather kept goats and sheep for milk and meat; the other grandparents had cattle for the same reason. With all this they fed their family and bartered with the surplus for services; like the baker baking bread in exchange for some excess flour; milk turned into cheese to sell to buy products like clothes and tools. In those days a farmer could raise a family and make a living as long as the harvest was good.

Even my father grew a vegetable garden and kept a victory garden in Southern Ontario. The produce supplemented our family diet. During the harvest season when there were too many tomatoes, zucchinis and lettuce my dad would give away the surplus to friends and neighbors. My own garden is a weak shadow of my heritage; a small snack rather the full meal. The harvest doesn’t even cover the cost of planting, I fear.

Toronto is known as Hogtown, because historically this is where hogs were shipped from local farms, slaughtered and turned into ham to be sold. Most of the slaughterhouses are now gone. The neighborhood of Cabaggetown, was so named because of the Irish immigrates that tended potatoes and cabbages in their front yard to supplement their diet. Both cabbages and potatoes could be stored over winter and eaten year round. Now a day few of us need to do this, yet we should reconsider this custom.

As a society we have a large risk with our food supply. Most of us don’t grow our own food. We buy it. And much of what we buy comes from a far. Fruit shipped from South America, vegetables from California. All of this is dependent on transportation systems and national trade. What would happen to us if we couldn’t ship and distribute produce the we all depend on?

Raising transportation costs and political instability could severly impact our food supply. Even the flu pandemic can create an issue. What would you and your family eat if you couldn’t go shopping for food at the local store? Or if there is a shortage of produce?

Humans can survive 3 to 5 weeks without food. How would you survive without the easy access to food?


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