Welcome to the Permanent Recession – Food and Transportation Prices Rising

This is a guest post by Brian Gordon.

If employment is inversely proportional to oil prices (it is), and oil prices are only going to trend up…then employment by necessity is going down. Because oil is so fundamental to our economy, oil price increases ripple through the entire economy.

Take food as an example: current factory farming methods are entirely dependent upon oil from planting to processing to getting the food to market. Certain types of food are also heavily subsidised, especially meat and dairy. Note that these subsidies do not necessarily include oil subsidies, taxpayer-provided roads, subsidised water, and so on. As the price of oil increases, so goes the price of food; in fact this has already been happening in Canada and the United States. Note especially the increase in transportation costs, and both sources cite rises in fuel as a primary driver of inflation, so-to-speak.

If we take subsidised, oil-based factory farming prices as our minimum, and locally-grown, unsubsidised, organic (requiring little or no oil) prices as our maximum, in an environment where oil prices are increasing then the prices of factory-grown foods will tend to approach – and ultimately exceed – those of locally-grown organic.

Now, anybody who has done any grocery shopping recently knows that organic produce, meat, and dairy costs considerably more than factory-grown food, sometimes double or more. As the price of oil increases, more shoppers will switch to organic. Why not? If the cost differential evaporates, why not buy organic?

There is a big problem with this.

Let’s assume this does not drive up the price of organic, because factory farms switch to organic. This is easier said than done, and there are still plenty of oil-based costs (e.g.: for transportation) that will drive up the price of both organic and non-organic food. However, let’s be generous and ignore that.

If all food approaches the price of organic food, everyone not currently buying organic will see their food budget increase proportionally. As food is a necessity, cutbacks will be made elsewhere. Entertainment, purchases of non-necessities, etc. will decline, reducing jobs in those sectors.

Voila, food price increases translate to lower overall employment, aka a recession.

On the plus side, organic agriculture requires more labour and less oil, so there will be jobs there. On the downside, those jobs are typically very hard work for very little pay, which is why we use migrant workers. As long as we continue to do that, there will be unemployed Canadians and Americans with no income to buy the now much more expensive organic produce and animal products.

One way for people to compensate will be to eat less meat, as factory-grown meat is far more energy-intensive compared to vegetables, and therefore will be affected more by oil price increases. Compare the price of free range, organic beef to feedlot beef in your local grocery store, for example. Meat is also one of the most heavily subsidised foods, and no doubt there will be considerable pressure on governments to increase subsidies to keep meat prices down.

How long that can go on is uncertain. Because Canadian and U.S. governments are already heavily in debt and running deficits, any additional subsidies are added to the national debt and increase the deficit. That is clearly unsustainable, and eventually real food prices will have to be paid. The longer the subsidies remain in place, the greater the ultimate pain.

Suggested books if you want to learn more

The books below discuss in more detail some of the ideas mentioned in this post.

The first book (see Book 1) is Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet – something the authors found a tremendous challenge. And they live in British Columbia, where far more can be grown than anywhere else in Canada. They found certain foods were simply no longer available. As oil prices rise, locally-grown foods will be favoured, so there are important lessons in this book.

Book 1: Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet

The second book (see Book 2) specifically discusses the link between fossil fuels and our food. Pay special attention to the third bullet point…

The miracle of the Green Revolution was made possible by cheap fossil fuels to supply crops with artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Estimates of the net energy balance of agriculture in the United States show that ten calories of hydrocarbon energy are required to produce one calorie of food. Such an imbalance cannot continue in a world of diminishing hydrocarbon resources.

Eating Fossil Fuels examines the interlinked crises of energy and agriculture and highlights some startling findings:

  • The worldwide expansion of agriculture has appropriated fully 40 percent of the photosynthetic capability of this planet.
  • The Green Revolution provided abundant food sources for many, resulting in a population explosion well in excess of the planet’s carrying capacity.
  • Studies suggest that without fossil fuel-based agriculture, the United States could only sustain about two-thirds of its present population. For the planet as a whole, the sustainable number is estimated to be about two billion.

Book 2: Eating Fossil Fuels

The next two books (see Books 3 and 4) are about growing your own vegetables, something we might all want to look into.

Book 3: Solar Gardening

Victory Gardens provided much food to Britons and Americans during World War II, and Dmitri Orlov has said that home gardens saved a lot of Russians following the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should all be developing some self-sufficiency skills.

Book 4: The New Organic Grower

•Studies suggest that without fossil fuel-based agriculture, the United States could only sustain about two-thirds of its present population. For the planet as a whole, the sustainable number is estimated to be about two billion.

This looks to be a rather optimistic view. I have heard anywhere from .75 Billion to 1.25 Billion as sustainable, and have seen a few studies showing each. What specific study would show 2.0 B as sustainable?

Not that this is really good news, since that would infer a reduction of at least 4.5 Billion people, who will not be happy to leave. It is, however, better than 5.25 +.

Personally, I expect the die off will overshoot; we may restart at 500 Million folks.


I wonder though how many we could feed if we would switch to Permaculture and in addition to this grow your own food in your own garden or cummunity gardens. My feeling is that both together with localization would help a lot.

Any link to a permaculture unit growing their food ?

What is the diet or proposed diet ?

Not all sustainable home grown food is "permaculture".
Links: Some want low profile, providing links is their choice.
Diet: Here in upper Puna district in Hawaii (and elsewhere in the state) the basic crops underpinning the rest are sweet potatoes, taro, beans.

I do not understand how switching to "permaculture" to grow our food is a viable option if it is just a theory.

Looking for an example ... not just some web site that talks about "how to do it" when it has not been done.

Published on 22 Jul 2004 by San Francisco Chronicle. Archived on 25 Apr 2005.
Berkeley: Urban farmers produce nearly all their food with a sustainable garden in their backyard

"nearly" means ???

"they try to produce as much food as they need" ???

there is not enough photosynthesis going on to support them

I suspect the three renters are not being fed from the garden while the rent they pay and chores they do help make the system successful. If the renters lose their jobs, the assistance they provide would end.

Is the water source municipal or rainwater from the roof?

The garden is not sustainable if it requires support from the fossil fuel powered external civilization.

What if this example were closer to the norm, rather than an exception?

It would be a start ...but may not be enough in time to avoid violence.

Hi wetexas and jmygann , I would expect there would be some need for a trifle of the imported input for those goats in that article, especially if they are giving that amount of milk. I have ducks and I feel I need to supplement their forage (on a quarter acre lot) but they do pay their way in that regard. Along with the ducks, we grow, freeze and preserve, 98% of our own vegetables fruit and honey. but need to import anything of grain or milk as that those would take either too much land and for a goat a change in the local by-laws ( we live in a small city of 100,000).

Not a great deal of work to maintain it but a lot to get it set up and working right. Eventually if things go the way seems to be expected, properties will be valued as to how well they can produce a living rather than how well they can be flipped. They will be passed down from generation to generation, gradually being improved and expanded.

The house I live in, now a loose 40's style neighbourhood, is the original farm house dating from when it was attached to 5 acres of farm land. Not too bad a place to live and will be better if I get a chance to burn down my neighbours house so I can build a carp pond in his basement.

Looks like you are putting in the effort, best of luck...I always thought catfish quite tasty, are they more of problem to raise than carp?


So? The glass is both half full AND half empty.

Look up Masanobu Fukuoka, look up Permaculture, Look up Forest Gardening.

Here is one site that is linked to Fukuoka followers.


They have pictures and yeilds listed.

One of the biggest issues that come to mind is that We can talk solutions all day long, but can we produce results, That is what you are asking.

Well go out there and look online, Youtube has several videos listed under permaculture, there are likely more than I can easily post here, so I will let you look for them.

In my BioWebScape design the more plants that you can grow on your parcel of land means the more foods you can eat, and anyone who has ever gone into a wild bit of nature (young forests are best) and looked around, you'll see all kinds of plants. Knowing which ones are edible is key. Most people dig up their yards until all they have in them is one species of grass, but if they were to let them revert back to nature, they would see hundreds of species in a few years. Some places have larger numbers of species than others.

Anyone who wants to grow a garden should look for plants that have foods they will eat, and learn to eat foods that they might never have tried before, because of lack of choice at the grocery store.

I would guess that here in central Arkansas I could easily grow 500 different species of plants on my small city lot. A conservative estimate is that there are 20,000 species of edible plants that humans can eat.

How many does your local grocery have on it's shelves?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

We need more than "feelings", warm-fuzzies, and magical thinking. It's those very things that have gotten us into this mess in the first place! There's plenty of oil, we were told. We have centuries of coal to burn. The market will sort it out. If we run out of copper, we'll make copper out of something else.

Reality is very cruel to magical thinkers. Once in a while magical thinkers get it right. More often than not, they don't. In a era of abundant energy, getting it wrong doesn't come with consequences comparable to those in an energy stressed era. In the not to distant future magical thinking can and likely will kill many people. The problem with our social paradigms is that they are based on never ending growth. The magic will last forever. Now we can see reality poking its nose in the tent. Will that change our thinking?

There is going to be a die-back. It's simple. Less oil means less food. Less food means starvation. Can the whole world switch to permaculture overnight? How would a switch-over affect production? What about the political fallout? Can you expect the political class to give up their agribusiness profits without a fight? I have yet to see a case of Monsanto being thrown out in favor of permaculture. What would that look like?

In a best case scenario, trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure will have to be abandoned to make local permacultural food production work. It may come to that. But when and how do we get there from here? How do we make the transition? How many people will starve during the disruption? A collapse in the market systems will kill millions before permaculture gets off the mark.

There is going to be a die-back. It's simple. Less oil means less food.

I do not necessarily disagree there will be a die off eventually.
decrease in population.


Europe has a great standard of living using half as much energy as we do. and so far, china and india used much less energy well still supporting massive populations.

would reducing the population help increase the standard of living with a shrinking pie..., of course. A lower population should be the goal....

I just think you're making it sound more dire than it really is.

It is more dire than that, leduck. Think about it. Population has increased from 1 Billion in 1800, to 1.6 Billion in 1900, to 6.8 Billion today.

World Population Growth
Year Population
1 200 million
1000 275 million
1500 450 million
1650 500 million
1750 700 million
1804 1 billion
1850 1.2 billion
1900 1.6 billion
1927 2 billion
1950 2.55 billion
1955 2.8 billion
1960 3 billion
1965 3.3 billion
1970 3.7 billion
1975 4 billion
1980 4.5 billion
1985 4.85 billion
1990 5.3 billion
1995 5.7 billion
1999 6 billion
2006 6.5 billion
2009 6.8 billion


Now, look at short ranged future predictions:

2011 7 billion
2025 8 billion
2050 9.4 billion

Do you see any reduction in anticipated population? Who, exactly, of those billions of people trying to stay on a planet that can handle maybe 1.5 Billion, is going to voluntarily leave? Considering, of course, that interplanetary and galactic travel are still in the realm of science fiction.

At 1.2 Billion in 1850, Steam/Coal energy had already driven population up by 20%. In 1900, at 1.6 B, we were topped out. Oil accounts for all of the rest.

Granted, oil will run down, not out. Still, the economic upheaval coming from peak oil will force an early decrease in human numbers. I don't know how you would plan to convince people to do that. I don't know that you could. Still, I am open minded. So, I will check back from time to time. Maybe you or someone else knows something about human nature that I don't.


I'm too lazy to find the source....
But I once calculated that net population increase--new babies minus new coffins--is something like 10,000 persons an hour.

This means 250,000 per day. The Asian Tsunami set us back one day.

Over 1.5 million per week.

6 million (est.) per month--the same number as that given for the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

100 Million per year, according to my source above. That's 1,923,077 per week. Worse than you thought!


I understand the population timebomb.
I have always said PEAK OIL is just a symptom.
So is loss of fossil water and top soil.

Growth in population and consumption is the disease.

I do think there is potenial for a population crash.


I also believe that we can get by on much less.

I am a doomer. I am no "green cornucopian."

I don't believe green tech will save us. And I am sure in the long term, they may be a population crash.

The question is, how will the world respond to this, and other looming crises. Will we, and others, take the high road, or the low road (like nazi Germany).

I don't know. I don't have allot of confidence based on the way things have been going lately.

But, we can make do with much less than we use now.

How we react, is up to us.

Will we, and others, take the high road, or the low road (like nazi Germany).

Some will, some won't...

of course, given the number of relatively independent societies on earth, every variety of response is likely, including no response at all. And then individual responses within those larger choices makes for too much noise for any likely prediction. I do think that those who plan on the failure of BAU, rather than put all their effort into its attenuation, will do the best in the long term.

There is no question that we can use much less than we do now. We have in the past and we will in the future. But even using less just means that dieoff time is pushed forward a bit. And when dieoff comes, it will be even more horrific in terms of total numbers.

Using less is great and needed. Using less without a population decrease will just accelerate population. Eating lower on the food chain would free up farm land from grain fed to cows. This extra farmland, however, would be quickly used up by the additional numbers.

There is no escape, no exit, no solution in the sense that this species will ever commit to doing the things that need to be done. We will continue with short term and wishful thinking until the bulldozers, if any left, come to shovel the bodies in the open graves.

The lack of meaningful action in the past year on anything important to this issue, including global warming, makes me even less hopeful than I used to be.

Enjoy whatever ride is left to you.

It may help to think of it this way. Since we are all mortal, no one is going to die who wasn't slated to die from the moment they took their first breath. Some people will die sooner than they expected to die but every day on our freeways people die sooner than they expected to die. Some will die more horrifically than they expected to die, but every day people die horrifically anyway and in the 1st world many have that pain extended by medical treatment and in-denial family members.

Those who survive the initial crash are in for some hard times tho. No harder perhaps than many alive today (just had a massacre in Nigeria where several hundred people were killed, many hacked to death, meanwhile huge masses starve in Somalia - well we all know that even if we don't think about it so I won't go on). Still for those raised on rising expectations it will be a psychological nightmare as well.

How many die when is irrelevant. How many new people are born before the crash is, because unborn they don't have to face death or hardship, but once born they must die and the likelihood of dying in your sleep at old age is diminishing fast. Those of childbearing ages, before you make any other preps for your own sake and the sake of the children you might bear get your vasectomy or tubal NOW.

Then learn how to garden and find a source of water that is not from a municipality etc.

Well Zap,
It looks as if our only real hope is that somebody invents the improbability drive pdq. ;)

I guess this discussion will put me in the mood to do a little more bunker digging while I can still get diesel for the backhoe, and stock up some more ammo and dried beans. :(

I don't know how long it is going to take for the sXXt to truly get into the fan-my guess is a few more years yet in the richer parts of the world but it's not going to be pretty regardless of the time frame.

I'm already putting all the time I can into getting ready to live like my great great grand parents lived.My guess is that the really nasty problems are a still few years down the road ,maybe even as much as fifteen or twenty years.But once things start falling apart , they might just go all to hell in very short order.

And it looks as if things might be ready to fall apart any day in a few of the rougher parts of the world.Whether such troubles can be contained and isolated is anybodys guess.


You have called me on my we can feed everyone on 5,000,000 sq miles with sustainable gardening/living practices.

Here is where the plan I posted further up thread falls apart. Bankers owning things. Gov'ts wanting to control things. People generally being nasty to each other for various reasons. And last but not least I am not King of the World.

I have not felt like talking much, I'll try to give you a call this weekend.

