Tag Archives: food

Our story: 21. Foundation money

“Global annual military spending tops $1.2 trillion.” There are 8,000,000,000 of us. UN estimates 7.5 billion humans.  We are increasing every year by about 50 million, with about half the deaths than births.  (There are over 100 million born every year.)

So, that’s at least $1500 per person per year that could be used, if nations did not exist.  Military is only for defence against other nations; once they are gone, there is no need for them.  Is $1500 per year enough to feed the world? Given that nearly a third of humans live on less than $2 per day, that would be more than enough in developing countries.  In New Zealand, I can’t get a cauliflower for less than $3, so it may be more of a challenge.  But I think even at New Zealand prices one could get a healthy diet for close to that price, especially if we changed the market.

Why is food so much more expensive in industrialised countries, and especially in NZ.? The easy answer is that it is the price of labour. But is the work any different in growing the food and getting it to market? Probably harder in developing countries. They have less tools, infrastructure, and resources in general. Only labour is cheap. And that drives the price of everything.

If much of the food supply that the State provides is grown locally; and this is bought at a fair price, would that fairness not include equal pay for equal work, wherever it was done.  But if you did that, then the same money would be worth much more in a poor country than a rich one.

There is a simple answer to that: change the unit of money to person-time. A basic unit can be multiplied for quality and training of the person. Or we could leave it unadjusted. Either way, we are doing what Adam Smith writes about when we exchange goods: we exchange our labour for that of another’s.  His labour theory of value.

People would be supported to grow their food, on roof-tops, balconies and indoors, by being provided the resources to do so, and the sell to the State for the produce based on their labour. The produce would the supply the local or community.  Commercial or State food production would be needed to supplement the local product for most communities.

The State would supply each person or family, either with food or with meals at community centres. The food ordered would still have a price (in hours of basic person-time), but the State would supply and charge the electronic account of the individual. This is the functional equivalent of money, but is an abstract electronic credit that is given at birth to each baby.

Citizens earn credit by doing work; those who are not in paid employment get paid (in person-hours) for the work they do in caring for their family, friends, or community. Those who are unable to work are in the same category as those who are unable to manage their credits: they need State support.

Citizens use their person-hour credits for all their needs, from the private and State markets. Each individual is given credits by the State, and earns more from work, art or new ventures.  One way that is not possible for an individual to make credits from is investment.  The State provides investment to entrepreneurs, based on community support and track record.

If all transactions are in credit instead of money, and credit ledgers are public it becomes much harder for corruption to stay hidden, and crime is easily tracked. Blockchain technology offers secure and transparent transactions.

But, where does the State get the money to do all this? The money has to come from its citizens. The money we currently spend on the military could be used to feed the world. By providing healthy food, we can also expect to reduce the State’s cost for health services.  But the State can also create money, especially when money is just digital credit.

But let’s ignore that aspect and make the case that  food provided by the State could be more efficient (or cheaper) than when provide by the market. There is no longer the need for marketing, and we have the technology for global management for scale efficiencies.

State planning did not work well for production or distribution of food in the Soviet Union. The difference is that through the use of smartphones and computers, we can have a system that is driven by community needs; not directed by bureaucrats. A system that encourages local food growing, by rewarding productivity.  A system run using science and technology to efficiently.  Such a system can provide food cheaper than the market, while meeting individual preferences, and improving health. So, it makes sense to pay more taxes and get free food.  We do that for health and education; why not the other human needs?  If we can do this more efficiently through the State than the market.


Our story: 12. Food and mood.

vegeplateA plate full of anti-oxidants or food for your bugs.

From the mid-1980s  until this millennium, there was much hope in the potential to use anti-oxidants like Vitamins A, C and E to prevent cancer and extend life.  Some evidence showed associations  with health.  Since anti-oxidants reduce damage to cells from it was plausible that supplements might prevent cancer. But the trials not only failed to find protective effects, there was even some suggestions of increased risk.

It was disappointing, but why did they fail?  Antioxidants are clearly important for cellular health, but the molecular machinery that keeps us alive is complex; and single element solutions (‘magic bullets’) tend not to work.  Even the original magic bullets of modern medicine, antibiotics are facing critical resistance.  (Luckily, vaccines still seem to work well.)

I interpret the failure of the anti-oxidants as another example of the problem of processed foods, especially the highly processed and very tasty foods that subvert our biology, including fizzy and sugary drinks.  Or carbonated drinks in general probably.

The loss of nutrients from the processing is often remedied by adding back nutrients.  But there are also many phytochemicals that can be lost in processing; for example fibre that is a key source of energy for our microbe.

One theory is that most of our “Western Diseases” (like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many more that are largely caused by modern lifestyle, especially our diets) is caused by inflammation.  And that this inflammation is caused by bugs eating other bugs and/or our immune cells that live on and in the gut, respectively.  And one reason they do this, is failure to feed them their diet of green and red leaves.  Or whatever kid of vegetable fibre they feed off best.

So, the whole plant food that we eat provides chemicals both directly and indirectly (though the action of the microbiota) that contribute to our metabolism.  They are not essential for life, but add to health.  We know that eating more fresh fruit and vegetable is good for health – but also too expensive.  Sprouting lentils is very cheap, and tasty – once you have adjusted your tastebuds; if they are used to very tasty highly processed foods.  Recall, they have bee scientifically designed to make you addicted, or at least craving this deadly foods full of sugar, additives, and highly processed ingredients.

