Can we solve two problems at once - unemployment and preparing for power down?

This is a guest post by George Mobus. George is an Associate Professor of Computing and Software Systems at the University of Washington, Tacoma. His blog is Question Everything.

Solving the Unemployment Problem and Preparing for Power Down Simultaneously

Here is an old idea with a potential future:

Put People to Work Doing Something Worthwhile

While the politicians wring their hands and cry about how awful the jobs situation is, and as they contemplate a possible stimulus package (except, of course for the Republicans who have bravely led the fight to curb the deficit — as if it mattered), the real solution will evade them because they simply do not see the future. They are as lost as the neoclassical economists are in believing this economic ‘situation’ is temporary and that we will eventually get back to business as usual. That is we will eventually get back on the track to growth and prosperity. Not likely.

There is really only one physically feasible solution. It's not one that anyone will like, and so it will be contested and rejected until it is too late. It isn't, as we say, politically feasible. But it would work if humans were wise enough to follow it. What is it?

The model is simple and has been done before. From 1933 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) provided jobs for younger workers conserving natural resources (e.g. our national parks) in the US. The program was part of a general jobs creation program proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression to provide a stimulus to the economy and, so to speak, kill two birds with one stone. There was a great deal of resource management work that needed to be done, things like building access roads in national parks, and there were millions of unemployed young men who, without meaningful work, would have likely run amuck. It was, in fact, a brilliant idea. Coupling work that needed doing with labor that needed work. The same thing applies today. The problem is that the powers that be don't grasp the nature of the work that needs to be done.

Over the next twenty years the US and the world will need to transition from an industrial agriculture model to one based on permaculture and more organic, labor intensive approaches to growing food. Oil is going to decline, meaning that diesel fuels to run tractors and combines will become increasingly costly. And natural gas, meaning fertilizers, will also go into decline. The era of agribusiness is coming to a close sooner than anybody might have imagined. And we are not prepared for what follows.

The work that should be started soon and will be labor intensive is relatively straightforward enough. We need, literally, millions of men and women reconditioning and building soils capable of sustaining permaculture and local production/delivery of food. The Green Revolution has done a great deal to degrade so much of our natural soils through the increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides as well as irrigation. Now, without these petroleum-derived inputs, it is likely that food yields would drop significantly. Some land areas currently under cultivation might even fail completely. As far as oil-based transportation is concerned, the world is going to grow very large once again, and very round, once long-distance hauling is no longer cost effective. Foods will have to be grown and consumed locally and the only alternative to industrial agriculture that might hope to produce sufficient calories and nutrients to keep huge numbers from starving is permaculture. That is where the jobs will be. And the sooner we get started developing our skills and knowledge of how to do this, the better off we will all be.

A Modern CCC for Soils Remediation

Make no bones about it. We are talking hard work, physical labor, just as was the case in 1933. In all likelihood, the initial bulk of work will go to young men and women who are physically capable of doing it. Nevertheless, the benefits and even rewards to society as a whole will be substantial.

The main task is to remediate the condition of our prime soils in regions that will be least affected by climate change. There are several regional models of what to expect in the next fifty to one hundred years (even in worst case scenarios) that suggest that there are potential areas of the US and Canada that might still be viable high yield areas even as the climate changes. In addition to remediation of soils there is the need to ensure the availability of water as needed. This may involve building new canals from regions of increased rainfall to regions that will have less, but are still viable for growing crops in other respects.

Agribusiness has relied so heavily on the elements of the so-called Green Revolution, fertilizers, irrigation, and pesticides along with massive and complex delivery vehicles, all made from or run on fossil fuels. At the same time, the very use of these elements has depleted the natural capacities of regional soils. In some cases it has killed off soil microbes that are essential for natural ecosystems to survive and thrive. And that is the way we will need to understand our food production, as a natural, though assisted, ecosystem (the whole point of permaculture). Now that the soils have been so badly damaged it will take years of careful management to rebuild the natural capacities of these soils. And it won't be done with tractors so much as with compost, shovels, and horse-drawn wagons and plows.

What we need (and I mean desperately) is a modern version of the CCC dedicated to restoring key soil regions to natural productivity. The key is in the kinds of things that organic farmers have been practicing for years. It takes a lot of work and time to recreate organic productive soils from the sterile dust that passes for farmland under the current set of Green Revolution practices. We actually know how to do this, but the simple fact is that it requires a tremendous amount of labor to accomplish it.

Unlike the CCC, this organization need not be limited to just young men, even if they might form a large percentage of those hired. Young women would be every bit as qualified for most of the jobs*. And as with any major labor force undertaking this one would also require management. There are quite a few highly qualified out-of-work (older) managers out there. The management structure need not be complex. The same basic operations would be performed in distributed fashion all over the country (and, by the way, this isn't such a bad idea for the rest of the world where agriculture has had a negative impact on the soils). Setting up a basic operations management school to provide these people with the particulars of their new responsibilities would be pretty straight forward (see below about Free Education for all). The curriculum need not be complex since it is just adding on specific soil management operations management to supplement the management skills they already possess.

Speaking of management of this organization, it should be noted that it would be a huge mistake to create another bureaucracy as our government is wont to do. It would need basic accounting and performance auditing and some kind of oversight committee. But it would probably diminish the overall effectiveness of the organization to hobble it with a few layers of middle and upper civil service managers even if this meant more jobs! Keep the system simple and flat. But, of course, if the government were to do this I can easily imagine the bureaucratic nightmare that would ensue. I would bet the bill authorizing and funding such an organization would be ten thousand pages thick so the Congress can appear to be doing lots of work!

What is needed is a clear, conceptually simple vision/mission. FIX THE SOILS; enable the start of widespread permaculture operations over the next twenty years. Put people in charge who are already doing soil development and permaculture, not lawyers or academics who have never done any actual digging themselves. And for Pete's sake, don't let economists get involved, except of course for biophysical or ecological economists!

These are the jobs that need to be done now in order to assure some kind of food security for the greatest number of people as possible in the not-so-distant future. This is possible. It is feasible from a physical point of view. We still have the physical resources (organic wastes that could be turned into compost and used to remediate soils) needed to get the process rolling. We even have enough fossil fuels left to transport said resources if we put a priority on it.

The problem, as always, is that almost no one will believe it is critical and essential until it is too late to act.

Financing This Modern CCC

One of the greatest hurdles to any kind of jobs creation program right now is that financing it will simply drive the government into deeper debt. There are strong political voices that object on grounds of fiscal responsibility (where were you guys during Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II years?) I actually think they have a valid point even if their reasoning is completely cockeyed. We can't really do this by increasing debt unless there is a valid and long term payback. Whatever debt is created needs to be for a worthy investment. Just using the shotgun approach to create jobs is madness. What kinds of work are we talking about? Spending money on what will become useless projects, like building highways when the age of auto travel is coming to an end, is sheer lunacy. Yet those are the kinds of projects that our great congressional and executive leaders can imagine it seems. So we borrow, pay for roads to be built, and then in ten years find that the investments were worthless? Some leadership. Some imagination.

Investing in soil remediation and permaculture infrastructure is going to pay off in an energy constrained world. What we do now to improve the natural carrying capacity of soils and regions is going to have a great benefit in the future that building new roads won't even be able to match. So if we were to borrow money to do anything worthwhile, it should be to fund the new Permaculture Enabling Corp (PEC).

As it turns out there are ways in which funding this project will not require going into heavy debt. There will be a need to invest in what we could call capital, facilities and equipment. But the largest operating costs will be in payroll, which can be paid in ways other than cash. Just like in the original CCC, workers can be fed, sheltered, and provided for near their work sites. Food, shelter, and health care are major cost concerns for everybody, but the costs could be more easily managed in bulk and thus the cash requirements would be much lower for the program (as compared with paying road crews to build or repair roads at their higher wage levels). There are many ways these can be provided to the young workers who would come into the program. Dormitories, cafeterias, and so on can be built within biking or busing distance of major operations. It might even be a good idea to build a few couples and small family facilities. This would resemble graduate student housing on resident university campuses or enlisted housing on a military base. Not exactly luxury living, but functional and accommodating.

There is an even better means to finance this effort. Pull the troops out of our foreign involvements, bring them back home and stop spending on the war on terrorism (a ludicrous notion from day one in my opinion). The military men and women have learned discipline which will be needed to focus on the work at hand. Hire them as part of this jobs program. Otherwise, what are the alternatives? Continue throwing money down the war black hole and wasting good lives? Or bring them home, redirect the money to fund this organization, but discharge the troops so they too would then be jobless? One way or another, they will need to be integrated into this effort. By the way, Mr. Obama, if you want to do nation building, how about starting at home? If you want homeland security, how about starting with food?

Free Education

As another, even more valuable benefit to young workers in such a program, we could provide a free education in the technical and principled basis of permaculture**. Our future society will depend on permaculture for not just sustenance but for intellectual guidance in how to live in the natural world. Humans have long believed that they had risen above the natural world, had in fact come to dominate it in some sort of spiritualistic transcendency. But now those who can get past this hubris can see that we are as much a part of the natural order as any other creature in the Ecos. We need to learn to live within our boundaries in such a way that the majority of humans, in the future, can live to seek their self-actualization. That is something we did evolve to pursue. But we can only do so within the natural limitations of our biophysical world.

Schools of permaculture (systems science applied to real life!) could be set up near all of the local sites of soil remediation work. As part of their remuneration for working the soil, these workers would be able to attend evening classes in formal education structures dedicated to helping them understand the importance of the work that they are doing and preparing them for being leaders in the new world of permaculture-managed food supply. Instead of learning how to manage a for-profit business, they would be learning how to manage food production in cooperation with the natural world. They would learn ecology as well as basic biology and nutrition sciences. And they would learn it in the context of managing resources for human well being. In that not-so-distant future that will be the most important knowledge of all.

This part of the project will take a bit of doing since it will be necessary to first teach the teachers. That will take some startup time. But I do feel that most high school and college science teachers will be able to come up to speed fairly quickly. The permaculture curriculum has been worked out and several schools are already in operation (c.f. David Holmgren's page). The number of truly qualified teachers is quite small. To be truly qualified you need to have actually practiced the arts, not just read about them. There are, however, many organic and biodynamic farmers who might be recruited to learn the permaculture principles and make excellent teachers. Some of these farmers might be having trouble keeping up in the market and find it attractive to not only learn how to teach permaculture but also use their own farms as facilities, paid for, of course, by the PEC.

Ramping up a viable education system will be one of the harder, but ultimately most important, parts of this program. The reason is simple. After the soils are remediated and ready to go, serious permaculture operations will begin. The actual building of soils and an integrated food ecosystem is a long-term process that is an outcome of permaculture. Getting the soils remediated isn't the same as just plowing the field before planting the crops. Indeed, part of remediation will involve establishing varieties of plants, including some native species, that will act to support the remediation (see: phytoremediation). For example, planting clovers for several years will help build nitrogen. Once the initial work is completed on a plot of land it is time to get the operation under way. And, in all likelihood, what this will mean is building a small village of permaculturists near the fields where some of those very people who went out looking for jobs and wound up digging up dirt with a purpose will want to settle near their time and energy investments to see the work through. I imagine these villages will sport their own local economy but may also be capable of exporting some produce, or at least trading with other nearby operations. This is what the future looks like, if there is to be a future at all for a larger number of humanity.


I am growing into a cynic when it comes to what the masses of humanity will do in the near term to assure a long-term! I offer current political maneuvering as evidence of why it is rational to be cynical when it comes to the choices humans will make about their future.

Still, it might be worthwhile to ask how feasible is this proposal. Or, put another way, how might it be possible to actualize this notion? Understand that I think basic human foolishness will ultimately prevail. (I've had so little evidence to suggest otherwise of late!) But I could be wrong and might be surprised. So let's explore the possibilities.

Clearly what a proposal of this magnitude requires is presidential leadership, as with that provided by FDR in the Great Depression. One very good reason it will need to be national in scope and concurrently ramped up around the country is that it won't work to have pockets of permaculture communities, as is currently happening with the grass roots approach now being taken, surrounded by greater urban communities of hungry people. It could get dicey for the permaculture communities. We're either all in this together, or there won't really be a future. President Obama would have to be a firm supporter of this new program. He would have to understand the nature of peak oil and peak net energy as well as the futility of trying to substitute alternative energies (or that abomination he keeps mentioning — clean coal!) for what fossil fuels supply in terms of driving our current economy. Once he truly grasped the scale and scope of the problem, he would have to propose appropriate legislation. Note that he would have to literally fight off the private interests, the lobbyists, and prevail upon the members of Congress to vote with his proposal.

Perhaps, at this point, you can see why I am so cynical. First, Obama hasn't shown any real grasp of the economic problems that we are facing. He is still listening to Tim Geithner and Larry Summers for goodness sakes. I just don't see him suddenly developing any real understanding of the true problems. He is both too young and too full of his own cleverness to really come to grips with reality outside of the neoclassical economics (and Wall Street) interpretation that he imbibed at Harvard. Second, imagine what would happen in the general public if he did grasp reality and made such a proposal. Let's face the reality of human nature here. The American people are extremely spoiled. They actually believe that because they are Americans they have some rights to consume without consequences. Do you really believe they would get behind an executive proposal to sacrifice the American dream in lieu of a hard labor future?

So how feasible is this idea in light of political realities? My guess is: not very. Please excuse me for being a cynic. What is needed is understanding and bravery. I don't see anyone in public office or in the public eye who has these two qualities. And even if they did (take Dennis Kucinich as an example of a close match) how far would they get?

Where Does That Leave Us?

So I've told you what needs to be done. I've given you a rough outline of how it could be done and what the major ingredients would be. I think it is technically feasible (what do you think?). And I think it is critical to solve both problems of jobs and what we will be doing in the future for food, in both cases preventing or minimizing riots in the near future. But I suspect you will agree with me that nothing even remotely resembling this proposal will come out of the Obama Whitehouse or from the Congress. So where does that leave us? Hoisted on our own petard.


* In my conception of this organization there would be a number of job categories relating to the kinds of things that have to be done, e.g. soil testing, moving compost, digging the compost in, etc. All of these jobs require a certain amount of skill and knowledge; they aren't just manual labor as we normally think of it. I also think it would be beneficial to have all workers cycle through the various job types over time so that they can acquire that knowledge and those skills through on-the-job training and then have time to practice and become proficient. But rather than lock someone into a single job just because they are doing it well, I think there is a global optimum to be achieved by doing this kind of rotation. Even though within each job type there will always be a few apprentices doing sub-optimal work I suspect the positive effects on peoples' psyches of not having to do the same thing day after day, endlessly, would lead to faster learning and better overall performance.

** If you didn't already know about permaculture you should read this Wikipedia entry (same link as above). In essence permaculture is quite knowledge intensive following the principles of systems science.

Thanks, George!

Interesting idea!

I presume paying for all of this land is one of the expenses you have in mind. And somewhere, fairly soon after you get the land into better shape, you are going to have to transition to growing plants and animals on this land.

One of the details is making certain we have hardy plants of the right types for each area, plus animals that that work well in each area--not the finicky ones that are grown now by agribusiness. It seems like a little planning somewhere along the line would be helpful. But it doesn't hurt to think big, and then start working out the details!

Thank you Gail.

I wasn't thinking about outright paying for land or government ownership per se. It might come under the same program that we used to do, essentially paying rents to farmers for letting some of their land lay fallow for a while. But also, some farmers around here are thinking about what they could do to "go organic" and have been realizing that there is a lot more to it than just stop using fertilizers and pesticides. I wouldn't be surprised if they would jump at the chance to see their land revitalized through a government-sponsored program. After the harvest here I'm scheduled to give a talk on energy resource constraints to an organization of farmers in this county. I will try to get a sense of it from then when I do.

On your second point, re: right types of plants/animals, that is actually a central aspect of permaculture - appropriate species for a given locale/climate.

Farmland appears to cost around $4000 to $8000 per acre. If your cost of money is 4.5%, you need an operating profit of $180 to $360 per acre in order to pay the land costs. If you actually want to make a poverty-level living you need to make more per acre and have a lot of acres. Which is why farms are large and mechanized.

There are also a whole lot of regulatory issues that require investments in expensive capital improvements. This also requires large units of production.

If the scenario described above comes to pass, I doubt very much that farmland will be selling for $4000-8000/acre. You have to remember that the prices currently paid are driven by the amount of income that said acre of land will produce. If it ceases to be profitable due to a lack of mechanization brought about by poor or limited availability of fuel, that land will rapidly lose its value. So the land cost is going to come down drastically.
What will stay the same or more probably, rise exponentially, is the overall cost of production due to huge increases in labor needed to plant, grow, harvest and process a bushel of corn.
Another factor that will rear its ugly head is an overall decrease in production per acre. We will go back to the days when 40-60 bushels of corn per acre was a fantastic crop vs the the 150-200 BU/A that is now the norm. I fail to see any possible way that 6B+ people can be fed using what is essentially mid 1800's farming methods. Lot's of us will die to put it mildly.


It might help to read up on permaculture. I'm not talking about going BACK to "1800's farming methods". Otherwise your observation about the economic value of land under the constraints of diminishing energy supplies are good.

The need for such a plan as George suggests directly implies die off, yes. I've seen studies about carrying capacity of different regions and continents using various sustainable methods. North America seems to be less over carrying capacity than most other continents, which implies die off rate may be lower there. The PEC, if implemented as George suggests, might mitigate die off - in fact, it might be one of few large-scale actions taken now that even could mitigate it. It would widen the metaphorical population bottleneck ahead of us, and probably lead to a more pleasant land for those who got through it. Good reasons to do it, if and only if one accepts the likelihood of a human population die off in the next half-century.

