Food Security

The Isle of Man has arable land. It has farmers. It has crops. It has livestock. It has a slaughterhouse. It has a dairy. It has the potential to feed itself.

However, because of the crazy world we find ourselves in, economies of scale mean that Isle of Man milk and cheese can cost more than imported products. The same is true of meat. This means that many people choose to buy the cheapest food products, which don’t help to sustain our farming industry.

A few weeks ago, I had cause to visit that well known large (UK owned) supermarket in Douglas. At the time, the weather had been very stormy and several boat sailings had been cancelled. So what was the result?

Empty shelves. Scarcity of food.

This got me thinking. If people continue to buy the cheapest possible food rather than locally sourced food, we could be in a situation where we are entirely dependent on imported food for our survival.

What if the boats and planes were cancelled for a week or two? What would happen? This could be due to a freak weather event, but it could equally be caused by the global economy faltering to such an extent that the companies that run the transport links collapse. International disputes could cut off the supply of fuel for the boats and planes. The IT infrastructure of the air-traffic control system could fail. Godzilla could rise from the Irish Sea… (OK, maybe that *is* a bit far fetched!)

You get the picture though. We either live on an island that could cope without imported food, or we starve. Which would you prefer?

The simple answer is to maintain our farming industry. If you are able, please consider always buying local produce. A few pence more at the checkout is a small price to pay for an insurance policy that maintains our supply of food in a crisis.

A Hackspace for the Isle of Man?

I’ve discussed the need for a hackspace on the island over the years with members of the Isle of Man Linux User group, work colleagues in education, people in the pub, family and friends and they’ve all said what a great idea it would be.

Today while out walking the dogs, I noticed this building is up for sale:

Screenshot-from-2014-01-11-150441-300x168

This building was originally a small church, but has since been used as a workshop recently. It has loads of potential as a community hackspace to benefit the people of the Isle of Man.

 Wouldn’t it be great if the community could come together to secure this as resource for everyone?

‘Isle of Man PLC’ is always spinning stories in the media about how hi-tech it is, and how space and engineering are growing sectors for the island. There’s always talk of investing in education too, and providing opportunities for people to better themselves and learn new skills. Couple that with the island’s strong sense of community, and it’s hard to see why we don’t have a hackspace already!

 Wouldn’t it be great if the community could come together to secure this as resource for everyone?

You may be wondering why, and just what is a hackspace anyway? Well, firstly let’s make sure that we don’t mix up that term ‘hacker’ with the negative way that it gets used in the media. RFC 1392 defines a hacker as:

“A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular.”

Hacking has nothing to do with breaking things, or gaining unauthorised access to computer systems. (The correct term for that is ‘cracking’ – media please note!!)

A hackspace then, is a place where like-minded individuals can meet up to share and swap ideas, build things, test things, improve things and share in a learning culture. Having a basic set of tools, soldering irons, test gear and computers is almost a prerequisite for a useful and productive hackspace. If you’ve the time, this video will give you a good idea of the benefits of hackspaces.

Wouldn’t it be great if the community could come together to secure this as resource for everyone?

This is the point where I’m stuck.

How can we make this happen? How can we rally the troops? How can we find the money needed to secure this hackspace? Who can support us? Who knows about grants and pots of money? Who knows about crowdfunding like Kickstarter or Indiegogo? Can our MHKs assist us?

Help!!