Posts Tagged ‘food forest’

[ Sorry about the way this article looked. I am not sure what happened to the font. ]

Can we feed ourselves after the oil is gone?

This article is in response to an article in Permaculture magazine Spring 2012 issue, No. 71. The article,Can We Feed the World? Five experts give their views on the best methods of eco-farming, page 54 to 56.

These five experts each have their views with some cross-over. The five experts are, Bethan Stagg, Colin Tudge, Peter Harper, Patrick Whitefield, and John Ellison.

First there is Bethan Stagg who says we need to put into a practice techniques that take into account
local environmental conditions using intensification to get the most output possible. Saying it another
way, it is a type of polyculture farming technique.

Next Colin Tudge just says what I’ve have been hearing for some time now, we are growing enough to feed 14billion people but it all goes toward increasing profits rather than feeding people. Not completely true
as some of the food stuff are not meant for people but cattle or other farm animals because the grain has been genetically altered so people can’t eat it. He mentions the problem of wastage some of which can not be helped and that which can be helped should not be dumped but fed to people. People in industrialized
nations have been brain-washed into buying only the best looking and ignore blemishes or slight defects.
That needs to change.

Peter Harper talks about producing food in a post-carbon future. In other words, food production without
fossil fuels.

Patrick Whitefield is a strong promoter of Permaculture.

John Ellison and Bethan both agree that we can’t afford to rely on just one approach to solve our food
needs in the future.

They are all correct. We need to stop relying on mono-culture large factory farms and change the way we
farm altogether. This means we go back to the way we used to not too long ago. Also, we need to do away
with chemical inputs, tractors and so on to move away from oil and other fossil fuels, even biodiesel.

Based on their input and my views the answer to growing enough food is this:

  • We get away from the corporate farm and go back to many smaller farms.
  • We need to incorporate many approaches to grow the food we need.
    • Masanobu Fukuoka from Japan gave us no-work farming where there is no tilling of the soil, no
      fertilization, all organic and he has yields the same or better as farmers using tractors and
    • Sepp Holzer from Austria gave us poli-farming techniques. He combined fruit trees, herbs, grains, vegetables, hogs and fish all on the same land requiring again no equipment, no fertilization, and it is virtually self maintaining. He mostly spends his time harvesting and selling what he grows and does most of the work establishing his method and then there virtually no more work.
    • Polyculture at the most intensive manner possible geared to a local environment. This comes up in Permaculure in designing a Food Forest were in a small space you can feed more people than using traditional farming methods. Usually every three acres of Food Forest can feed around 8 to 12.
  • We need to produce food closer to where it is consumed. Places like the U.S. need to consume less calories overall, start by cutting the meat consumption by at least 50% the first year and again
    another 50% a few years later. Cows, pigs, chickens and other factory farmed animals need to be set free to feed the way they were originally intended, without hormones.
  • We need follow models like Cuba as a way to transition off oil and produce enough food for ourselves
  • The profit needs to be taken out of growing food, and feeding the people of the world.
  • Corporations like Monsanto need to be put out of business so food can again be put in the hands of

Everyone needs to decide what happens with their food, how it is grown and treated before it gets to theirtable. People also have to realize that for decades corporations (or governments) who have controlled their food have not had their best interests at heart only their own. That needs to stop. Our ancestors were either Vegetarians or near Vegetarians because they realized that it was a matter of survival and feeding an animal came second to their own survival. This meant that meat consumption was low.

Traditional methods of growing food need to be brought back and taught to everyone growing food if they
are to survive after the end of fossil fuels. Otherwise we will need to prepare ourselves, especially in the U.S., for food wars, riots, and uprising because people will want to eat and not know how to feed themselves in any other way than to steal it.


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If you haven’t heard about Peak Oil you must not be keeping up or been living under a rock. We are running out. How fast is hard to say because all the data in the last couple of decades has been based on historical information or been lies by the oil industry itself and our U.S. government. Shell admitted to lying and even scaled back what it said it had paying some heavy fines for those lies. As for other big oil companies, they pass the buck to someone else claiming if there is any discrepancy it’s the other companies fault.

So, how long do we really have, pulling the curtain aside – decades at most. It’s not ‘when will we run out of oil’ but rather how long before there is so little the price becomes unaffordable. I am fifty this year and before I am seventy I will see real problems arise from the lack of access to oil and cheap energy. So, if you’re wanting to do something about that you had better act starting today and I’ll make my usual recommendations later on in this article.

Yes! There is a Peak in Natural Gas too. Peal Oil happened in 2008. Peak Natural Gas occurred between 2007 / 2008, really about the same time. That is why Cheney had secret energy meetings while in office and Haliburton has been busy fracking the nation to get at whatever is left in Natural Gas – it’s a last ditch effort to hide the truth.

We are on the downward slope for both oil and natural gas and running out very quickly. What can you do?