The only way for us to really be able to feed everyone, is to change how everyone relates to everyone else, and that is not something that will happen anytime soon. So we could if WE ALL worked extra extra hard at living in peace with everyone else live on 5,000,000 sq miles of land, with each person owning their chunk, and a few other ground rules, but we aren't yet even near that place to set down what we'd need to do for this to work.

As a thought puzzle it works fine, you might even be able to double the land to 10 million sq miles. But everytime I think about it, I see all the people telling me all the things that will go wrong with it.

Just like today we could not have a no work world day. Not a soul on the planet can work on say March 31st 2010(right before april fools days), Doctors have to leave patients in bed, nurses have to go home, fires have to stay burning, everyone does nothing on the day for 24 hours, then it's Business as usual on April 1st. LOL what a joke of a day that will be.

Okay It was an idle thought this afternoon, just another thought puzzle to ponder.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

"It was an idle thought"

Pun intended?

I actually think we need your plan plus about 364 days.

Everyone needs to just stop.

Our whole civilization is not worth supporting with anymore of our energy.

It is geo-cidal, and anything we do in it will only further foster said geo-cide.

It looks as though the trigger has now already been pulled--one more, possibly the biggest, long or perhaps short term, feedback has apparently now kicked in--methane hydrates are now bubbling up from the bottom of the Arctic sea, something unseen a decade and more ago. To get an idea of what this may entail, wiki "clathrate gun hypothesis."

Realclimate also has a recent article on the latest developments, though they seem to be falling over themselves to emphasize that this may not be a major development, presumably hoping to sound encouraging rather than dis-spiriting.

Realclimate also has a recent article on the latest developments, though they seem to be falling over themselves to emphasize that this may not be a major development, presumably hoping to sound encouraging rather than dis-spiriting.

I saw that dohboi and I thought the same thing.

I don't understand why there is such a pushback on a dieback. Clearly when you look at pictures of cities, especially India and China but here as well, we have too many people. Why not let peak oil get us back to a human population that allows more room for other critters. As I posted earlier, its not as if anyone is going to die that wouldn't be slated to die anyway (since we are mortal-I have to insert that all the time or I get arguments) Its just that the timing will be different and the population going forward will be less, and if one hopes for a future for our species one should be hoping it will be much less. Even if we could feed everyone now alive with oil free agriculture we would still be putting too much stress on the planet for a single species. That is not balanced and imbalances get corrected one way or another in the end.

Laughs, Nope didn't even see the pun.

Should have, but didn't.

"Should have, but didn't" a nice phrase to discribe Humans in about 2,000 years?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Thinking about the sustainable population fro another perspective:
In 1800 the world supported 1 billion souls (and was growing). The knowledge and cultural evolution we have grown since then will not dissappear due to peak oil. So there is a considerable value-add to our situation in 1800. I haven't calculated it but I am guessing the world could sustain at least twice the 1800 population using only gained knowledge and no fossil fuels. Modern geographic knowledge of the earth makes available at least twice as much farming land and water as was available then. Take Australia as an example. So I'm guessing the earth will support at least 3 billion after peak oil takes effect. Happy for someone to do some calculations regarding the value-add of cultural and knowledge evolution.

What happens to the other half of the population?

It would be very nice if things went slowly enough that natural lifespans were available for all. Conceivably, with enough voluntary reproductive restraint, our population could stabilize at 2 billion in 60 years or so.

Of course, its still more likely we'll behave like yeast in a petri dish...

Hi daxr,

Conceivably, with enough voluntary reproductive restraint, our population could stabilize at 2 billion in 60 years or so.

OFM and others here on TOD have argued that declining birth/fertility rates will eventually resolve the population issue - they contend it will hit 9 to 10 billion and then taper off nicely so that I need not worry my pretty head about this thing - besides, no one will listen in any event.

I content that the only number that counts is "growth rate". I contend that growing form 6.8B to 9B is a catastrophe waiting to happen. I contend that those of us who can understand 5th grade math have a moral responsibility to become proactive about humane population reduction: support organizations (ie give money) that advocate birth control, free abortions, liberal sex education, elimination of tax subsidies for breeding, etc. If you are a religions person, lay a guilt trip on your preacher if they are not advising aggressive family planing and drastically reduced consumption.

I think it is technically possible to get the human population of the planet under control. I think the US must practice what they preach and reduce breeding here at home before we lecture other countries.

This is a mindset and world view issue - not a technical one. I submit that we should speak out against the real causes of population overshoot: religious/corporate/political agendas to breed more members into their ranks.

The growth rate in the U.S. has nothing to do with indigenous family size, growth is through immigration. The fundies can have as many kids as they'd like as it isn't a problem here.

Good luck telling Al Jawaih over in Somalia he can't have 8 kids, they'll have to deal with their own issues as they arise.

Hi Floridian,

growth is through immigration

I think we have gone over this ground before: even if you are 100% correct it does not change the undeniable fact that the US population is growing. We have yuppies in our neighborhood who have few children but they use immigrant labor (legal or otherwise) for all kinds of services.

My point is that the US should address this problem in all aspects and develop a stated policy regarding US population - and, hopefully, that policy will set goals for reducing population over time. Currently, we have no official policy and the unofficial policy is to encourage more breeding and immigration.

When the immigration issues comes up in debate with my friends, the first thing I ask is how many people do we want in the US in something like 2050. Answer that question first and then talk about immigration.

Good luck telling.......

My point is that there is little hope for avoiding really nasty consequences of PO/GW/etc unless global population is reduced - IMHO this is the most important issue. I think we should promote this idea in a variety of ways - but, we have zero credibility in doing this if our own population is still out of control.

You may be right that the effort is futile - but, if we have no will to even try, then why even bother with this web site?

Hi Dave,
It was once my belief that prosperity and declining birth rates would indeed solve the population problem, but that is not and has not been my position for quite some time.

Since I have a habit of jumping in and out of threads in a conversational way, and not always typing in all the context needed to make myself clear, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I think the population problem will take care of itself.It has actually pretty much taken care of itself in some parts of Europe already.

My actual current beliefs are that we are in for a very long , perhaps almost permanent state of stagnation and decline economically, and that there will almost certainly be a die off within the next few decades, probably within a decade, in many parts of the world.It is just barely possible that this dieoff can be prevented but I am pessimistic as to the likelihood o0f the necessary actions being taken , which include spending a hell of a lot of nonexistent money on foreign aid which would most likely only be wasted anyway.

I am somewhat hopeful however thay civilization as we know it will survive in the richer parts of the world , minus the free ride provided by oil.

Consider me about halfway between a doomer and a declinist and you will have me properly categorized.

But other than predicting hard times and generalized troubles, I hardly dare guess what the future might hold.

For instance it might be that an authotitarian govt will come into power in some countries that will use all the powers of the modern state to strictly curb population growth, including tax incentives, free birth control, promises of increased old age benefits for those who have no children , and actual punishments such as jail time for those who are not persauded by other means.

The thing that really scares me is the very high, as I see it , probability of resource wars.Once they are well started , they may spread world wide.

Hi Mac,

It seems that we actually do have about the same understanding of our predicament. Perhaps our only difference would be in regard to foreign aid. Other than military assistance, the US gives a very small percent of its GDP to actual foreign aid. I am no bleeding heart liberal in this regard (but most folks do see me as being one of those "liberals"). I look at foreign aid as a practical investment - and this does NOT include our current military adventures.

If we can make investments that help prevent the spread of disease, hatred of the US, information sharing, disaster relief, and the like, then I think we would be wise to make some substantial cuts to our military budget and redirect some of that money to other foreign aid projects (lots of qualifications about what these might actually be).

I share all of your other concerns.

On a lighter note (and probably few reading this thread any longer), Spring is coming to Wisconsin and my favorite bike trails are opening up. Can't you just smell the clean crisp air (this is my single bike - a recumbent for us old guys)

Yeah, 2 billion old people.

I think there may be a small problem with your maths. There is currently more than 2 billion people less than 25 years of age. Given the BAU trend in life expectancy you would expect that those 2 billion will live, on average, to the ripe old age of 85 years ie. 60 years from now. This then implies, that in order for your ideal situation of an orderly population decrease to 2 billion in 60 years, there needs to be NO new births in that period (give or take).

I think that would be a very, very, unlikely scenario. Forced population reduction will occur. There is no possible way that the world can avoid it.

Well, a certain kind of specialized knowledge may have increased, but generally far fewer people have a clue about how to farm or even garden.

Meanwhile the natural support systems have been grievously undermined at pretty much every conceivable level. You may be able to quickly multiply a certain kind of human knowledge, but you can't quickly increase tilth or increase the biodiversity of the earth or decrease the level of GHG's...

Thanks for the cherry picking. Those ripe ones can be quite tasty.

Worse then that, most people don't have a feel or respect for the land. They don't know where the modern world came from. They don't know it ultimately came from the land, just like their produce.

I'm sure some farmer from the third world can teach me.

Most of them will unfortunately be dead.
Lack of knowledge won't be a problem as it was in the olden days. Unless you guys are planning to not have enough power to run the internet.
Educated democracies can change rapidly when scared.

quite the opposite. In the olden days, there was no shortage of people who knew how to live from the land, at least by agriculture. It was rather easy for large portions of urban populations to go back to the
country and take up farming if something forced them too, because not only was a vastly greater fraction
of the population actively engaged in farming to begin with, but also because even those city dwellers lived right next door to people farming and had some exposure to it. not to mention that technologically things
were simpler, less interdependent, and the city folk were already accustomed to many other aspects of
life we now consider confined to third world farming villages.

nowadays? even most of the farmers themselves don't know how to farm without high-tech tools and techniques anymore! the few who don't fit that description are the exception, not the rule, in the industrial countries. third world subsistence farmers at least still know how to do what their ancestors did.
now, even if modern western people learned quickly, with what tools? we've thrown out the low-tech
tools a century ago. they simply aren't there anymore. you could find a rusted and useless specimen maybe,
either abandoned in a gully somewhere or perhaps in an antique shop. it's going to be a lot harsher
transition with far more improvisation than was needed in the olden days.

the knowledge (and mentality) that guys like airdale and OFM have, is a rare thing these days in the industrial countries. if i lived anywhere near them or folks like them, i'd be trying to learn as much as i could from them (i do luckily still have relatives who lived that way, who occasionaly can be gotten
into story-telling or teaching).

As the movies King Corn and Food, inc. show, basic equipment for farming that used to be ubiquitous is now almost completely mothballed or destroyed.

The shocking one for me was a mobile machine that allowed a farmer to put his dried corn ears in one end and get cleaned seed corn out the other. There used to be at least two or three of these in every county that would make the rounds and allow farmers to use their own corn for seed. There are now barely two in the whole state of Iowa--

Monsanto and other big ag companies have engaged in an intentional program to drive them and their operators out of the state so that all farmers are now completely dependent on them to buy their seed corn from.

Big ag has thus enriched them selves while imperiling the rest of us, making it much more likely that, in any kind of disruption (Oh, those never happen, do they?), farmers will have far fewer choices and will be far less resilient.

Big ag is acting here like their partners in crime, the big banks--enriching themselves by making all of our lives much worse and much less secure.

So, along with the above movies, you might want to watch "Capitalism: A Love Story."

Anybody that wants one of these machines can still buy a small hand cranked model at farm antiques and collectibles fairs for a couple of hundred bucks. we have on ethat belonged to my old Pa .It's made out of cast iron and good white oak ,and it will last for generations.You can shell all corn you will ever need on a subsitstence farm with it in a few winter evenings when the television no longer works.

There are also some small hand operated meal and flour gronding machines around but they are scarce and we don't have one as there was a water powered mill on one of the local farms when such machines were still being sold.My guess is that an antique mill would likely outlast three or four new ones, unless maybe they were imported from somewhere in the old USSR.

dohboi, right about the equipment. When the lights finally go out, how will we gear up to farm as they did in the early years. Where are the blacksmiths to make a plow. Where are the looms to weave cloth. Where are the skills. Precious few in this country. Yet in Haiti I saw men doing metal repairs over small charcoal fires sitting at the edge of the road. Clearly most of the people in third world countries know skills that only a few hobbyists know in this country. Even if they have a large population decrease as well they will be well ahead of us.

for a visual of the skills of some see http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/75945-preparing-for-2014-15-oil-crun...

We need to think farming is bad, row cropping is a bane on the land.

Even the old ways of tilling the soil every srping is bad. It is even safe to say the NO-Till of today is a bad way to use the land, because it still is labeled as farming.

Growing food in a sustainable manner should have very little tearing up the soil to plant something, and More planting seeds/plants in a spot and letting things mash out as they will. It seems like it'll never feed you in the long run, because it is so much of a radical change from BAU farming that you can't get past your shock to look down at the long run.

Sure there might be a lot of lean years right at the start, and we'll call that a transition time, but if you start now on each and every chunk of yard lands you have, it won't be so hard in a few years.

It is not Farming that will feed us in the years to come, it is learning to live within what nature can grow without us doing more than selecting seeds to plant that might grow in our areas. We have damaged the land so much that we will still have to spend time hunting down plants that will grow in our bit of the world, but we aren't limited to just what grew there 2,000 years ago, or before mankind showed up. We can plant anything that will grow in the section of the world where we live. And see if it will produce edible crops for us. 20,000 species or more of edible plants on earth and all we grow on farms is maybe 1,000 if not less.

The biggest issues aren't what we could do, it is how to get past our own stupid reasons why we can't.

I am calling you folks stupid, I am calling all mankind stupid, me inculded. We don't see the picture for the nose in front of our eyes. We get blinded to the possiblities because we've not seen them change for so long that we don't think they can ever change.

What would happen if everyone stopped being selfish on March 17th 2010?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

ox wrote "only a few hobbyists know in this country"

Let's hear it for the hobbyists, then. That is one reason why I'm not cynical about people who are seriously into things like the Society for Creative Anachronism and other experiential approaches to medieval and ancient studies (though I am only involved in an academic way).


Many of these people are keeping alive exactly the skills that you refer to.

One thing for certain we have enough people right now to keep open and reopen myriads of those sorts of things. Variety is the spice of life.

I don't need to watch documentaries. I own part of a farm, and have studied and practiced small scale organic growing.

The internet is an excellent device to store and disseminate information. There's plenty of knowledge about small scale growing. But were not going back to anywhere near 90% of the population being involved in agriculture. We know much more about growing food than pre WWII.

Don't know about OFM but Airdale finds that life is about over for those of my generation who did live an almost totally sustainable life style.

Even here in my homeland , a few miles from where I lived like this, I find only a very very few 'oldtimers' who can recall it. Most are dead and slowly dying.

They are taking those experiences with them to their graves.

I keep a 'dead list'. I add to it fairly often and I read it now and then. The number and names of those who have proceeded me is something I have a hard time grasping and thinking of those men is a very sad endeavor.

I sat at many of their knees as the story telling went on and on. Back then that was how experiences and knowledge grew and was passed on. Sitting on a porch and speaking about this and that for hours sometimes. Delineating family lines. Telling about their crops and hunting or whatever else was happening. You kept track of your neighbors and others this way.

"Oh don't you know that so and so's grandson married so and so's daughter. They had it ALL in their memory. The community of a few miles in each direction was close knit.

I can recall my grandfather mowing his neighbors hay field with a horse drawn sickle bar mower. Rabbits were everywhere. I caught by hand about 50 or so easily. No rabbits here now nor has been for many many years.

