Homeless & Food Insecure? Signals of the Great Unravelling.


The Great Unraveling” is a phrase used by Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute by which he means how

“the growing consequences of the climate and broader ecological emergency are expected to increasingly destabilize societies around the world….“Humanity is approaching a bottleneck, and the only way through involves shared sacrifice. But nobody will want to make that sacrifice if they don’t understand why it’s needed, and why those with wealth and power must sacrifice the most. Without that understanding, we’re likely to see more political polarization, more scapegoating, and reduced odds of working collaboratively … Humanity’s strategy going forward must be to co-operate in using less energy, material and land, with a focus on justice for humans and non humans alike, while restoring ecosystems to protect bio diversity.

Richard Heinberg, Museletter #601, April 2023.

Facing reality
Homelessness and community food insecurity in Peterborough are signs of the “Great Unraveling” happening on Earth resulting from the climate change crisis. Neither of these issues is unique to hot, warm or cold country climates, or rich countries versus poor countries. Nor can either be blamed solely on economic inequity, mental health or drug abuse issues.

Our changing climate that has increased the frequency and severity of floods, droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other previously less probable events such as heat waves, dust storms, derecho wind storms, rain bombs and wars over the food and water to recover from such events.

Money alone, especially in the guise of economic growth, can’t solve the devastation and the unraveling of normality the world is now facing.

The homeless and food insecure people of the world are more and more climate refugees. Many along the southern US border are also political refugees; but the changing climate can also disrupt democracies and turn them into military dictatorships and heightening the humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres repeatedly sounds the alarm with proclamations such as on March 10, 2023:

“Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast. Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere all at once.”

If that isn’t a realization of the “Great Unraveling”, it‘s very hard to know what is.

The USA Biden Administration and both senior levels of government in Canada are now locked into the false promise of the hi-tech Green New Deal Economy which openly supports the burning of every possible source of fossil fuel to sustain economic growth, and the idea of more middle class jobs and continued wealth accumulation for the rich. Compounding the increasing economic growth thirst for more fossil fuels, the 21st century military industrial complex is gearing up, in totality to become the Number 1 user of fossil fuels and the Number 1 GHG polluter in the world. Even with an early conclusion of the war in Ukraine, the “let’s go to war fuse” has already been lit to disrupt global energy supplies and the security of global food supplies for years to come.

On top of this, the world has just passed the dangerous average temperature rise of 1.5⁰C as a result of the predicted El Nino. There could be massive crop failure and starvation next year affecting millions of people with nowhere to go.

The missing reality check
Global availability of usable fossil fuels is in decline. We have picked the low hanging energy fruit. What’s left is harder to develop, of lower quality and higher cost. Ignoring these simple realities hastens the speed of the “Great Unraveling” and the dominance of homelessness and food insecurity as leading indicators of societal breakdown.

UN Secretary General Guterres understands the outright failure of the Global Community. It must come together to reduce GHG emissions, or provide a transfer of funds from the rich developed countries, who are the larger emitters, to the poorer countries which are paying the heaviest price. To continue to put all of our eggs into the single strategy of reducing global GHG emissions by assigning targets and expecting nations to not only report honestly and also achieve the targets seems politically naive and foolish. Yet most of the press perpetuates the narrative in the presumed best interest of the people.

On this global score card, we might want to face up to the fact that no Canadian Federal Government has yet achieved a single GHG emissions target that it has committed to.

Re-engineering Local Communities
Local communities everywhere need to immediately assess the risk of the “Great Unraveling” and work with their elected local officials, in partnership with their own citizens, to re-engineer and re-invest in their own local systems. After years of engagement with the Transition Town model [see box] and local officials, I can attest to how difficult this task really is with respect to homelessness and food insecurity and also to reducing our total energy consumption and replacing most of the remaining requirement from local renewable sources.

Meanwhile, the City of Peterborough Council seems perfectly happy to have a declared Climate Emergency remain in effect while ignoring its own approved Sustainable Peterborough Plan to be able to feed itself by 2035, with actual local food consumption at around 5% of the total in 2023.

The economic “growth or die” advocates seem to have forgotten where their food actually comes from and have no interest in even knowing what it might take to have 50% of our food come from local sources by 2030. This could likely result in greater aggregate energy saving than more electric vehicle production.

The local press writes as if the climate crisis doesn’t exist, and there are no solutions of merit that we can afford. One recent big news story centered around how many parking spots a new apartment building should have in the downtown core. It would make more sense to develop a plan for electrified public transportation through the downtown. This would increase the

The Transition Towns model, begun in the UK, aims to increase local community resilience and build a regenerative local economy by a wide range of projects that reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and help mitigate climate change.

population density and with it the tax base without the use of more cars, either electric or gas-fired. Another opinion piece of the local daily newspaper, May 3, 2023 titled Economic Growth Is Good For A Population’s Health referenced the much lower life expectancy of North Koreans to the much greater life expectancy of South Koreans who are focused on economic growth. The article never mentions that the only way to increase economic growth is to consume more energy (mostly fossil fuels) − a fact which is the root cause of South Korea’s problems, and also ours in Canada, and yet totally ignored this in publishing such superficial comparisons. [Editors’ note: North Korea also puts an inordinate amount of money put into energy and armaments for its military.]

Now is the time to get serious about reducing our local energy consumption in all forms by re-investing in our own community’s resilience before we all become climate change refugees.

Fred Irwin is the author NOW IS THE TIME! blog

1 Comment

  1. Fred’s description of initiatives already in place in Transition Town despite the devastating effects of climate change that are already upon us – I write this while breathing in fumes of forest fires wafting in from eastern provinces- is vividly clear and prescriptive. We need to amplify the community spirit of caring for ourselves, each other and our world in every way we can think of – right now. Later is already too late. Thanks, Fred!

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