  1. Use public transit as much as possible. If where you  live you can buy a month pass then park you car, reduce the insurance on it as it’s a part-time vehicle and walk more too. If you are unlucky enough to live where public transit doesn’t exist or is very poor, move to where there is better public transit.
  2. Insulate your home. Add triple or quadruple window panes. Add a way to exchange heat with fresh incoming air to lose much less energy (it’s part of a typical Passivhaus design). Every two years increase the insulation until you are at PassivHaus design standards.
  3. Make as much use of Passive Solar gain as possible.
  4. Add Solar Photovoltaic panels to your home.
  5. Replace all the appliances in your home to use as little energy as possible.
  6. Do laundry only once a week by being more creative and not so wasteful. There is not need to do so many loads of laundry each week.
  7. Cut energy use in your home by shutting things off, putting things on timers or motion detectors.
  8. Replace all your lighting with energy efficient bulbs.
  9. Turn off you TV, permanently. You waste time and a lot of energy watching TV that only numbs your mind and adds nothing of value to your life. If you have trouble with this one, get counseling you are addicted and need to get over it!
  10. Look to Europe for energy saving devices and electronics. They are way ahead of the U.S.
  11. Every so often check online for news on what European’s are doing and on the price of energy while your bill stays level because you are prepared.
  12. Learn to grow your own food. If you don’t learn how to do this one forget doing anything else because it will all be for not. You will be warm, have electricity but no food or worse, you will have to stand in line for a meager morsel.
  13. There is no need to get a certificate in permaculture, just learn to grow organically and add some of the permaculture ideas, like a food forest or huglekultur (contoured mounds).
  14. For heat backup you can add a masonry stove on which you can also cook food. Learn to eat more raw food, it require no cooking therefore less energy.

It is very important to learn how to live with less, half of what you are currently using is wasted anyway. By cutting the waste you can still be comfortable, warm and have all the electricity you need if you don’t waste what you have.

In the Passive Solar Greenhouse Project I am looking to create uses as little energy as possible and quite possibly it will generate all the energy that is needed onsite to grow organic food as affordably. By making use of current technology right off the shelf the greenhouse could be self-sustaining with respect to energy right from the start. The additional up-front cost would pay for itself very quickly and the whole project could pay it’s own way by not using energy most greenhouses waste because they follow the old design model of too much glass and too little insulation. Many traditional greenhouses leak heat or cooling which causes them to run units to help regulate their temperature far more often than a greenhouse with a better design, like a passive solar greenhouse.

I hate to sound alarmist and I hope that my research is not correct but if I am correct then it is much better to be prepared than not prepared. We are running out of cheap energy that is a fact. It is just not exactly known how fast because it’s all become such a big secret. Besides what could it hurt for you to actually have a house that produces more energy than it uses selling the extra for an additional income. You will save by not using energy you are currently wasting which allows you to sell all the extra for a profit. Can that be so bad?

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Aren’t we suppose to be the richest country in the world? And, yet we have millions of people living in poverty or are homeless. Why is that? (We currently have about 42,881,000 living in poverty in the U.S. (based on U.S. Census data).)

Before the whole collapse that happened 2007/2008 there was discussion among businesses, economists and the financial community whether or not moving the unemployment up to 10% would be a good thing. The outcome of that we are seeing today. Also, anyone believing the unemployment data, well I have some really prime land on Mars for sale, and you can start terraforming. Just because someone isn’t collecting an unemployment check doesn’t mean their employed. The data is faulty!

Bush Jr. while in office pushed some 1 to 1.5 million new people into poverty every year. By the time he left office there were some 13 million people who had joined the ranks of the poor.

Let’s not forget that Peak Oil (which occurred world-wide in 2008) looms over our heads and experts around the globe agree, we are in deep doodoo with this one and the U.S. is not preparing like Europe is. We can expect to see the rise of oil prices, and goods made or heavily influenced by oil, that includes food, to go up until no one can afford things anymore, except of course the wealthy. We only have about 15 to 20 years to go before most of us join the ranks of the poor or homeless because of Peak Oil.

So, back to my original question at the beginning. We have poor not because of some out of our hands event but by people who control money in some way or another. We can all argue about whether it’s the bankers, speculators, quants (quantitative analysts), day traders trying to make a fast buck, investors or investment banks, the fed, and so on. The thing you have to remember, it doesn’t matter who is at fault, but what are you going to do about it.

My solution is simple: put permaculture to work. My Greenhouse Project is just such an idea. Another is to create food forests, at first on a commercial basis, but once it is established the fence could be left open or taken down altogether to allow people free access to whatever is there (after they’ve been educated because is would be stupid to trample a helpful herb just to get at an apple).

Food, can be grown in parks, open lots, along highways or wild areas, in medians, wherever possible would do so much to help reduce the need of the poor and the homeless. Heck, plant some trees right in front of your house with a sign, “Please Help Yourself.” Be a ‘Johnny or Janis Appleseed’ in your area, but plant more than just apples, whatever grows in your climate, area. Tend the trees lovingly until they are fully mature and can continue on their own. Harvest some of the seeds and grow some more.

Look into planting a tree with a plaque in a park giving thanks to mom, dad, auntie, uncle, grams or just make up a name. The idea is that parks, and other public areas will allow it with a permit the planting of a commemorative tree and then the city tends the tree and won’t cut it down unless it dies.

It has been said, and I truly believe this, that if the poor, or homeless, were allowed to grow their own food then there would no longer be any poverty. All one needs is access to some land, water and seed that can be harvested from year to year and replanted. Once the poor have this then they can move out of poverty.

Until next time, be good to one another and plant something.

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