And his horse drawn mower rusted out many years ago. I rarely see a mule in harness anymore. Milk cows are long gone and everyone used to have a milk cow. Everyone. A farmwife would catch a good hen and walk to a neighbors and they would trade. Each would come out with some new lines of chicken stock. A nearby farmer would drive his boar hog to our place down the country lane and we would get some breeding from a different line of hogs. Same with cows. Mules were traded a lot. We traded very much.
Work as well as animals.

I can walk down to that old farm from my place sbut the hugehade trees are now gone. The land has been radically altered. No one would remember it as it once was alive with children and chickens, hogs,sheep,3 mules,two wagons,hogs and the smoke house not too far from the outhouse and the chicken coop right over there.

The house burned. The land was altered. Only my memories of it remain. That and a very few faded black and white photographs. 14 aunts and uncles all lined up for my grandfather was 'laid out' in the parlor in 1949. My grandmother died a year later in my very own bed. My grave site is in the same cemetery as theirs is and many many of my kinfolk. I will lie at the foot of the very first of my namesake who came to this country right after the 1812 New Madrid earthquake. Paddling a canoe up the Mississippi river and marrying a young Cherokee maiden. For the very old Cherokee Trail ran right thru here. Right down the road a mile from that farm of my youth. Her kinfolks still live and all are tall , lanky, shutmouth folks of Cherokee blood.

Yet I raise my gardens as I have for as long as I have had a patch of ground, be it in a suburb or a small horse farm. All the time working in aeroscience in Huntsville,Ala or for IBM in Lexington Ky on my horse farm.

Those gardens tie me back to my roots everytime. When I shuck the corn or pick the green beans I am back as a youngun once more on my half-Indian grandfathers farm of the early 40's. Right over near the river hills where I was born and raised.

There were no vehicles to bring us supplies. We took the wagon to town only once in a great while. So one of my uncles would take some corn to town to get it ground and pickup a sack of salt. That was about all we got
from off the farm.

Nothing from petrochemicals except kerosene. Enough to burn the lamps.
All food cooked on a wood cookstove. I drove a nail through my foot once by stepping barefoot on a board. My grandmother made me stick it in a bucket of coal oil(kerosene). No other medicine did we use.

I keep an old kerosene container near my wood stove even now. Along with some good corn cobs for starting my fires.

I lived and worked in a high tech world but my soul was always 'country' and I never forgot my upbringing and those who were my kith and kin. I owe them much for my life for I and my brother were pretty much abadoned way back , when all the men went away to war and my kin did for us what they could. We never saw our mother and father much for 12 years.

They was hard times at the tail end of the depression and the start of WWII and following. But we never knew it. We lived and grew in a healthy environment with those who cared for us and taught me that old way of life I still cherish the memories of.

I am the last and oldest male living of that line from my grandfather.from those 14 offspring he fathered I am the only male left and the line will have died out when I am gone.

I would encourage everyone to try to get back to that type of life. Try to capture what you can of the past for this I am certain of.

It will be only way for this country to survive.

The way of the past. The close communities of neighbors that I remember. The way of doing things that worked for us back then. Very little schooling. Good hard healthy work. Eating what you grew and can store up. Raising your children best you can and passing along your skills and values to them. Getting down on your knees and giving thanks to the earth that you till and work. Not abusing it. Not wasting it needlessly. Shepherding it as best you can for those who will come after you.Letting all life forms have a chance as well to grow and live as best you can. Being honest with your neighbors and lending a hand whenever you can.


Airdale thanks for your excellent post

You wrote "A farmwife would catch a good hen and walk to a neighbors and they would trade. Each would come out with some new lines of chicken stock."

That really hit me, as we have a flock of about 100 chickens from about 15 different breeds. They are crossed so much it is hard to say any one is any one things. But they are beautiful and all unique. I often get a bit of grief from those who want to keep "pure breeds" and can't understand our love of diversity in colors, patterns, and sizes not to mention egg colors. But it does more than provide us with pleasure (as in "I wonder what we would get if we crossed Broody with Al?") it prevents inbreeding. So small farmers knew they had to trade from time to time to get new blood and avoid that problem.

Anyone who is fixed on a certain breed would at least do well to get their initial stock from several different suppliers and hopefully before long give up the idea of a pure breed for healthy non-inbred chickens.

Its interesting that a trend toward crosses of breeds of dogs has taken off - starting with cockapoos, moving on to labradoodles etc, but of course your ordinary mutt is often the best breed to have. Still it points to humans enjoyment of diversity which has be culturally stifled. IMO

Basically the mindset change people need is utility. For a chicken the highest utility might not be fast growth or lots of eggs, but general vigor, disease resistance, predator awareness, protective coloration, low food consumption etc. For instance Banties (small chickens) if not too small lay a smaller egg but are said to have a better feed to egg ratio. And they fly better so they can escape predators. Some of our half game banty, half standard birds are really great.

Thanks Airdale.

BioWebScape will look like what he posted in due time.

These are base numbers so don't yell at me.

But If we were to chop up about 5,000,000 Sq Miles of land into 1/4 arce lots. Which gives you enough room to put a small earth shelter or even passive solar home on, plus about 8,000 sq feet of growing space. You could feed one person on each parcel of land. Without any inputs from outside, using plants and animals that live off the land and it's normal rainfall, likely without ever needing ground water.

Globally there is at least 57,000,000 sq miles of land.

So why can't we feed the people we have now?

On 8,000 sq feet you would have to get about 100 calories of food energy per square foot over the course of a year. If you could plant 200 food plant species in that space, there is no reason why you can't feed yourself on the land.

You'll have to juggle things when you think of feeding those that can't do any work, or the elderly or the young, but still. 5,000,000 sq miles could feed the world's current population without outside inputs.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

You have very serious problems dealing with reality.

I deal with reality all the time. Prehaps thinking outside the box we have all gotten ourselves into in the problem.

Reality is I can show you the numbers, and you will tell me that I am crazy, but If you look around you, you see crazy all the time.

If is a big word I know, like I said If you look at the puzzle, we can easily feed ourselves. But we won't until we are forced to get out off our couches, or die in them.

I don't for a minute think my solution is going to happen, I just know it is possible to feed everyone on earth with that little bit of land. We have been stuck thinking otherwise so long and within our own little cultures telling us we can't do this, that we won't as a global population do so.

Reality bits, then you realize you fell asleep and let the fish get away.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Charles, here in Alabama until the last few years, from May until September we have often had NO rain. Not only would our garden crops have failed, we and our chickens would have died from thirst had it not been for our well. We had an extra well drilled with a hand pump in it, but if I had irrigated that way I wouldn't be doing anything else.

So have you done this yourself. If so in what part of the world.

I have worked for about 10 years to increase my garden fertility with leaves from people in town who see no value in them. Most of the soil in the region is severely depleted by first cotton and now pine tree farming. Where would the organic input come from if it were all to be farmed. I borrow from town folks who don't know better. But if we were all trying to improve our soil with what we grow from our soil it would be a long time until we fed ourselves. Much of the land in the US is probably in similar state and needing of organic inputs BEFORE it can become self sustaining.

The problem is that Almost all of OLD Alabama was not subject to rainlessness like it has been in recent memory. The damage has been done to most of our country over the last 100 years or so and we are reaping the painful results of it.

I've used only rainwater for my garden from 2000 till I moved in 2006 in Northern Alabama in Huntsville. I had a lot of tanks with fish in them and bug larva, along with the stored rainwater, with a few lided 55 gallon buckets and barrels with almost pure rainwater in them. I think I topped out at 1,000 gallons of above ground water storage capacity. Most of the time I never overflowed, only once or twice did I do that.

The more animals you have the more water you need, I didn't think to add that if we add animals to the mix of the hunks of land, you'd need to have water storage or use groundwater. My thinking is that in some areas there is not much ground water and there is so much that you can do to restore the groundwater tables in your area, by using rainwater catchment land features that will rebuild natural or manmade erosion factors.

Terraces, swales( an old concept turned new again), Dew ponds, Dew water catchments used back during greek and roman times, and rainwater cisterns. All these help with the cycle of lean years and full years.

The land here in this yard I have watched change over 30 years, it never was great land to begin with, hard rocky red clay, If let to grow on it's own it'd become forest again in 20 years, as that is what it was before they put houses here in the late 50's.

I used to live about 5 miles south of here on old arkansas river bottom land, and it was a lot richer and had a great garden plot, on that yard I never used city water either. But only lived there 3 years.

There are a lot of places that today need a lot of work to restore to soil humus levels, and getting mulch back into the system means going out and getting it, or growing the plants that will best help.

The BioWebScape plan is to gather as much information about what plants will grow in the plot of land in question, and utilize as many Landscaping restoration methods as needed. Fighting the change in local climate patterns is just one of the issue at hand. We have to fight that whether we are growing a monoculture farm or a small bio-intensive garden plot.

It's a work in progress and always has been, just another day in life.

Thanks for the information, I'd love to have more details about your place, every little bit of other's experiences helps the dataset be more fluid. Mail me sometime.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Firstly the whole world does not have change over night. Peak Oil is not like an earthquake. It is a gradual process and in that process obviously food prices will have to rise.

When they do food producers will have the wherewithal to out bid others for the remaining oil supply. Since food is a necessity high and rising prices mean that there will be adequate food. There will be no starvation in current food surplus countries like the U.S..

What will happen is that agriculture will out bid other users for oil. Things like air travel will have to drop. Using oil to heat homes will have to stop since it will become unaffordable. Recreational travel will have to decline dramatically. The military will have to stay home and Americans will have to learn to mind there own business or face even higher food prices.

Farmers will love the situation because contrary to what is said almost daily at TOD, the costs of oil for farmers is a small part of production costs. Land, seed, property taxes and possibly machinery costs come before fuel costs.

True if food is transported from far away it will become ever more expensive, but even double or quadruple fuel prices will not make bananas unaffordable for North Americans. Nor will Chilean grapes be out of reach in February either. Ocean freight is an energy efficient way to transport long distances.

Price is not always the most important consideration in food consumption anyway. If it were many restaurants and expensive convenience items at grocery stores would disappear.

In advanced countries there will be no food shortages even long after Peak Oil becomes obvious to all.

Farmers don't make the price, they take the price.

and subsidies

Not all of us get or receive susidies. John

Quote: "Price is not always the most important consideration in food consumption anyway. If it were many restaurants and expensive convenience items at grocery stores would disappear."
This is the case now in our consumerist society where we have plenty of money to go around. But when there is a shortage of that then one has to cut back on not essential expenditures and these expensive items will disappear.

Bananas were being shipped to the US from the "banana republics" of Central America by boat well over 100 years ago. They tended to be yellow with black spots rather than still green by the time they got to the stores, but we can live with that.

Well, just right for eating, then!

On the disappearance of luxury items, in Hawaii tourism is tanking fast, especially the bulk-tourism of Waikiki aimed at the middle class market. Restaurant closings and menu item contraction is a monthly to weekly event. When you do go out to a restaurant, often the manager will greet you and offer free drinks to start. I like the latter change, but am already missing many of the old favorite restaurants that have closed.

The beauty of PEAK OIL is that, eventually, most of us will be less sedentary, and as a result, healthier!

When we stop growing, consuming and polluting exponentially, eventually, when the hell of decline is behind us,things will start to look up again.

the trick will be, getting to the "Age of Aquarius" in one piece.

"The beauty of PEAK OIL is that, eventually, most of us will be less sedentary, and as a result, healthier!"
That's on possible path. Another is a return to an elite land holding class that works the peasants as close to death as they can manage. Much is made of how terrible the labor burden is to grow your own food. I suspect that much of the burden is to keep elites in power.

Another is a return to an elite land holding class that works the peasants as close to death as they can manage.

It worked out very well for several of my ancestors...,

until the revolution.

The problem is that you can grow all your own food with little work once your garden is growing and producing, if you are working to hard to get fed, you have not been doing your design homework like you should.

Yes you will still have to dig plant roots up to eat them, yes you will still have to carry thing to the house to process them. But if you have been doing your designing correctly you don't have to slave at it.

But humans don't live in harmony with themselves let alone with nature, so you are still going to have people slaving away at getting themselves fed for a long time to come, even while others know better.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

The problem is that you can grow all your own food with little work once your garden is growing and producing, if you are working to hard to get fed, you have not been doing your design homework like you should.

This sounds like permaculture propaganda. They call it "do nothing" farming. It's nonsense. But that's how they sell books: It's the "something-for-nothing" fallacy, a great marketing ploy.

There might be some crops in some conditions/climates that can be grown "easily" by "living in harmony in nature," but pretending this applies across the board to all farming--like trying to grow apples in Maine--is just FANTASY.

It is not a reason to sell books. I don't care about money, if I did I would not be living on less than 9,000 Dollars and giving my fiction away on my website for free.

If your climate does not allow apples to be grown there, then don't plant apples! Each bit of land is totally different, any landscape Architect worth his pay should know that, and any farmer does too.

I am not talking about growing everything on every piece of land, I am talking about growing what will grow on your hunk of land, but your climate within a set of norms is somewhere else on the earth growing things that you don't grow. The whole purpose of BioWebScaping is to find out what grows where and getting that information to those people. It is not something that will happen over night and might never be a finished project. The world is a big flexing system, but we have within our mental means the ability to understand the system and work within the boundaries it has set out for us. We have been approaching the whole issue from the wrong end for more years than we even know about.

I would advise you to first find out as many plants with edible parts that will grow on your hunk of the world, and then start planting them, mostly at first it might seem like you get a neat design, but over time it'll look like chaos, only you'll know more about where things are growing that someone new to your hunk of earth. The system won't be the same every year, you'll have some plants that do good this year and bad next, but if you have planted enough edible plants, you can deal with most lean/full cycles.

I know it looks like permaculture, but they tend toward a religous kind of practice that I don't, as well as selling and making profits. The closest I have come is Forest Gardening and or Fukuoka styled growing( but again he leans toward the religion and I don't).

I have mapped, gathered huge volumes of data for a lot of the world's surface and below surface area, that task is not something that easy to wrap your head around. And most of the maps I have gathered data on, change daily, Coastlines. The world's waterways are an ever changing dataset, nothing stays the same for long. But it still gets done to as close to perfect as can be done, once every year.

As I have said elsewhere, the term farming is so limited in it's scope that I don't like using it. Call this selected plant planting, then letting nature do most of the work( if you do a bit more tweaking of nature than just letting it run its course). Yes, you'll need to weed a bit, and prune a bit, but over the year you'll do a lot less than you would if tried to beat nature into line, like we do now.

I guess if you still disagree with my thinking, we'll just have to disagree. It is still an idea that has some tweaking going on it it, as all ideas do.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Harvesting ripe bananas and choping them up and drying them and then shipping them does not change their ediblity. In 200 years when I want a fresh grape, I'll either get one off my vines, out of my storage, or eat something else.

We are spoiled children these days.

If I can grow a fruit, I can preserve it in some way shape or form so that out of season I can still have the taste of it.

One thing I do is can or preserve extra foods, even when I didn't have a garden, I'd buy cheap and parcel out and package for later use. Planting to have fresh food from your garden is only limited by a few things, plants used, and growing season. You can design a garden to have foods all year long, even in a hard freeze climate, you just have to do a bit of design juggling.

But again we are a spoiled People, (some exceptions of course).

