ROUTE 1 - Fertile Crescent Dream

I got the chance to stay in the Palestinian area and worked with local craftsmen by using limited resources to design products. During these days, my impression of this land, no matter where I saw it from, was of a salinized landscape, and it was hard to link up my thoughts with the beautiful scenery of the Fertile Crescent. It seemed like a myth, and it was hard to truly believe that the paradise used to exist in this same area. Surviving under this salinized land condition and the lack of water is the people’s reality; however, there is no food shortage here. Bunches of vegetables and fruits thoroughly cover the market, and grain is mostly imported from other states such as Europe, Ukraine, and Russia. Compared to other life experiences, I ate the most pita bread I’d ever eaten in my life during these fourteen days, and I was never hungry—even if I didn’t see any agricultural lands.

...If scarcity is a legitimate way to attempt to overcome scarcity, then the supplies of the staple foods are tight and may allow it to get tighter. The availability of wheat in the Middle East may be influenced by the pressure of climate change, because their wheat suppliers could face different levels of challenges in harvesting the grain. If those suppliers face natural disasters, they have to take a step toward forcing exports or even halting them. Several such situations have appeared during the long period in global trade, under a prediction of wheat production, where a strong price has promoted farmers to plant more corn with restricted farmland. However, yield losses may occur more frequently due to the unpredictable weather, and the speed of the rise in demand for wheat is not likely to slow down, as population growth is predicted to reach up to 9 million by 2025. These developing countries may not be able to avoid avoid paying a high price, emptying their wallets for wheat simply because wheat is a global grain strongly bound up in the livelihoods of different peoples. Underlying the wave of plentiful imports may be a temperate peace of unrest, but below the wave is a bigger swirl of extreme weather, and people’s survival still faces a big challenge.


ROUTE 2- Cuban Cube

Compared to dry landscapes, Havana, Cuba has a different environment. With the energetic sunshine and the abundant rain, the crops are plentiful. The difference can also be seen in the economic system: without a mass of international supplies, domestic products mostly rely on national production. Under Communism, the economic system is planned: staple foods such as wheat, rice, and potatoes are regulated, while others like salt, edible oil, and sugar are centralised to sell in a particular way. This situation has seen some change through the introduction of more flexible policies in the recent years. However, during ordinary people’s lives, scarcity is reflected by the unicity of choice and the uncertainty of supply. (…) As one of the Generation-Y who was born in China, I’ve mostly inherited the memories of poverty from my grandparents. “I always felt I was in survival mood, all hopes just a piece of peace, getting rid of the rumbling in my belly,” my grandma said.  Even hearing her explanation about this tension, I felt that she was proud of her manifestation under such emergency conditions. It’s a way of life that could be compared with asceticism. It could train her to strengthen herself by encouraging her to think about how to creatively deal with the crisis in a limited way.

Once I met a guy in Cuba who described Cuban life; he said pain is inevitable, but the suffering is optional. It’s no doubt that this sentence contains praise for a strong will and tries to inspire people’s wisdom when they have no choice but to face difficulty. But no matter how much we try to change our mindset when confronted with a problem, we can never avoid hurt. Otherwise, it’s just self-deception. I appreciate people’s enthusiasm for life, even when they have to face hard life conditions and resource limitations; however, if it becomes propaganda to persuade the public to accept the menace of scarcity, then we should be aware of the sophisticated measures behind the shortage.