In other words, lots of us are going to die and the proposed PEC would be our best option to mitigate this die off. Unfortunately, it seems to be in our nature to deny the severity of the problem until it is too late. At least, that's what we've always done in the past. Perhaps, this time, the 100th monkey will manifest :-)

world population growth is the big elephant in the room nobody seems to want to address.

codex alimentarious:

someone is addressing this through modifications in the food nutrition. altering foods to keep people sterile, altering foods to increase health conditions, like diabetes, chloresteral, high blood pressure etc. notice how the worlds population is getting fatter? by accident? I say it's by design. I noticed in the early/mid 80's that people in general were getting more fat. In the 60's and 70's only a few people were overweight. now 4 out of 5 people are over weight.
about 2 years ago i saw a film on pbs, (I rarely watch tv) I watched a film called "King Corn".

it really opened my eyes on why everyone is gaining weight. high fructose corn syrup is the main cause and is in everything, just about. the film is really an eye opener and though i can't find the entire film to post here. youtube has sections of the film to watch. highly reccomended to everyone.

but thats really about nutrition.

I agree a massive die off needs to occur, just not sure how that would happen. we can't last too long without food.

on a seperate note, the swine flu scare a year ago or so was a govt staged event to persuade the public to take a vaccine that contained high doses of mercury to mess up the peoples nervous system. and it did on some people, not everyone, but some.

now that obama care is coming, the death panels will deny a surgery/repair based on your age.
since we are just getting too old to be a successful part of society and will be dying soon anyway. why not just accept the idea and save the country some money on an un-needed procedure.
by the way, mandatory body mass index for every american by 2013.

you see? it's all JACKED UP! somebody in power see's the elephant in the room, they just want to stay alive and suggest you go down first.

We the people are screwed, unless we the people wakeup and take this country back from greedy do nothing politicians and the global bankers. We the people have more power than we think, if we were to organize and assemble in big numbers, i mean really big numbers, we the people could change this all around and make corrections and do things the right way. we the people are too distracted, and that is by design too. we are so distracted we can't even grab congess/senate by the collar and hold them back.

... on a seperate note, the swine flu scare a year ago or so was a govt staged event to persuade the public to take a vaccine that contained high doses of mercury to mess up the peoples nervous system. and it did on some people, not everyone, but some.

You sure seem to enjoy the view from the grassy knoll!

The most effective method of reducing population growth is educating and empowering women. Even a small improvement leads to a noticeable decrease in family size.

Always this 'going back to lower yields' assumption! For a realistic picture of what practical permaculture can do -- in the hands of a lifelong master -- take a look at this:

Sorry if you've seen it already. I keep linking it everywhere that I can, because this practical reality of permaculture is so under-known, and so vital to the immediate future. Seems you can't repeat this stuff too often just now.

Notice how much *more* than industagri permaculture can produce, whilst keeping the land so much healthier and happier at the same time.

Though it has to be said, as some sage -- Dmitry O, was it? -- said just recently: all that increases of food production have done since the start of agriculture several thousand years back is to increase the Earth's human overpopulation problem, and help to increase the absolute numbers of desperately poor people.....

But also, some farmers around here are thinking about what they could do to "go organic" and have been realizing that there is a lot more to it than just stop using fertilizers and pesticides.

"Going organic" requires the use of pesticides and fertilizers, or else there's no food.

The number one myth about "organic" farming is that pesticides and fertilizers are not used. No, only sacred, certified substances are used as pesticides and fertilizers. In fact, I had to become a certified pesticides applicator to work at an organic farm.

"Organic" farmers apply pesticide regularly--pyrethrum, spinosad, neem, etc. They also apply bag-loads of fertilizers in the form of greensands, blood meal, rock phosphate, limestone, and even "certified" commercial organic fertilizer mixes.

i never knew that. i suppose the type soil determines the use of fertlizers?, i understand pesticides for insects. i grow a garden of veggies and i use nothing but sun and water, preferably rainwater. nothing else. however, my Kentucky soil seems to be very rich.

George, how is the leg doing?

very interesting proposal. Course many details need to be added and timing is critical. Most I know are very concerned that things are changing, but somehow believe or hope that things are going to return to the normal of the past few decades. When they ask me what I think I just point to my front yard which currently has cantaloupes, pumpkins, okra, corn, peas, butter beans and other crops they see me harvesting daily. I tell them the excrement has hit the spinning blades and now is the time to turn your lawn into productive earth. Finding and securing good productive, or even marginal land is going to be a problem. Private property rights are going to become hard to overcome. I afraid much of the ownership is not going to be broken up as quickly as needed for effective dispersion of permaculture. Cuba provides a good example of how it can be done, but our plutocracy may be difficult.

My plan is to quietly practice my skills and talk an occasional neighbor into taking a few plants to their yard for transplanting. I have over many years collected a large variety of plants that do well in my climate and share them when i can. I live in a college community and am distressed by the number of young folks who are graduating with large debts and not only no job but not even an interview. hope a black swan does not fly over soon, as building soil and implementing a good permaculture practice can only be accomplished with trials and they take time. But information travels fast, especially during hard times, so I still see a little hope if folks in leadership embrace some sanity.

Hi Rube.

Leg is on the mend, thanks.

Your front yard sounds like what mine is rapidly turning into! We expanded more of our formerly ornamental planting areas to vegetables this year and have gotten some hits and a few misses (spring was wet and cold - one of the contributing factors to my leg breaking!). But overall building up a repertoire. This fall we will start clearing some portion of our side yard, a slope, and building terraces for next spring, etc. It has its own rewards, yes?

One of my concerns is that planting extensively at home now depletes the soil at a time when there is still plenty of food available. I've been planting clover and other nitrogen-fixing cover crops to try to build up the soil for the time when it will be needed, just keeping a few small plots for vegetables so I can develop my planting and seed saving skills. Even with composting everything but meat, it's hard to produce enough compost annually to make up for the losses from more extensive plantings. How are you handling this?

For the time being we are importing grass clippings from our neighbors' yards. Saves them a trip to the dump because most of them don't compost! Our home is not a permaculture. It is a standard residential house on a large (by local standards) yard, but definitely nothing that could provide the systemic needs of a sustainable veggie garden. CC&Rs prevent much more than we are doing now, but would if we could.

I use leaves myself, which are much less likely to be contaminated by weed killers and such. Most people bag up their leaves here and sit them out to go to the dump, which is a terrible waste. I collect leaves from several neighbors and heap them over the garden beds and around trees, about a foot thick. We have some cold winters, but come spring once the snow is gone I turn the remains of the leaf mulch over into the garden soil, almost warm enough to plant and supporting legions of earthworms.

Chickens can be an important component for permaculture. They don't need much space, they pre-process food waste and provide protein and fertilizer.

Wendell Berry pointed out that modern mono crop agriculture took a solution (animals that provided fertilizer and protein) and turned it into a double problem (the need for artificial fertilizer for plants and pollution from manure in concentrated animal feeding operations.)

Be careful with chicken droppings. We make a "tea" by dilluting it in rainwater collected in cisterns. (Take the straw with the droppings on it; soak it in the water. Use the water as fertilizer; add the straw to the compost.) Put it directly on plantings, and it is too strong and will burn them.


I havn't had any problems spreading dried chicken droppings round my plants but I dont do this often and mostly compost it first.

Many of my neighbors are still Martha Steward neurotics. They have their yard trash, leaves, grass and other organic materials, put into bags and placed at the curb for pick up by the city. I know the dates of the pickup and just drive my 1981 long bed diesel micro truck by early in the morning of trash pickup and get what i want. I maintain about 3000 sq. ft. of garden space which is rotated from season to season. Here just north of the cody scarp crops can be grown year around. the bags of fall leaves, summer grass clippings, etc are simply spread over the fallow area and allowed to compost for 3 to 4 months before planting, which is simply pulling back the leaves and planting. Very little weeding, and no watering. Now i am aware that this will not go on into the future. even the richer more neurotics of my neighbors are going to get the message sooner or later. therefore, the remaining areas of my yard, i have an acre, with a 2300 sq ft home, is planted in rye or clover and harvested and put onto the garden. additionally i have three large live oak trees in my yard who produce large quantities of leaves onto my roof which are blown off and collected for organic gardening purposes. Yes, as a result of putting clipping and leaves from other yards, I do get some strange weeds from time to time. this problem is solved by simply using the most important of all gardening tools, the human hand. Show me a gardener who does not spend time weeding and I will show you a unsuccessful gardener. great therapy. By the way, I always have a pocket full of bean and pea seeds in my pocket. As i walk through my garden daily, and i see a spot where something ought to be growing i pull back the mulch and plant a few. One thing i pay attention too is the PH of my soil. I have a simple tester, costs about $45 as I recall, and if I find my PH us getting too low because of oak leaves or pine straw, i add dolomite. Very cheap and easy to apply. I have a great earth worm population, which to a gardener is a sign of good things.

One other thing. I heat with wood. I have a fairly old, but efficient wood stove. My fuel is wood discarded from neighbor trees cut down and placed by the curb. I never thought it would last, but I have been doing it for over 35 years at this location. Now you ask, where do i get my kindling? My preferred weed in my garden is Mexican Sun Flowers. Once you plant them here in the south they produce like crazy and leave lots of seeds for the birds and next years crop. Through out my garden if i pull back the mulch mexican sun flower will come up and grow. the butterflies and hummers love them. Harvest the stalks of these and the corn stalks and you can start a fire when it is too windy and wet to stack bricks.

In conclusion, I really don't know how many folks i could sustain on this little plot of land. (I must confess, I have interest in several farms also, but old age and health issues requires me to now live in the city) My concern is a mad max situation. I have worked hard in the past several years to educate my neighbors, but it is a slow process. During the last year i have received several notices from the neighborhood association about having too tall grass. (Rye grass planted for green manure) I ignore them and just leave fresh vegetables on the porch of those leaving the notices. I currently have a cantaloupe plot on the front street, I have a corner lot, and it is growing out into the street. only three hills, of two plants each, and i have harvested 67 cantelopes, which have been distributed to 13 households. Dammit, sooner or later, they are going to get the message. I am currently considering if I should let the pumpkins, which are already planted and growing into the cantaloupe plot, grow out and block traffic. Nice being old and eccentric. If you work with nature it can result in lots of interesting situations. Might be interesting. You know Pumpkins on asphalt. By god I think I will do it. they are almost to the curb now. Please forgive. I just spent the morning with my 91 year old mother who is not doing well and you have to put up with my angst. no edit.


OT maybe, but that was a beautiful RC, no apology needed.

Surely almost all TOD readers (except the lazy, shiftless ones like myself) are already doing this?

Nope - some like myself are dredging the last bits of oil based modernity out of the system

For a thread of prep


I like the concept and agree that the federal government won't lead the way. So do you give up? Most new things don't come about because everyone jumps in at once. Start a WA CCC. Raise a million dollars and get started. I just moved to Seattle from PA. I was going to join a group in PA that just bought 100 acres to get started. My buddy leads it and teaches people how to improve soil on his own 60 acres just outside Harrisburg. Tell you what. You start the WA CCC. Non-profit or for-profit. I'll invest the first $10,000.

You've got a great idea. Don't let being a cynic stop the project.



No, definitely don't give up. I am mostly interested in feasible solutions from a biophysical standpoint, to show what is possible to do. I tend to get riled and rant though when I start thinking about the 'sociopolitical' feasibility issues.

As to your proposal, I have been thinking of starting a permaculture school here in Western Washington and thinking about how to finance it. Similar idea to your buddy's perhaps. If I get further along with the concept, I'll be dropping by to collect that $10,000!

There is another model of adoption that might work. In the piece I mention my worry that grass roots approaches, while admirable, might end up getting swamped or overrun by the hungry masses (in a worst case scenario) which is why I proposed a federal government program (as well as to help ease the unemployment problem, of course). But it is possible that if there were enough 'seed' projects around the country that these would act like seed crystals in a supersaturated solution, as templates for the expansion of more. I wouldn't rule out such a process. My main concern, however, is that the time it will take to remediate the really horrible soils created by agribusiness practices makes it advisable to get a start on this now. You just don't go out to one of these dust-bowls-in-the-making and spread a little compost and think you are ready! It takes years to build sustainable, viable soils.

Still I will keep your idea in mind.

No, definitely don't give up. I am mostly interested in feasible solutions from a biophysical standpoint, to show what is possible to do. I tend to get riled and rant though when I start thinking about the 'sociopolitical' feasibility issues.

George, the flowchart below reminds me a bit of your own charts >;^)
I think we will need to go in multiple directions, certainly permaculture is one of them. I also think there will be more systems like this.

BTW I'd love to be involved with designing the filters and water circulation systems, I think solar PV and small wind is ideal for pumping in systems such as this.

Aquaponics Africa has developed the special technology of combining fish aquaculture and hydroponic vegetable production under controlled conditions. Fish nutrients generated in aquaculture, i.e.. fecal solids, micro organisms and algae biomass, wasted fish food and organic detritus are all pumped onto hydroponic growing beds or intensive farm plots where they are broken down by beneficial bacteria into a suitable form for plant uptake. The plants, worms and bacteria clean the water, which is in turn pumped back into the fish aquaculture system for reuse, aeration and water conservation. This is a re-circulating system that consumes very little water; the only losses being to evaporation and plant uptake through irrigation. In Aquaponics, wasted fish solids provides the nutrient resources for the vegetable plants to be grown in hydroponic or in traditionally cultivated field systems under organic standards where there is no need for any type of fertilizers or chemicals for sustainable agriculture. Insect prevention is supplied by totally natural methods. Hydroponic vegetable production uses irrigation water containing fish waste solids as a source of organic fertilizer, while the fish farmers utilises hydroponics as a bio-filtration method to facilitate intensive re-circulating aquaculture. This combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) in controlled conditions in solar houses utilizing specialized growing mediums and systems for collecting nutrient fish wastes is a natural process where nothing goes to waste.

The idea for the system is to reach a steady state, which means that the system has a regular harvesting, replanting and restocking cycle, and can be maintained with minimum interference. In order to maintain this state, one would for example, never harvest all the vegetables to the obvious detriment of the fish and vice versa. This steady state is achieved by staggered planting of vegetables and staggered introduction of the fish.
Flow chart showing the co-culture system to include fish, organic vegetables, chickens, worms and ducks

Hi FMagyer,

Permaculture is pretty all inclusive and includes aquaculture with material/energy cycling between water and land so it sounds similar to the Aquaponics idea. It just isn't industrial scaled like some forms of aquaculture reliant on manufactured fish chows and lots of antibiotics, etc.

It just isn't industrial scaled like some forms of aquaculture reliant on manufactured fish chows and lots of antibiotics, etc.

Yes, I'm very aware of that. What I'm referring to are small scale systems that are closer to the permaculture idea. We are talking more along the lines of mini artificial ecosystems and there would be no commercial fish chow or antibiotics. Which is why a deep knowledge of natural systems, biological controls and biofilters together with a very well thought out mix of crops and animals would underlie a successful system. With relatively simple technology such a solar pumping you could set up a much more productive per acre environment than you could on large tracts of land with all the necessary inputs of fuel and chemicals. I agree that such systems are much more labor intensive than industrial farms but it seems like we will have the excess labor for sometime to come.

The Mayans did it for many years.
"Long and narrow rectangular ridges were raised above low-lying seasonally inundated land along rivers or in swampy depressions by heaping up rich, fertile soil. Channels between the raised fields provided irrigation water, drainage and fertile soil periodically scooped up to renew the cropped bed. According to a standard textbook on the Maya (Sharer, R.J. 1994. The Ancient Maya. Stanford University Press, Stanford, USA. 892 pp. Fifth edition), the channels between the raised fields may have been sources for harvest of fish, molluscs or other aquatic life."

I don't think Mayan agriculture worked out very well for the Mayans, in the long run. Over-utilization of soil/water resources, overpopulation, leading to multiple warring city-states, hyper-violent recreational games, collapse, and subsequent dispersal/reduction of populations.

mr. fixie

And the first problem is that hydroponics is not organic as the "community" defines it. It's a religious issue to them, so reason won't work.

As George implies, it has to be grown in the dirt, and no chemicals of any sort are allowed. And the prodigious manual labor requirements will be met by the up and coming serf class.

And the first problem is that hydroponics is not organic as the "community" defines it. It's a religious issue to them, so reason won't work.

PVguy based on your past posts I get the impression that you are a pretty smart dude. I don't however get the impression that you have delved very deeply into small scale combination aquaculture and hydroponics systems. See my reply to George.

To be very clear I am not talking about systems that depend on BAU with inputs of fertilizer, chemicals and antibiotics. I'm talking about small sustainable well managed mini ecosystems powered mostly by the sun for photosynthesis and maybe small scale PV for energy to circulate distribute and recycle wastes from one culture as inputs for fertilizer into the other.

Of course some external inputs would always be necessary as would careful animal and plant husbandry.
Though not anywhere near what is required in today's industrial farms and agriculture.

From my post up top:

Aquaponics, wasted fish solids provides the nutrient resources for the vegetable plants to be grown in hydroponic or in traditionally cultivated field systems under organic standards where there is no need for any type of fertilizers or chemicals for sustainable agriculture. Insect prevention is supplied by totally natural methods. Hydroponic vegetable production uses irrigation water containing fish waste solids as a source of organic fertilizer, while the fish farmers utilises hydroponics as a bio-filtration method to facilitate intensive re-circulating aquaculture. This combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) in controlled conditions in solar houses utilizing specialized growing mediums and systems for collecting nutrient fish wastes is a natural process where nothing goes to waste.

Actually George, my personal experience of starting soils from scratch suggests that it needn't take many years to get worthwhile -- and annually-increasing -- crops coming in. I use raised beds and much scrounged-in general mulch materials, true; and it's all one-man's-muscle driven, also true. But then, multiply that by all those millions of unemployed/underemployed younger generation people -- especially if they're working together, with a bit of knowledgeable older leadership -- and you have a widespread grassroots revolution re-fertilising the soils widely within -- what? -- five years of starting. I think that's feasible.

