Cluster Map

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pollyanna joins world Blog Action Day re Food

I am proud to take part in Blog Action Day Oct 16, 2011

This week Pollyanna
Pollyanna goes shopping for food
is taking part in Blog Action Day which is why we are out on Sunday 16.10 instead of our usual Friday.  She still, however, wants to share the Succot holiday,

Saturn and its moons and a bit of humor with you as well.

As you all know, Pollyanna undertakes to introduce you to the family of moons of Saturn, since her brother, Titan, is only interested in showing himself in his blog.  Here is an example that shows that the Solar System was created with some humor in mind.  Hyperion is a small moon. It has an irregular shape and surface appearance, chaotically rotates, and tumbles along its orbit.   The shape is irregular because its self-gravity is insufficient  to crush its materials together and eliminate gaps in its interior. Its strange, spongy texture, its dark-floored craters, and its landslide morphology are very difficult to explain.
Crescent Hyperion Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / mosaic by Emily Lakdawalla
It orbits outside of Titan in a 4:3 resonance, i.e. it completes a revolution around  Saturn four times in the time that Titan does the same three times. Whenever Titan comes by it gives Hyperion a gravitational shove and changes its rotation axis, which causes it to tumble.  Pollyanna and I think this is cool. 
Size: Irregular, 410 x 260 x 220 kilometers - 8th largest moon of Saturn
Orbital radius: 1,464,100 kilometers - 24.3 Saturn radii
Orbital period: 21.3 days - 4/3 of Titan’s
Discovery: 1848 by George Phillips Bond and William Lassell
In Greek mythology, HYPERION was the Titan god of light, one of the sons of Ouranos (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth), and the father of the lights of heaven--Eos the Dawn, Helios the Sun, and Selene the Moon. His wife was Theia, lady of the aither--the shining blue of the sky. Hyperion's name means "watcher from above" or "he who goes above" from the Greek words hyper and iôn.

FOOD is something that we well-fed people in industrialized countries who happen to be reasonably well-off take for granted, in fact consume too much of and then worry about our weight.  Obesity is a First World epidemic whereas in the Third World acute food shortages are the order of the day.  Indeed, even Pollyanna,who tries to find something to be glad about everywhere, says that something must be drastically wrong. In every industrialized country of course you can poison yourself very effectively by patronizing fast food restaurants.  Andy Borowitz tells us how fast fast food can really get.
This is really fast food.
Andy Borowitz - Faster Food
JokesJoke of the DayFunny Jokes

Let us start with Somalia.  The famine there is something unbelievable, but alas it is very real.  I cannot begin to describe it, but  Save the Children UK has posted some blogs and we are linking you to one of them  in the hope of conveying some idea of the immensity of the humanitarian disaster.
A starving child in Somalia.  Credit New York Times
Image from

The efforts made by the world community are to a large extent being thwarted by the Islamist militias that control large parts of the country.  How can one reconcile religious belief with the infliction of starvation on innocent people?   In the US, Republicans  are holding up aid and to our great shame, Israel is refusing asylum to refugees from Somalia in defiance of UN guidelines.  I cannot avoid thinking of people in Madrid in 1943 objecting to Jews infiltrating into Spain through the Pyrenees.   Collective memory can be very short.

I have no idea what the Quran has to say about starving people, but in synagogue on Yom Kippur, just last week, we read the words of a prophet (Deutero-Isaiah, Is. 58,6-7) who told us what God really expects from people who fast for forgiveness of sins:
הֲלוֹא זֶה, צוֹם אֶבְחָרֵהוּ--פַּתֵּחַ חַרְצֻבּוֹת רֶשַׁע, הַתֵּר אֲגֻדּוֹת מוֹטָה; וְשַׁלַּח רְצוּצִים חָפְשִׁים, וְכָל-מוֹטָה תְּנַתֵּקוּ.  ז הֲלוֹא פָרֹס לָרָעֵב לַחְמֶךָ, וַעֲנִיִּים מְרוּדִים תָּבִיא בָיִת:  כִּי-תִרְאֶה עָרֹם וְכִסִּיתוֹ, וּמִבְּשָׂרְךָ לֹא תִתְעַלָּם.
For the Hebrew-challenged:
6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
 Note the coupling of human rights to freedom and justice in verse 6 to the economic human rights in verse 7.  If I were a Hindu believer I would strongly suspect the soul of the author of the above to have been reincarnated as  Peter Benenson
Peter Benensen credit AI Canada
who founded Amnesty International in 1961, just fifty years ago.

Another issue linked to food is the projected inability of the planet to support our ever increasing population.  This was understood by Thomas Malthus in the late 18th century, but the paying of the bill has been staved off repeatedly by advances in agricultural technology.  Eventually, the bill will have to be paid.  We are told that the most ecologically responsible thing is to start  eating insects

not exactly an appetizing prospect.  Nonetheless, the question of availability of sufficient food supplies is inextricably linked with the need to reduce population growth. This in turn brings progressive looking people, who want to confront this looming danger, into conflict with almost all religious establishments all over the world.  The Abrahamic religions all hew to the line of "be fruitful and multiply" although therein lies the danger of the ultimate demise of life on this planet.  Public opinion is, alas, very poorly informed on these issues but the blogosphere can make noise where the corporate media chose to remain silent.

We see countless examples of food being used as a weapon in addition to the dire example of Somalia mentioned above.  We saw how it was used in the civil war in Sudan and to maintain control of the population in Zimbabwe, to mention a few examples.  There will be a meeting of the leaders of the rich countries in November.  Please  raise your voice to call upon them to put an end to the  most obscene f-word of all, FAMINE.

Pollyanna likes to include matters of science in her biweekly blog. This week she is referring you to a source of information about food science where you can see where the struggle to keep us going is taking place. These efforts are admirable but cannot be expected to replace population control in the long term as a means of maintaining our viability as a species.

Pollyanna does not want this post to be all doom and gloom so she is sharing a discussion from XKCD of the expiry date of yogurt.


  1. I'm not so sure about the need to take steps to reduce population growth. Countries who have tried (India and China) have generally ended up with major human rights abuses and worse off than they were before. Generally speaking, improving the status and education of women has the direct effect of reducing the number of children per woman, without any government intervention. Just a thought.

  2. I did not mean bureaucratic force, but education and common sense. The one-child policy in China led to female infanticide and now there are no women for Chinese men to marry etc. A sharp drop in birth rate creates a social situation that is also intolerable; who will support the retiring boomers or one child supports four grandparents and how is that to be done. Indira Gandhi had men grabbed and subjected to forced vasectomies, to no real avail. As almost everything, it boils down to human rights and dispersal of superstition, often masquerading as religion.