All highly speculative; but will you take a 2-week test to see what happens when you re-adjust your diet, cut out CRAP (carbonated, refined sugar, additives, processed food).  If you don’t feel 100% better – you collect the refund of your desire.  If you are already feeling 100% well, I would still expect a 10% improvement – but do you know what 100% feels like?

In addition to the limits of evidence, especially when clouded by commercial interest – or unexplored for lack of it,  there are many problems with the above statement, but I know if you believe it will increase the chance of a successful trial, if you are willing to give two weeks to it.  But you have to also be 100% committed, as it is not easy.  Much less easy that you may think it is; though some of you will think it much harder than it actually is.

Food is the unity of life.  Let me explain.

We were ‘designed’ to eat whole foods; and have mostly benefitted from traditional processed foods like bread and milk. Highly processed foods, including sugar, seem to be the cause of most modern ills.  These foods tend to be low in anti-oxidants, another reason for their attraction as supplements.   But that failed!

The evidence for a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables continues to grow  Green leafy vegetables are particularly important not only for nutrients and anti-oxidants, but also because it is the food that some specific species of bugs in our microbiome.

A recent study found that a mostly whole plant based diet without processed foods but with extra olive oil, a modified mediterranean diet, was effective in treating depression.  If you already have diabetes, or at risk of diabetes, you can reverse your disease- but it takes radical change in what you eat.  It will be hard for two weeks; after that your palate adjusts.  Understanding and dealing with a food craving is not easy.  Nor is feeding it.

Why vegetarian? A cultural journey.


He asked me, “why are you vegetarian?”  He wanted me to write an article to explain why.  He thought his magazine readers would  be intrigued by the combination of muslim name with vegetarianism. The latter is more associated with Hindu and Buddhist names in the subcontinent.

My vegetarian journey is all about belief.   Science tells me that, cognitively, the most important reason is because of my belief about myself.  I chose to think of myself as being vegetarian. Therefore, I mostly eat vegetarian.

Hang on, he objected, “Are you truly vegetarian, if you don’t eat only vegetables?”.  So, what is a vegetarian and how did I become  one?

Continue reading

Water is vital for life; sugary drinks not.

“Please give us nothing but vegetables to eat & water to drink” Daniel 1:12

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  Daniel 1:15 (~600BC)

The book of Daniel, is not your typical religious text. It’s part of the Old Testament; part I of the Christian Bible. (In case you don’t know, part 2, the New, is a glorious story of redemption or being saved which may or may not be metaphysical.  It’s so hard to know with words, but the words are indeed very useful.  Which is why they survived.)

The core of the Old Testament is the 5-book Torah given to us by Moshe, our Father.  With no archeological evidence for Moses, could he be a scientific created of the Egyptian elite?  The timing fits with the reign of Akhenaten, the only monotheistic Phaoroh. After him, they reverted to the traditional Egyptian gods.  The speculation is that the religious monotheists established Israel as a colony of Egypt, allowing them to live in peace but away from the new regime of polytheism.

In contrast, Daniel reports a historical character. Like Jesus, Daniel’s story was written long after his death; in Daniel’s case hundreds of years.  The value of both stories is to remind of us deep spiritual and practical truths.  Such as diet health, and feeding our microbiota (bugs).  Eat your vegetables; don’t drink sugary drinks!

I found this pictures on Wikipedia; I hope they don’t mind me using it.  It highlights the simple but hard act of self-denial.  Rejecting sensual pleasure over health.  And his fellows behind him in the portrait show that that Daniel did not do this by himself.  We act best as teams.  And perhaps the result is the ability to go to the lion’s den, by himself.

Are you interested in following Daniel’s dietary advice, and tell me upon its impact on your health?  If so, the first step is: who is the team that will help you?   How can I help you?

And if you have the time, have a look at this project on vaccines as an educational tool.  And why am i vegetarian?.

Eating together: less cooking, more health and connection

Why is the standard unit for eating the household?  We have institutions that provide food to its inmates.  Sadly, the government just blocked a proposed law to provide breakfast and lunch for those who go to schools serving the poorest fifth of New Zealand children.  This is despite the OECD having advised that more redistribution of income would be good for the overall economy.

The primary concerns of maximising our time and our health are at a trade-off. We can optimise this by reducing the time we spend on preparing food.  If you are rich, you can employ people to provide you food.  (And we can all indulge in this luxury for one meal when we go to a restaurant).  But is there a community-wide way to reduce time in food preparation while improving the nutrition, and hence the health of the population?  If so, this would save all of us money, by reducing the burden of disease that we all pay for through our national health system.

Community kitchens provide food as a safety net to the homeless.  One reason for eating at home, is its convenience.  But if food could be provided as cheaply, as tasty, and also more healthy   – eating in a communal setting would meet many needs; especially for those with the least resources of both time and health.

Mass food production is usually with food that has had its nutrients processed out and additives to enhance taste or shelf life.  While this has provided cheap and tasty food, the adverse health consequences are increasing important as diet-related diseases account for large and increasing public health costs.  The other key aspect here, is that the food industry is such a massive enterprise.  Perhaps, the most powerful lobby in the US.

Can we change from food industry to food for health?  Can we develop communal eating options that can meet the needs of most people?  Perhaps the real question is why don’t we?