From Odessa to Dinner and Theater: How the War Over Fossils and Calorie Energy Supplies Shapes the 21st Century


When the world gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for the COP26 UN Climate Agreement, the dialogue has not yet added “war in Europe” to the dual challenges of sustainability and biodiversity. Eight months later, in the port of Odessa, Ukraine, European Union Council Chairman Charles Michel described a Ukrainian silo “ready for export, full of grain, wheat and corn” due to Russia’s wartime blockade of the Black Sea port.

World Population Review, an independent data analytics firm, estimates that Russia and Ukraine together account for 30% of world wheat trade.


Today, the global grain supply faces a one-two punch of wartime supply shortages as well as climate chaos. The food you eat, the food your food consumes, and perhaps your favorite drink are all affected as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters three months.

In a world that has changed everyone and everything, those in the business of creating products that remain entertained and sustainable during the nearly three-year pandemic depend on the supply chain systems they have in place to remain agile amid the upheaval of the pandemic. There is. conflict.

It is at this point that Glenmorangie Company’s 5-star Scotch Whiskey Master Distiller, Bill Lumsden, considers the landscape. “No one knows how this terrible situation in Europe will end or unfold. And it may affect quality of life as we know it now.” Lumsden is responsible for distillation, whiskey production and whiskey inventory at a 178-year-old distillery in the Scottish Highlands, and is concerned with sustainability. Although Lumsden uses only Scottish barley, he expects price pressures across the broader grain industry to eventually affect commodities.

He does not face challenges alone. Typically, the Scotch whiskey industry ships 44 bottles of Scotch whiskey to 180 global markets per second.

What Lumsden says is that in the long run, climate change is inevitable and the whiskey industry, which still relies on petrochemicals, is responsible for a decisive shift towards carbon-neutral production. “Barley has to be grown in a different way. I can’t tell you what the method is,” says Lumsden. “But we will not only reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, we will also eradicate them.” As a result, he expects the field’s current high yields to change. “As we move towards more natural agriculture, we may have to accept a little less than that.”

Barley for single malt whiskey is certainly a small and exotic corner of the world’s agricultural problem, but it presents the realities of a world in climate peril to consumers of products large and small.

The bigger moment, of course, is the absolute food value of grain and the absolute need for a companion to maintain and preserve the soil in which the grain is grown. At Washington State University’s pioneering Bread Lab in the lush Skagit Valley of the Pacific Northwest, world-renowned grain geneticist Steve Jones is on the verge of widely marketing an innovative perennial wheat called “Climate Blend.” He describes it as “the first highly diverse wheat population bred specifically for regenerative agriculture and climate disruption.”

All types of grass have the ability to trap carbon particles in their leaves and pull that carbon to the ground. The annual return of wheat plants promises sustainable carbon deposits as well as soil conservation. The goal of perennial wheat is to minimize annual sowing, which stirs up the soil as well as carbon previously sequestered by plants. “The idea is to make the soil while increasing the yield,” says Jones.

Taking the northwestern United States as an example, he says climate losses continue to be significant. “The national spring wheat harvest in 2021 was down 41% from the previous year. In Washington, Idaho and Oregon, which cover approximately 4.5 million acres, wheat yields fell from 40% to 100%, depending on farm and location. As a result, it recorded the lowest production in 30 years. And the wheat harvested was generally of poor quality.”

“Climate Blend” is being tested in several states, and Jones expects to go on sale widely this fall under the name “Breadlab Grains”, and the sale of the product will fund continued research and development.

Long-term historian Scott Reynolds Nelson is a Guggenheim Fellow, Professor of Humanities at the University of Georgia, and author of a powerful new book with a long-term view of the world’s grain supply in crisis. sea ​​of ​​grain. Investigating the power of grain to build empires, Nelson traces the world in which the power of these commodities supported and supported Russia back to the 18th century.One Century strategy of tsarina Catherine II.

Nelson says the writing stayed on the wall for centuries, until the year 21.castle Century War between Russia and Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s master’s thesis was “on strategic stockpiles of grain and oil, lithium and palladium. And that was his master’s thesis. Nelson says there’s nothing Putin cares more about. “Everyone talks about the KGB or the FSB. no! He is a geopolitical strategist who monopolizes important goods that will benefit Russia.”

Today, Nelson believes that Putin, an avid history student, is determined to triangulate the market dominance of fossil fuels, natural resources, and abundant grains. “Ultimately, he wants to make Russia great again.”

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