This is still one of my all-time favourites for a practical how-to video (why the hell did fate have to kill Emilia so young.....?)

Note in particular her opening remarks about the utterly revolutionary insights of Fukuoka: spot on! Even in unusually highly intelligence-dense places like TOD I still encounter a lot of disbelief about Fukuoka's Four Principles, as laid out again here by Emilia. But I'm here to tell ya: Try it before you knock it, for a year or three. You WILL be astonished. But note also Emilia's early remarks about her initial disappointment with her efforts, and her realisation that all depends on sensitive adaptation of the principles to YOUR OWN LOCAL conditions. Which, of course, is exactly what Fukuoka himself did, through long years of failure, frustration and neighbour-ridicule, until he'd cracked it. (After that, his neighbours started to ask him to show them how to do it too.....)

Hi Rhisiart,

Like you, my personal experience with soil building has been on smaller plots. My impressions of how long it might take were gotten from discussions I've had with several organic farmers here in Puyallup. One of them claimed that he started with a 20 acre plot that had been run as a conventional farm and required extensive remediation to get certified for local produce sales. He said it took nearly ten years to get the soil up to the level where he could make a comfortable profit selling organic based on his yields. I never did find out what he grew, but he did go into some detail re: the remediation work. He used a tractor/implements to do the work so I'm guessing it wasn't due to slow manual labor issues.

I hope to find out more when I meet with some of our county farmers in Nov.

I can understand why you really don't want economists involved, because they'd tell you government jobs are futile when it comes to lowering unemployment. Why? Because you need to tax people to create those jobs, and then demand in the private sector is lowered just as much.

Also, what you propose is completely unnecessary. Farmers can adapt, along the lines you propose if necessary, when and if the conditions change. However, such a change in the short-to-medium term isn't very likely. Most of you who grow your gardens with dreams of surviving doom will simply die at an old age under BAU. The question is: Will you die happy, or will you feel emptiness or even bitterness at the end, since the doom you'd prepared for didn't happen?

government jobs are futile when it comes to lowering unemployment

Government services provide benefits same way private sector does. Some services can be provided more efficiently thru a government agency. Sure the money is collected different but the basic service provided and payed for is the same.

Jobs created thru jobs programs happen thru a Robin Hood like effect. When done correctly can spread the wealth by taking total available employment funds and dividing it more ways.

Of course if the ever increasing concentration of wealth of our society is what you support then this will not be to your liking.

Redistributing wealth has never and will never truly help anyone or any nation. You cannot take what someone has earned and give it to another in the name of equality without causing inequality. Therefore government services do NOT provide benefits in the same way the private sector does. Robin Hood is a myth remember. :)
Why is the prevalent attitude all about tearing down the Haves rather than enabling the HaveNots to raise themselves up by their own means. If you don't agree, you can take Home Simpsons sage advice and "Go to Russia". See how it's working out for them.


True money paid needs to be money earned. Something returned to society that is of equal value. I do not advocate paying someone to do nothing of value.

What I am saying is that life in our society is not fair. You can go to the big name school, get the big degree, and still not have any job opportunities.

How about an employee that earns $20 hour but is only paid $12, does this not create inequality? Where does the great wealth of the halves come from?

It comes down to correcting the inequality caused by a position of power taking unfair advantage.

What I am saying is that life in our society is not fair. You can go to the big name school, get the big degree, and still not have any job opportunities.

In a deep recession, perhaps. Not otherwise, not if one doesn't smell bad or something.

How about an employee that earns $20 hour but is only paid $12, does this not create inequality?

Useful inequality. Such profit margins are strong signals to other competitors to enter the market.

As so many others, you are blinded by big profits, but you don't realize that these doesn't take much away from you and that you'd be poorer without. Almost all the real benefit of business ends up in the hands of consumers and workers. What capitalist skim off is not very important, except as a means to improve ownership structures and make production more efficient.

It comes down to correcting the inequality caused by a position of power taking unfair advantage.

So if you are offered a job at a certain wage and you accept it, you are being taken unfair advantage of if the company is making profits?

So if you are offered a job at a certain wage and you accept it, you are being taken unfair advantage of if the company is making profits?

Let me ask you something - where is the power? Suppose you're talking about someone with a high school level of education working in a coffee shop. They go to an interview, and are offered $8-9 an hour, plus a share of tips (that equals maybe $30-50 a week). If they work at a busy shop, they'll see lines out the door several times a day, and will be working non-stop for hours at a time - and maybe their tips will rise to $60-80 a week.

From your perspective, they entered into a contract, the company makes profits, and everything is okay. But this worker is not making enough to save, unless he lives at home rent-free or rooms with many people (he won't be able to afford a room of his own). He will never see the profits of the company - he isn't making enough to own enough stock for that. His only option is to move up to management positions within the store, and he's competing with every other worker there for a position that pays a couple bucks more, that may, years on, lead to a store manager position that pays a sort of lower middle class living. He may not be really suited to management - then what?

Of course this worker has the option of moving to other low paying jobs with equally dull prospects. He may be able to manage an education at a local community college, but he'll end up in debt and will have to manage after a day of physical labor (which will probably affect his grades). Maybe he's not that smart? Perhaps he will work his way up somewhere, or perhaps he will find a job that pays in the $15 an hour range.

Sure, this worker isn't exploited by the standards of the world - he's not being worked to death like in a Chinese factory, and he isn't in the semi-slavery of guest labor in the middle east. But he's not taking home much of what runs through that store. Realistically, he can't ask for more, as he's replaceable (even after many months when he becomes very skilled, he's still cheap to replace). A union isn't going to happen. All of the power is on the side of the those with the money, and they provide him with a subsistence living. In a sense, he is a modern day serf.

Perhaps this is the inevitable reality of the world; certainly history supports the conclusion that those at the top will live in castles while those at the bottom will live in hovels. But to claim that it's fair because he signed the contract is to misunderstand the power relationship on a historical level. The corporations is his lord, and he is a servant. He does have some freedoms serfs did not - he can change his lords freely. On the other hand, he doesn't have any right to land the way serfs traditionally did.

There is evidence that this was not always the case, and is not necessarily the case - Costco famously pays it's workers much better than most other companies for similar work, and I hear that in the '50s a person could get a professional job with a high school education. Perhaps these are the anomalies of history.

Just something to think about. I don't have any answers.

OTOH, corporations are fighting tooth and nail for that coffee shop guy's kid's cell phone plan. So who's the master, really? And I don't think the power relationship is that unbalanced even in a pure workplace context. Supply and demand creates a balance, whether there are unions or not.

Isn't what you describe not a problem of power or material wealth per se, but a problem of perception, of envy, of self-esteem, of culture? Historically and globally, he's exttremely well off. But he compares himself to his immediate surroundings in space and time, and see that some or even most people are even better off. And he feels unhappy for it.

Sure, that unhappiness is a real problem, but consider the fixes. If we are going to tweak the standard market system to give the guy more than supply and demand dictates, we get more unemployment and reduced incentives to improve one's productivity. The unemployed are even unhappier, and the reduced incentives hurt us (in absolute terms) long-term. Of course we can dream of a completely different economic system, but frankly, it isn't likely to work better than the Soviets attempts, and would again require lots of force to create and uphold. Perhaps the only workable fix is to accept supply and demand and work on our culture and perceptions instead?

Not to take away from your point that happiness is an important part of the problem and solution, but to just throw up your hands saying "we can dream of a completely different economic system, but frankly it isn't likely to work better than the Soviets attempts" is a bit harsh. It doesn't have to be a "completely different system" and it might work better than one particular attempt in the past even if it is. Should we have thrown up our hands on capitalism at the height of the worst excesses of the industrial revolution in England? Should we ignore the fact that China's economy and standard of living has long done better than India's? There is a huge, multidimensional spectrum of economic ecosystems between unbridled capitalism and rigid central control. Many things can be tweaked. A living wage, for example. I've never seen any arguments against it other than that it would require a realignment of the services we provide now. No more $3 hamburgers. Maybe shops have to mark up 60% instead of 50. Somehow, I think we'd all survive.

I'm not sure you read my entire comment. I wrote about tweaks, and mentioned what you call "a living wage". It generates unemployment and disincentives to get an education. The cost of imposing minimum wages are not in relation to the benefits. If you haven't seen arguments against it, you have lived in a bubble.

You really need to substantiate such claims -- they are not self-evident. For example, Scandinavian nations have living wages and other "tweaks", and while unemployment is usually (not now) a bit higher than the U.S., there is NO evidence for the vicious circle of increasing disincentives that libertarians tend to portray. Instead you have equal or higher standards of living and incomes, not to mention higher ratings in "happiness" surveys, whatever you care to make of them. And many aspects of the U.S. economy -- unions, OSHA, minimum education requirements, etc. -- are government-regulated away from what an ideal free market would do, but I don't usually hear libertarians suggesting we do away with these, although the same "disincentive" arguments could be made.

Again, I agree with you that relative perceptions and such are important, but there might be only so much that can be changed about human nature. Instead we should be looking for ways to work within these parameters -- making sure motivations are still aligned towards effort, creativity, and progress, but try better to ensure a reasonable level for everybody to limit exactly the types of relativity-related unhappiness that you referred to. It can seem counterintuitive when viewed through the lenses that efficiency-minded libertarians create for us, but a little intelligent control can often out-efficient the pure market-driven approach. I mentioned the China-India example. Another is the greater GDP growth and smaller deficit growth associated with Democratic administrations in the United States compared with Republican ones.

For example, Scandinavian nations have living wages and other "tweaks", and while unemployment is usually (not now) a bit higher than the U.S., there is NO evidence for the vicious circle of increasing disincentives that libertarians tend to portray.

I don't agree. I find that there are lots and lots of such evidence. As is usual, those with little foothold on the labor market, or other vulnerabilites, suffer the most. Youth and immigrants, as well as laid off 55+ people have really, really high unemployment. And those who have been unemployed for some time seem to get stuck in unemployment. Our governments spend a lot of money to hide unemployment as well. Pointless "labor market" education, sick leave and early retirement are extensively used to improve figures and ensure dependency on the social democrats. Also, labor regulation is somewhat burdensome, so employers are afraid to hire people with illness histories.

And many aspects of the U.S. economy -- unions, OSHA, minimum education requirements, etc. -- are government-regulated away from what an ideal free market would do, but I don't usually hear libertarians suggesting we do away with these

Is that so? From what I hear, labor unions are quite heavily critized, for instance in the car industry. OHSA and minimum education, however, could have positive externalities if done right. But often is the case that people simply don't have the guts to critize more than the more obvious problems. It's much harder to argue, for instance, that licensing for the practise of medicine should be abolished, although it probably should. People have a hard time believing order will spontaneously emerge from chaos, or that even sensible regulation often hurt more than it does good.

but try better to ensure a reasonable level for everybody to limit exactly the types of relativity-related unhappiness that you referred to

Well, as I said, I really don't think it can be done in a net-positive way.

I mentioned the China-India example.

If China has intelligent control, India has unintelligent (less market-oriented) control.

Another is the greater GDP growth and smaller deficit growth associated with Democratic administrations in the United States compared with Republican ones.

Perhaps the congress majority is more important? No, actually, I find your two-party system quite strange and view it from some distance, so perhaps I just don't understand it all. But my take is that presidents seldomly have time to make market oriented changes that has time to show, except for wars and budget balances. And I don't find neither wars nor big deficits very libertarian. Obamas health care reform, for instance, will hurt you for decades, but it may not hurt that much during his presidency.

I find that there are lots and lots of such evidence. As is usual, those with little foothold on the labor market, or other vulnerabilites, suffer the most. Youth and immigrants, as well as laid off 55+ people have really, really high unemployment.

If you hunt around or use statistics I suspect you could find similarly bad-sounding things to say about niches in any economy. But there just aren't the sort of "sky-is-falling" effects that tend to get painted. If there were, it would show up in macronomic indicators and/or political instability. (As far as the former, people often point to higher GDP growth in the U.S.. First, it doesn't seem to show up over time in standard of living and leisure time. Second, there are all kinds of factors that also differentiate the U.S., such as huge immigrant influx, economies of scale, support from low-wage illegals, etc., so it's hard to pin down what results from what.)

But my take is that presidents seldomly have time to make market oriented changes that has time to show, except for wars and budget balances.

That's what fiscal conservatives who think the Republican party is their party tend to say when confronted with actual numbers. That there's somehow a lag that magically becomes however long the current party in power lasts.

And I don't find neither wars nor big deficits very libertarian.

Yes. Many Americans wish someone would explain this to the large segment supporting Republicans for allegedly fiscal reasons. ;-)

But there just aren't the sort of "sky-is-falling" effects that tend to get painted. If there were, it would show up in macronomic indicators and/or political instability.

Sky-is-falling? No, but as I said, the weakest get hurt as they can't get jobs at above-market wage levels. If you're weak, you might be able to slowly climb a ladder, but not if someone takes away the lowest steps out of pity for those who haven't yet climbed off them.

Also, I think it does show up in macroeconomic indicators. For instance, right-to-work states in the US seems to have better indicators than forced-unionism states. Also, about political instability, the riots in France the other year was, to me, mainly an effect of keeping lots of people unemployed by force of unions, minimum wages and so on. Other countries, even my Sweden, has had similar but smaller incidents. But of course, the fact that the unemployed get money for nothing tends to limit the political instability.

Government services provide benefits same way private sector does. Some services can be provided more efficiently thru a government agency.

Governments do get some economies of scale. However, its production isn't dimensioned to match people's individual demand, and efficiency and innovation isn't likely to be promoted. That's why the Soviets didn't do that well.

Jobs created thru jobs programs happen thru a Robin Hood like effect. When done correctly can spread the wealth by taking total available employment funds and dividing it more ways.

Perhaps, but if you do, you still reduce regular employment by reducing labour market supply.

Reducing labor market supply is not an issue right now - that was kind of the whole point of the article.

"Because you need to tax people to create those jobs, and then demand in the private sector is lowered just as much."

no, you just deficit spend like we are doing right now. instead of spending people are buying government bonds.

"Instead of spending" - didn't that make my point? So why did you start with a "no"?

I'm an economist, and I'd tell you no such thing. Hell, Bill Mitchell is a macroeconomist, and he'd tell you no such thing. Please do not fall for the mainstream economist's story that their fantasies about economies following mathematical models that assume a tendency toward full employment to make the equations fit together is the one and only approach to economics, and There Is No Alternative.

Every BAU year since about 1980 has been a bonus year. Don't expect it to last much longer.

The GOM disaster is an OMEN, and a bad one.

Not if we dissolve the FED and print the money ourselves.

In usa with abundant unused arable land, give every able worker 10 to 40 acres (with 20 acres being all mode, median and mode). Encourage these people to work by hand, the old way, do traditional farming. Having sufficient amount of labor and people engaged in traditional (i.e. sustainable) farming, usa have a chance to survive recession, depression, civil war and foreign invasion for sometime. If this is not done then breakup of union is very close.

In the time of powerdown (voluntary or forced, do not matter), its not important to try to maintain productivity, efficiency, division of labor. Each of these are infact destabilizer and structure (i.e. union) breaker due to losses in flexibility, resiliency, adaptibility. Perhaps its the last warning, reminder for the usa.

Hi WFP, if I may call you that.

I don't think small farm plots worked in the old ways is sufficient. For one thing many of the old ways actually did damage to many lands and required farmers to move from time to time. Permaculture is a scientific (systems ecology) approach to food production, as well as fiber, water management, and a wide range of components needed to sustain human life above the mere subsistence level. And really successful permaculture requires a community effort, not just individual sweat. As it turns out, there needs to be some specialization since there are many specialty areas within permaculture. However, every individual involved in a permaculture operation will understand the whole rather than only understanding the issues of their own specialty. We shouldn't throw out babies with the bath water.

The old, traditional way I described above worked for all ancient civilizations and for atleast 40 centuries.

You need not make it that complicated. Infact, its perceived and shown complicated to satisfy corporate greed of industrialized farming and wealth (including land) concentration in a few hands. 7,000 years ago when people used to be very simple and knowledge of science was almost non-existent people were able to do simple, sustainable farming and from it got strong enough to build empires, pyramids, bridges, languages, cultures etc.

Get real. All you have to fight is your greed. If you decide to live low and take from land only as much as you want and a little extra to save for rainy day then you can live happily on a farm.

The old, traditional way I described above worked for all ancient civilizations and for atleast 40 centuries.

WTF? The old, traditional methods of agriculture are what have created vast deserts where lovely verdant plains once existed.

Proof? Pakistan.
Proof? Iraq.
Proof? Greece.
Proof? Lebanon.

etc. etc. etc.

Yeah, Pakistan is all desert now. The vast, green planes of baluchistan, nwfp, punjab and sindh for which alexander the great invaded are now nothing but sand dunes. Nobody can live here anymore unless a few nomads who roam from oasis to oasis. Same is the case about iraq, lebanon, greece, egypt, india, bangladesh, china, japan, russia, uk. Wow!!!

Why is it all desert now? From what I have read, it is because they no longer maintain the irrigation canals which once made the land green.

Can u see the sarcasm tag?


There is no "abundant unused arable land" in America. Ask any American who is not a millionaire- they will tell you there is no land to be had here.

This is a common misconception in other countries. On a map it looks like there is so much. But it is all controlled by the rich, by big business, and by the government. There is none available at all for the poor.

There isn't 'abundant arable land' in the US that isn't already privately owned, whether by investors (including corporations) or by individuals (actual farmers, in at least some cases, who are only millionaires on paper).
Most of what the government owns isn't arable: it's forests, parks, military bases, and deserts.

