Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Education, Climate Change and Peak Oil
Of the 128 adults resident in the 68 surveyed households 50 have first degrees, and 25 have advanced degrees, that is 59% with university training. Only 15 of 51 households with degrees grow no food, 29%. Conversely of the 15 with A level or lower, we see 8 who grow no food, 53%, and only 4 grow 2 or more food types. Concern about climate change seems to go hand in hand with an interest in food-growing among the better educated members of this cohort. 80% of households surveyed expressed midrange or higher concern for climate change. 73% of those grow at least 1 food item. Indeed, 86% of those with advanced degrees who expressed midrange or higher concern for climate change grow 1 or more food items.
Peak Oil concern appears to have a lower correlation with food-growing than climate change concern for this group. 78% of those with degrees express midrange or higher concern for peak oil. Of those, 65% grow 1 or more food item. Of the 20 with advanced degrees, 11 express midrange or higher concern for peak oil, 90% of those grow 1 or more food item. Peak oil has direct and clear implications on our industrial food system, whereas threats from climate change appear less certain. Also, as oil prices were at a record $140/bbl at the time I distributed the questionnaires and the media was full of news about a food crisis, it is no great intellectual feat to connect energy prices and peak oil to food. But peak oil is more abstract compared to energy prices. This is evident when you consider that 14 of the 21 with advanced degrees express significant concern for energy prices while only 11 of the 21 are as concerned about peak oil.
Of the 43 of the 51 with first or advanced degrees who expressed midrange or higher concern for energy prices, 38 expressed midrange or higher concern for peak oil as well.
31 expressed midrange or higher concern for rising food prices. I believe this indicates an understanding of the connection between peak oil, energy prices and food prices, not unusual for those with higher education. But what of concern for food supply?
Of the 51 households with first or advanced degrees, 24 expressed below midrange concern for food supply, 47%. 12 of them grow 1 or less food items. Of those 12, 4 do not grow because they can afford plenty of food, 4 because supermarket food is good enough, 5 because it is too much work. 7 of the 12 indicate 2 or more reasons they do not grow, 8 indicate 2 or more reasons they would grow more, 9 if they had a bigger garden or allotment. Of the group of 24 who have so little concern for food supply, only four have or had an allotment, none are on a waiting list, all 4 have either given one up or are not using theirs, even though 17 said they would grow more with a bigger garden or allotment. Does this lack of concern about the food supply stem from a confidence in growing ability?