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Charles in 200 years you will be worm food, not a fruit eater

What?! You mean I won't life forever? Darn! I should have said, If I were alive in 200 years, or If someone were alive in 200 years. I tend to just place myself in whatever time frame needed and go with it, author's bad habits.

I have always thought that I did not want to be buried in a closed up box, way waste the money on it, just dig hole and plop me in, I am dead after all, who cares. But yeah worm food.


"In a best case scenario, trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure will have to be abandoned to make local permacultural food production work. "

This is something I've been going on about for years - not the "permaculture" or whatever buzz-term-guru religion du jour but the infrastructure.

The hardest part of eliminating transport from food production isn't growing the food it's what to do with it after harvest. Is there a cannery in your town? A packing shed, slaughterhouse or any ag infrastructure? If there is I'll bet it is specialized for only one crop and designed for long distance transport not local consumption.

Increasingly we farm not only fewer breeds/varieties worldwide but fewer types of crops regionally with regional infrastructure geared to what is most competitive in a global market.

When the need gets severe enough, people in each community could form a co-op cannery, or butcher/meat locker, or grain mill/grainery, or whatever. They could do that, or they could just sit back and starve. Which would you prefer?

Heck, Jews in Eastern Europe were able to create all that in the Baltic forests during WWII (see "Defiance") and did well while also fighting the Germans. Surely, when push comes to shove us tender-footed Americans could survive that way...call me an optimist.

Ummm, they had been intimately involved in these processed before the war. Sure they could reconstruct some of them, with great difficulty.

But now this experience is nowhere to be found. As I posted above, the last remnants of infrastructure for sustainable year to year corn farming are being hounded from the countryside by Monsanto.

Everyone does not eat from a factory farm. There are more people today eating from them than ever before, only because there are more people on earth now than has likely ever happened before.

To answer some of your questions.

A sea change has to happen, first with those that know what is going on and are willing to change themselves. Every day be mindful to eat something that you grew yourself, or that was already growing in your yard, or wilderness area(vacant lot, forest, swamp, beach, hillside, etc, etc.). Plant one seed a day at least, of a food plant (nut trees, fruit trees, vegies, anything that you would eat from later in its grow cycle). Encourage others to do the same thing.

Slow starts, are normal in gardening, and failures are also normal, you could have a perfect plant today only to have a storm kill it in the night(or pest, or thief take it). Which reminds me of the time I had these perfect tomatoes and peppers that I wanted to leave on the plants just a bit longer, only to have them taken by someone who could reach over my fence and snatch them. (that garden was a huge success, but I don't live there anymore)

You know there is a worse case scenario That trillions of dollars will go the way of billions of people and permaculture is what those that are left are living off of.

But that infrastructure you hold so dear, is a goner anyway, no matter what outcome happens. Even the trees I plant in my yard today won't be there in 200 years (some could, but only a few). Why do we always have to have things last so long?

Switch over from growing on a big monoculture farm to growing on a parcel of land within a more natural system will mean lots of changes. Some of them will not be easy for people, but BAU can't last, and won't last, and never would have lasted. Facing the change is all we have left.

Permaculture is not something that happens overnight, but then neither is a monoculture farm. Asking that question of switching over night is specious. Only God could have that happen(and most people won't want him involved in this to begin with).

Magical events happen all the time, haven't you ever seen the light on a child's face when they see the seed they planted growing? Yes there will also be sadness when it dies, but that did not stop the first magical happening from taking place, that first smile. Magic is not what your banker is talking about when he has a loan paid off, that is called something else.

I think you using the term magic in your comment is almost another specious event, but I'll do my best not to ignore your concerns.

I say that if we got ourselves into this mess and we are rational enough to know that we are in a mess, then we can get ourselves out of this mess, but will we do the work needed to get out, or will we just give up trying and die while doing nothing!

Growing enough food for everyone is possible, even if right now we have people eating just barely enough to stay standing, we also have people eating more than they need, and wasting a lot more of it elsewhere. So by growing things on a more local basis we will be able to limit all the waste in the big cogs of the system we have now and move toward better eating for everyone. BUT again It will mean working at it, not just talking about it, even though we can see a solution right in front of us, we still might die for lack of trying.

One class every child should be taught in school is survival training over a wide range of environments, and cases. And even knowing how to survive won't result in survival in all cases, but not knowing how will end in death in more cases.

Plant a seed, eat from your own yard or from a wild area, repeat tomorrow.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

The earth's entire surface is approximately 196.9 million square miles. The entire land surface area, including Antarctica is about 57 million square miles. Excluding Antarctica, the land surface is 52 million square miles. Of this remaining surface, only about 12 million square miles are actually arable land. But much of this arable land is useful wild biosphere such as forests and grassy prairies. In order not to wreck the entire biosphere, estimates I've seen indicate that we should not use more than about 25% of the available arable land. This reduces the human usable arable land to 3 million square miles.

With a current population of 6.8 billion human beings this works out to 2266.67 people per square mile. One square mile is 27,878,400 square feet. This works out to 12,299 square feet per person or a rectangle of about 120 feet by 100 feet. In that space you must account for:
1. Waste disposal
2. Food growing
3. Shelter
4. All other human activities.

Further, if everyone foraged wild areas, those wild areas would be scavenged clean in short order. The world would look like Haiti.

Your idea, to be polite, is rather impractical.

12 million is not correct. The land we use for farming using 1994 numbers from the wiki on arable land is roughly 5.6 million square miles. And the land you mention that should stay in un-farmed is 14.8 million square miles.

Which leaves 31 million square miles doing whatever it is doing.

Total arable land is the 5.6 plus the 14.8 million possible.

You don't have to forage and destroy the ability for the land to reproduce!

Waste disposal and food growing and living are all on the chunk of 10,000 sq Ft. You don't have to have one person living in 2,000 sq feet of house. We have 3 in under 900 sq ft of house.

I didn't say it would be easy, I just said it would work, if we are all willing to work at it, It could be done.

I really don't have much hope that it will be done, but it could be done.

Just like we could go to the moon and to Mars, it is within our ability to do so, but will it be done? Not likely, to many people get wrapped up in making sure they get theirs before someone else gets it.

Thanks for the questions and comments.
BioWebScape designs for a better future.

2 billion is a very optimistic number.

Just think of the great compost created by the decomposing 5 billion. this will make up for the fertilizer shortage.

also, think of the reduction in green house gasses from 5 billion less. if you think cow farts are bad, this will be huge.

You must be Gary Larson

"if you think cow farts are bad, this will be huge."

Actually, have you ever visited a conventional graveyard and noted the smell there (and I don't mean the flowers)? Maybe it's the embalming compounds slowly decaying, dunno. So, as a geochemist, I can't help but wonder about the methane/CO2 flux from those places. Methane of course is odorless.

So, a rapid die-off would have the temporary effect of adding greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane, etc. to the atmosphere, regardless of whether the biomass was cycled through the food chain or not. The (literally) standing crop of fixed human carbon would be added to the atmospheric burden unless deeply buried.

Sorry, sometimes I can't help myself!

From: D3PO

So, a rapid die-off would have the temporary effect of adding greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane, etc. to the atmosphere, regardless of whether the biomass was cycled through the food chain or not. The (literally) standing crop of fixed human carbon would be added to the atmospheric burden unless deeply buried.

I don't think we have much to worry about there. Humans activity generates 6-7 Gt/yr. Take 5 B mouth breathers away and that number would drop to 0.5-1 Gt,

Here's what we would be giving back

5 billion x 60 kilos per = 300,000,000,000 kilos.
300,000,000,000 k x 18%(the % of Carbon in a body) = 54,000,000,000 k
54,000,000,000 k / 1000 k = 54,000,000 metric tons (mt) or 54 Mt of C
54 Mt x 3.7 (conversion of all C into CO2)= 198 Mt = 0.20 Gt of CO2

In other words,only 0.20 Gt of CO2 addition for a 5.00 Gt reduction in CO2 emmisions - And there will be no shortage of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Calcium for a while.

P.S. Don't bury em to deep. Remember oxidation produces CO2, anerobic decomposition produces methane.

Very well done, Seraph! If you were my student, I'd give you an A for that and buy you a beer.

Humans don't rot. You feed them to the pigs and feed the survivors on pork.

Watch Deadwood.

But... but... we could harvest that methane, which should help offset the losses from post-peak natural gas. Also, think of all the phosphorus (bones) we could recapture!

I love being a green cornucopian! >=D

You're focused on farts?

the man's a cannibal..., of sorts.

He wants to feed off of grain fed by decaying human flesh.

Well..., at least we wont be off of oil cold turkey

RE: zaphod42/Craig's comment above:

I really question that, especially the bit about the US only being able to feed 200M without fossil fuels. I think it would be a challenge to feed 300M, but we have a lot of land, and even with forecast changes in precipitation patterns due to GCC, we still have a lot of water. We certainly can't feed 300M w/o FFs like we can now, though. If "feeding them" means a diet mostly of grains and legumes, plus home-grown or locally grown veggies & fruit, a modest amount of dairy protein, and just a little bit of animal protein (mostly eggs and poultry, and a very little bit of grass-fed meat for special occasions only), that would seem to me to be quite possible. I would really like to see the analysis that demonstrates that to be impossible.

Now, if the US population rises to 400M, that becomes more questionable. I doubt that we'll actually end up peaking that high, though, and I am expecting lower, below-replacement birth rates (as have become common in most other post-industrial societies) to kick in and eventually reduce our population back down below 300M. Maybe we will eventually get back down to 200M, but I don't see starvation as being a necessary mechanism to achieve that.

Now for the rest of the world, I don't think that anything in the range of 6-9B is sustainable long-term, especially without FFs. Again, the number of countries with below-replacement birth rates is increasing all the time, and I expect that globally we'll fall below replacement rate much sooner than most people would even imagine. It will be a race between falling births and famine all the way down to a sustainable level, though.

I don't know what that ultimate sustainable level is for the entire globe. 500M seems too low, 1-2B is sounding more realistic, 3-4B sounds high, but I would keep an open mind to being shown how it could work.

The last time we were living real time with energy was 1700, and there were a billion people on the planet.
However, we had oceans full of fish, and several continents to plunder, and most of Earths ecosystems intact.
This is obviously not the case today, and I think we would be very challenged to support 1 billion.

I really don't know what the number actually is globally. As I said, I'm just not convinced that North America is incapable of supporting at least 200-300M, even with all that will have gone on. That being the case, I am really questioning whether it is true that 25-33% of the global population would end up living in North America. That percentage just seems too high. 10-15% would seem to me to be more believable, and that implies something in excess of 2B globally. But who really knows, this is all pure speculation at this point.

North America has a population of about 530 million, not 300 million. The 300 million figure is just the United States. North America, in the past, sustained a population estimated at a few tens of millions of human beings. Europe, which has a land mass similar to North America, peaked around 200-220 million population during the middle ages, before the bounty of several additional continents was pillaged to allow further population growth there.

The notion that North America could sustain 300 million people indefinitely when large masses of the entire continent are not even arable land appears unreasonably optimistic to me.

When you examine areas that did sustain civilizations for long terms, those areas tend to be fertile. Sometimes, such as the Mesopotamian basin, human activity overshoots carrying capacity resulting in destruction of that biosphere and loss of that arable land effectively forever. China appears to have done better at managing its agricultural areas precisely because all human waste was fed back into the system plus the Chinese agricultural basins appear to have had consistent natural rainfall pattern for thousands of years. Using water sources other than rainfall, such as aquifers, is not sustainable for two reasons. One, the aquifer is frequently drawn down at rates faster than it naturally refills. Two, aquifer based water frequently has minerals and salts dissolved in it. While these minerals and salts are trace levels, they do build up in the soil. You can read accounts from the Middle East where aquifer based agriculture ran for centuries then suddenly, within a few years, the fields "turned white" with salt as saturation levels were reached. At that point entire towns and cities would be abandoned and the land could not even support wild plants, resulting in severe desertification.

Long term sustainability will require humans to cluster in regions like the central California valley, the Washington/Oregon coast, or the Ohio Valley (just to name a few places that historically supported human populations long term), while also keeping population levels low enough that natural rainfall, including water flowing overland in streams and rivers, is sufficient to address the needs of the population. Given that the hunter-gatherer phase of humanity peaked with a few tens of millions of humans (most common estimate is about 10 million globally but some estimates go as high as 30-40 million), I seriously doubt that any agriculture or permaculture based human society can exceed more than a few hundred million human beings and remain sustainable for the long term, meaning thousands of years.

Very valid point

When flying over the great plains anyone can see the big circles of irrigated land surrounded by only dry grass-praries.

But are those areas indeed in danger of being oversalted?
Or are they using water from rivers flowing from the Rockies?

Same question about Califoria (Imperial Valley)

WNC Observer:
I think you are on the right track. Like many things, it is nearly impossible to predict how many people can be supported with a certain level of energy resources until some people try to do it for quite a long time. If people would nicely turn from driving cars to growing beans and potatoes and avoid resource wars, the planet could support a huge number of people. I'd be very surprised if a careful analysis could show that no societal structure could sustainably support even 7 billion people on this planet if there were sufficient lead time for the necessary education and infrastructure installation. The problem is of course that humans won't easily adopt the society structure that would support the most people. One generation will 'eat drink and be merry' and the next will have resource wars. And the previously wealthy will defend their remaining standard of living while the poor starve. The details here are completely unpredictable, making any estimate of the planet's carrying capacity a random guess. It doesn't depend on resources. It depends on people.

While I have questioned ultimate figures of 1B or less (see above), I'm also sceptical about numbers as high as 7B. We are supporting that population now (barely, not very well in some places), but only with massive FF inputs and environmental/carrying capacity degratation. I don't think that any of us really knows what the ultimate number will end up being, but I'd be more comfortable keeping an open mind about a relatively wide range between the most extreme viewpoints.

My point is that there is no 'ultimate number'. The carrying capacity of the planet is such a strong function of societal structure and lifestyle that it is essentially meaningless to claim even an order of magnitude. I'd be happy if your wide range between the extremes went 0.1 to 50 billion. That probably would cover most conceivable societal structures, although everyone with a private jet or hunter gathers on a polluted planet might not even be able to support 100 million. As CEOJr1963 notes below, the math works out for a simple lifestyle for a very large populations if warfare, pollution, and selfish behavior are suppressed.

As I have mentioned in other posts, we could very easily support 6.7 billion people on 5 million sq miles of land. The numbers and the plants and know how don't lie much. The thing is the willingness to live that way. Like you said, we won't adopt the society needed to live that way.

My 12.8 billion plots of land model(BioWebScape design inspired).

If on everyones chunk of land we could also build a small solar powered cell/internet hub, we could still talk to each other worldwide. Families could cluster their plots of land together, making small towns a viable model still. If you worked at it, you could still have industrial areas, but you have to work at growing all your own food still, so none of this elite land holder models of the past.

There is time enough to drink and be merry, right after your fruit wines get uncorked, and all the spare foods have been put up for later use.

There might not be a lot of jetting over to England to get in a pub crawl though, so you better get used to looking at someone else doing the pub crawl on your internet connection.

Dreams of a rosy future, based on peaceful living (okay doomers have a field day telling me it can never happen).

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

I really question that, especially the bit about the US only being able to feed 200M without fossil fuels.

Let’s run the experiment.
Oh wait…, we are…..

..., though, and I am expecting lower, below-replacement birth rates (as have become common in most other post-industrial societies) to kick in and eventually reduce our population back down below 300M.