We have same problems, more or less, as the rest of the world - fresh water is scarce. Its not so much a matter of having land, but water that's the problem. You can get the idea that there's an abundance of land that should be settled and farmed by driving around the western states, but if you look into it much you soon find that every patch of land with good water is settled and farmed, and the empty areas are empty because there is no water.

In my own region we have good croplands and agriculture is a good business, but every spring the planting depends on how much rain and snow we got in the winter. This year is wasn't much, and about 1/3 of the land was left fallow because of water shortage.

I said traditional farming and explained it for a reason. Traditional farming means relying on rain as the only water source. This kills the argument of unavailability of water. Wherever there is arable land, there is enough rain water available to do some farming. It can be low yield, but then a large plot can be used.

Why americans (and for that matter europeans and japanese and australians) are having problem understanding these kinds of solutions is because they know only one kind of farming, intensive farming. They perhaps never have heard of the other, traditional, sustainable and easier farming, extensive farming. In extensive farming, large piece of land is used with little per acre effort, risk, investment and yield. Farmer plow a large piece of land, put seeds and wait for it to grow. Almost no fighting is done against plants' diseases and pests attacks. Even if half of the crop is grown its enough. Another attribute of extensive farming is diversity, diversity at many levels. One levels is that a farmer use about 25 percent of land for growing crops, 25 percent for growing fodder, 25 percent for growing fruits and 25 percent for growing wood, herbs, cover crops etc. In such farming, even in low rainfall regions, where rain fall is above or equal 10 inches per year, good farming can be done with good yield per farmer. Some traditional farmers use even 6, 7 inches per year land too. Its because some of the land, especially that with trees and grass get its water from ground automatically with no effort by farmer. Another level is that farmer put various species of same crop so that in case of a pest attack only part of crop is lost. For example 100 species of wheat, 1000 species of rice are planted by mixing the seeds. Majority of species survive both plants' diseases and pests attacks which are specie specific.

I really don't understand all the arguments against this scheme. In russia with severe winters and less than ideal environment for farming, some 1870 A.D. tsar documents state that a 15 acre plot per farmer family is enough for that family to support itself, though it states that no tax for govt can be collected from such a farm. In such extreme cases, a 40 acres plot per farmer family is enough.

In india, most farmers have 5 acres farm and they live happy lives with substantial incomes. That ofcourse have something to do with green revolution. Green revolution basically use radiated seeds that multiply yields to 2.5, another doubling was achieved by using dams and canals to have water in winter. Altogether, on the large scale, yields in india became 5 times in between 1960 and 1980 by using these two methods. That means instead of a 5 acres plot, a 25 acres plot would be enough. I would take it as high as 40 acres for even more resiliency.

In china, in rome, in iraq, in syria, in egypt, in france, in uk, in japan, everywhere, wherever farming is done traditionally, that is the range, 20 to 40 acres per farmer. A farmer family can work lets say on 200 acres but then it would be either a sufficiently large families with multiple workers or would be employing servants.

For those who says usa do not have enough arable land I have some calculations. Usa has an area of 8 million sq kms which means 2 billion acres. 40% of that is arable which means 800 million acres. Lets leave half of that for wild life. Still 400 million arable acres. Lets be generous and give each farmer family 40 arable acres. Then 10 million families can live on farming. That means something like 50 million people. Thats not only enough to fight all the unemployment in america but also gives a wide, dependable base for people to fall on to in times of problem. Give every family 20 acres and you can put 100 million people on farms.

Remember, large scale usage of tractors which replaced lots of human labor in american farms happened almost at the same time as the great depression. It can't be a coincedence.

Wherever there is arable land, there is enough rain water available to do some farming.

No disrespect intended, but you are simply wrong, and have clearly not spent any time in the western united states. During the growing season there is typically no rain whatsoever.

Seriously - from May to September, in an area of the country with tens of millions of people, there is usually no rain at all. There is an abundance of good land, but farming is practiced only where water is available for irrigation, and people only live where water is available. The empty land is empty for a reason.

Not all farming is crop growing. Orchard management for fruits, honey, wood, herbs, perfumes production is also farming. In land where majority of rain fall in winter I think there can still be orchards, though with low density. Also there can be pastures. If there is some green stuff growing at a land then that land can be used for some kind of food production. In such places a single family working on lets say 250 acres by keeping a herd of desert animals like camels, donkeys etc can still have a substantial production of food which is enough for lets say 4 families.

Ah - but now with the modifications you propose you quickly arrive at what we have already, at least in the area I live in. Nowhere is there enough rain for crops without irrigation, but orchards are more tolerant; we have those and they do well where local climates provide enough rain. Where there is neither rain nor water for irrigation, we have open rangelands and herd animals are raised. The number of animals per acre varies greatly depending on soils and vegetation, but for the most part where there is useful rangeland, it is used.

Essentially water is still the limiting factor; in dry years, less acreage is farmed. In dry years, also less animals can survive on the rangelands and herds are culled. It is very possible and likely that more people will become involved in farming and ranching work, providing energy inputs when oil becomes scarce or expensive, but the work itself and the products of the work will always be limited by water availability.

Desertification of marginal lands is one of the most obvious signals of human degradation of the environment we have. Maximum sustainable yields for species growing in these regions are very low, often under 1%, and variable depending on climatic conditions. To prevent desertification then the people farming marginal land must be educated.

Dry land farming in the parts of the US with less than 20 inches of rainfall is very unpredictable, with good crops in only a fraction of the years. Much of the precipitation falls in the winter as snow or ice, and it drifts and sublimates without entering the soil. Areas west of 100 longitude with higher levels of precipitation are mostly on mountain slopes. Farming is done mostly in specific valleys with good micro-climates.

East of the Mississippi there are large areas of mountains, steep hills, thin or sandy soils, and areas with too many rocks to farm. There is a reason that all those New Englanders abandoned those rock walls in what are again forests and moved to the Ohio Valley.

Alaska, the largest state by far, has very little arable land.

Its important to note that each and every sustainability solution work only in absence of interests on loans. Interests on loans demands growth in economy whereas sustainability solutions are by nature no-growth and stable solution in which productions are maintained, not increased.

Also sustainability solutions by nature produce low ROI. Higher the ROI, higher is the damage to environment and less is the sustainability. Interests on loans put a baseline on acceptable levels of ROI which kills all the sustainability solutions in their infancy. Its the interests on loans that made the world economy a growth-based economy which is part of problem, not solution.

Thats why I said that govt must give people unused arable land to provide them free capital in form of land without any loans. A country is supposed to be property of its people, not property of its govt.

Also, whatever tax govt takes on these lands once they are distributed and producing must be some pre-decided percentage of yield. A fixed tax, like property tax, with no relation with yield can become a problem at time of crop losses. Islamic rule of khiraj can be adopted here, by which 20% to 50% of yields can be taken as tax by govt.

Ofcourse in a christian country land is owned by government who give it almost free (very, very low price per acre) to rich. In an islamic country land is owned by people and anybody can use (and by that make it his/her property) unused land. For reference see Kitab ul Khiraj by Imam Abu Yousuf who was the top most student of Imam Abu Hanifa. He wrote this book in 132 hijri (742 A.D.) on the request of abbasi caliph who then made this book the law of all caliphat. After abbasi caliphat this book became law in ottoman caliphat all the way to 1923 A.D. when caliphat was finished.

We need to change the christian system in which large pieces of land (sometimes tens of thousands of square kilometers) are made property of individual wealthy people, large corporations. This put a whole lot of people in almost slavery.

I am giving a very simple solution. Give every unemployed person as much arable land as he can farm on by his/her hands, tools and farm animals without using any automobiles or electric machines. Simple. Get this land from rich people who individually have lets say 1,000 acres or 500 acres which they can only plant by extensive use of fossil fuels and electric machinery. This is wealth concentration. This is near slavery. This is dependence on foreign oil. This is instability. This is loss of resiliency.

By my experience, observation and calculation, a person working with a couple of bulls/horses/donkeys can farm on 20 acres with ease and on 40 acres with hard work. Thats enough to grow all the food, clothes, shoes, medicines, wood, honey, perfumes etc requirements of 20 to 40 people respectively. Means even if one person in a family work and women stay in house, one family can support 4 to 8 families in food. The families thus spared can be used in basic industry and services and a lot of free time (by extensive vacations, low working hours etc) can be put in place. Families are spared in industralized farming too but then one family is able to support 40 to 50 families in food which leaves almost everybody dependent on unstable service jobs (its because industry is mechanized too so very few industrial labor produce enough industrial goods for everybody).

One way or another, power down has to happen. If usa wants to have little damage it can power down now, by putting more people in manual labor, primary in farm labor. This helps training substantial work force in working by hand.

I think you are missing some historical knowledge, no offense.

First, land WAS available for free or near free at one time in America. People were encouraged to move to the West by the government (partly to water down the ownership claims of those pesky Natives). The modern reality has nothing to do with Christianity, it is a product of modern times, population, and economics/capitalism. The actual teachings of Christ call for voluntary poverty, charity, and nonviolence, though you wouldn't ever guess from the people calling themselves Christians.

However, as was stated above, it's not that easy. The so-called "Great Plains" were once called the "Great American Desert". The fertile areas are all right next to rivers. Incidentally, some of the most fertile bottomlands in the West (conveniently often inhabited and farmed by Indians) were flooded for hydroelectric power. There are other fertile areas, true, but I doubt they can support the sort of population that we're talking about here.

Land redistribution sounds like a great idea, but keep in mind that unlike Pakistan, in America the vast majority of the population has no experience with farming, has never lived on a farm, and may not even know a single farmer. Something like 2-3% of the labor force is involved in agriculture in the US, compared to 44% in Pakistan. Giving these people farms, even giving just the unemployed free farms and land, would end very badly and many would simply starve due to their lack of agricultural knowledge.

Perhaps it is a good idea to give farms to the unemployed, but economically it's a loser (small scale farmers have a history of going into debt in America) and politically it's a non-starter (as has been said, every good acre is owned by somebody or some corporation).

Most of the "unemployed" are actually "under-employed". Go to Domino's Pizza and you will see a help wanted sign every time. Some jobs here just aren't worth taking. I think most US citizens would consider subsistence farming to be one of those jobs. We also have huge overhead here in the US. A house without plumbing and electricity is not acceptable. In most parts of the US it is in fact illegal. Country living is expensive. Wells and septic tanks can cost more then a subsistence farmer can make in a year or maybe a decade.

I'd love to see your statistics (evidence) to back up that claim.

Now, for you and all the other ideologues who keep harping about subsistence farming: This proposal is NOT to convert unemployed to subsistence farming. It is about a CCC-style works program to ease the unemployment situation while simultaneously rebuilding some of our soils for some kind of agriculture. I suggest the permaculture standard because it is NOT subsistence-level. IF the SHTF and we find ourselves without adequate energy supplies to run conventional farms, THEN we will be in a position to provide meaningful livelihoods for millions of people in a permaculture-based society because we did the work necessary to prepare.

I'd suggest that all of you who keep harping on this subsistence crap or the Chairman Mao theme are simply reacting to a few key words that pull the trigger on your ideological memes and not reading carefully enough to understand the message.

Thanks for the reply George, my comment was actually a reply to WFP's statement, not your original post which I enjoyed reading.
Edit- It seems that the corn monoculture is only profitable with gov. subsidies. If the gov. subsidized permaculture then they would put more people to work instead of just more machines. To bad that people have no lobbyists in Washington, only special interest groups and corporations can afford them.

Didn't the Khmer Rouge try that? I seem to remember it wasn't very successful.

From a Demand Side Management perspective, it worked.


The problem was the KR put people who didn't know crap about farming out and said, "Farm."

The basis for this blog is, as I understand it, that we need to educate ourselves and learn to do this, before we are forced out there to the farm. If we wait, we will have the same success ratio that they enjoyed in Cambodia.


No, we will have a superior success ratio, since we organize by way of market forces, not by military force.

But to get the general public to learn this ahead of time, before market forces makes the need apparent, you'll probably need a military force to make them.

Technically feasible - roughly speaking looks like a good start point to me. Seems clear however that this is a will not a can problem. Definitely, getting the can worked out is needed but without the will, we are hosed. Then again considering population pressures one could argue that we are hosed no matter.

Can comment; the US spends huge amounts of money on make work programs. Think about how much it cost to create one job thru military spending which has mostly negative benefits to society. Being able to take most of this money and put it into your proposed job program would provide tremendous benefits.

Will comment; many, many mindset issues need to change to overcome this lack of will. I have read, and written, lots of comments on theoildrum about this but I think there is need for more.


I guess one thing that I'm thinking is that will might change at some early tipping point but before the whole thing comes crashing down. We should be ready, in that case, to make a serious proposal. It will take carefully gauging the understanding and moods of the masses to see if there isn't a point where we could take action. I could point to the mood/understanding of the masses now with respect to the financial bailouts that have passed as necessary to save our way of life. They haven't really saved it have they? And people are starting to take notice. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if some of Jim Kunstler's predictions about riots in the Hamptons came to pass.

Anyway, that is why I think about these things. Just in case there is an opening!

I could point to the mood/understanding of the masses now with respect to the financial bailouts that have passed as necessary to save our way of life. They haven't really saved it have they? And people are starting to take notice.

yes they have. the studies have shown w/o government support the recession would have been worse. people are just starting to take notice because the stimulus is wearing off because it was too small. numerous studies have show this from moody's to the CBO.


What if all that money that went to the financial system (which isn't finding its way into supporting the jobs economy) had been used for a program like this instead of helping big bucks bankers and brokers get bigger bonuses still?

I hate to be a cynic, but I think the big problem will be where you mention "real physical work" being involved. Money in reasonable amounts is no incentive to get people to do what they see as demeaning and unnecessary. I imagine it would take real hunger or real deprivation to change most perspectives, and we will have political chaos/paralysis long before we get to that point.

What if all that money that went to the financial system (which isn't finding its way into supporting the jobs economy) had been used for a program like this instead of helping big bucks bankers and brokers get bigger bonuses still?

My thoughts, exactly.

How stupid to be using our money killing people and re-arranging the rocks in Afghanistan with our bombs, when we could be doing something constructive such as you, George, have described.

It's especially stupid given that the Soviets did the same thing in Afghanistan some years before, and failed ... at whatever it was they were trying to do ... since they turned tail and left.

The tipping point could be the time when the average person realizes that they have not been thinking for themselves. That they have been brain trained to allow mass thinking to control their thoughts.

When they wake up and discover that their canned thinking is based on lies and sociopathic idealization maybe that opening will appear.

An excellent idea, and likely an essential program. It is one that should be promoted and refined, since when the shit hits the fan on the bumpy ride down from Peak Oil, there will be a massive farming crisis, and in crisis conditions, those who have a worked-out solution have an inside track.

A couple of side comments:

(1) The premise that long haul transport will become infeasible with the decline of oil supplies and the likely reduction in exports from oil producing countries seems fallacious. Its based on an assumption that oil-fired transport is the most economically efficient long haul transport available, so that any switch is a switch to a more costly alternative.

However, that is an optical illusion created by the pattern of taxes and subsidies in the country. Long haul diesel transport is heavily subsidised, paying fuel taxes covering only a fraction of the damage they do to the roads, and the roads themselves are primarily state owned and exempt from property tax. Meanwhile, private railroads have to cover the full cost of line maintenance, including higher private finance costs, and also pay property tax on the lines, encouraging the move to single bi-directional lines with sidings sometimes hundreds of miles apart.

An electrified long haul rail network would be more energy efficient than the existing rail transport system, and have both more material efficiency and vastly more energy efficiency than long haul diesel trucking.

(2) The deficit errorism is founded on a false image of what sovereign debt entails. Given substantial unemployment of both labor (the broad "U6" unemployment rate is 16.5%) and physical productive capacity (US capacity utilization is 74.8%, which is even 5.8% below its average of the last, relatively sluggish, decades).

However, for getting started, it seems likely that state-based efforts are needed to promote the idea and get it implanted in the national consciousness, and a state-based program will face a finance constraint, since states do not have their own sovereign currency.


On point 1. Agreed about the difference between long haul truck vs. train. And also agreed re: electrification. I have doubts about how quickly the latter could be accomplished, however, and with what electrical generation. I wouldn't want to see coal being used to make train travel more efficient, for example. But I think, in general, that as all of our FF energy sources wind down the point about transporting goods over long distances becoming less cost efficient compared with local production of locally appropriate goods/foods is reasonably grounded.

On point 2. I think you didn't finish the second sentence and so I am not sure what you are getting at.

Re: state-based approach, I can actually explore this with some people here. But my sense is that the states (and Washington is no exception) have severe budget problems now. It would be very difficult to add a program to the budget when they have to defund higher education, for example. I'm working with a few state senators and congressmen on energy-related matters so I can float the idea to see if it gets any interest.

On (2), its silly to suggest that the US government is in a position where "debt" is a problem. For one thing, the sale of Treasury securities is not required for deficit spending, it is only required for the manipulation of exchange rates and for the propping up of financial institutions via the income flow of interest payments on Treasury securities. The federal government, unlike state and local governments, does not need to borrow to deficit spend, unless the economy is coming close to full employment ... so how much it borrows when it deficit spends is a policy choice.

With an over 90% energy saving available to a combination of long haul electrified rail and short haul pluggable hybrid trucking, the question of local to distant food is not a cost question so much as a risk question - while agrindustrial mass monoculture is not sustainable, setting up all local food reliance vs agrindustrial mass monoculture is a false dichotomy ... as system with food self-sufficiency and substantial cross national trading is more robust than a system of food autarchy.

I think there are a lot of things we don't know for certain, but here are a couple of concerns.

One is that with declining oil supplies, it will not be possible to keep up roads very well, partly because asphalt (an oil-based product will be very expensive, and partly because of financial problems of cities because of declining tax revenues. If roads decline sharply, interstate shipping will become much less feasible.

