Tuesday, 22 March 2016

25 hours in London

Friday night and sirens blare,
I try not to stare but look
As throngs of feet drip past
And there sit two fire trucks.
They pull a dubious u-turn
And almost collide head-on,
The bustle is confusing
For anyone straddling these streets.
The firemen watch me,
fag in hand, they think -
It's them that burn the houses
Down, whiskey bottle in hand.
Back inside the city hotel
I catch a chat at the bar
Practising my French for a while,
I've almost forgotten where I am.
I fancy a jar to clear my mind,
Addled by the constant buzz -
Normally I'd step outside
To think, but here it's unnatural
Unless, you're an ant.  This
Swarm of perpetual foot fall
Pounds in my ears and rings
Like I've developed tinitis.
I give up, back to the bar,
A double whiskey, a bit more French
And unprepared I head to bed,
My saturated mind to settle.
Down twelve quid only eight hours later,
A taxi drives aimlessly round
Pretending the pitiful length
Of the journey warrants a tip.
And now I'm in a post-capitalist
Wasteland, wondering how
Much it'll cost to buy outright
A measley one bed studio flat
Where the nearest decent shop
Is a DLR stop down the line,
Inflating the price of a pint
Of milk at five hundred percent.
And finally it's time to leave
This desolate, throbbing jungle
As my carriage sweeps through vast,
Crumbling, concrete estates.
Then the descent into the black
Of a train-sized manhole, packed
Until the doors slide open
And I join the wilderbeast
Which stampede toward the central line
And cram me to the wall as I
Attempt to stem the incessant flow
In vain to try and read the map.
Back in the throng, a bottleneck,
Of a fattening queue blocks
The steps of a perfectly decent
But overwhelmingly underused set of stairs.
I skirt the laziness and beat
The escalator, and narrowly
Avoid being knocked to the ground
As the wilderbeast peg it
To the gate, which slams
So suddenly shut that my bag
Was hardly accommodated,
Heaved through and over, before
I realise it's mid-October,
Umpteen feet under the ground
And I'm sweltering, wearing
Only a t-shirt and a Harrington,
Accentuated as I step inside
A burning hot tin of humans
Pressed against doors and squashed
Together, no-one catching an eye.
I ponder the words of Alan
Partridge, who said of London
That you can go there but
You'll either be mugged or unappreciated.
I've never been mugged but
I feel like a muggle, lost
In a mysterious metropolis
I'll never fully understand.
I eventually reach platform six
Of Liverpool Street Station,
Coffee in hand and I sigh...
Thank fuck I live in Norwich!

Monday, 21 March 2016

2016-2050: An odyssey for Thought for Food

Part 1:  A painful picture

It paints a painful picture,
A technicolour world rendered greyscale.
Coral reefs bleached and deceased,
algae, pickled, under battery acid seas.

A fickle audience consumes
Organic vegetables in a plastic bag.
And in the stomachs of seabirds exhumed -
plastic bits of plastic shit in plastic fish of plastic doom.

Plastic thread on plastic looms,
As if the wool of two or three billion sheep
Is somehow a luxurious commodity.
2016 - a batshit insane odyssey, through scorching fields and burning rain.

This swarm of seven billion sprawls,
Slashing trees and spitting fire.
Orangutans toasted in napalm pyres
For palm oil, so we can eat Nutella.

Part 2:  Venereal disease

It's like watching Fern Gully on repeat -
A self-perpetuating cycle of folly
In which we go to the cinema, guzzle down 24 ounces of crap
From buttered popcorn to Coca-Cola,
Repeating the same mistake over and over.

We're living a real-life Avatar,
Paving the forest with bitumen tar,
Trucks penetrating far inside
Lasciviously as Rasputin pleasured the Russian court
With a mangled crown of genital warts.

This pestilence we spread,
Like venereal disease through a harem
But in the form of soybean.
It's like super-gonorrhoea, no antibiotic, we can't stop it -
I've got to have my steak.

No round of applause
But just like the clap
Doing the rounds between young ones unstrapped,
The drugs we pump into fat-laden cattle
Will leave us last in our bacterial battle.

Part 3:  The chicken-cow-shellfish-human caterpillar

SARS, swine flu, bovine TB,
Do we really need to vaccinate against all of these,
Or should we just eat less bacon?
Maybe that's the mistake we're making.
Seven billion hungry mouths parasitizing a world of fat-laden sows.

It's not that we eat meat, it's the way we farm it.
To put on mass, cows used to eat grass.
Alas, now one third of our total grain gets farted out as methane
From the arses of cattle
And lashes back down as nitric acid rain.

Soybean, maize - all goes to feed chickens, caged.
Chickens, writhing in mounds of piss and shit.
Piss and shit, scooped up and pelleted,
Then fed to cows to produce more shit.  We feed chicken shit to cows!
We eat meat that eats shit because we can hardly produce enough food for us never mind it.

100 000 metric tonnes of shit produced each minute
In the USA alone.
Flows straight into the Gulf of Mexico...
A six and a half thousand square mile deadzone,
Expanding each year, forget BP oil - there's a Mississippi sized sewer.

Excrement starves our seas of life,
Amidst ocean acidification and temperature rise
We've got eutrophication and toxic red tides.
The algae back to bite us,
Despite us.

The irony is,
That toxic algae make toxic shellfish.
So the shit we feed to cows,
Which shit into the seas,
Comes back to haunt our own evacuating bowels.

Part 4:  Enough doom and gloom

But, enough of algal blooms, doom and gloom -
Let's look at the positives.

A room full of food-curious social entrepreneurs,
Wanting to change this status-quo we're all unwilling to accept.

I thank the forward-thinking farmers I've met,
Who advocate change for the future.

A future which combines and conserves our ecosystems,
which preserves our soils and nutrient cycles.

A future which woos and rewards our farmers,
EcoNoodle, Ag For Hire, FarmAField and FrootiCycle.

A future of recycling our waste with simple Oxmosis
And fortifying our meals with Peer-to-Peer Probiotics.

An Agro-Smart future with robots in fields
Could double our forecasts of once-plateaued yields.

A future with BeeBox and portable data analysis,
Of pathogen detection to withstand disease.
Of sequencing soil, and water, and air
To banish the blights and the fungi once there.

A future of next generation genome sequencing,
When once we saw traits we can re-balance our fate,
With knowledge from variants of long lost wild relatives
Of the crops we've inbred to put food on our plates.

Of CRISPR and iGEM and untrammelled minds,
Of biohacking a future of homemade design.

'Cause, soon our soils will be sailing in salinity,
Our crops will be wilting and yields diminishing
Yet conventional breeding is nowhere near achieving
Salt tolerance in the crops on which we rely.

So, bollocks to this organic nonsense,
It's synthetic biology's time.

A future of vertical farming and entomophagy,
With Biteback and Kulisha, more sustainable feed.

Part 5:  Thought for Food

Thought for Food, you have enabled me,
I never thought I'd live out of bins, please forgive me -
Though I might be arrested -
This should not go uncontested.

Outside the box we pondered,
How to feed a world where fields turn to rocks, wells run dry, lives asunder.
One billion starving,
The facts are alarming.

Eat locusts, the economics show us
That for each kilogram of grain
We get the same back in meat stuff,
Which is better than feeding a field full of cows
With food from the poor, starving and needing.

Thanks Crissy Spice,
For this chance to form a plan
That might suffice to solve the global food crisis.
TFF cannot be bested,
I just hope the world cares what we've invested.

In three months we had late nights,
We drank more beer than might start a fight some late night
In Manchester.
And if you visit, don't mind the weather, and remember -
That we'll pursue Thought for Food