Have you forgotten about immigration? Both legal and illegal.
I am Hispanic.
In order for us to have a stable population, we’ll have to put an end to immigration.

We can’t be an immigration country forever. We've run out of frontiers a long time ago.

I don't know what that ultimate sustainable level is for the entire globe. 500M seems too low, 1-2B is sounding more realistic, 3-4B sounds high, but I would keep an open mind to being shown how it could work.

We also must factor in quality of life. A lower population with a smaller pie (that's no longer growing), would be better then a higher number with that same sized pie.

So, even if the world can support 3-4 billion people without oil, we'd be better off as a group with only 1-2 billion.

There'd be more pie to go around!

In this joke of a country I can just imagine people going on the T.V. saying "We need more immigration to strengthen our economy! The problem is not an energy shortage, the problem is we need more immigrants to offset our horrible below-replacement fertility!"

I can't imagine immigration lasting much longer.

Actually, you know, Pete Peterson said just that a number of years ago.


Immigration from points south is already tapering off in tandem with the economy. As the economy continues to decline, there will be less and less attraction for relocation to el Norte. Sadly, I suspect that anti-immigrant sentiment will increase in the US as well, and that will lead to various legal and extra-legal measures that will make it extremely difficult to get into the US.

I agree with your number, that is 1.2 Billion seems sustainable.

As to the U.S., my thoughts come from the serious depletion of top soil, and peaking of fresh water for irrigation. A significant proportion of our food crops today are being grown in Imperial Valley, CA. In case you haven't noticed, that is in the desert. There is not much water there by nature. About 3 inches per year rainfall, if I remember correctly. And, the soil there sucks, big time. So, knock off about 40% of our fresh veggies!

The central valley grows another big bunch of our food, and again has marginal soils, and little rainfall. Irrigation sources are about tapped out, and fluxuate. Unless a big bunch of folks move out of California, competition with the locals is going to be a problem there.

Of course, today the midwest is great for corn and soybeans, plus many other crops of gustatory interest. Good topsoil is needed for that.

Historically, many past civilizations collapses can be attributed to the depletion of the topsoil. Since the beginning of agricultural production in the Great Plains of North America in the 1880s about one half of its topsoil has disappeared...

Depletion may occur through a variety of other effects, including overtillage which damages soil structure, overuse of inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, which leave residues and buildups that inhibit microorganisms, and salinization of soil.


Since I believe that continued use of commercial fertilizers is questionable, even though the feedstock for such is Natural Gas, and since it takes factory farming, with its high use of diesel fuel and the like, I am not so sanguine about the ability of the US to support more than 2/3 of its present population. Maybe we could do it... it would be nice if we were all fed. Almost certainly, the quantity of food will not be what it is today [maybe it have higher nutrient values?].

Like you, I remain open to ideas. Like all of us, I am retricted by reality.


Again I'll harp on my BioWebScape ideas.

If you divide the estimated 310M US population out into 1/4 acre lots you get a bit over 121,000 square miles. Go back to a map of all the land that was in forest cover as of 1620 (It was posted in a thread I've read in the last few days) you'll see that most of everything east of the Mississippi was under forest cover. Those kinds of landscapes could support more than the dried regions of the country.

But just because you have limited rainfall does not mean you can't grow anything on it, just that you have to have more land to grow things than you do now with use only of rainwater. You use landscaping methods to capture rain and not to let it run off.

I am coming at this problem from the training of a Landscape Architect, From self taught gardening experience, from having a father who was an Executive Chef before I was even born, and from lots of planning and thinking about this very problem for most of the time I have been gardening (31 years)(age 46).

The biggest problems are not our population, or Peak Oil(though we did get here with both). Our biggest problem is the inability to work together for our common good. In fact I am sorta surprised we have gotten this far along without nuking ourselves, but I can see why we haven't yet( the ones with nukes lose the upper hand once the nukes are used ).

I also write fictional stories, and in a lot of them my main characters are altruistic, while fighting those that aren't.

You can see if you look a small upwelling of altruism in the younger generations, I would ask how many people that read this site are younger than 20? Not many I would guess. The more people who are faced with a bleak future the more you might see a change sweep in from left or right field(to use baseball terms). If you keep looking down center you wouldn't know anything was going to change soon.

I can only pray for a bright future and prepare for a dark one, either way I'll have been okay in the end.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

The way I see it, the amount of acreage devoted across the US to the cultivation of lawns in enormous. Much of that is pretty good topsoil, too. There is more than enough space there to make up for the produce that is transported clear across the country from California. We aren't going to be able to do that much longer anyway. Fresh vegetbles and fruit are mostly water, and thus heavy and bulky, and the cost of transporting them long distances is just going to be too high.

You won't get that analysis, because this is doomer porn. It's an exciting fantasy for them, everyone else dies, and they the elite are left behind to create a new world. Some also fantasise about machinegunning "sheeple" hordes from their bunker, or eliminating the "undesirables" - disabled, Mexicans, whatever. But it's all doomer porn.

When we enter dieoff it ain't gonna magically stop at our estimated sustainable level. It will undershoot and there is a frightening possibility the undershoot will runaway...............

Fish supplements a fair amount of our food supply.
The world fish catch is declining rapidly and when the word gets out, that fish are running out, who thinks that we will stop plundering.

As farmlands begin to yield less and less and imports tail off the oceans will come alive with fishing craft in a desperate attempt to feed the masses. God help the whales, dolphins and probably penguins or any damn thing that acts like it is alive for that matter.


Zaphod 42, I agree on the reduction projections for world population, however 'how' does that occur? It sounds so clinical, the idea of the population reducing, but the devil's in the details. If it occurs by way of starvation, then why would the ones that are starving allowing those that are still eating to do so? Why wouldn't hoards of starving people simply over-run those with food to get it, and then everyone ends up eating a smaller and smaller amount until everyone is starving?

If its to occur by way of war, then what kind of weapons are being used to reduce world population by that much? If its nuclear, then the fallout could cause an extinction. And even if not, then those that do survive will probably pass on genetic disorders to their offspring. But if its a more conventional type war, then where does all the oil come from to fight it? How do that many people die in a conventional war?

My point is there are no simple, clinical ways for the population to reduce in a manner where the remaining population maintains any kind of reasonably normal lifestyle. And by that I don't mean driving, but just simple things like reading by electrical light. It will be horrendous for everyone, and those that survive will the grittiest, toughest, hardest ones. Forget intellectual, or pretty, just plain tough as nails. And out of that will emerge a non-tech based world. Back to basics.

"If it occurs by way of starvation, then why would the ones that are starving allowing those that are still eating to do so? Why wouldn't hoards of starving people simply over-run those with food to get it, and then everyone ends up eating a smaller and smaller amount until everyone is starving?"

Why aren't they doing it now?

All good references, and along with this informative free introduction to permaculture by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, I would provide a few more relevant ones;

Enclosed are some excerpts from my ELP essay from three years ago. I don't want to minimize the difficulty of growing at least some of your own food--especially since I have trouble keeping potted plants alive--but growing at least some of your own food, like growing old, may beat the alternative.


In this article I will further expound on my reasoning behind the ELP plan, otherwise known as “Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy.”

I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption. . .

In my opinion, the unfortunate new reality is that we are going to see a growing labor surplus--against the backdrop of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. By reducing your expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring. . .

I would especially recommend that you consider buying, perhaps with a joint venture group, a small farm, either currently organic, or that can be converted to an organic farm. In the short term, if nothing else you could lease it out to an organic farmer. Longer term, you might consider building or moving a prefab, small energy efficient house to the farm. If nothing else, this plan may provide a place of work for your unemployed college graduate.

Looks like Detroit is taking your recommendations to heart and not by choice.

A pretty good quote regarding the Detroit situation, which is of course a preview of coming attractions for many other cities:

Detroit looks at downsizing to save city
Wants to turn vacant lots into farmland

"Things that were unthinkable are now becoming thinkable," said James W. Hughes, dean of the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who is among the urban experts watching the experiment with interest. "There is now a realization that past glories are never going to be recaptured. Some people probably don't accept that, but that is the reality."

Not the strongest that survive, but the ones best suited to change. ~ Darwin? Guess it's time to think of the unthinkable and start adapting. Either that or go down with the house when the wrecking ball comes....

"Not the strongest that survive, but the ones best suited to change."

That's me. I love camping and really don't mind roughing it.

And, I'm cool with many different cultures and can easily blend.

I love authentic Chinese food.

Just read the article.

I wish they'd do that in L.A.

knock down a few suburban cities and replace them with orchards and farms again.

We can keep old suburban cities like Pasadena, and cities with railroads and train stations. Or at least, the potential for a train station and turn everything else, including the house I live in, back into farmland.

I would vote for that!!!

For example, most of the San Gabiel valley and Orange county should have houses and freeways removed and farmland restored.

Peak Oil problem in my neck of the woods, solved

The only problem I see is what if the last guy on the block has built themselves a sustainable food plot and can't move it(houses move hard, whole plots are even harder to move).

Would the city still see his land as useless and tell him to move?

There are places in other cities where one person has a great growing livible yard and everything around them is blight. Why not use them as the center to a new growing area in the places they are at. It is not a big issue yet, but in later years it will be, so best to get the legal rangling out of the way now.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Detroit a cheap analogy
Capable people moved from Detroit, they didn't die.
How could Detroit -not- decline. The incredible growth around one industry is never going to stay in one location.
Now lets talk about how "the U.S. doesn't make anything anymore"

Not picking on Detroit, quite the contrary. I think they are being quite smart about turning a horrible situation into something that could be sustainable if done well. Planning and action are very different things, however. I hope the best for them.

I had a brother that tried to get a job in Detroit about 1.5 years ago and ended up leaving when nothing turned up. I know the desperation and panic they feel. I sympathize as much with Detroitians as I did for New Orleanians when they had their catastrophe. As much as I will for the next city trying to survive in this horrible economy.

I believe it will not be until we all hit the rocky bottom before we all start giving a damn what happens in the next city and the next city and then come to some kind of awakening. Sadly, I think we will have to hit the bottom to do that. We shouldn't have to, but I'm afraid that will be the truth. I will not go down being a solo survivalist. I want to end up like those in New Orleans that stuck together and got things going again...in a new way.

I pointed out in another thread that over one million people have traveled to the gulf coast to volunteer for Katrina recovery. I find that fact extraordinary.

But Detroit wasn't an act of nature. It's a long term decline. Most cities are doing well. But it doesn't matter what happens to the cities. It matters what happens to people.

But Detroit wasn't an act of nature.

No, there was the annual phenomenon known as "Devil's Night". That was the reason why Detroit ended up with block upon block upon block with no houses left standing. To a very considerable extent, some of the people living in Detroit are responsible for the city looking like it does today. It would have had its problems under any circumstances, and maybe some would even argue that it was actually a blessing in disguise that the city ended up being "downsized" in this manner. Nevertheless, that isn't the method that I would recommend to any community.

You really think it was the people living in Detroit that brought the city to its current situation? Wow, don't agree. I think it was years of manufacturing growth that went poof and left a vacuum. So, yes, I sympathesize with Detroit. People went were the jobs and prosperity were at the time and settled down. Now that the auto-industry jobs are vanishing, there is social unrest. Same thing could happen in 5-10 years in Silicon Valley.

The same brother is now back in Seattle where he has lived for years (girlfriend was from Detroit)...he's having the same problems with jobs and that is a city full of very rebellious young men and women. Don't be surprised to see unrest there as well.

Lots of cities had those problems. What they didn't have are years and years of "Devil's Night". That is why you see block after block after block of no more houses in Detroit, but not so much so in other cities. There is a reason why it is to Detroit where all the photojournalists go for the most profoundly shocking pictures.

Nobody put a gun to those (presumably) young people's heads and forced them to commit arson-for-fun. They chose their behavior, and that behavior had consequences for their community.

...deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices.

These points are extremely important - often times, the question about inflation/deflation is asked about in generic terms ("where is the overall economy going?"), where there is no one answer, expect perhaps stagflation.

Methinks continuing inflation in the necessaries, especially those heavily reliant on oil for production, will be our future. Plus, contined deflation of income, and in discretionary items.


Growing your own helps a lot. Vegetables and fruits are mostly water, and the less trucking about of water the better.

I have long grown the majority of my small family's veggies right out the front door. Yes, it's no where 100% of our diet, blah blah blah, but it is a big chunk of the food dollar. Particularly because I live in the Pacific Northwest, which has a mild winter climate, I grow upwards of 90% of our vegetables in fall, winter and spring, and about 70% in summer. Besides the huge difference in the budget, I am able to keep our quality of life constant despite being a small business owner in a turbulent economy.

Last summer, I expanded from 500 to 800 square feet of growing space. We actually can't eat that many vegetables. I took on the job of family gardener, providing fresh food to my laid off extended family.

A key advantage of having a small garden/farm is that you can take an incoming liability--incoming unemployed family members, what Sharon Astyk calls the "Brother-in-law on the sofa syndrome"--and turn them into assets, farm workers.

Pay them under the table for less than the minimum wage.

Any way you can raise chickens, pigeions, rabbits on your city lot? If you have enough space you can grow most if not all their food, and eat meat and eggs in your diet.

Growing only 500 sq ft of garden and getting that much produce is of great educational value for others.

Lends more substance toward those that think we can't support the world's population on a fraction of the land we now use for farming.

What all do you grow?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

"Enclosed are some excerpts from my ELP"

Emerson Lake and Palmer

Actually, that's what I tell baby boomers when I tell them to do a Google Search for: ELP Plan. (To help them remember, I tell them to think of Emerson Lake & Palmer). . . now if I can just remember where I parked the car. . .

"welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends...." apropos, isn't it?

Several recent conventional vs. organic food comparisons from Googling "energy investment organic conventional food":

Energy Use in Organic Food Systems (J Ziesemer, 2007) FAO pdf

Perspective on the Benefits of Organic Foods American Dietetic Association

Energy and Environmental Issues in Organic and Conventional Agriculture
T. Gomiero; M. G. Paoletti; D. Pimentel Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 1549-7836, 27(4):239–254 - abstract (paper is behind paywall)

A meta-analysis of the differences in environmental impacts between organic and conventional farming
Mondelaers K, Aertsens J, Van Huylenbroeck G British Food Journal11(10):1098-1119, 2009 - abstract (paper is behind paywall)

Organic farming wiki

Those are good links. Here's another from Iowa State University Extension: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1947.pdf

And a quote from that:

"Can alternative practices really be profitable?

Yes, they can. Contrary to popular opinion, sustainable practices often result
in comparable or even higher yields than conventional farming. They may
reduce input costs or qualify for premium prices."

Perhaps some sources would be in order to support this claim. A pretty cursory search revealed this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution#Production_increases

which suggests that the energy intensive green revolution doubled agriculture between 1964 and 1985. There is no reason to suspect that absolute average yields have not continued to increase since then. On the other hand it has been a stretch to keep pace with population growth. ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1116809/

I do not want to trivialize the difficulty of feeding a large and growing population, but it is clear that a return to locally grown food without technological advances to increase yields is a recipe for disaster. It should also be clear that a total reliance on technological advances in food production without population control is also a recipe for disaster.

Why do you assume that there have been no advances in organic farming and horticulture in that time?

I am not sure how you read the assumption of no advances in organic agriculture into what I said.

