As we see the close of the era of cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels, every facet of our lives will become more expensive. Not only food and transportation, but anything connected to the cheap energy economic system. What is mined, produced, packaged, shipped, and distributed on the foundation of oil will become more expensive at every step.
I recently saw a documentary called "King Corn" where two grad students moved to the Midwest and try to grow 1 acre of corn. What they learn is that millions upon millions of acres of corn are grown and harvested each season, so there one acre is very minuscule. almost all small farmers have been bought out, leaving only a few people in each region who grow most of the corn. The diversity of corn that was once present has
been reduced to a few strains. These strains are genetically modified and patented by Monsanto. Just like the article we discussed about the rice crops in India.
90% or so of the corn grown in the states is not even edible by humans, and must be fed to cattle or other animals as feed to produce some usable form of human consumable energy. Americans actually eat more corn than anything else, It is in nearly everything as corn based fructose syrups. On top of that, prices are rising world wide as Americans and other countries divert their corn crops for ethanol production.
The system of government subsidies to farmers that was put in place by Nixon's administration reward excess production to keep prices low. This is discussed in the article, but this kind of solution is based on the availability of cheap energy, so therefore the logic of the past is irrelevant and irreconcilable with the current situation. As the article points out,
without a change in our food policy, you cannot hope to make significant progress on the issues of health care, energy independence, or climate change.
Because so much inedible corn is produced, we have to run it through cows. massive cattle farms are detrimental to the surrounding environment, and for the amount of methane produced. Bot to mention the amount of callousness and cruelty that goes into every pound of beef, or every barrel of oil for that matter. The corn fed cows are also high in fat, resulting in escalating heart disease and stroke. Also, the inedible corn is made into sugars, the flood of which into the food supply over the past few decades has definitely have had terrible consequences on the health of the nation. I could not say it better than this quote,
"farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation
have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories
of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one
that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single
calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from
the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse
You actually cannot make money growing corn or many other crops, so without government subsidies, farmers would all be bankrupt. This is part of the reason why so many small farmers have been bought out. So the one megalithic farm company can actually tern a decent profit in order to offset the rising cost of infrastructure and energy.
some of the things Windward is developing are secure and sustainable processes for producing at the local level. To remove the energy intensive need for shipping. Food, water, energy, shelter, these are all going to be required to be produced on a small scale when energy prices soar. a quote in the article that is along the same lines is,
"... movement back to local food
economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable
farming, The American Conservative magazine editorialized last summer
that “this is a conservative cause if ever there was one.”".
"But if taking the animals off farms made a certain
kind of economic sense, it made no ecological sense whatever: their
waste, formerly regarded as a precious source of fertility on the farm,
became a pollutant — factory farms are now one of America’s biggest sources of pollution. "
-this is kind of the problem to begin with. That we view our food and health in terms of economics, and not in terms of ecology and natural systems health. Living on this farm, I understand the key component that animals are to life on a farm. They not only fertilize the land, but that can also "sterilize" a piece of land. meaning they eat all of the native plants that have harsh defensive systems to keep new species (IE food crops) from growing. So by utilizing animals, at the same time you are clearing the land of invasive plants, tilling and mixing soil, fertilizing the soil, and producing some valuable product (wool, milk, meat, etc.).
"Even if we were willing to continue paying the environmental or
public-health price, we’re not going to have the cheap energy (or the
water) needed to keep the system going, much less expand production"
-this is truly the problem of our times. as we approach peak oil, we will also see the peak of so many other things. like a chain reaction, so many facets of our daily lives will either be unavailable, or too expensive for most to afford. It may not even be peak oil that sets of this chain reaction, but one of a plethora of other "Peaks"; water, soil fertility, medicine, electricity, coal...the list extends for pages.
"First, your administration’s food policy must strive to provide a
healthful diet for all our people; this means focusing on the quality
and diversity (and not merely the quantity) of the calories that
American agriculture produces and American eaters consume. Second, your
policies should aim to improve the resilience, safety and security of
our food supply. Among other things, this means promoting regional food
economies both in America and around the world. And lastly, your
policies need to re conceive agriculture as part of the solution to
environmental problems like climate change."
-I could not agree more. People need to realize that THEY ARE THE FOOD THEY EAT. low quality food = low quality life, sickness, disease, death. Coupled with a lack of psychological health, depression, fear, anger, megalomania, anxiety, restlessness, hypertension; and a lack of spiritual knowledge, and a disconnection with the source of their creation, and disconnection from the Presence of this force at every moment. people are getting sicker on many levels, and their lack of concern for this is staggering! people were not meant to live like this, but many simply do not know of a better way. They are programmed to suffer, and are so stuck that they are completely unwilling to change their lifestyle to let live, joy, and healing in.
"Right now, the government actively discourages the farmers it
subsidizes from growing healthful, fresh food: farmers receiving crop
subsidies are prohibited from growing “specialty crops” — farm-bill
speak for fruits and vegetables. (This rule was the price exacted by
California and Florida produce growers in exchange for going along with
subsidies for commodity crops.) Commodity farmers should instead be
encouraged to grow as many different crops — including animals — as
possible. Why? Because the greater the diversity of crops on a farm,
the less the need for both fertilizers and pesticides."
-What a horrible mess! this is seen as the modern way, the only way, to produce food for such large populations. It is a dangerous belief people have. I know that you can feed 20 people 3 serving of vegetables a day, 265 days a year, indefinitely on just one well cultivated acre of land. It has been done. You cannot reproduce the kind of care necessary to achieve this one a massive industrial scale, but it is very possible on a family or community level.
"eight-year rotation of perennial pasture and annual crops: after five
years grazing cattle on pasture (and producing the world’s best beef),
farmers can then grow three years of grain without applying any
fossil-fuel fertilizer. Or, for that matter, many pesticides: the weeds
that afflict pasture can’t survive the years of tillage, and the weeds
of row crops don’t survive the years of grazing, making herbicides all but unnecessary."
-this is a great system, however, i don't know how well it will work in all circumstances.
[This is an email I sent to a friend. It is not not a personal blog entry, but it is something I wished to share with others. The quotes are taken from new york times article]