Regarding rail, and electrified rail, one of my concerns is the long time that would be required for implementation. My other concern is that oil and electricity will wind down essentially simultaneously (within five years of each other), because we are dealing with networked systems, and everything is so inter-dependent. Electrical workers need transportation to get to work and repair trucks use gasoline or diesel. Helicopters are used in some places for repairs.

Another way the oil - electricity connection could work is through the financial system. A decline in oil could cause a crash in the financial system. If electrical companies are without a way to pay workers, and unable to collect funds from subscribers, things could grind to a halt.

Electrical workers need transportation to get to work and repair trucks use gasoline or diesel. Helicopters are used in some places for repairs.

don't you guys always tell us how much oil we waste? if that is true we aren't in trouble. we simply need to ditch the SUVs and air conditioning.

electrical workers can walk, bike, car pool, take the train or the electrical company could simply provide them with a ride. the electrical company would have big profits beacause of high energy costs. they could easily provide transportation as it would be in their best interest. you need your workers there to make profits.

if we waste a lot of oil, not wasting it should be easy. if we used oil incredibly efficiently already that would be a problem. that is the fate of the very poor sadly. we are a rich nation.

My other concern is that oil and electricity will wind down essentially simultaneously (within five years of each other), because we are dealing with networked systems, and everything is so inter-dependent.

That is not a realistic fear.

LOTS of reasons why not.

Even if Suburbia lacked electricity for 20 hours/day (unlikely IMHO), electrified railroads need not miss a beat. Make electrified transportation a priority when scheduling blackouts.

High voltage transmission should be in the same corridor or close by (use rail transport to get there). If need be, move workers to company towns close to the tracks. Electrified rail, carrying current volumes of rail PLUS all truck freight would use <2% of total US electricity today. Reduce volumes of freight and society could function with 0.75% of today's electricity for electrified rail.

Hydro plus wind plus solar PV could easily supply that small amount.

Look how North Korea, even during a famine killing millions, and no imports, kept their subway, trams and electrified RR (reported 70% of total km) going !

Your fears in this area are not justified,


Alan: You're right, and you are wrong. Right, that railroads could provide the transportation for goods (and people); wrong that it is not a a problem. And, the problem is that we are not, yet, set up with electric rail, we do not have a nationwide grid capable of transmitting (hell, we don't even have direct current transmission!) power, and without a quick start, now, it may be impossible to complete such a major paradigm shift in infrastructure.

Sorry to say, but George is probably correct about the end result from all of this. What we need to do is to establish some local areas of preparation; then, after the SHTF, network those through what would have to be a long, hard process of design, construction and implementation.

What do you think is the likelihood of seeing such a project from DC, or from our Corporate Lords and Masters, eh?

Best wishes for getting anything started.


What do you think is the likelihood of seeing such a project from DC, or from our Corporate Lords and Masters, eh?

Based on developments of last few months, weeks and even days; >30% (up from 2% to 3% when I started).

Odds of one major US rail line being electrified within 5 years ? >90%, Likely announcement within 18 months.

Odds of 10,000+ miles electrified within 10 years ? >50%

Odds of enough, soon enough ? >30% as above.

Best Hopes !


Alan, from your past comments, you are better educated on railroads than I. I will join your optimistic stance, and wait to be disappointed.

Is the 30%+ about corporate activity, or about government programs?


What do you think is the likelihood of seeing such a project from DC, or from our Corporate Lords and Masters, eh?

Just saw this article over at:

Is the U.S. turning a corner on high-speed rail?

The Department of Transportation awarded $8 billion among 31 states to begin developing America's first nationwide high-speed intercity passenger rail service.

The Department of Transportation awarded $8 billion among 31 states to begin developing America's first nationwide high-speed intercity passenger rail service.

This is not bad in itself, but what would be better is to put 80 billion into improving and extending the railroads we currently have.

High-speed passenger rail is really sexy - I've ridden on the fast European trains - but let's improve and extend what we already have. It would be a more efficient use of hard-to-get funds in my opinion.

I would really be excited if they earmarked more than 1.5% of the stimulus to rail, elecrical infrastructure and the like.

How does that compare to the amount spent on 'shovel-ready jobs' in highway construction?

Looks like about $35 Billion went to highway construction and repair?


Double posted

High-speed passenger rail is really sexy - I've ridden on the fast European trains - but let's improve and extend what we already have.

Not to worry. The Milwaukee-to-Madison line is to be only 110mph stuff, 1930s hi-tech. The "high speed" label is totally phony, probably put there because the Washington DC sophisticates figure that Wisconsin rubes will get all starry-eyed because they won't know mislabelled 1930s tech when they see it.

From comments in their local newspaper it would seem that Wisconsin rubes are not so starry eyed about their new train project.

Other than Michael Feldman, who goes to Milwaukee? It's a big question.

Not six trainloads a day of people, and that's going to become a problem once the novelty wears off about three months after the service opens. Or at least not six trainloads a day travelling with little or no luggage, and going downtown to downtown. I hate to say it because it may send certain TOD regulars into apoplexy, but the business travelers who end up supporting these things (if there's any support from the farebox at all) aren't going downtown-to-downtown any more, except for the lobbyists and lawyers. Those days are simply gone and the voracious tax-hunger and mindless overregulation of a city like Milwaukee will ensure that they stay gone almost no matter what. Any train, no matter its speed, will get the paying business folks from door to door slower than driving, because of the last-five-miles issue, and that's the big problem.

It would be a huge leap of faith for an unemployed person to essentially give up on the idea of money and accept that their future and their childrens' future is not much above subsistance.


OTOH: I wonder what some of the young 99 weekers think about that. I wonder what the young people who have had to move back in with their parents after graduating from college with $50k or more in debt and no job prospects would think about it. There are people right now who are hurting so badly that they might be on the verge of finding something like this a better alternative. My guess only, of course.

There are quite a few older folks looking for jobs as well. The question would be whether they would be in good enough shape physically for this kind of work.

I hadn't imagined them as being out in the fields doing the hard work other than as supervisor/facilitators as much as in the management and teaching functions. Soil remediation isn't just digging! It includes chemistry (sampling and testing), planting green manure crops, etc. so there are lots of job types that need filling and could be distributed across a spectrum of ages. Then too, I know a lot of men/women in their 40s who are pretty strong!

I wonder what some of the young 99 weekers think about that

...the almost universal answer you would get if you were to take an informal sample is that it is all a political problem; either the current administration has screwed things up and we'll get back on track as soon as we vote enough of those guys out, or the previous administration screwed things up and we just need to give them time to get things unscrewed.

The vast majority in this country believe they can turn the clock back to prosperity by either voting in or out one of the political parties, and few people suspect just how little grasp politicians have of the real problems...

::nods, sadly::

The vast majority in this country believe they can turn the clock back to prosperity by either voting in or out one of the political parties, and few people suspect just how little grasp politicians they themselves have of the real problems...

There, straightened that out for you... the Dunning–Kruger effect is running very deep and strong amongst the populace at large and therefore they are more than ripe for manipulation by the demagogues.

So true, what the politicians have an excellent grasp on is how to appease the interest of those that write the checks that "allow" them to be in office. The few who don't sell out face quite the challenge.

A democracy only works well if you have a well-informed politically active populist society.

uncanny how this has all happened before isn't it?

… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

(Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)


I think the key word here is acceptance. A future where we can live not much above subsistence is likely to be overly optimistic.

Although there is much here that makes sense, it feels like going backward. Like using gold for money or cycling everywhere.

In a future when we are trading pieces of metal, biking a few miles for food, and everybody is a gardener, we will marvel and tell stories about times when men made millions of dollars, drove 2 ton vehicles 80 miles an hour over long distances, and people worked at jobs where they sat in air conditioned comfort staring at computer screens.

It's a change sure, but one that requires a large amount of propaganda to convince is positive. How will a government that's lost all legitimacy convince people that it's a good thing to garden? Because starvation is the only alternative?

This is depressing stuff, not hopeful stuff.

Best hopes for biofuels and birth control pills.

Then maybe we won't all have to be gardeners.

President Obama is trying to govern from the middle, according all sides of the issues equal weight. Which would be admirable sentiments if we were at some other time in history.

This is his essential mistake - climate scientists and climate skeptics, for example, do not deserve equal consideration, although they receive it. Just as Peak Oil proponents and Peak Oil deniers are also accorded equal weight.

Until he clearly views the path ahead unencumbered by an attempt to bring both sides together, there will be no progress toward solving our real problems. There are too many idealogues who have no wish to work together with anyone - who only want to see their one right way implemented. Even if it is demonstrably the wrong way.

The big question is how does one establish the demonstrably right way ?

If he should be successful in winning a second term, which is by no means assured, I imagine things will look rather different. We'd be no better off if the other party took over in 2012, since they don't even acknowledge we have a problem.

Depending on the source, it appears that about 10 Calories of fossil fuel are expended to put 1 Calorie of food on the American consumer's table.

However, only about 2 Calories are expended on the farm. The other 8 Calories are expended in transportation, food processing, packaging, warehousing and storage, retailing, grocery shopping trips, and home storage and preparation.

To realistically address the energy problem requires addressing the 8 non-farm Calories. Eating more local food, less processed food, food without elaborate packaging, food that is in season, obtained from local markets infrequently, and eaten raw or cooked efficiently by microwaving are all approaches for addressing the 8 Calories.

However, addressing the 8 Calories by these strategies will reduced the number of people employed in those phases of the current production process.

merril you are right. transportation isn't the main problem.

Math Lessons for Locavores
Published: August 19, 2010

The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far.

food should be grown where it makes the most sense. artificial constraints like "food miles" doesn't take into account all the other costs or producing food. shipping is but one. availability of labor. availability of a large tract of land that is arable is another. climate, the right wages and etc are also things to consider.

everyone eating only local could dramatically raise food costs. that's what the nightmare scenario for the peak oil crowd is. why potentially bring it on?

One thing that would save a lot of energy would be to increase the use of ionizing radiation to kill bacteria and other micro-organisms in food for better preservation. This would allow the use of cheaper, lighter packaging, and it would allow transportation and storage without refrigeration.

With an increase in nuclear power, there should be an abundant supply of isotopes from fuel rod reprocessing that can be used to provide the radiation.

We could even mix it in with the food. Save all the energy needed to build special equipment for irradiation!!

Atoms for Peas!

A small problem - the animal tests in the 1960s on food irradiation found that the process wrecked the vitamins in the food, but food irradiation proponents (at least the ones I've met in person) don't seem very interested in nutrition, relocalizing agriculture, toxic additives, etc.

Irradiation is popular with seafood companies (especially in Holland) who want to zap the food to lower bacteria counts so they can pretend the product is fresher than it really is.

We all get one tenth of a rad per year just from being on planet Earth, before considering synthetic sources of radiation. Six hundred rads is a lethal dose, as demonstrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A "low" dose for food irradiation is in the tens of thousands of rads (to zap onions and garlic so they don't sprout). A medium dose is in the hundreds of thousands of rads. A high dose is in the low millions. McCormick spices petitioned the FDA during Reagan's regime to allow spice irradiation up to three million rads.

Irradiation, salmonella in eggs, toxic additives and many other problems are all good reasons to take responsibility for your family's food consumption, learn to garden, support local farmers, avoid highly processed fake phood.

As for fuel rod reprocessing, that is the most toxic industry ever invented. It involves dissolving irradiated fuel rods into nitric acid and leaves a very nasty mix of high level nuclear waste and toxic chemicals that is lethal to life. Reprocessing also separates out plutonium from the irradiated fuel. The US under President Ford banned reprocessing of commercial fuel since it facilitates nuclear weapons proliferation. In 1975, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "Barton Report" predicted that a nuclear reprocessing based fuel cycle would require suspension of civil liberties due to the extreme danger of creating commerce in nuclear weapons materials.

Relocalizing food makes more sense than overpackaging processed fake phood to ship long distances. Eating in season, learning to preserve (drying, canning, pickling, etc) makes more sense than exposing food to high level nuclear waste that changes the chemical structure of the food. And for the smartypants, no, irradiation doesn't make the food radioactive, but it does change the chemical structure of the vitamins and fats in the food to make them much less nutritious. This is why the Jimmy Carter era FDA rescinded some of the earlier promotion of irradiated food. That was the last administration where the FDA put public health above corporate profits.

Well, France, UK and Japan reprocess, and other countries send their wastes to be reprocessed there. So the "suspension of civil liberties" proved to be hogwash. As is the charge about "commerce in nuclear weapons materials", as reactor grade plutonium isn't suitable for weapons.

The US banning of reprocessing seems quite stupid in retrospect, but as lots of stupid political regulations, it is hard to get rid of, unfortunately. And yes, it's a toxic industry, but that doesn't really matter since its toxic in, toxic out and no significant releases.

Waste is the bigger energy hog.
"We use a lot of energy producing, transporting, processing, storing and cooking food we don't eat. About 2150 trillion kilojoules worth a year, according to a recent study. That's more kilojoules than the United States could produce in biofuels. And it's more than we already produce in all the oil and gas extracted annually from the Gulf of Mexico."

They are as lost as the neoclassical economists are in believing this economic ‘situation’ is temporary and that we will eventually get back to business as usual. That is we will eventually get back on the track to growth and prosperity. Not likely.

did I miss something? the economy has grown the last 4 or 5 quarters and we've added jobs for the most part the last string of months.

what am I missing? the economy is not contracting.

I'd love to hear you explain that to the unemployed. Geithner has been trying. Not working.

PS. Even a few mainstream economists are starting to question the use of GDP growth as a measure of economic well being. Maybe you should check in with them. And finally, note that the GDP growth numbers have been going down each quarter - could be a trend toward double dip, even by that faulty definition of growth/well being.

Starting to question?
I have long pointed out that GDP is an absolutely BS metric!
All it does is measures money movement and a huge chunk of that is useless or even detrimental "financial" activity.
To put an even finer point on my criticism............I am certain that the "official GDP numbers are a fraud.
We are being run by liars, cheats and thieves and it is not even worth discussing the nonsense that is the current state of affairs.

In the past year, unemployment has risen by over 2% while the Federal government spent $1,400,000,000,000 more than it took in. Foreclosures are still rising.

Those optimistic figure will soon have to be revised to reflect what is really going on. I did some work in the office of the local social services office. The director told me that their actual unemployment number for the two county area they serve is running at 21% rather than the 12 something reported by our state for this area. Figures don't lie but liars sure can figure and our federal and state governments have become very adept at disseminating only what they want heard and only how they want it heard. Context is everything and a halftruth is the same as an outright lie IMHO.

did I miss something? the economy has grown the last 4 or 5 quarters and we've added jobs for the most part the last string of months.


Oh, my apologies, I momentarily mistook you for a resident of this planet.

John15 happens to be correct. If it doesn't match your interpretation of what's outside your window, too bad.

You have to add the jobs faster than the working-age population is growing before anyone will notice anything outside their window. For now the job growth is at best merely one of those numerous accounting propositions that, even if it's true, really doesn't matter.

John 15 counting the last 5 Quarters is like the Climate Skeptics only going back to the 'Warm Outlier' in '98 (?), and then saying that the planet has cooled..

Just saying that it's 'what's outside of John's window' that has to be mentioned here.

Yes, the BACK of the Titanic is not sinking.. it's actually HIGHER in the water!

If it doesn't match your interpretation of what's outside your window, too bad.

Actually you both seem to have it bassackwards because looking out side of my window and seeing what I see is exactly why I say that your economic growth is bogus as far as the man in the street is concerned.

BTW that is quite literally the man in the street, who is homeless and on food stamps without health insurance, still in debt, with zero prospect of getting a job, let alone getting any of the benefits of your so called growth for the 10% who are rich.

I just have to walk down the main street in my town and I see boarded up shops. I walk around the residential areas and I see foreclosed houses. I look in the parking lot and see more homeless people than ever before.

Every day I talk to business owners, sales people, vendors, suppliers and contractors who are all telling me they are not able to make ends meet anymore.

This is not some abstract BS growth and prosperity statistic, this is reality, the fact that you are isolated from it and live in some ivory tower doesn't make it any less real for the people being affected.

There are over 40 million (and growing) Americans on food stamps. Maybe you should talk to some of them and not the spin meisters, banksters and know nothing, La La Land economists for a change.

4 years ago I went to Omaha and half of it's downtown seemed to be boarded up. That says a lot to me about the real economy.

Unemployment is still bumping against the highs -- a bit down from the early over-shoot, but no recovery. Stocks are at levels first reached 10 years ago or more. A trillion dollars of stimulus, another few trillion of liquidity, and it buys a few quarters of anemic growth.

If each of us borrowed 10% of our salary per year, how many years of "growth" could we manage? And what would happen if in a few years the teaser rates we enjoyed at the outset reset to historical norms? And if at the same time a bunch of people wanted to retire and share their burdens with the rest of us, to add another 20 or 30%

The only rational investments for an economy that lives on cheap energy would be to invest in efficiency and replacement energy. We have done almost none of that.

We will also need to plan for lower lifestyles on average, with smaller houses, smaller cars, and cheaper activities.

I can see gardens being part of the "new normal" as they were in the past.

As for income inequality - that's a recipe for disaster. Entropy seems to encourage a broad income distribution, and a few ultra-rich people are unavoidable and irrelevant. A broad gap between the top 20% of high-earners and the bottom-20% mostly on the dole is a bad thing, especially when the middle is disappearing.

A broad gap between the top 20% of high-earners and the bottom-20% mostly on the dole is a bad thing, especially when the middle is disappearing.

I think there will always be a middle 60%.

Too strange. I was thinking about this earlier today. Went searching for some information and ended up at

There were lots of different programs to help people get back to work while building infrastructure. In addition to the CCC there was the Civil Works Administration for small public works and the WPA for Large projects (like dams).