What I have never seen is solid documentary evidence that organic farming practices can match the volume of output per acre or even per unit of inputs that was achieved with the green revolution. If you have documentation, sharing it would be very welcome.

Specifically, we have gone from having a bit of trouble feeding 2.5 billion people in 1955 to having a bit of trouble feeding over 6.5 billion people now using non-organic methods. The accomplishment is obvious. I'm not really sure I like the outcome.

The advances you think aren't there, are not in technology per se, but in knowledge of what we can do, but have not done.

Olives are not native to Texas or California. Potatoes are not native to Europe or Asia. Yet both potatoes and Olives are being grown all over the world where they were not native. Man did that. But man has also been tilling the ground and wasting the natural system for so long that we can't see how far back we started doing so, yet we now know we never had to do it that way.

Knowledge has been what got us to where we are now, and will also lead us out of the bottleneck we see ourselves in. We just have to learn to apply it differently than we have.

We had a lot of knowledge and very little wisdom, maybe we have grown into our wisdon and can use that to help fix things. Maybe we need more wisdom still, we have plenty of knowledge.

BioWebScape designs for a better Future,
Feed 6.8 billion people on 5 million sq miles(see posts above).

I'm not sure what you would accept as evidence, since you seem pretty convinced of your position, and as we have just learned, new data do not generally persuade people who already have firmly made up their mind on an issue.

If it was an honest question and you aren't going to dismiss any evidence that contradicts you position out of hand just because it contradicts your position, you could start by looking at the Rodale Institute's work. As I recall, even the USDA a couple years back officially accepted that organic could be as productive as poison-based ag.

But your general point is well taken. For a long term, viable future, we need to find a new way to return nutrients to the land (among the many other things we would need to do).

Seeing that the trigger now seems to have been pulled on the 'clathrate gun' (or the fuse lit on the hydrate bomb, if you prefer that metaphor), I'm not sure there are any good long term 'solutions' anymore.

You don't see me saying that organic is better than FF fuel foods. Never thought that to begin with. But there is a movement behind making FF the bad guy and Organic the good guy.

What should have been said a long time ago is that if I use a natural system method of growing something, I am not wasting FF for use in other more valuable applications.

I can grow all my own food without using any FF inputs(pesticides,fertilizers)I might use plastic sheeting for a greenhouse, FF in my own house in products. But I don't need it to grow my foods.

The NPK is the same if it is from the ground or from FF, they all came from the same sources really, just not over the same time periods. But We don't have to use the ones stored in the ground in the form of FF and never really had too. It was our bad farming practices that lead us into this wall.

This is not a new issue, Its been going on for a while. I guess it just took humans a while to realize that we could grow things within the natural systems and did not have to fight them all the time. But with global travel and global knowledge I am able to grow things in my yard that 200 years ago I would never have known about.

When hunting for Olive Oil I found a company in Texas that is growing olives in the Austin Hill Country area. Now if I can get some people interested in Vanillia beans and Cocao plants we'll have it made. The hopes of my BioWebScape design process is that we will be able to grow as many plants in as many places as possible. Yes that means growing things that never would have grown here or there without man's intervention, but once we started it, why turn back, I don't think we could ever get the world back to pre-human status( some environmentals want that). We have grown ourselves into this corner, now we have to grown ourselves back out of it.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

I don't think the distinction between organic and non-organic food is very helpful. I have distrusted the whole "organic" scam ever since the government got into certifications. What is very important to me is the distinction between locally grown and long distance factory farming. Not only does that deal with the transportation issue but also gives one the opportunity to know exactly where their food comes from and how it is grown.

I tend to treat claims that food is grown organically very skeptically. I have heard of and seen organic farms, but I have never seen organic growing areas.

If an organic farm is next to a non-organic farm, the barbed wire fence separating them is a pretty ineffective barrier to the spread of chemical contaminants.

I'd rather take my chances with soemone claiming to sell organic food.

Well, the thing is, we are going to need healthy, productive soil, because we are going to need to get the highest yields that we can from it absent FF inputs. It is not so much a matter of doing "organic" as some sort of mystical fettish, but rather a matter of simply employing "best practices" for long-term sustainable production.

There is no dispute that the chemicals that are put on crops are pretty unhealthy -- especially for the people working on the farms and living near by.

I was specifically reporting on my experiences on and near organic farms. As far as I know there are no regulations with respect to organic farming rules concerning practices on nearby properties. The pesticides blow in the wind and get into the water supply. They don't stop at property lines. Why would they?

It makes me suspicious as to whether anything is really organically grown.

There is no dispute that the chemicals that are put on crops are pretty unhealthy -- especially for the people working on the farms and living near by.

This is entirely dependent on the DOSE.

It's something most people forget, and that the "organics" people would like you to forget when they flail away at the all-purpose term "pesticides."

If you don't think dose matters--think about what would happen if you gave an infant a tablespoon of "harmless" salt.

Last time I purchased cert. organic garlic, when I got home I found it was imported from China. NPR org - Tighter Food Rules Stem China's Garlic Exports "Last year, for the first time, garlic imported from China sold more in the United States than garlic grown in California."

When China is exporting food, how will the local organic farmer compete?

Answer (you already know it): he won't.

The more I reflect on our current situation, the more I realize how perverse it is. In free(r) societies, such as ours and many second/third world countries like those in Latin America, there's always the chance of various labor groups and activists agitating for higher wages, better work hours, etc. This is much harder in China, since it isn't a free society. Moreover, they have more subsistence farmers and low wage factory workers than the entire population of the U.S. This suits the Communist Party of China just fine; they can pretend to stand for idealism in all things, but it's the capitalists and government bureaucrats who get rich of the backs of the workers (and King Coal). China isn't communist in any meaningful sense of the word.

Moreover, even without cheap oil, it's still possible to engage in large scale transport across oceans and land. And if we can't do it with trucks? We'll do it with coal powered rail.

You can see where I'm going. It may never, ever be possible for us to compete, labor wise, with China. At least not in any timeframe that's meaningful. Peak oil doesn't change that. So the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it will even make sense for us to become farmers or to manufacture stuff.

It's just all too much to take in.

In the short run I can buy most of my food from the store. In the long run If I don't grow some of my food now, I'll have to start from scartch when the world is in chaos, and I won't have any leeway.

I grow part of my own food for so long, I don't even think about not doing so( unless I can't due to where I live). Once I lived where we could not change our front yrads, but only had a 15 x 15 foot wide/long back patio fenced in, On the two strips of ground I grew things, even when I had to do all the planting while having a cast on my left foot. Sunlight was very limited and the ground was very poor, but I grew food.

We can all grow food and still have time to make things for sale, even big things like ships and tanks, and oil rigs. We just have to reset our thinking around where we want to see ourselves in 5, 10, 20, 100 years. Who ever has said that we HAVE to continue BAU?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

I don't think we'll all be running home gardens in the near future, simply because of how wasteful the current system is now. Certainly, 50 - 100 years from now, localization will have reached that far.

Any walkthough the modern day super-market should show that there will be at least a good couple of decades worth of streamlining and effecientcy gains to be made.

Consider the contrast.

100 different brands of breakfast cereal on the shelves in most of North American grocery stores vs UN flat bed pickups passing out 50lb pounds of rice in African villages. I would think that on the food front at least, we have certainly reach peak choice and reckless consumer. But as the choices are whittled down, the silly marketing gimmicks are done away with and the more useless food stuffs stop being produced altogether, the basic model should be able to continue on, although steadly shrinking.

But there are huge areas of urban and even rural America that are now considered food deserts.


Unless the people are living in a Desert, they should be able to grow their own food, even in a limited way. I know there are places where the local stores close up shop and people have to drive miles and miles to get food. But this is part of our problem overall, we have let ourselves be lured into thinking the grocery store provides our food.

We have to take back the idea that we can grow our own food, because if we don't we will be one of the first to die off.

Where does say in writing that I have to live with life as someone else has made it for me?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

I think we are really jumping ahead on the food situation, especially in a country that is OBESE! We have a lot of waste to cut, not to mention the huge amount of land dedicated to ETHANOL!!! This is good land that could be growing carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet corn, peas, etc etc, fruit trees, nut trees...hazelnuts.... We need to start cutting population, encouraging local ag/backyard and raising energy/food prices through the roof to discourage waste... Even a small backyard plot could produce a lot of calories to supplement store bought food.

Today I bought bananas from Colombia, peaches from Chile, and tomatoes from Guatemala, not to mention all the dark chocolate i eat from Africa... I'm burning a heck of a lot more fuel driving to the store then what it took to get those items halfway across the planet by ship/rail/truck.

A few other items.

Hoop houses. Just a thin piece of 6 mil plastic can increase yields, lengthen your growing season by months, and allow you to grow items (eggplant, peppers, melons) that might not otherwise grow outdoors in Wisconsin. Not to mention cut disease/pests by a large percentage (only issue i've seen is mites). Hoop houses/high tunnels in my opinion are the future. Even temporary structures could save plants from early/late freezes (Florida?)

Waste. What goes in, needs to go back. We have to recycle all waste. Complete the cycle. Even human bodies should be ground up and recycled for minerals. Have you not watched Johnny Depp in "Secret Window" crunching away on his sweet corn in the final scene?

Water. Why is Mississippi River water even allowed to make it to the Gulf of Mexico? All it does is cause a huge kill zone. Why not send it west or east and use it for agriculture. If you could get that to the desert areas of the southwest you could green huge areas of land. Build a couple of nuclear pumps or use h bombs to dig a quick ditch! I live within a mile of the Mississippi and can assure you it has plenty of fertilizer in the summer judging by the huge algae outbreaks.

Get out in that yard, start those seeds, get going! Plant a tree!

Written by mymomishot:
Why is Mississippi River water even allowed to make it to the Gulf of Mexico?

Possibly for use as a shipping lane.

I grow my own eggs, milk (dairy) and beef. The hardest thing is the veggies -- we've had severe drought and insect invasions the last two years. Even my huge rainwater cistern and our ground tank went dry, the first time since it was dug 50 years ago that it went dry. My husband still goes into town two days a week and I have him bring me a few sacks of groceries from Whole Foods when he is in town. At least I've quit buying lettuce and stuff grown across the country and try to buy only within my state.

Having now lived in the country full time for the past 18 months, I am impressed by the relentless work. At times I feel as if I am in the twilight zone as I can afford trips, hotels, restaurants, etc., but am grinding my own grain, eating 95% of my meals at home (made from scratch) and generally being as sustainable as possible. I know that I am physically in better shape but continuing to choose a more physically challenging life on a daily basis is a choice that not many people (family) understand and that I question myself at times.

I feel that I am following the path of more resistance, at this point in our socioeconomic era. The majority of our lives have really been engineered for comfort and ease based on cheap energy. While I don't wish for collapse, I do know that at some point the work of sustainability may well become the path of least resistance.

The veggies are the easy part for me, and I add a lot of forged foods, mainly mushrooms, stone fruit, and berries, along with wild caught fish.
Lots of good local grass fed beef and lamb, and good local dairy.
However, it would not supply outside of my area, and there are many clueless being living quite close.


I've posted about this on TOD and other forums. Country living is a different reality. It certainly isn't suburbia with extra large lots...it takes a certain kind of person.

I lived in the country until I was 12 and my wife and I moved to the boondocks 35 years ago after I left the chemical industry. My expirence is that 50% of relationships break up after 5-7 years because one of the the people hate it to their core. There is never time; there is always work to be done; taking the kids to school/bus stop wastes an hour in the morning and afternoon - rain, snow or shine.

Men loose their status since no one cares what they did (or do).

There are too many skill sets that have to be mastered all at once and you cannot afford to hire someone to do things you could learn to do yourself.

The list goes on.

It's great that you are doing what you are doing and I wish you well.


my wife and I moved to the boondocks 35 years ago after I left the chemical industry. My expirence is that 50% of relationships break up after 5-7 years because one of the the people hate it to their core.

So, not that different to marriages in the city, then?

Won't be the case when there are fewer options for the departing spouse.

Even without knowing where you are, the main focus of what you are doing, should be fruit and nut trees.

Pick the ones best suited for your area....even hide plant (that is stick some on other peoples property or roadside) as many as you can.

Many, many things can be done to take the path. It will be your saving grace.

Where do you live that your rainwater system did not collect enough water? Last year we hit highest in the records marks for rainfall, having to suffer from to much water. I don't have a big water catchment system, but have plans for a better one in the works.

Keeping animals is a labor intensive job, but as far as growing things goes, you can plan around less work.

Best hopes for a better next year.

BioWebScape desings for a better future.

We are in South Texas and hopefully are through our drought - we had good rain in January and some in February. My rainwater cistern is about 6,000 gallons and it was dry most of the year. So no rain water for the garden. Our ground tank is only about 1/4 an acre, and going dry the first time in history is an attention getter. Put me down as a true believer in climate change -- amazing what has happened here in the last 10 years.

Glad there's folks here on the forum who understand living in the country. My husband is hanging onto his high status job two days a week and probably will do so as long as he can. I think it is helpful to us both; I do fine without the status although I can still play the "doctor's wife" card if necessary.

Living in the country, being self sufficient has always been my dream and living it is a true reality check. I think I'll (we'll) make it. The country offers sanity and reality, versus the citified version of Oz, living on borrowed means continuously, either borrowed energy, environmental degradation, or borrowing for the fancy house & car.

Very true about the fruit and nut (pecan) trees. Have started a couple and finally got my first figs last year. The drought has played havoc with my plum and orange trees though. Will keep at it.

Thanks for the input & support.

"Studies suggest that without fossil fuel-based agriculture, the United States could only sustain about two-thirds of its present population"

North America feeds a lot of the world. Too many natural resources and too many bright people to not be able to feed ourselves. The only way I see a food disastor is a very steep drop in oil production that doesn't allow adjustment time.

Last week at Trader Joe's I saw inexpensive flowers flown in from Ecuador and Clemetines from Spain on sale. There's a tremendous amount of resources in the food system that can be given up without hunger.

A country like Japan may be in a much more difficult situation. There's likely more good ag land in Iowa than all of Japan.

I purchased Elliot Coleman's book when it first came out 15 years ago. It has good techniques for people who already have a good basic background. But it's too production oriented for a new vegetable gardener.

"The only way I see a food disastor is a very steep drop in oil production that doesn't allow adjustment time."

But there is a very good chance that we will do very, very little to prepare until things are in rapid decline. As one of the quotes that pop up at the top says, we have only two modes--complacency and panic.

We're still in complacency, by and large. By the time panic strikes, it will be too late to do anything very constructive.

If we take subsidised, oil-based factory farming prices as our minimum, and locally-grown, unsubsidised, organic (requiring little or no oil) prices as our maximum, in an environment where oil prices are increasing then the prices of factory-grown foods will tend to approach – and ultimately exceed – those of locally-grown organic.

Now, anybody who has done any grocery shopping recently knows that organic produce, meat, and dairy costs considerably more than factory-grown food, sometimes double or more. As the price of oil increases, more shoppers will switch to organic. Why not? If the cost differential evaporates, why not buy organic?

A few misconceptions here:

1. The word "organic" means next to nothing. It just means a farm has been inspected and "certified" according to a byzantine set of standards--some of them very good standards, others sheer superstitions.

My own gardens are hand-dug, with compost and manure as the only soil amendments, and mulches for weed-control. Yet we are decidedly NOT "organic." If blight threatens, we spray Captan. Colorado Potato Beetles get sprayed with carbaryl.

