There is a growing movement in Europe at the moment called I Don’t Pay! This post will be most controversial but it goes along with what I am trying to do with the overall Greenhouse Project.
We had Occupy taking over many major cities around the world. People camped out in good and poor weather to make a statement about the state of the world and the way things are being run. Even the major news outlets, blogs and websites keep taking about the 99% and the 1% and how the wealth has moved upwards. How it has been co-opted by few people for their sole greed and no social good has come of it. Phrases like, “too big to fail” have now become part of our lexicon and some have even said that they should have failed to help drag the top downward and broken up the “too big” into much smaller more manageable businesses.
Now I was sent a link to a YouTube video titled, Movement “I Don’t Pay” is spreading acrosss Europe (english subs) [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqeTGTU6FFg ] . The video is not even 5 minutes long and yet it has a powerful message, why pay for social programs. Why pay for things when the government subsides them? Why pay for something like public transit that gets government money? Why are people paying twice for things?
In the United States because our government offices at the state, federal or local levels don’t get audited or have to reveal where they spend their money we often don’t know how our tax dollars are spent or just how much a particular entity is getting. I suspect between the Occupy movement and the I Don’t Pay movement we are going to see much more information coming out to shine a light where there has been none.
Now I know what you are thinking, what does this have to do with food, food production, or the selling or buying of food. In the United States farmers, the big farmers, the corporate farms get huge amounts of subsides to either not plant crops, to plant particular crops, to manage the land as it is leaving it wild, or to produce a particular end product, like sugar. Food and non-food crops and end products are subsidized almost from seed to market, and in some cases they are when dumped onto the international markets.
When I came up with the Greenhouse Project I right away started wondering how can I produce food at the best price possible and even make good whole organic food affordable to people who don’t necessarily make a lot of money. What follows are just some of the ideas I’ve had.
Building the greenhouse where people are so they don’t have to go very far will reduce ‘food miles’ greatly. By reducing what it costs to get food from seed to table in this way will cut production costs. All people would have to do is walk, bicycle or if needed drive a very short distance to buy fresh food just picked moments earlier. People will also increase their nutritional intake by eating food that was harvested at the peak of ripeness.
Energy is one of the biggest contributors to the cost of food raised in a greenhouse. What if the cost could be greatly reduced or even completely eliminated how would that effect the price of food. By building the greenhouse as a passive solar greenhouse it takes advantage of the solar energy gain during the day storing excess heat underground in a heat battery which can help even out the temperature and reduce the need to heat the greenhouse. Now living in Denver, Colorado there will be times when heating the greenhouse in the winter is needed. In the summer there will be days when cooling will be needed or the greenhouse would overheat. How to handle this?
First, by having more than one method of extracting unnecessary heat and storing it. Heat can be stored under the greenhouse in what people now call a ‘heat battery’ which is a concept that came out of the 70s and has been updated a bit. Using fans excess heat is drawn downward underground and stored. When extra heat is needed the same fans transfer the heat back into the greenhouse. Simple actually. In the 70s a rock bed was used and today pipes laid underground are used instead. The same thing really.
Another way to deal with heating, or cooling needs, is to make use of a heat pump that can efficiently store heat in a large tank of water or use that heat for cooling instead. Either way a heat pump makes the best use of the energy input by returning about twice that in heating or cooling. If there is still excess heat on the very hottest days of the year vents and fans would help move the excess out of the greenhouse.
What if it’s the middle of the winter and there is not enough solar gain, then what? That’s where the passive design of the greenhouse comes into play. It doesn’t just rely on one source of energy to keep the greenhouse warm. To help supplement the need for heating small animals can be utilized, like rabbits. These rabbits can be housed throughout the greenhouse to distribute their heat output more evenly. People who work in the greenhouse would also contribute their body heat. These things would not be able to heat the greenhouse on their own so there has to be something more.
A methane digester could be utilized throughout the year to produce methane that is stored in ordinary LPG or larger tanks. The size of the digester would be determined by the amount of material added each day. A simple digester design used in India which holds about 2,500 liters of material would produce enough gas for a family of four to cook all three meals, heat water or produce light using a gas-lantern for several hours each night. Now this digester is small and meant for a single family, but the potential for producing enough methane is there. In the summer the gas would be compressed and stored and when it gets too cold it could automatically be tapped to keep the greenhouse well above freezing.
Combining the passive solar gain with storage, body heat, heat pump(s), and methane production the cost of heating the greenhouse could be reduced to nothing. Electricity could be produced on site using Photovoltaic panels and windmills. Excess electricity produced can be stored as compressed air in the same way methane is stored and when extra is needed it drives a turbine generator combination.
By reducing the cost of food production makes it that much more affordable. Along with these ideas there would also be the idea of Solidarity Economics. This is not a new concept but one that began in early 1990s which came out of ideas stated in the 1970s. It is all about being fair and less of a consumer driven society that is headed for self destruction.
Not one of these ideas is new. Everything I’ve present has been around for decades. Food shouldn’t need subsidizing it should be freely available to every person at a price they can afford.