One of the driving forces in Seattle was the Unemployed Citizens League. They did alot to help others in the same situation as them and kept the Hoovervilles from being torched over and over.

Linda Hug

True enough Linda. The reason I focused on CCC is because it was aimed at conservation projects rather than infrastructure build out.

George, great stimulating article!

I'd sort of agree with Linda on adding permaculture to a broader Green New Deal for the following reason. If we're borrowing money (from the future) then we ought to build up the productive economy in order to repay that debt at a later date. And manufacturing is the time-tested way to add value to industrial economies. So if we can help bootstrap the nascent American green industries of wind, solar, rail, compact development, etc. by having the government buy up and start installing this green infrastructure, then the economy ought to grow. (And if course, if things fall apart before then, every wind mill built will be a blueprint for a future economy.)

This is explained in more depth by Jon Rynn in his new book, Manufacturing Green Prosperity, .
Definately worth checking out.

One question: can you text, email, surf the web and check your Facebook account while remediating the soil?

No, but you will be able to eat good meals. Think about it.


I believe your analysis of our long term food supply problems and your proposed solutions are basically sound.

But such discussions are mostly only of academic interest when time frames are not specified.In order to start fleshing out your proposals, we must consider how long we have, given what we know or can reasonably estimate in respect to the decline of oil and natural gas supplies,to accomplish this enormous job of transitioning food production away from the current bau model.

Once an estimated time frame is established, and we have some idea how big our window of opportunity may be, we can start roughing in some of the details you had to leave out for brevity's sake.Nobody paid you to write a book , right? ;)

It seems likely that we have enough natural gas and petroleum to maintain bau argriculture for quite some time, perhaps for as long as two or three more decades,or maybe even longer,if draconian rationing and resource allocation programs are put into effect;and so long as civilian or even martial military authority holds,the implermentation of such rationing and preferential resource allocation appears to me to be inevitable.

I believe we can accept it as a given that nothing of any consequence will be done until things have reached this stage;certainly there will be number of successful but small scale localized transition hot spots, but I simply can't imagine change of this nature except if it is FORCED.

If civil authority holds, meaning we escape a mad max sort of collapse,the boot of necessity will connect so forcibly with our backsides that the necessity of the transition will shortly be obvious to almost everybody, and the biggest single political problem will have solved itself.

By then the employment situation will probably be pretty desperate, and political necessity will force society to put pedople to work on makeshift jobs, perhaps at third world wages, on some sort of make work programs;hopefully the very biggest of these will be ag transition programs.So maybe in the mopst likely(as I see it) real world scenario, the second problem-funding -will also likely largely solve itself.

I will sleep on these thoughts and add to them tomorrow;it's been a long day.

It seems likely that we have enough natural gas and petroleum to maintain bau argriculture for quite some time, perhaps for as long as two or three more decades,or maybe even longer,if draconian rationing and resource allocation programs are put into effect;and so long as civilian or even martial military authority holds,the [implementation] of such rationing and preferential resource allocation appears to me to be inevitable.

My thoughts, exactly.

I've undergone a sea-change in the way I view agriculture post-peak as a result much reading and five years of experience working at an "organic" farm. I also have twenty-five years of what some people call "homesteading" or "self-sufficiency," but I just call it farming.

It's conventional wisdom among peakers that declining oil supplies will bring about a reversal in agriculture, whereby the "industrial" mode is supplanted by an era of throw-back Ma and Pa Kettle farming.

One might even say that "organic" and "permaculture" are shibboleths in the peaker "community." It doesn't help that the term "permaculture" is so vague as to be meaningless ("planting things in curves instead of rows" is the manifestation I see most frequently). And after working at an organic farm and seeing the inputs of organic matter, diesel, and plastic that go into the production of weeds and insects--I mean fruits and vegetables--I can't for the life of me see how this method could work at all at a large scale (never mind the huge expense of "organic" pesticides).

Evolution moves in one direction only. It is entirely possible that agriculture could become MORE centralized and MORE industrialized as oil supplies decline, at least in the developed world. oldfarmermac echoes a sentiment I heard from a former geology professor of mine long ago [I'm not the author of the website linked here]. In the absence of a post-peak plan (which we certainly do not have), it is likely that resources will be requisitioned away from non-essential areas like recreation and devoted to agriculture. This could keep BAU farming alive for a long, long time. This is NOT the view I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that small, local farmers like me were the future. But reality has a way of ignoring one's wishes...

My analogy is physiological: In hypovolemic shock (when the body loses blood due to trauma), human physiology adapts to the new circumstance through a process known as compensation. Blood is "requisitioned" away from the non-essential extremities and hoarded in the vital organs to keep the body functioning. This is why hemorrhaging victims become logy, sweaty, and cold. They can stay this way quite awhile, provided the bleeding stops and critical care is applied.

But of course, total collapse is possible as well. In emergency medicine this is known as decompensation.

In which case we're ultimately screwed.

I have no interest in industrial farming personally. We (that's me and three other people) just plan on expanding our small market plot for local selling.

Like you, I very much agree with OFM on timescale and priorities.

The USA presently only uses a fraction of its agricultural resources to produce staple foods for direct human consumption (basic grains and legumes). The majority of primary carbohydrate, edible oil and protein account for less than a quarter of the monetary value of US agriculture.

There is more NG in USA than we thought, ( a very long 'fat-tail' as WHT might describe this resource?) and, globally, N fertilizer requires just now between 3 and 5 percent of present NG production.

I take OFM's point, but USA might not need (hope you do not get) military overlords: UK in WWII made much more dramatic changes in food production and distribution than I hope the USA is likely to need over the next 50 years, with only some, if admittedly temporary, democratic deficit.

Having said that, climate change might give a serious boot or two in the rear-end, if this summer in the N Hemisphere is a small foretaste of more to come.

I tried to cover some of the issues in a 2 part post on TOD last year, posted by Gail March 2009; and [EDIT]

Nothing wrong though with promoting intensive very high-value vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients from home vegetable and fruit plots, as JM Greer is pointing out in his latest essay.

Similarly, nothing wrong in the meanwhile with encouraging remedial farming to improve many degraded or fragile soils nor in putting serious work into researching more resilient farming methods especially in the vast areas where moisture is the limiting constraint on US arable cropping.

Back to the organic nutrient-recycling garden - looking lovely today, apples and all.

best to all you growers

I was going to amend my comment, but found your nice reply! The issues you raise are ones that have become more apparent to me over the last couple of years. George's statement is just an article of faith:

The era of agribusiness is coming to a close sooner than anybody might have imagined.

In the same way that studying peak oil has given me a renewed respect for the oil industry, so, too, studying farming has inspired respect for the agricultural sciences that have evolved over the last fifty years.

My little, low-tech gardens produce a lot for us here on the farm, but they're not going to save the world.


Having said that, climate change might give a serious boot or two in the rear-end, if this summer in the N Hemisphere is a small foretaste of more to come.

We live in northern New England. The pumpkins ripened in mid-August. The squash are already out of the field. The tomato vines are overflowing with fruit, and we're canning and drying like crazy. This is a very weird year. We're in the middle of a big drought now, hot on the tails of the worst rainy summer ever in 2009. "Global Weirding," indeed.)

Hi Mike,

Things are getting wierd here too in respect to the weather-nothing much has happened that we haven't seen before, except our apples actually more of less cooking on the trees and falling off with the trees shedding lots of leaves even though I irrigated the orchard this year -a first for us.We have never experienced such extremes of heat, cold , drought and excessive rain in short order over the last hundred years or so as we have over the last two years.

I didn't really get to where I wanted to go last night with my first post, I was too tired and almost deleted it.I believe George is basically on the right track but only if you look at the long term picture-which is obviously what he had in mind as he wrote the lead article.

I believe I am closer to the ten ring in terms of the short to medium term picture.Geoge made it clear that he expects only halting progress at best towards his proposed future farming model, as he is very pessimistic about the ability and /or will of our society(and others presumably)to take proactive measures to head off problems only visible on the long range radar.(I trust I am interpreting his remarks with reasonable accurarcy;I do not presume to speak for him.)

I basically agree with him that while plenty could be done to head off the coming crisis,not much will be done, at least in the immediate future.

As I put it earlier, when the boot of utter necessity connects so firmly with our collective posterior that major corrective actions simply must be implemented, more or less on an emergency basis, to stave off impending short term food shortages, then such actions will be taken-not before.

I could write a book about all the possible scenarios that might play out politically between now and the time the crisis arrives;chance plays a huge role in such affairs,above and beyond the predictable maneuvering of the various powerful special interest groups already on the scene;and powerful new groups and/or new coalitions are sure to arise.

But speaking in the broadest terms, it is very likely that there will be substantial public support arising in favor of localizing agriculture and providing employment for local people.My personal belief is that we are in for very hard going for the next few decades, and tptb at every level are going to realize that one very very very important measure to be taken is that of reviving the household economy-a lot less earned income is needed to buy flour and bake bread than to buy bread ready baked .A substantial part of it will consist of producing and processing a good portion of the family food consumption.

I won't go into this particular point any farther except to reccomend that everybody read John Micheal Greer's post on his own blog, which iirc, was also posted either here or on the Energy Bulletin,concerning the household economy, it's history, and its future role.Greer is one of the very best, and that day he was at the top of his game.

At any rate, the govt, local, state, and federal, will likely be providing a hell of a lot of make work jobs , and we can reasonably hope that many of them will contribute in some useful way to solving the ag sustainability problem.

Barring some calamity such as the outbreak of WWIII, the emergence of a disease or pest that wipes out a staple crop, or possibly simple bad luck-a bad year in the US, Russia, and Australia silmantaneously, or something along such lines,we have some leeway available that will give us time to get our act together.

We can save a lot more energy in the short to medium term by reorganizing the food processing and marketing system than we can hope to save by reorganizing production.I have no doubt I use considerably more energy in the form of gasoline shopping for such groceries as I buy than is used in producing the groceries.When tshtf, the half pint throwaway jar of mayonnaise is going to be a thing of the past;we will buy quarts in return for deposit glass jars.When gas is ten bucks, we will carpool or walk to the market, or order from a delivery service that will burn one pint of gas to deliver ten households worth of groceries on the back of a frieght hauling tricycle with a motor as big as your fist, pedal assisted of course.

Farm machinery can be (and used to be) built to last more or less indefinitely.Ditto large trucks.We tend to think of a machine as being worn out when it actuality most of its component parts are usually functionally as good as new, or easily replaceable at relatively tiny expense in terms of energy compasred to building a new machine.

To make this clear, let us consider the case of my elderly Ford Escort, which has about 190,000 miles on it.The entire steel body shell in as good as new, except for a few flecks of rust and faded paint.All the suapension components that are subject to wear I can carry under one arm;the engine(knock on wood!)runs fine and is probably good for another 50,000 at least.When it does fail,probably eighty percent of it will still be as good as new-it can be made functionally new with replacement parts that wiegh no more than ten of fifteen percent of the total wieght of the engine.What I'm saying is that this car will not be scrapped because it is not easily repairable;it will be scrapped because new cars are so cheap that a nice used car can be had cheap enough nobody will bother to fix it.In an energy constrained world, tractors, trucks , and combines will be made to last for generations as labor and parts will be dirt cheap in comparision to new equipment.

My guess is that biofuels can be produced locally in most farming regions so cheaply that the use of draft animals will not be a major factor in food production, except on very small scale farms of the type that might become numerous as people either redistribute themselves out of the cities to the country, or as they GET redistributed forcibly by govts that can no longer support them in an urban environment.

This is not to say that cities will cease to exist but rather that many jobs will cease to exist, and new ones will be scarce;hence some people will have to go.Every empty single family house that is torn down means one more garden spot made available of course.

What I'm saying is that Mr. George Mobius is right in essence, probably, but that he is a man far ahead of his time.I expect most of us will live out our lives about the way we are living now in respect to filling our bellies-except for the fact that a heck of a lot of us are going to be giving up foods such as fresh fruit shipped long distances in the winter and nice cuts of beef as we will no longer be able to afford such luxuries.

And he is probably right about a lot of people returning to the land and farming by hand;this will probably happen as much or more so because of economic necessity than for reasons of technical necessity;a job that provides a roof and a full belly, no matter how tough and tedious, is a lot better than a ditch and an empty belly.

And unfortunately another man a long time ahead of his time , Mr Malthus, is finally going to get the last laugh.

We have on a global level far overshot the carrying capacity of this planet, and people packed in like sdardines in countries that were once more or less self sufficient in food a century ago with five or ten percent of today's population are in one hell of a fix.

Barring a miracle breakthrough in renewable energy, they are going to either starve or die fighting-on a scale that is going to make anything in the historical record look like a toddlers Sunday school picnic squabble over the last cookie.

One more thing-remember you heard it from OFM FIRST.

All the lists of fast growing jobs are missing what will soon be one of the fastest growing fields,perhaps the fastest-that of personal servant.

The folks with money (a spare ten grand or so annually) are going to be able to hire maids, butlers, and gardeners dirt cheap soon- a job including room and board and paying minumum wage, perhaps with rent deducted, will soon be seen as a highly desirable position.

Since they won't be able to spend it on flying to a vacation hot spot when the planes are grounded by lack of fuel...

The feudal system was an agrarian service economy. The king owned all the land. The king would grant use of land to his nobles in return for their service. They would, in turn, grant use of parcels to their subordinates in return for their service. And so on down the chain to the serfs actually working the land.

The system died out due to the democratizing effect of the long bow and the musket.

But with the modern body armor and weaponry being developed for Iraq and Afghanistan it may be possible to provide a single man with the ability to kill large numbers of lesser equipped men without undue danger to himself. That would set the stage for a resurgence of feudalism.

In general, the science of offensive weapons has outrun that of defensive weapons and I expect this will continue to be the case; but of course you can't defend yourself very well against an opponent who can afford a tank when you can only afford a rifle.

My personal belief and hope is that there are enough pistols and rifles around these days to make it possible for the underclass to simply say no to the worst of the abuses that have historically been thier fate.

One of the strongest elements of personal freedom is the belief that we are entitled to own weapons;I doubt that even the mind control experts in charge of actice duty troops can convince them that they have no right to a personal arm when they go home, when they grew up in homes where everybody believed otherwise, and continues to believe otherwise.

If this belief and right is ever lost,it will be ppossible for a relatively small number of well armed and well organized brutal men to physically control large tracts of territory and put the people living there to the yoke.

Of course there is always a panty wearing element so scared of its own shadow, and so ignorant of the nature of the world, that it believes safety lies in disarming itself and trusting in the moral rectitude of the cops who will of course when tshtf, one, be somewhere else, two,too few to help, and three, the biggie, looking after themselves at the expense of every body else.This is not to knock the integrity of most police officers as individuals;most are upright , at least in most of the USand western Europe;but cross the border to Mexico .......or cross the border to dozens of other countries......

Most of this panty wearing element will find the early death it is so desperate to avoid thru failing to get any exercise and eating an unhealthy diet;but doing something about THAT would require some personal initiative, rather than whining for the welfare state to look after thier every fear and need.

A state big enough to look after everything is big enough to look after itself first.

Of course people with guns in thier hands kill people.If there were no guns, we would use butcher knives, mattocks, baseball bats, molotov cocktails, rocks, and poison, or in the case of those whom God made bigger and stronger, as the old rhyme about Colonel Colt put it, our bare hands.

We like to pee and moan about the sacredness of life, but as a matter of simple fact, we make collective decisions every single day that cost many thousands of people thier lives;Ford Motor Company is advertising hot rod cars with 305 horsepower for 305 dollars a month.The closest major city has recently wasted over ten million on a stinking stadium;that much money could have been used to modify some dangerous local intersections that have caused over twenty five traffic accident fatalities over the last few decades.

My personal belief and hope is that there are enough pistols and rifles around these days to make it possible for the underclass to simply say no to the worst of the abuses that have historically been thier fate.

There were a lot of small arms available in Iraq following the collapse of one of the world's largest and most ineffective armies. Historically, Afghanistan has been extremely well armed, with local reproductions of the Lee-Enfield being phased out in favor of the AK-47s supplied by both the Soviets and the CIA during the last 30 years.

Even in the favorable terrain of Afghanistan, locals equipped with rifles seem unable to inflict more than occasional casualties on the very well equipped US and NATO forces.

In both countries we see that 150,000 or so very well-equipped troops can fairly readily control insurgent populations of about 30 million. Plus, the tactics and technologies for supression of insurgencies are improving all the time.

Yes-An army can always control a civilian population thru the use of overwhelming force and intimidation;but the army in a country not occupied by an invader must be drawn from the local population.

Such locally oriented troops can of course be kept in uniform and be molded into the core of a police state, such as exists in North Korea.Once a police state is well established, getting rid of it generally requires either an outright collapse of the society or intervention from the outside.

But even inside a police state, a local minion of the big boss has reason to refrain from some of the worst possible abuses of his power if he is aware that some day when he is out for a pleasant drive with his own wife and kids that a sniper may target him-or his father or mother.

But a troop who goes home after his tour is up to a home with weapons in it is not in a position to have to stand by helpless while his family's food and livestock is confiscated or his wife or sister is raped.

Professional soldiers are a necessity, but citizen soldiers are one of the cornerstones of a free society.I hope and believe that the typical American in uniform will desert and go home to defend his home if he once realizes that the govt is trying top impose a police state , if things ever come to such a pass.

If it were wihin my power to do so ,I might air drop a few million pistols and rifles every week for a few months, with ammo and booklets explaining thier use, at random all over the populated portions of North Korea.

I expect that if this were to be done, the country would be free in six months.Once the typical soldiers in uniform there realize that the govt could be successfully resisted, most of them would quit and join the rebellion.

It doesn't help that the term "permaculture" is so vague as to be meaningless...

I can see somebody has ignored the literature.