Our small dairy herd is hand-milked and grass-fed: but not organic. We're not paying those prices for grain supplements, and if our cows get sick, they're getting conventional meds, not homeopathy, as recommended by our local certification agency.

By way of contrast, the "organic certified" farm where I work--while it does have a composting program--imports nearly all their soil amendments: greensand, lime, blood meal, rock phosphate, etc. But this follows the rules, so it's "organic."

2. The statement that "organic" farming requires "little or no oil" is sheer nonsense. Here's a list of oil-based equipments at the 5-acre farm where I work [It's a great little farm, by the way. My objections to "organic" standards have nothing to do with the conscientious people I work with]:

a diesel tractor (with tiller)
a gasoline tractor (cultivating)
a DR brush mower
a lawn mower
two weed wackers
a gasoline-powered pickup for delivery
a larger diesel truck for delivery
one large walk-behind tiller, one small one
two large oil-powered furnaces for greenhouses
miles of plastic hose (irrigation system)
acres of plastic sheet mulch and plastic greenhouse coverings

The statement that "in an environment where oil prices are increasing then the prices of factory-grown foods will tend to approach – and ultimately exceed – those of locally-grown organic" just makes me laugh.

My boss has told me outright: if the price of oil keeps rising, the price of "organic" foods will rise right in lock-step. "Organic" foods and conventional foods will never reach parity.

3. About this issue of price: "organic" beliefs and standards do two things: the beliefs increase "demand" by marketing "organic" food as "safer, more nutritious, and better-tasting" than conventionally-grown food; AND the standards essentially create a bottleneck in the market--i.e. curtail supply--by limiting the ways farmers can grow foods and creating hurdles that make converting to "organics" impractical.

Strictly-regulating supply while marketing for higher demand equals higher prices.

I'm afraid the "organics" movement is simply going to price itself out of existence in the economic crisis and I'll lose my summer job.

Luckily, I grow most of my own food--in the way I see fit.

My view of farming--organic, conventional--overall is that it is DOOMED because it is by definition unsustainable: Farmers grow populations.

As you have said, Organic is not much more than BAU farming with a different name attached.

We need to get away from both. If you are doing a lot of row cropping you are working to hard. If you plant a bunch of things in a limited amount of area and let them grow, being sure to add in plants that handle this or that pest, and aren't bothered by this or that other plant being next to them, you can do away with a lot of your needing to help the system along.

Maybe a good example of it all is, to gather a seeds of every plant that will grow in your area. Pack them into redclay seed balls and or just plant them all in a big field. And just let nature do it's work for a few years and go back in there every so often and see what has lasted over time. Then plant all the ones that survived into another plot, where you do some of the planning.

What we have been doing for ages on ages is tell nature that we are in charge And try to beat it into submission. It does not work, and has not worked for very long.

We have the knowledge and in some case the wisdom to know that what we have been doing all these eons is not working, we have to learn to change. Let nature work without our help, learn to pick plants that can grow where you live, that grow in your areas conditions and work within the system that is in place already.

It can sound all mystical if you let it, but it is based on sound planting can care practices, just not ones we are all used to hearing that often.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

This is very similar to how I feal about 'organic' farming. My brother and I sell produce and eggs at a local farmers market. Every week we get 2 or 3 people asking if our products are organic or if our eggs are from free range chickens. We answer "No, but. . ." and then explain things that we are trying to do to grow our products in a more environmentally friendly manor. There are a few points that we stress:

- Our products are local - our farmers market that all products are produced within 25 miles of the market. We also explain that we try to locally source many of our supplies to grow the produce, including compost and manure.

- Our chickens are not free range, but their pen size esentialy makes them free range. They are penned for their own protection from preditors, to make sure we can find the eggs and ensure they are fresh, and to keep them out of the garden. We also feed them items produced on the farm including garden scraps in season.

- We do use non-organic fertilizer and pesticides. In general we try to limit the usage. On the garden we will load it up with cow manure in the fall, but will add a little N on our sweet corn during the growing season, or add other supplimental fertilizer based on the crop. We will also use a little round-up to take care of certain weed issues, but in general use either the hoe or mulch to manage most of our weed control.

I think our approach is realistic. We try to control our input costs, in both $$$ and time. Since we own the land and plan on passing it on to our children we want to manage it so it will continue to produce for them in the future. We beleive that they will need to do this in a resource contrained future, so we try produce our crops with what we believe will be available and in quantities that we think are reasonable.

I think a lot of the ideas behind 'organic' meant well when first started, but has turned into another marketing gimic. In the end any farming practices will trend toward being efficient with the resources available and as resource contraints are realized we will then see the changes take place. The gimics will be pushed to the side.

This is very similar to how I feal about 'organic' farming. My brother and I sell produce and eggs at a local farmers market. Every week we get 2 or 3 people asking if our products are organic or if our eggs are from free range chickens. We answer "No, but. . ." and then explain things that we are trying to do to grow our products in a more environmentally friendly manor. There are a few points that we stress:

- Our products are local - our farmers market that all products are produced within 25 miles of the market. We also explain that we try to locally source many of our supplies to grow the produce, including compost and manure.

- Our chickens are not free range, but their pen size esentialy makes them free range. They are penned for their own protection from preditors, to make sure we can find the eggs and ensure they are fresh, and to keep them out of the garden. We also feed them items produced on the farm including garden scraps in season.

- We do use non-organic fertilizer and pesticides. In general we try to limit the usage. On the garden we will load it up with cow manure in the fall, but will add a little N on our sweet corn during the growing season, or add other supplimental fertilizer based on the crop. We will also use a little round-up to take care of certain weed issues, but in general use either the hoe or mulch to manage most of our weed control.

I think our approach is realistic. We try to control our input costs, in both $$$ and time. Since we own the land and plan on passing it on to our children we want to manage it so it will continue to produce for them in the future. We beleive that they will need to do this in a resource contrained future, so we try produce our crops with what we believe will be available and in quantities that we think are reasonable.

I think a lot of the ideas behind 'organic' meant well when first started, but has turned into another marketing gimic. In the end any farming practices will trend toward being efficient with the resources available and as resource contraints are realized we will then see the changes take place. The gimics will be pushed to the side.

If we take subsidised, oil-based factory farming prices as our minimum, and locally-grown, unsubsidised, organic (requiring little or no oil) prices as our maximum, in an environment where oil prices are increasing then the prices of factory-grown foods will tend to approach – and ultimately exceed – those of locally-grown organic.

I disagree with this. The local organic grower has to pay his own living expenses plus that of his workers these will go up as oil prices go up. An of course no one has seriously determined the oil inputs into local organic food.
Regardless at best the differences in prices will narrow overtime but both will go up substantially until the farmer himself kicks his various oil dependencies along with his laborers. Its just the organic farmer pays for his oil via wage increases not directly otherwise there is little difference between the two approaches.

Eventually of course this collapses and farming becomes the domain of dirt poor people with the traditional large land owners. Their laborers become effectively slaves.

Landowners do well but simple farmers do not.

Before you flame me go look at farming in any third world country its not based off oil its generally organic etc etc. Once people have no other choice plenty go back to farming and food prices collapse as the farmers themselves live a more rudimentary moneyless lifestyle.

It should be rather obvious given how farming works in the third world that current western organic farming probably has a huge number of dependencies on the wealth flowing from cheap oil that have not been properly accounted for.

And last but certainly not least organic farming is more of a cult or religion than truly practical. Food is food and starving people don't give a crap where there food comes from.
Shocking yes but true. Probably the best practice that produces the most food at the cheapest price is a synthesis of industrial agricultural methods and organic farming methods with little regard for useless religious positions on both sides.

As and example terra preta made using nasty inorganic oil based fertilizers is probably a fantastic solution if your goal is to grow food and not practice a religion.

And last but certainly not least organic farming is more of a cult or religion than truly practical. Food is food and starving people don't give a crap where there food comes from.

As a one-time organic grower and current employee at a certified farm:

You are right.

Learning the truth about the certification standards of "organic" growing--the superstitions, the false claims, the costs--has been the last straw for me. I once held fast to the idea that "organic" farming would be a way out of resource constraints.

Not anymore. Being disillusioned of this ideal has been a very unpleasant experience.

I advise traditional methods, not because they're better, but because they decrease your reliance on outside outputs--decrease, not eliminate. We don't need the word "organic" anymore.

Learn to use your hands.

Compost and mulch like crazy.

If you need to use pesticides to control pests, fungicides to control blights, etc., don't guilt-trip about it.

The term I see used today is "intensive farming," or "sustainable, local produce." This about covers it for me.

Best wishes for good composting.


Yeah, I think more and more people are coming around to the idea that a relationship with their food growers is more important than a particular label.

Any certification program is going to be a more or less poor surrogate for this kind of first-person inspection system.

We shouldn't even be using the term farming. It implies to much by its def's and it has to much baggage in people's minds.

BioWebScape design is not only planting seeds and plants with a Landscaping mindset, it is using the Biodiversity from nature and all plants possible to a given area, and The Web/internet for spreading and gathering information.

Even when I use the term garden I see people thinking about how much work they are going to have to do to get their plot ready. WHY do we need to work so hard?

I work hard gathering information, I work hard at drawings and planning, but I don't work very hard in my yard, I work hard canning my produce, or planning how to store the extras, but I don't work very hard at anything else. If I am weeding everyday, I might be doing to much work, why am I weeding? The point is to do as little work as possible and let the natural systems do the work for you.

If you have bugs in your crops that kill them, is there something plant or animal that will do the pest control for you? learning how to work within the system is part of the learning process. Got a slug problem, maybe some slug eating ducks will fix that for you. Got a bug/plant problem, maybe another plant will limit it's growth, or ward off the bug!

The issues are vast, but that is the point of BioWebScape, to give people a much needed datum to handle all the issues in all the places we can grow foods.

The more you know is good, but you have to use wisdom to handle what you do know for a better outcome.

I think that I am a fool who knows nothing.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

"Learn to use your hands.

Compost and mulch like crazy."


IMO the middle that both conventional and organic will (must!) arrive at from their opposite poles is Agroecology - wiki

Paper describing the rationale - Agroecology: The Ecology of Food Systems (J Sust Agric,22(3):99-119, 2003, doc)

A core text - Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture - Amazon (overlooks the integration of animals into the agrosystem, IMO)

A few hits Googling "agroecology .edu"
Norwegian University of Life Sciences program
UC Berkeley website
UC Santa Cruz website and program
U Wisconsin program
U Wyoming program

For a touch of reality read the piece here: http://campfire.theoildrum.com/node/6043
This gentleman provides data to present a sobering view of farming.

I observe we are in a permanent recession that will continue as it has until a better balance is achieved regarding the rates of consumption both of energy and funds. We all live beyond our means which includes all humans who are alive.

Everything exists in this world at the expense of something else. The antelope dies so a lion might live. The lion is living beyond its means. The balance is struck when the lion seeking a light lunch is injured by the desperate antelope seeking the rest of its life. The lion finds it cannot hunt any more because of the injury and eventually starves. The asymmetric risk that is a hunting accident is the critical element of the eat- and- be- eaten lion 'economy'.

We are living in the middle of the oil 'lunch' hunting accident right now. I suspect 20,000 or 200,000 years from now there will be oil and gas. There certainly won't be massive industries to 'exploit' them but there will be oil and gas for human use as the human version of the lion economy works its balancing act on wasteful consumption. We will have fuel - probably always - but in amounts that can be gratuitously wasted we are running out now.

Finding the balance is the hard part because different myths get in the way of coming up with a narrative that doesn't include the fantastic 'fairy tale ending'. It's hard to sell Americans potatoes, beans, hard work, discipline, continuity, husbandry, thrift, hair shirts, suspenders, simplicity, community, etc. etc. All of these are old- fashioned and outmoded holdovers (virtues) supposedly rendered obsolete by 'progress' that sets the individual on a pedestal and bombards that defenseless being with advertising. This works both ways. Here we have pitches for the 'fast and convenient' (and poisonous) versus pitches for 'organic'. Of course, all food is organic, except the mud pies that the poor - and living beyond their means - Haitians eat.

Cancer is also organic so is carbon monoxide and both can kill you along side 2" of water. Too much of a ... good? ... thing? Perhaps, but a better balance will involve more rather than less human input. I know from personal experience that many younger persons would love to be able to farm and many are finding ways to start growing food for themselves and for a growing market for better food. Better food won't be possible without more people involved with the production of food. Food prices rising in real terms is part of the process. Like oil, food is priced too cheaply for any interest other than economies- of- scale industrial farmers or cheap- labor imports to compete. Higher real food prices are healthy and natural. Real food is important and should be priced accordingly. Part of our current social dysfunction - loss of contact with nature, obesity, chronic illness, water and soil depletion, waste and chemical contamination - has been the unintended consequence of ruinous price competition in agriculture and extremely cheap food.

Brian Gordon's suggestion that employment will shift away from 'fixing' or middleman roles to more hand's on labor is all in all a good one. Agriculture is an art; this is the nadir of American and Western (and Eastern) world arts of all kinds, there is really no place to go but up.

suspect 20,000 or 200,000 years from now there will be oil and gas. There certainly won't be massive industries to 'exploit' them but there will be oil and gas for human use....

no way.....

Any oil left in the ground, by then, will stay in the ground.
We will never run out of oil but we will run out of economic oil.

at some point the Hubbert curve tappers down to zero or eventually crashes to zero and whatever is left, will never be used.

I've always felt, the world 2,000 years from now will look much the same as it did 2,000 years ago. Some things will be different, and there will be some new LOW ENERGY tools, and there will be lots of artifacts from a once great civilization, but when we're talking in the thousand year timeframe..., forget it. In the long run it will be olduvai gorge theory for sure.

I'm sure will still have elctricity on a small scale through windmills, hydroelectric (simple designs) and solar thermal, but for the most part..., it's olduvai gorge.

no way......

100 years from now we will be using much more energy per person than today, but it will be clean.
By 20,000 years an asteroid will have "pressed" the earth's "reset button".

I think that there's a chance that a portion of oil is abiotic. So a small amount may be mined indefinitely, but probably not for power.

Trying to predict that far into the future is difficult, could the Romans imagine nuclear weapons and satellites?

The only Oil and Gas in say 200 years will be Oil from plants and animals, and Gas from plants and animals.

But predicting the future beyond about next week is everybody's Guess. We do well with weather forecasts but with not to many other forecasting we are still wide of the mark.

We think to much about the future, we should plan for the worse, and hope for the best, but if we dwell on what will happen to far ahead, we will guess wrong.

I know what I want to plant, but 5 years from now I don't know anything, If all things were to stay even and everything were to work out for the best I'd guess I'd have enough food to feed all 3 of us. But I can't predict that, I only know that last year we hit a record 83 inches of rainfall. This year we could hit the lowest in all records, it has not been as wet so far, but still I can't predict next month.

I don't tend to worry about 20,000 or 200,000 yrs from now, unless Memmel and I are working on a novel together, or me alone. Otherwise it is kinda just a neat thought puzzle and beyond that it is back to figuring out if I can squeeze in a hazelnut tree between the sheds.

10 days from now an asteriod can hit us and wipe all life on earth, we aren't good at predicting futures we can't see.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

I’m a semi-vegetarian happily, mixing my grains and legumes or eating tofu, red bean paste, alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts. I do occasionally eat meat usually chicken or fish, especially with family but it averages only several times a month . Though fish is very good for you, it is far cheaper to feed people a vegetarian diet, and there are many health benefits to cutting back on meat. Plus you can feed far more people on less or no meat.

