Never mind the economic crisis. Focus for a moment on a more urgent threat: the great food recession that is sweeping the world faster than the credit crunch. You have probably seen the figures by now: the price of rice has risen by three-quarters over the past year, that of wheat by 130%. There are food crises in 37 countries.
The glacier has begun to creak. In the world's most powerful dictatorship we detect the merest hint of a thaw. I am not talking about China or Uzbekistan, Burma or North Korea. This state runs no torture chambers or labour camps. No one is executed, though plenty starve to death as a result of its policies. The unhurried perestroika is taking place in Washington, in the offices of the International Monetary Fund.
''Professor Greg Retallack has spent much of the past few years taking soil samples from the sites of the temples of ancient Greece. He has stumbled on a remarkable phenomenon. There is a strong link between the identity of the god worshipped at a particular temple and the temple's location.'' George Monbiot examines a theory that the type of soil humans worked determined their religious beliefs.
No one could have accused the British Conservative government of breaking its promise to bring back Victorian values. When, in 1992, it permitted private water companies to install pre-paid meters in Birmingham, the people who couldn't afford to flush their toilets started defecating into pots, which they then emptied out of the windows of their tower blocks. It made one quite nostalgic.
Our dreaming will, as it has begun to do already, destroy the conditions necessary for human life on Earth. Were we governed by reason, we would be on the barricades today, dragging the drivers of Range Rovers and Nissan Patrols out of their seats and occupying and shutting down the coal-burning power stations.
''The death of Uday and Qusay,'' the commander of the ground forces in Iraq told reporters on Wednesday, ''is definitely going to be a turning point for the resistance.'' Well, it was a turning point, but unfortunately not of the kind he envisaged.
With the turning of every year we expect our lives to improve. As long as the economy continues to grow, we imagine, the world will become a more congenial place in which to live. There is no basis for this belief if we take into account such factors as pollution and the depletion of natural capital
The Christians stole the winter solstice from the pagans, and capitalism stole it from the Christians. But one feature of the celebrations has remained unchanged: the consumption of vast quantities of meat.