I'm assuming that would be the "do nothing" literature?

No, I'd rather do something.

If you have to assume what the literature is, you clearly haven't read any of it.

Searching for "permaculture" on Amazon returns 347 results, most of them clearly falling in the "how to" category.

I have never seen any good figures on this, but it seems to me that a reasonable drop in agricultural production from going organic is something around 40%. It is curious that the literature really doesn't seem to address this issue, but when it comes time to compare BAU agriculture to organic the hard comparison seems to evaporate into a mist.

For advanced countries, a 40% drop in production could probably be handled. We would be poorer. We would complain. We would eat less meat. We would survive.

A 40% drop in production in emerging nations and the developing world would be disastrous.

If anyone has some good comparison figures on commercial scale organic farming versus current agricultural production, it would be a very valuable contribution.

I would very much like to be proven wrong on this comparison.

If not, then perhaps it would make sense to talk about how to prioritize the use of scarce fossil fuels and electricity to make a smoother transition to a sustainable furute,


Try to look at it this way. There is income and there is inheritance. Income is something that is sustainable. Inheritance is something that is finite.

BAU agriculture burns thru inheritance at a horrendous pace. Typical organic farming does use up the inheritance but at a much slower rate.

The more you burn thru inheritance the more people you can feed but the shorter the time frame in which you can do it.

The goal is to find a food production system that can be supported on income alone. The question becomes, will any such system be able to feed all the worlds people?

The goal would indeed be to find a food production system that can be supported on income alone.

The model that seems to be proposed here is an organic farm model with localized production of food. I remember why the green revolution was introduced. It was introduced to raise productivity per acre cultivated. In the short term (the last 50 years or so), that goal has been reached.

If we go back to methods used before the green revolution, then I am assuming that we will go back to pre-green revolution productivity -- something like a 40% drop in production. While there is spare food producing capacity in North America, many areas of the world (China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, most parts of Africa come readily to mind do not have any spare food production capacity.

A 40% cut in food production would lead to immediate chaos throughout large parts of the world.

If this result is indeed, where the plan being put forward in this article is heading, perhaps, the palpable lack of enthusiasm from the mainstream is understandable.

I don't want to minimize the problem of soil degradation. It is serious. On the other hand, I do question whether it makes sense to spend scarce resources on this problem in preference over infrastructure projects that would reduce fossil fuel generated energy use, change land use patterns to facilitate more efficient energy use, change building codes to make buildings more efficient, and generally adjust energy use patterns to reality.

I do like dealing with soil degradation more than the current policies which seem to suggest conversion from oil to coal.

The goal is to find a food production system that can be supported on income alone. The question becomes, will any such system be able to feed all the worlds people?

No, that is the wrong question. The question should be how many people can the world support if we must rely on a production system that can be supported on income alone.

My unscientific hunch is, a heck of lot fewer than we have now.

The question then becomes, what happens to all the other people...

We're going away, pack your sh!t folks, we're going away...

George Carlin - Saving the Planet

All of these jobs require a certain amount of skill and knowledge; they aren't just manual labor

No; these are jobs shoveling shit.

NOBODY in America wants to work shoveling crap and they certainly aren't going to do it for free. Maybe we could talk our illegals into doing it if we offer them green cards in exchange.

Skill and knowledge? "You, Mungo. Mungo take shovel. Mungo toss crap. Mungo dig in dirt. Here shovel; go."

As for soil testing, I could teach my 9 year old daughter to do it. And I know what I'm talking about, I have a degree in agriculture.

People who promote stuff like this- and don't get me wrong, I agree this needs to be done- love to get all wrapped up in high-falutin' stuff and insist it can't be learned in the field, requires special coursework, yadda yadda yadda. It's not rocket science. The needed concepts can be communicated in a day.

And the first step is slinging crap with a shovel, that nobody will voluntarily do.

...I have a degree in agriculture.

I sincerely hope you didn't go into great debt getting that degree. Maybe you could get your money back from whatever school gave you the education. Tell them you will sue for failure to perform.

Your slinging more of what you claim others will be shoveling than you seem to be aware.

VaTech said

The needed concepts can be communicated in a day.

I guess he spent about a day getting the Ag degree, eh?

My son-in-law has two Masters from Virginia Tech, the school (not the blogger). He says it takes more than a day, even for an Associate's Degree. Maybe VT went to an Ag H.S., and they spent a day on farming?


This is a very cute response, George, except that you didn't address his central idea:

And the first step is slinging crap with a shovel, that nobody will voluntarily do.

I agree 99%. There is that 1% of us that will do it voluntarily. But I look around me an no one else doing it, even though I live in a "rural" area.


I think if you read all the comments, you will see that George did address this. Yes, this is the big issue and unless this changes, what George is trying to do will be academic.

The point is that if this does change being ready with plan B will be of critical importance and we will be extremely thankful for people like George for doing this ground work.

Is there any chance that the masses will get over their grandiose sense of entitlement before we get way into the point of no return, does not seem likely but it is our only hope.

One quick and easy “fix” which would likely be a major help, if it could be done, would be to force all advertisers to produce true, honest and accurate ads. Of course, this would destroy commercial tv as we know it, which is the fix I am alluding to.

Is there any chance that the masses will get over their grandiose sense of entitlement before we get way into the point of no return, does not seem likely but it is our only hope.

...through door #1 is the die-off, with all sense of personal dignity intact, and no dirt under anyone's fingernails.

Door number two may involve shoveling some shit, but you get to live. Its not as bad as it sounds anyway - I mucked out stalls on a Pacific NW horse ranch for a few months for nothing but room and board. In a way, it was a very clean and simple time, and one of my better memories, though I ended up getting involved with a girl and quitting to move back to the city and a paying job.

I think you missed my whole point in the article. There is nothing voluntary about being out of work and wanting to find a way to have an income. As of right now there are a growing number of people out of work and we keep graduating young people from high school and colleges that can't find jobs. I never said this would be a voluntary program as in a person has a choice between doing this and doing something else less demanding of physical labor. This is a program that would offer some relief for unemployment while investing in the future.

BTW: if all of those who believe industrial ag will go on turn out to be right, would it be so bad to have remediated some of our soils to permit a lowering of FF inputs?

BTW: if all of those who believe industrial ag will go on turn out to be right, would it be so bad to have remediated some of our soils to permit a lowering of FF inputs?

It would be a very good idea.
There is a lot that could improve resilience of future agriculture in many parts of the USA. You are right to point out that such change is going to be needed. Cost structures will change, but how the current practice of feeding most of US production to livestock, including a lot being sold profitably for export for animal feed, or turning it in to biofuel, is actually going to change, and when, are two very big questions.
A bit like asking when US is going to change its eating or driving habits?

This is an interesting idea that overlaps in part with thoughts I've been mulling over lately (and sharing). I've been following the fortunes and prospects of young adults with great concern and thinking about how young people without jobs can build lives. When families can't afford tuition and job opportunities look bleak, colleges and universities inevitably suffer as well. Some institutions will surely have to transform in order to remain viable and relevant unless the economy takes a turn for the better (one that I see no substantive reason to expect, frankly). When I consider the mission of higher education and the needs of young adults in years to come, an alternative higher education model emerges, one significantly different from the one we replicate widely now. The college experience at some institutions could become an exercise in creating a self-sustaining, self-supporting community blending necessary work, apprenticeships, community and studies. It could be tailored to answer needs of young adults - meaningful work, means to survive, skilling for the future, living in community, pursuing higher learning, and mapping constructive approaches to a future very different from the world they have known (not only conceptually but in practice). It seems imperative that we create institutions and strategies that nurture societal transformation and address current needs all at once. This college model would do both and would be a viable option when higher education implodes given economic collapse or a long descent and when students can no longer see the sense in spending four years racking up educational debt that might be difficult or impossible to repay.

As I survey thinking about sustainability in higher education, I'm seeing numerous instances of progress in remaking the familiar box of university education out of green materials. I'm not yet seeing transformative redesign of the box itself. My sense is, that for some unknown number of institutions, future relevance may depend on redesigning the box altogether along the lines outlined above, provided that such a model can be designed to succeed. Does anybody know of trends in this direction? Thoughts?

If the future is working in the fields, then the Amish have already got it right and optimized. An eighth grade education.

I heartily disagree that a rudimentary education will be enough, given all the smart decisions humanity needs to make this century. Nor do I see the future as being sufficiently like the past for traditional approaches to serve without adaptation, given a world with a much higher population, a changing climate, and resource limits closing in fast.

Perhaps, although their large number of children mandates them buying ever more expensive farmland. Many Amish I understand work in non Amish businesses to make ends meet.

Kevin Spoering

The Amish way of life is not a model of sustainability for the 21st century, though there's much we can learn from the Amish.

My hope is that thinking will begin to move along the lines I've suggested sooner rather than later. With unemployment among young adults at 25%, it seems to me that we owe the next generation an investment in creative problem solving with regard to how they might make their beginnings in life. Juliet Schor lays out a constructive model for the future in her book Plenitude; I'd like to see that model become food for thought and inspiration for action. I think that there's room in higher education for a new model to serve those who will not be served by the current system in a less hospitable future. It think it's one needful part of the answer to the question of addressing unemployment while preparing for powering down.

I grew up on a small farm in the '40s and '50s, with chickens, pigs, cows, a team of draft horses, a large garden, an orchard, and a couple of acres of potatoes for the winter. We were as little involved in the cash economy as my parents could manage -- store-bought white flour and refined sugar were used sparingly.

My father had a sixth grade education and my mother an eigth grade education, but they were very intelligent and well read.

Between them, they had a basic grasp of agronomy, animal husbandry, veterinary medicine, horticulture, mechanics, electricity, carpentry, masonry, food preservation, and business.

It was not a simple life, and it was full of risk for the untutored or unwary. Even with careful, thoughtful planning and diligent work, bad weather, disease, and other misfortunes could dramatically affect life. A few minutes of hail can turn your summer's crop into a stand of stalks stripped of leaves.

I'm not going back.

It was not a simple life, and it was full of risk for the untutored or unwary. Even with careful, thoughtful planning and diligent work, bad weather, disease, and other misfortunes could dramatically affect life. A few minutes of hail can turn your summer's crop into a stand of stalks stripped of leaves.

I'm not going back.

A moving and articulate comment!

Even as a farmer, I can't say I blame you. We farm here because we are lucky to be able to use someone else's land--someone who is grateful for the work we do here.

Last night, our Devon milk cow gave birth to a dead bull calf in a corner of the pasture. It was all bad--she didn't want to move from the spot in the grass where the calf lay; there was no light, and the cow shied from the headlamp strapped to my forehead; the dead calf was a little too heavy for me to carry any distance; so to get her to the barn, I had to drag the dead calf by the back legs to entice the cow to follow while my partner held onto her head with a lead line.

It took us about a half an hour to cross the pasture, go through the gate, across the road, up the driveway, and into the barn.

While it was happening, it was all business (it was strikingly reminiscent of emergency calls I've been on as an EMT).

Afterward, all I can think of is the pity and the waste of it.

It's natural for cows to go to the most inaccessible part of the pasture to calve. We had a far corner that was on a side hill across a bog and usually inaccesible by tractor that was their favorite spot.

Once my father began to use artificial insemination in the '50s he bred the heifers to Angus so that their first calves would have small heads. The Holstein-Angus cross also made a nice beef animal for the family. And yes, artificial insemination was a concession to the cash economy and agrobusiness technology, but the hazards of handling and caring for dairy bulls made it very worthwhile.

Being a bull, was it really a waste? I am sympathetic, but the loss of a cow would be much more significant.

I think we'll do what we have to do, as circumstances warrant. Your point about the level of knowledge required to grow food (and the riskiness of the process) is well taken. After a hard look at the globalized food system brought to us by industrial agriculture and its impending decline in the face of dwindling fossil fuel supplies, I'm opting to learn what I can. It seems folly not to acquire the know-how to grow food. Beyond the matter of food, it seems to me that a "Do-It-Ourselves" economy will emerge (is already emerging) in parallel to the BAU economy. Our children and grandchildren need to be prepared to function in either one or both at once.

Oh dear, not again.

Your above the fold comments were spot on, but then we get to the below the fold and it all falls back into the pastoral idyll meme.

Firstly, the use of fossil fuels to support farming, through mechanisation and fertiliser, is a sensible and worthwhile usage of that precious resource. Basic figures seem suggest 20 Mtonnes pa usage of fossil fuels in farming fertiliser; maybe 4 Quads pa of energy usage in total in farming, or about 2Mbpd of consumption in oil equivalent - although of course much of that comes from natural gas feedstock. A tenth of the US overall consumption.

So in short, although improvement in the efficiency and resilience of farming is a good move, changing to some 'perma culture' approach would be a negative step. Yields would go down, reducing available food just when we could do with less problems to deal with. To top it off, the FF energy usage is a good one when compared to the alternatives.

Rather, if you are looking at employing large numbers of people, there are much better usages for their time:

  • Improving the energy efficiency of housing. If one of your aims is to deal with the basics people need, then improving housing stock to be less reliant on FF usage is a must. Forming teams that implement efficiency actions - double glazing, roof insulation, wall insulation, rainwater catchment, etc. gets you immediate payback and makes use of the scale aspect to do a job that otherwise takes years. With an aim to move houses towards the passivhaus standard you can cut heating demand significantly, and with it FF usage - whilst ensuring people won't freeze as the fuel price rises.
  • Improving energy efficiency in business. Ditto and more with this one, they are terrible at it and it could be significantly improved with the aid of manpower.
  • Servicing, of vehicles, boilers, etc. How much FF is wasted because various devices are not maintained at optimum efficiency? Putting some of this army of jobless to work just checking tyre pressures in supermarket car parks would probably repay the time well. Then there are the engines themselves, home boilers, etc.
  • Solar HW and PV installation. Speeding up the installation of these, together with sitting on HOA, could easily cut FF usage as hot water no longer comes from boilers and some peak electricity comes from PV.
  • Garden conversion. Helping householders turn the pretty, and sterile, lawns into kitchen gardens, providing a degree of food resilience in process.

Of course, these and other ideas don't deal with the big issue, vehicles used for commuting to work. However they would be far more practical at dealing with the problems of sustaining our society through the decline of oil than aiming at a goal that owes more to a desire for an arable future than what practically makes sense.

Not only "the use of fossil fuels to support farming, through mechanization and fertilizer, is a sensible and worthwhile usage of that precious resource", but I would add the hiring of engineers to electrify the agricultural process has not even been tried yet. Everyone always complains about wind's intermittency, but averaged over a year there is little change in the deliverable energy of a piece of land with turbines sitting on it. We could use wind power to produce ammonia (some ibankers are already working on this - Matt Simmons was one of them), and we can use wired tractors (no batteries) for all tasks. That is, we can have farms that use absolutely no fossil fuels. Of course, it's too cheap to use fossil fuels still so it won't be tried for a while. That also suggests Mobus will be long dead before his thoughts become fathomable, so I don't know why he bothers.

Machines can do the work; humans should think - from that new Fatboy Slim song.

Clearly machines are so good at doing the work, that I would speculate the unemployment is purely a consequence of this.

They are so good at doing the work that manual agriculture will never compete with automated agriculture. Especially when the automated agriculture can be powered by 5 cents kWh electricity.

I know what George really wants. He wants to be up in his office at the university thinking and feeling good about himself while everyone else is downstairs doing thoughtless labour. I always said, as a dual major in electrical engineering and computer science, computer science and systems is a fraud major.

Thanks for this George...

Over the next twenty years the US and the world will need to transition

Not to nitpick, but I think the transition will take more than twenty years. In fact, history never stops...

What is needed is a clear, conceptually simple vision/mission. FIX THE SOILS

I support this focus. While TOD focuses on energy supply, and I tend to focus personally on that as well (and work in related field), I've come to believe that the real crisis humanity faces is food security. I believe the prospects for replacing fossil fuels with renewable electricity for things like transportation and communication are modestly good. However, those efforts will do nothing to fix our soils and secure our food supply (not to mention bio-fuels). The more people we can get to recognize this, the better the future of humanity will be.

I suppose you are also one of those who believes the reason people starve in the world is because there isn't enough food to go around.

?? No. I'm not. I was talking about the future, not the present.

Some thoughts.

Vast areas of land do not have depleted soil. The areas under the plow were significantly greater in 1945 than today. MANY farms were abandoned to pasture or timber post-WW II.

If land was fertile but required careful plowing and was not suitable for a large tractor, it went into pasture land.

Bottomland, usually the MOST fertile was also often abandoned for two reasons. Mule farmers and small tractor farmers could plow it, but not larger tractors. And mule farmers could accept a lost crop every 5 or so years to a flood (not their only land planted) but the capital investment required for modern farming could not accept the periodic loss.

More later,


Not true here in Iowa. Bottom land farms lately have had a good crop maybe 2 of the last 5 years. The weather has been getting wetter and some think there has been in effect a permanent change in Iowa's climate. We have had that once in 500 years flood twice in the last 15 years and once in a century floods 2 of the last 3 years. It looks like the best use of bottom land may be for flood resistant timber.

While browsing our public library in search of information on intercity trolleys, I ran across the Federal Writers Program, a Depression-era project that put talented writers and historians to work documenting local histories. In many cases these documents are cited in current research, as they filled a gap not otherwise being provided.

Likewise, I learned while serving as a public works director in a mid-south community that many of the drainage systems, parks, and even public buildings of that town were built as a result of CCC or WPA work. In some cases decades had passed before the city had done anything else. Clearly, those "make-work" programs had some long-term positive good, certainly more than we gain from paying unemployed people to sit at home watching cable. (Yes, I know that is an emotionally charged image that is unfairly applied, but it is also the perception of a significant portion of the still-working population.)

