It’s said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Less well known but perhaps more useful these days is the knowledge that the way to his fear is through brain.
The amygdala is a tiny part of the brain that, under stressful conditions, helps produce your sense of fear. Hunger produces stress. But often, the amygdala kicks into action before you have any conscious knowledge of a threat.
This can come in pretty handy when a tiger is on your tail. But fear is triggered by more mundane circumstances too. Empty stomachs produce more than just bellyaches. They produce anxiety about where the next meal is going to come from. Or, if you’re sitting in the comfort of you’re air conditioned office in a well-fed Western country like we are, you might wonder how a planet with less arable land than 50 years ago can feed 2 billion more people.
But then, we’re not telling you anything you can’t read on the front page of the newspaper these days. Rising food prices are all over the front of the papers now. Today’s Age had a graphic showing corn up 31%, rice up 74%, soya up 87%, and wheat up 130%.
No one is mentioning cows, though. Cows eat grain. Grain is more expensive. Australian dairy prices are rising as a result. Dairy Australia reports that East Coast dairy farmers are trucking milk all the way across the Nullarbor to Western Australia. Western Australia exports 20 million litres of milk a year to Singapore and Malaysia. But with Australian dairy demand growing so fast, the cows in WA just aren’t working hard enough to meet demand.
What do you think the embedded energy cost is in a litre of Australian milk that ends up in Singapore? You have the petrol to power the tractor that harvests the grain that feeds the cow who’s milk must be refrigerated as its trucked across the continent via internal combustion engine to be transported on a coal or oil powered ship in containers made of plastic (oil) to Singapore where a lorry driver with a refrigerated truck that runs on petrol takes it to a store whose lights and freezers are kept bright and cool by coal-fired power. All so you can have some Australian milk with your cake in Singapore’s fabulous Changi airport as your carbon foot print grows to the size of Godzilla’s paws.
Markets and Money