Sweden is telling its citizens to be ready to feed themselves for a week. Other nations should follow suit.
This week, Sweden presented a civil-defense brochure to be sent to the nation’s 4.8 million households. Called “If the Crisis or War Comes,” the 20-page brochure provides practical instructions, ranging from the signals that will sound in case of a national emergency, how to detect disinformation, how to get on without access to heating, fuel, the internet, medications, or public transport. It also explains to Swedes how to plan for food disruptions, and issues this sobering directive: every able-bodied resident will be expected to fend for him- or herself for seven days.
Stockholm is blazing a trail that other governments should follow. To an extent that we don’t sufficiently discuss, the developed world is extremely dependent on long food supply chains that are vulnerable to disruptions. So let’s talk about food.
The U.S. imports a staggering 95 percent of coffee, cocoa, fish, and shellfish. Half of all fresh fruit and fruit juices consumed in the U.S. are likewise imported. Food import rates are similar around the developed world; the UK, for example, imports 50 percent of its food. “Our food is transported via increasingly long and complex supply chains that often involve ships; at any given time there are some 100,000 ships at sea transporting food and other commodities,” notes British geographer Sir Nigel Thrift, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick. “Most of the ships pass through a small number of choke points, which are very easy to attack.” Disruptions would quickly leave many of U.S. hungry.