I am not a member of PETA . I choose to reduce meat consumption because I think it’s a healthier way to live.

Why should I be forced to subsidize carnivores?

Don’t get me started on the gas tax we should have had 30 or 40 years ago….

If the U. S. removed all the direct and indirect subsidies for animal products, there would be a lot more Americans eating like you.

It would be nice if we measured economic activity according to employment levels but we don't. Recessions are simply defined by a drop in GDP for six consecutive months. Recoveries are simply a matter of an increase in GDP which can come about by having fewer people doing more work each and these harder working people buying and selling to each other. Higher food and fuel prices which are offset by lower purchases of imported durable goods gives the illusion of economic growth even as unemployment rises. More money spent on food and fuel adds to the GDP when that spending is either from savings or borrowing. It is when those savings run out or credit dries up that higher prices result in a recession. The current recession was caused by a drying up of credit after some creative accounting by the extremely rich.

As for the fuel efficiency of locally grown and marketed food the smaller the vehicle carrying the load the more fuel is burned per ton/mile. Food carried hundreds of miles by rail or barge uses less fuel than per ton than that carried a few dozen miles in the farmers pickup truck. The idea that the over 150,00,000 Americans who live within our 40 largest metro areas can survive on local produce is ridiculous. There simply isn't enough farmland close enough to these areas to feed these people. We started shipping large amounts of food from farms to cities far apart since well before the oil age. Farmers will sell to the highest bidder and if those bidders are thousands of miles away then so be it. The low income elderly and disabled who live in rural areas could easily be outbid for the food grown within walking distance by the folks in far away cities. OTOH the working urban poor in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are at particular risk from higher food prices if their jobs disappear. Much of their food is imported from North America and a few other small areas of the world and are at higher risk from famine than the richer societies of the world. If the ability to ship large amounts of food across oceans goes away then hundreds of millions will starve amid much social upheaval.

If the ability to ship large amounts of food across oceans goes away then hundreds of millions will starve amid much social upheaval.

Well obviously we won't lose the ability for some time however that does not mean the food will be shipped and if it is does not mean enough will be shipped feed the population. It does not take a lot of shortage for food to send things to insanity. A deficit gets nasty fast.

On the other side of course whats left out is the role land prices play in supporting modern agriculture because at the end of the day its the preconceived value of the land that supports the lending required to run a modern farm.

This value is tied to the value of farmland closer to the cities tied up in speculation about expansion of suburbs. Huge tracks of land are held for purely speculative purchases often left fallow and no longer farmed. Land values decline smoothly from the city center outwards if you ignore the details of blighted slums which fall in value until they can be redeveloped. Thats a detail.

Regardless of the value associated with the land that eventually backs agricultural loans and is itself held up buy suburban expansion you have your oil inputs and energy costs.

As costs rise your ability to service your debt off of agricultural production declines at some point you will be forced to sell the land to pay the loan or its seized.

Heading back towards the city land values are very sticky as most of the owners are wealthy and don't sell so the market is illiquid with few transactions setting the market. Even as the economy enters decline the rapid fall in transactions for land serves to make it even more illiquid and harder to value.

Now I think you can see where I'm headed. Way out on the farm forced sales of land increase as cash flow dries up this crashes farm land value rapidly as no one can buy. This ripples back inwards towards the suburban speculators with values falling towards the city center.
Of course as they recognize that land prices are falling they will attempt to sell in an illiquid market that simply has no buyers. What sales happen will be at "firesale" prices forcing a panic as suddenly the entire edifice supporting land prices collapse.
This of course sends the builders underwater and into bankruptcy putting even more land on the market.

Yes they are not making anymore land but the truth is we have more than enough so ...

Now this panic spreads back out towards farmland sending prices down even more. More agricultural loans are called in more farms lost and now most importantly it increasingly lies fallow as it gets tied up in legal turmoil.

Modern farmers cannot plant because they run on oil,money and inflated land valuations.
Take these away and modern agriculture which is often marginally profitable becomes unprofitable as the cash flow is not there to support the debt.
Food prices rise but they also become extremely volatile as Farmers attempting to stave off debt plant everything they can before they cant. Farmers farm even if its into bankruptcy.
Just like builders build till the money stops.

And of course many of the land speculators are members of the FIREM economy M is medical I include it because wealthy doctors are often huge land speculators. As the FIREM economy collapses these speculators will be forced to unload and this includes all types of land active farmland. So you have and additional force. And of course credit is drying up in general.

So if I'm right then Land itself is in a huge monster bubble and the combination of the above factors should serve to collapse the value of land. This collapse will be the driving force in food production in the near future along with rising oil prices but also resulting in extreme volatility as large amounts of food are produced at a loss then the land fallowed by defaults and the resulting legal entanglements. A lot of farmland is rented thus the farmer is not the owner obviously rents will fall or more correctly farmers will no longer rent land as profits even on land they own become iffy. This of course results in more farmland going fallow until the owner relents and drops rent and or freaks and tries to sell.

Regardless in the end the financial side will be the driving force and coupled with rising oil prices should result in less and less food produced despite rising prices as costs including loss of credit rise far faster than prices i.e a lot of food is produced at a loss depressing prices even as they go up.

Now as far as organic farming goes in general its a fairly recent event with most of the farms belonging to recent buyers thus in general they paid top dollar for their land. Obviously if they are using their land as collateral for loans then they will also suffer especially of course if they don't own the land outright. I don't think the nature of the farming plays a big role outside of obviously rising fuel/fertilizer costs hit the modern farmer directly.


Peak Food and Water (aquifers), will be much worse,


but, Peak Oil is comming sooner!

Except water isn't used up. Thanks to Californians who decided to live in the desert everyone has toilets that don't work very well.

How many of the 150,000,000 people in the cities can at least grow some of their calories on the land or space they have living in the cities?

It won't be all of them, but the cities can use wise use policies like, all public lands have to grow some forms of food. Instead of growing bradford pears they can grow hazelnuts and pecans and other fruit or nut trees. (The reason for most plantings in the city being non-food or non-fruit producing is clean up costs) Clean up costs can be offset by edible profits.

Why do we grow boxwood hedges instead of blueberries? Same Landscaping issues.

Landscaping has been done so long that 90% of the plants grown in any Landscaped hunk of land is with plants that provide no food value for humans, and little food value for animals, something that I hated learning about when I was being "Taught" landscaping.

Every roof top in the city should have plants and or solar cells on it. Every south facing side of the buildings should have Solar collectors built into the design. I saw these issues 30 years ago, and they have still not changed.

We have loads of solutions, but no one willing to change. Maybe we should have die-off of bad practices and a population bloom of people willing to change.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Land itself is in a huge monster bubble

Certainly farmland here in Ontario, Canada is a huge hidden bubble. Farmland far distant from any possible housing development speculation is trading at values far above what can ever be paid for with the returns from crops grown on it. Most active farmers simply rent the land they farm from faceless owners who appear to be simply willing to hold the land at a negative return, by a ratio of several hundred percent. And compared to here, the ratios in Europe are simply nuts.

I have to disagree with a few generalizations about Canada and the U.S. regarding subsidies and debt. By population proportion Canada is 1/9th that of the U.S., but we use 1/10th to keep the math simple. Canada is running a deficit of ~$54B, give or take. A proportional U.S. deficit would be ~$500B, but it's not, it's $1,500B or 3x the per capita of Canada's.

Canadian debt is $514B, or $15,300 per person. U.S. debt is 12,508B, or $40,503 per person. The U.S. is carrying 3-times the national debt of Canada. These two are not in the same league let alone comparable. Furthermore, Canadian future entitlements are funded and the U.S. is probably not.

The other significant difference is Canada is a net exporter, (I'm not an expert, so don't quote me on the numbers), and the U.S. is an importer; hence, Canada has a much better outlook for growing out of the deficit and debt. The U.S. not so much...

Canada does not subsidize agriculture to the extent of the U.S. That's why we pay $4.89 for 4L of milk while Americans fuss over $1.99 for a gallon. Cheese costs twice as much in Canada.

Other than that, the two countries are very similar as we drive the same pickups, (mine is a Chev - actually made in Ontario), listen to the same country music, buy the same Cheerios, and even inter-marry on occasion, (my spouse is an Auh-meri-kan).

Another important difference: Canada does not have to beggar its own citizens in order to maintain a vast global empire of 702 overseas bases in 130 countries. Or to bail out Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, BofA and Chase when they unintentionally(?) blow up the economy with WMFDs.

Another importance difference: The U.S. can choose to take whatever it wants from Canada.

You can try, but think Afghanistan is tough? There are many locations within our borders (not to be named) where an intrepid troublemaker could bring the U.S. to its knees rather quickly and easily..., furthermore, it would only accentuate the dependency of the addict.

So don't give me that hegemony BS! Hasn't worked and never will. You ought to be embarrassed.


Oh, you'e the guy who believes in abiotic oil. I got it.

Best from the Fremont

Wow, can you just imagine the number of Canadian sleeper cells in the U.S.? What will the FBI profile for these Canadians be? "Be on the lookout for well-spoken people who look exactly like you but have a better sense of humor/humour and occasionally say "eh"". Catch a clue dcmiller!

"Canadian Sleeper Cell"? I think that's called "hibernation".

It's been a while since I have seen 1.99 Milk. More like 3, something a gallon.

So our prices are about as high as yours, where all the money goes I have no clue.

Best luck on getting friendly to a local milk producer and/or learning to make your own cheese.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

On Uncommon Wisdom, today, the following item described three impending crises. 1. Federal Debt. 2. Peak Oil. 3. Peak Water.


Seems appropriate to this thread.



Don't worry children about peak oil, peak water, or peak population. There will be another world war and most of you will die. Be positive.

Now there's something to look forward to.

Health care will get us used to what will follow.

"Welcome to the Permanent Recession"

are you really serious? this is nonsense. this is "it's different this time" nonsense.

"If employment is inversely proportional to oil prices (it is), and oil prices are only going to trend up…then employment by necessity is going down. Because oil is so fundamental to our economy, oil price increases ripple through the entire economy."

this to is nonsense. did people remember that unemployment helped caused the oil crash that just happened? oil prices will go higher as a consequence of lower unemployment. people have to buy commodities to drive the price up. higher unemployment means people won't be using oil which means the price will go down.

I wonder what you name means, I thought first of John Chapter 15 in the Bible. The First verse talks about Jesus being the vine and The Father being the gardener pruning the vine to increase the yeilds.

Kind of funny seeing as I am a Christian and I promote BioWebScape designs( edible landscaping with a twist ) and have been doing so for years. The BioWebScape is a new term I coined to push the ideas that not only do we have the knowledge to do better but we also have the means to push the information out there to the rest of the world.

Think about it in 5 years, when some kid in Africa, or Asia uses their (one laptop per child) to get on a website that tells them how to grow their own food, and not to let people to tell them they can't do it. Oh sorry maybe in a week they will see that same information and not have to wait all those 5 years.

The world is ever changing, one thing I have learned all my 46 years, is never think you know what will happen next.

I have been reading this thread and posting all night, then about 8 am the phone rang, my 3rd ex-wive was calling. She was going to have surgery on her heart, the doctor finally got her in his hands and told her point blank, surgery on your heart NOW. Did I know this was going to happen, Did she? NO! Life can change on a dime, you might be walking about talking on the cell phone and get hit by a bus and die. Don't know the future? Are you afraid?

Anyway, we can plan all we like, and I plan a lot, I plan what I am going to grow in my garden all the time, even when it is all up and growing I am planning what I can add next. But I don't know what I'll be harvesting in 6 months, even If I know what is growing now.

In the years ahead, be prepared for change.

Again let me ask lest you forgot, what does John15 mean?

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

John 15 is part of Jesus' long monologue about how wonderful he is.

The shortened versions: "I'm God."

Actually its seems to read a little more eastern than that, and if my Aquinian/Dominican secondary ed hasn't totally atrophied it also looks to describe the unity of the mystical body of Christ that is so essential to that belief system.

I'd say a little more accurate short version would be God begat all physical reality and embodied his most essential embodiable traits within it, but that it grows separately for God, though it must partake continously of his love (life force).

Christ does claim a special consciousness of that creation and says all may share in that to the degree in which they recognize they and Christ are one and the same being. There does seem to be a definite break, or non unity, between the vine and the gardener/father thus between Christ and God that does not exist between Christ and the rest of creation.

A more secular reading of the second paragraph is found in 'Origin of Species.' Organisms may take all sorts of paths but most are dead ends. If organism don't follow the 'command' to work toward long term survival bye-bye. I had to throw that in to make the fundamentalists pull their hair
?- )

I forgot John 15 was so loaded--mystical body unity, free will but really only one way to go, the trinity. Many a war fought over interpretation of those few words...I guess the 'Love each other' command often gets lost in the shuffle.

This is where my new thrust called BioWebScape comes into play. There are many names for growing your own food out there, and I don't want to just be another one of them. BioWebScape is more of a fit everything we know into one bag approach, where we can also use "The Web" as part of the design.

Growing food or knowing where the food is in the wild has always been of interest to me. I always saw the monocultures of modern farming (and grassy lawns) such a waste of space and something leading to disaster.

I personally think we could grow all the food we need on small parcels of land, and grow more varieties than are native to our area. I am seeking as many different plants as I can that will grow in my area, as part of this project.

BioWebScape designs would be geared toward finding all the species of plants that will grow in each parcel of land, and give those people planting the land a choice for what they want to try out as new foods, and new things to fit into their gardens.

There are already proven methods of changing land from one climate to another, by the plants that are grown there, or not grown there. By how we change the design of the land, say from flat to hilly, or hilly to flat. We have proof that mowing down a forest to plant row crops will change the climate in your area, we see the results of farming all the time. If we can destroy I say we can also Un-make our mistakes. It won't be easy, and there will have to be a lot more people working toward the common goal of fixing what we and others have broken.

I have to fight being a doomer, I see TPTB trooping along toward a cliff and wonder if I can devest myself from them, and go my own direction without them taking me with them over the cliff. I don't own my land, if the Gov't wanted to they could take it, I don't own anything but my skills, and knowledge, and that is even on shakey ground( Those blood clots that killed me in 2005, damaged my brain, so every day I'm reminded that even though I know something now, tomorrow might be different). Just look at recent headlines of the blight in Detroit they trying to fix. Think about having a nice forest farm on one lot, and everything else is trashy, would they tell him to move, or let him stay?

TOD is filled with people that know what is coming and some of us are trying to fix our bit of the world. Best hopes for making the bits of yeast each of us are into bigger growing blooms of change.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

Don't worry children about peak oil, peak water, or peak population. There will be another world war and most of you will die. Be positive.

More likely would be more wars in seperate places. Something that wouldn't even get noticed by most people in America and England. However something that should be kept an eye on in relation to the coming peaks.

As for China always undercutting local goods, well we let them. You need a marketing campaign akin to "Chinese goods equals slavery". Basically you will have to fight dirty if you want to win that one. Pushing for more import taxes while the government is desperate for money too. Or point out the low quality of the goods and demand higher regulations that the chinese producers then struggle to meet without changing their equipment/designs.

Anything to get an edge back. You are going to need it. It was yours originally anyway. Also business is business.