chicken In my local bookshop this weekend I overheard a customer asking the owner whether she had any books on chicken-keeping. She replied that he was the fourth person in a week to ask and wondered if such thoughts of self sufficiency were a sign of the times.

Similarly in my garden centre there has been a run on logs: fears of the imminent collapse of our food distribution and energy provision systems are evidently causing the good folk of East Kent to ponder survival strategies.

It was like this after 9/11. For a while the most popular properties amongst rural agents were either those with well-cultivated vegetable patches, orchards or fish-stocked ponds, and those with their own water source. Remote bothys in the Highlands of Scotland were also being snapped up.  Briefly, talk was of a return to a simpler, more self sufficient life: in the face of such madness it was the Voltaire philosophy of sitting tight and cultivating the garden that held sway.

Not for long though - as soon as the imminent danger had passed we all maxed out our credit cards, re-fuelled the housing bubble and gaily spent our way to this current catastrophe. I wonder what will happen to Kent's new chicken-keeping classes in a year or so? Will they all be happily strangling and roasting their loyal egg-layers who got them through a few sticky months or will they be the new kings of the castle, charging £5 an egg to the victims of the second Great Depression?


The current crisis poses the question: will it take the complete collapse of the global financial system and the end of oil, coal and natural gas before people start to reduce their emissions and end their consumerist ways? As if the survival of life as we know it on earth isn't enough of an incentive in the first place...

You might look at it a different way John. Perhaps the crisis demands policies that can sustain western lifestyles, permit growth in the developing world AND protect the planet from the damage done by human beings. These policies might include massive expansion of nuclear power, widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells and electric motors and fresh investment in GM crops. History suggests that free people will never vote to damage their own lifestyles and no government has won a free election by inviting them to do so. So, if you want to end consumerism you probably need totalitarian government to do it. Acceptable? I think not. The crisis is real, but the solution is likely to be more technology not less. The real issue is how quickly our governments will face this genuine challenge. I am as worried as you are about global warming. I live in a house with solar panels on the roof that generate a lot of my electircity and I live close enough to work not to need to drive. But I cannot begin to imagine the British people voting to live frugally, nor do I imagine it is remotely fair to ask them to do so. We must be more sophisticated, but that does not mean wearing hair shirts.      

Yes,  but did the people of Africa or India get the chance to vote to end their 'consumerist' ways? No - their resources were taken from them, by force by conquering imperial armies. Do they get a chance now, to ask us to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere when the burden of climate change will hit Sub-Saharan Africa far more heavily than our temperate climes? Christian Aid estimates that 84 million Africans will die of drought and flooding in the next few decades due to climate change and get this: the average Briton pumps 11 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, whereas the average Kenyan just 200 kg. Are we prepared to accept millions of refugees fleeing environmental catastrophe? The crisis is so huge that we're going to have to cut our cloth whether we like it or not - especially if all the money that should be being invested in renewables is being spent on paying for the wreckless mistakes of the banking classes.

I think you're right, and the case you make SHOULD be the one that persuades everyone to pressure governments to commit to binding cuts. But I fear that, for the 'average Briton', it might take international collapse rather than individual volition for their lifestyles to change. Maybe that's not true, but's it's how it appears sometimes.

Perhaps they'll get it right at Copenhagen and we'll be travelling in hydro-powered mega buses and living of 4th Gen nuclear power by the time I graduate... I'll be in London on December the 6th to try and get the message through.

Funnily enough, I was in the gym yesterday and one of the members said that he would bring in his chicken's eggs. I also know a lady who adopted some battery hens to lay eggs from the welfare trust. What a great idea I thought! Especially as it combines the satisfaction of nurture with self-sufficient savvy.

As for strangling the egg-makers, people may not need to do that after all, instead (judging by what might happen), they could just feed the chickens £10/20/50 notes by the trough full.

Although this is not exactly about the state of the eggs, Trisha Fermor of the Kent Messenger in Maidstone, who I was lucky enough to gain some "old hack" expertise from, wrote an article earlier this year (February-ish I think) which detailed a woman in Kent who had adopted battery hens and made hen coats for them. Apparently she also sold them for a modest price (I can't remember the exact price) to people elsewhere in the county who were interested, so if their hens were cold and exposed too much to the outside, they could cope all-weathers.

If I speak to Trisha again on work experience or whatever, I'll try to find out more about that.

My opinions on hens is that unfortunately battery hens are cheaper in produce, though organic is sustainable through farming, doesn't use pesticides and the treatment of animals and birds before their death is more civilised, with a generally better quality of life, which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall reminds us on his Channel 4 programs. Although Whittingsall is arguably a minor celebrity drumming up publicity, he raises important points about not being put off by organic produce's greater expense. Though, at the same time on a student budget or not (what with the "credit crunch"), who is really going to want to spend £5 and over on some produce? Bourgeoise perhaps...

Egg sarni's, bacon butties, sausage sarni's and fry-ups are quality meals. Thank god for livestock for producing these exquisite delicacies haha. So in that sense, I suppose if we're going to eat our wild friends, we should at least give them a good life beforehand. Having said that, they go to a good cause = people's stomachs :).



I haven't heard the anti-imperialist case stated in such explicit terms for a long time. Perhaps I have been moving in the wrong circles. I would respectfully submit that the history of British imperial expansion is a little more nuanced than that implies and that social analysis based on conscience is a notoriously flawed tool that has proved itself worthless too often to provide a reliable foundation for prediction. As to whether Africans have voted. Sadly too few of them have that opportunity. The constitutions bequeathed to them by the imperial powers guaranteed it, but those constitutions did not survive. India is, of course, a vibrant democracy and resolutely determined to develop its economy along western lines - an approach I feel no entitlement to obstruct.  

Tim, if you're referring to my rather matter-of-fact economic analysis, it was merely a crap joke :). 

Is it time to head for the hills?