Monday, December 1, 2008

Interesting word for today: metagnathous

According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th edition, the definition of metagnathous is the following:

"metagnathous (adj): 1 having the points of the beak crossed, as in the crossbills 2 having larvae that feed by chewing and adults that feed by sucking, as in butterflies and moths"

Yet again, the roots are Greek: meta- (between, among, along with) and -gnathous (having a jaw). Words that share meta- as a root include (among many others) metaphysics, metamorphosis, metagenesis, metacarpal, metabolism, and metagalaxy. -gnathous is a bit more obscure, but Agnatha (a class--or superclass, depending on who you ask--of animals, comprising the jawless fishes), gnathite, and gnathic are some of them. I suspect that words like gnashing and gnaw are also related, but I can't confirm that with my dictionary.

Efficiency and food security

The Corpus Callosum has an interesting post up about the relationship between efficiency and food security. The main premise is that efficiency, as measured by "the market" or by standard economics (i.e., number of X per dollar spent) is probably not the best way to measure the effectiveness of a food supply system.

This seems to me to be a primary problem in allowing the market to "work." The fundamental assumption in that view is that monetary cost is exactly equal to total cost of a product/widget/service. But, of course, companies can externalize most of their non-monetary costs (some would say the real costs--such as environmental destruction, poverty, poor health, insecurity, etc). So the model's fundamental assumption is flawed: monetary cost is much less than actual total cost.

Eventually, people will realize that it makes a lot more sense to have a lot of (fully employed and tax-paying) small farmers growing a variety of foods using a minimum of (non-renewable) resources than to have a couple of (tax-avoiding, outsourcing) big companies growing one kind of (resource-intensive) food. I hope I'm around to see it--because if it doesn't happen soon, I suspect that the people who end up in that world will have lived through a lot of really bad conditions in order to get there.