Our answer to everything today is to "throw money at it." We have done this since the 60's, with little to show for it. Consider the impact of the unemployed having meaningful work that impacts their communities in positive ways, all the while providing them an income, the pride of accomplishing something meaningful and lasting, and also learning a practical skill through on-the-job training.

This assumes, of course, that our communities have such projects ready to go. As the stimulus funding demonstrated, we don't have those projects. The planning, engineering, land acquisition, easements, and budgets have not been developed. In many communities, no consensus has been reached on the critical projects. There is, in fact, no "list."

Imagine work crews constructing passenger rail stations for a future nationwide passenger rail service. Think of the beautification of public land and rights of way. Focus for a moment on efforts to relocate homes and families out of flood ways and flood plains to higher, safer ground. All of these worthy projects imply that long range planning and design have occurred. That stuff stopped in the late 1970s. We have no plans, no projects, no vision, no imagination. Instead, we are all waiting for someone or something to send us a check or provide us a job.

I want to be optimistic, but I see nothing in our federal leadership today that informs me of leadership, courage, or vision. The roller coaster has reached the peak, and those of us in the front seats have noticed that the bottom of the tracks is no longer visible.

My father was a civil engineer/ army officer who, despite his intense republican hatred of FDR, worked for him building little jewels of post offices all thru the rural south- Irwin, TN, Commerce,GA , Covington, LA. and many others. I remember my dread of moving to yet another one room school, with its inevitable band of rednecks intent on wiping out them funny talkin' furriners (my father was a boston blueblood who soaked his inheritance into real estate at exactly the wrong time).

About 20 years ago my brother and I toured these boyhood campouts, and marveled at how beautiful those little post offices still were. Marble, wrought iron, murals, solid masonry, tile roofs, the works. And all in little not-rich towns. Make-work, or public treasure?

Later I got thru college on the GI bill, and in the process even saved enough from it to buy a not-bad car, Then an equally free ride thru grad school. I and my agemates got a very good start in life on public money, and I think, by any reasonable measure, the public, meaning all of us, got a good return on investment.

Isn't it obvious that serious threats require serious collaboration to defeat? Would a football team or an army get anywhere on unfettered individualism?

I am reminded of a joke from my Israeli buddy. The Technion comes in a very distant last in the crew race with Harvard and MIT. Deeply humiliated, they send a mossad spy, loaded with the latest radio links, to hide in a bush by the Charles river as the Harvard crew sweeps by. Excited by what he has discovered, the spy rings up his boss, and breathlessly reports-.

" You won't believe what I am seeing! Only one guy is steering, and the rest of them are rowing the boat!"

Permaculture without land is mostly just predigested methane and organic matter. There is no mystery nor technology that allows a given plot to produce more than mother nature originally intended.

For a substantial number of sub/urbanites to live an agrarian lifestyle would mean a massive redeployment of current infrastructure and human populations. There can be no sustainable agriculture without recycling and reuse of food and bodily wastes. Biointensive agriculture depends on information--constant monitoring, management, and adjustments to garden ecosystems.

Folks need to be by the garden and the garden must be large enough to feed peopleThe technical feasible minimum land to feed a human is 1,500 sq. ft./person, as practiced by Master Gardeners with a lifetime of experience. The rest of us would required 3,000-4,000/person. The typical 1/8 acre residential lot (5,000 sq. ft) is encumbered by its own home, other uses (patio, path, drive etc) and the rest is obstructed by building shadows--own and neighbors. Potential grazing and grains lands are currently covered with asphalt, concrete, strip malls, median strips, etc. These would have to be opened up. So do right-of-ways for light rail, trollies, etc. That takes eminent domain and the power of a free citizenry.

Good luck with that

A third of an acre to support a family of four seems low. Is that enough to grow enough grains, potatoes, and other root crops to last through the winter? Is it enough to provide a bare minimum in years with bad weather, disease outbreaks, insect problems, etc.? It it dry land gardening or does it require irrigation? Does it provide a surplus to sell or barter to buy tools, seeds, supplies, energy for food preservation, other foodstuffs like salt, sugar, etc.? Is there any milk, eggs, fish or meat in the diet?

Plus, if I recall correctly, it takes a few acres of woodlot to heat the home.

There is not a snowball's chance in hell under real world conditions that you can raise enough food on 1500 square feet to feed a person in a powered down world

Now of course some people consider the real world to be a place with deep volcanic soils, no frost, no winter, no high winds, no drought, steady reliable rain in just the right amounts, no grasshoppers, no blights, no rusts , no under REAL LIFE circumstances with absolutely stunning good luck, as the real world goes, you might hope to get-until you hit a bad year- by with an average of half+ acre to an acre, given the fact that in the real world such things as winter , drought, heat waves, hail storms, floods, rocks, roots, sand, hillsides,johnson grass, cliffs, shade from tall buildings or hills, and bugs without number do in fact exist.

If we take the climate and the better soils as representative of average conditions,my own opinion, based on the experience of my extended family, backed up by an ag degree from Va Tech and a lifetime of reading about and observing the ag scene, is that anyone who expects to actually survive and prosper in a powered down world is going to need at least a couple of acres, and preferably three acres.

There are many reasons why this is so.Some land needs to be fallowed at least occasionally to help control pests and diseases, working plots need to be big enough to work efficiently, you must have room for paths and roads, tool shed, processing and storage space, a reservoir for water(and fish) chicken coop, probably some other livestock such as a dairy goat or pig, at the least a working share in a draft animal, firewood,fruit trees,the list is does not live on grain and veggies alone.

The very high levels of production often claimed by so called master gardeners are only rarely achieved;and when they are achieved, the yield per hour of labor is in my experience not all that impressive-you can't in the real world devote your life to raising food to feed yourself-all the other day to day business of life must be tended to as well.

I make a considerably smaller yields of most crops than my friends and aqquaintances who practice intensive methods, but my yields per hour are considerably higher, using roughly comparable inputs, excepting the aamount of land-and anybody who has ever been out there in the dirt for real will tell you that HOURS are usually the key limiting factor other than capital.

Once you are actively engaged in real life farming, subsistence or otherwise, you will find that Mr. Murphy is INTENSELY interested in your every move;as a matter of fact, I am quite confident that the only people in the world more interesting to him are soldiers actually at war.

There is not a snowball's chance in hell under real world conditions that you can raise enough food on 1500 square feet to feed a person in a powered down world.

It takes just under 10,000 sq ft to feed us two men here on the farm, and we by no means grow "all" our own food. Luckily, we don't have much of a pest problem (except in the orchard and the potato crop), and we manage to grow some pumpkins and mangels for the cows.

Oops. Forgot to include the orchard in that square footage.

It takes an acre per person traditionally. To compensate fluctuations in yields caused by crop failures, pest attacks, droughts, floods, over raining etc its better to have 2 acres per person. To have some extra crops to trade to get industrial goods and commercial services there better be 4 acres per person. It also leaves enough in average and good years to pay govt taxes (traditionally 25%). Not coincidentally thats what the population density of medieval europe was, one manor 1500 acres 300 people (land being 80% arable).

Remember that its the land in use by humans. There need to be 50% to 100% more land left to wild life in the form of forests, pastures, arable land below rivers, lakes.

At modern times due to two crops a year and better knowledge of farming and weathers yields can sustainably be increased to 4 times the traditional yield without using green revolution seeds. So, 1 acre today, means 44,000 sq ft.

Note that its for an average person, who takes 2000 calories a day, 400 equivalent days (to compensate more than average eating in festivals) a year. Its average when the entire population including women, children and old are taken into accounts. For an adult male its 3000 calories a day, for an adult female its 2500 calories a day. Its when the average diet is 62.5 grams meat, 312.5 grams milk, 312.5 grams grains, 31.25 grams sugar etc per day. Note that americans today consume on average 3500 calories a day.

Thanks George. It is a good discussion point.

I have made similar proposals in the past, and include a similar program calling for the CCC type program to assist in the infrastructure changes necessary to both new electric generation forms, switching from AC to DC for distribution, and changing from Truck/Car to inter urban rail and intra urban electric mass transit.

In fact, we need the equivalent effort as was put forth in the Manhatten Project during WWII.

Until our politicians wake up, though, it is up to us to begin the process. It will not be easy, there will be hard times, difficulties, and IMHO there will be a significant die-off. Things could be different, but not on this planet. Not with Homo Sapiens.

Strange species, that. Wonder if they'll be missed.


Looks like interesting discussion here. A proposal I'd like to see revived and discussed in terms of its feasibility and possible consequences is F. H. King's proposal for a canal system from the Mississippi, comparable to China's, covering the entire southeast of the U.S. and Texas, and promoting irrigation, transportation and recovery of nutrients (relative to their fate when going down the Mississippi, or maybe in absolute terms - I'm not sure) - not to mention jobs constructing and maintaining it. What has been the fate of China's own canal system in the twentieth century? Again, I'd like to see all this discussed here on the Oil Drum.

(Source: F.H. King, Farmers of Forty Centuries, 1911)

Great idea. Thanks for the food for thought. A few comments.

1. Its going to be a hard sell. This plan involves action by government, and there is a huge backlash against government programs of any kind in America. People throw up their hands in panic whenever anybody suggests that democratically elected government might be part of the solution. They would rather wait until the free market responds.

But, of course, if we wait until the market responds retractively to peak oil, it will be too late.

2. Many local governments already collect materials from parks and their own facilities for a big compost pile, with the compost available to residents for free. Perhaps we could expand on this. The local trash collectors could gather organic materials once a week and pile it into a large compost pile. Then in the spring a truck could bring the compost around for anybody who will use it for a vegetable garden, or give it to farmers.

3. A big issue is what goes into the pile. If the trash includes herbicides and manure from meat-eating animals, it should not be used in gardens. Would you trust compost made from such trash?

4. In the end, teaching people to do their own composting and gardening may be the best plan.

3. A big issue is what goes into the pile. If the trash includes herbicides and manure from meat-eating animals, it should not be used in gardens. Would you trust compost made from such trash?

Yes, I would--depending on how it was composted and who was doing it. High-temperature composting kills organisms and weed seeds that may be harmful or invasive. It takes training, though. I'd never recommend it in a backyard garden.

The statement about "herbicides" is an unwarranted generalization: WHICH herbicides? Most chemicals used in gardens break down pretty fast.

Greer's essay, "Thinking like an ecosystem" about creating a system that takes all inputs full circle applys here. MikeB talked about the trauma of pulling a dead calf (something I've done quite a bit of). We used to bury dead livestock as a rule. We later began taking calves and smaller livestock to a remote corner of the place for the scavengers to process back into the ecosystem. It makes more sense to me than concentrating all of those nutrients into a hole in the ground. I now take spoiled produce (that doesn't go into compost) away from the garden and distribute it to where insects and small animals or the chickens will quickly reprocess it back into soil. Even the dog hair from my business is turned into the soil. The worms love it! It's less work/energy/expense than taking it to the dump.

We need to redefine conservation of energy for any of this to work. We throw too much away. As Greer reminded us, there is no "away".

You can't compost spoiled produce? What happens?

Most spoiled or overripe produce gets composted along with weeds, etc. When the ratio of wet to dry matter gets too high we feed stuff to the chickens or critters. We went from hot and dry to very wet/humid recently and a lot of tomatos and mellons overripend and split open before we could salvage them. Too much rotting and wet matter for the compost pile, so we share the spoils, so to speak, with God's little creatures. The main goal is to get spoiling or infested stuff away from the garden. We toss alot of organic matter into a fallow section of pasture that will provide excellent soil in the future. Last year a beautiful stand of cherry tomatos volunteered there, providing great grazing for man and beast. And one never knows when a fat and happy population of 'possums will come in handy ;-)

You might want to reconsider the issue of burying your dead calves;leaving them out is apt to result in training raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, feral dogs and possibly bears if there are any in the area, to come to your place for dinner.If they don't find it laid out for them, well.....

Burial of dead livestock is sop for this reason in most places-all places I have personal knowledge of, actually.

i can't see large scale use of petrochemical fertilizers falling out of use in the next 100 yrs even if this means agriculture ends up consuming the bulk of fossil fuel production in the future.

exactly. PLUS the fact that we have not even considered electrifying our agricultural processes yet. There is enormous potential.

i can't see large scale use of petrochemical fertilizers falling out of use in the next 100 yrs even if this means agriculture ends up consuming the bulk of fossil fuel production in the future.

If you include pesticides, this is indeed the BEST use of petroleum, as I see it. It will be with us a long time.

Just imagine the pittance in the volume of petroleum used for petrochemicals compared to the massive amounts burned for fuel.

to be the devils advocate of my own position I am not averse to a permaculture future or conscripted civil labour its just I do not see a world of 7-9 billion people living predominately off "growing there own" or permaculture in general

OTOH my personnel bias is for a more hippyfied world..but think this will only occur in a world of population restraint

ideally sub 1 billion

I do not see this scenario occurring in my lifetime or the next 100 yrs..

I do see opportunities in the near-medium term for conscripted labour and while abhorrent to many on economic/political grounds I don't really have a problem with it

I suspect a lot of conscripted labour IS going to be directed at social care of the elderly and infirm as the demography/population plateaus/peaks out mid cent....

the whole transition community culture is ahead of it self..its going to take longer than we think.

you can watch the PBS documentary about The Civilian Conservation Corps online at

Also background to the age:
Influenza 1918
The Crash of 1929
Surviving the Dust Bowl

The American Experience series...


- Ransu, Finland

PS: The trouble with such good documentaries is that you end up knowing more about US history, constitution and politics than your own ;)

The top one billion people at the top of the global economic pyramid have got to speak out loudly, clearly and often about what desperately needs to be said regarding whatsoever is occurring in our planetary home these days that no talking head, thought leader or opinion maker in the mass media is ready, willing or able to articulate. Much more needs to be said that is equitable, authentic, sustainable and real…...and much less that is self-serving, clever, patently unsustainable and unnatural.

If experts keep willfully refusing to straightforwardly examine the scientific evidence of human population dynamics, and choose as alternatives to focus on other global challenges, the human community may end up, if lucky, winning some Pyrrhic victories. But in the long term the failure to acknowledge, address and overcome the proverbial “mother” of global threats, human overpopulation of the Earth, will cause the family of humanity to lose the struggle for survival, I believe, as well as precipitate the extirpation of global biodiversity; the wanton dissipation of Earth’s resources; and the irreversible degradation of its environs.

A tiny minority of malignantly narcissistic, pathologically hubristic, extremely foolish and outrageously greedy people with cultural biases rule the world, having captured the minds of many too many of 'the brightest and best' among us. We are stuck with a million conspicuously overconsuming and excessively hoarding, self-proclaimed masters of the universe who organize and manage the global political economy for the own benefit primarily. That these materially most fortunate human beings are destroying Earth's ecology is not their business or concern, so they say. At the time a million people are reaping mostly ill-gotten gains from their foolhardiness, arrogance and avarice, billions of human beings with feet of clay, who are the least fortunate among us, wait in love and squalor for whatever trickles down to them, even as the natural resources around them are being relentlessly commandeered and recklessly dissipated by the most fortunate. It is a sad tale.

You are right but this tale is as old as humanity itself.

Until we learn to have sound money and voluntary population control, we have learned nothing.

Dear George,
Though I'm in sympathy with your proposal, the way you envision its realisation makes me wonder if you're trying to re-invent the kolchoz, and I'm sure you're aware of how that ended.
Government-run initiatives on a nation-wide scale, however well-intentioned, must needs produce undesirable results and waste as well as come to bad endings.
What you seem to overlook completely are the aspects of community and seasonality as a basis of such a project. When you're setting loose these hordes of volunteer or veteran workers upon the land, without promise of a personal share in its final result, the operation will create its own bureaucracy and do more harm than well. For permaculture to succeed, a personal bond with the land is a sine qua non.
Look at the Roman emperors of the first and second centuries for more lasting results. They retired their veterans on small plots of land along the borders of the empire. The veterans became small-holders, created their own communities, and as a boon to the empire provided security of its limes. That's why, after two millennia, they're still speaking a Latin language in Romania, however empoverished it became under sovjet rule.
I.m.o., what America needs to secure its future food production, are small permaculture communities, dotted across the country, tax-exempt, and free to organize their local economy, trade, way of living, education, etc., without central government interfering.

"For permaculture to succeed, a personal bond with the land is a sine qua non."


"I.m.o., what America needs to secure its future food production, are small permaculture communities, dotted across the country, tax-exempt, and free to organize their local economy, trade, way of living, education, etc., without central government interfering."

Permaculture zones. I like the idea alot, but Americans will have to get very hungry before it becomes politically/economically possible (if ever).

@ Ghung
I value your acclaim, and agree with your own taxation of general perma culture's feasibility.
However, ag will be in need of many more hands to replace the future dwindling of FF inputs. So, in the long run, we'll be seeing a growing rural population having to feed themselves by their own produce.

Thanks, lagedargent.

Our little part of the world has seen a decline in small ag over the last 50 years for mostly economic reasons. Children of farmers have chosen more lucrative careers and many small/medium farms have been sold to developers. It's encouraging to see a fairly robust resurgence of small farming , mostly by retirees and back-to-the-landers. Hopefully this trend will continue now that the land price bubble has burst.

Much damage was done during the real estate boom of the last 30 years, though some of the oldtimers were able to hold their land and their kids are returning, having found that their dreams of a better life elsewhere were empty "grass is greener" pipedreams and have become unsustainable.

Our local sustainable ag movement has really taken off as of late:

I hope that governments will see the imperative of keeping these folks on their land regardless of economic conditions going forward. IMO, it's a matter of national security.


You might want to re-read my piece. Nothing I describe is related to the kolkhozy of Russia. And toward the end I do describe the idea of local communities formed from some of the people who came to the early phase of the project, got educated in permaculture, and decided it was their best option.

So your last sentence seems to recast (with more specifics) what I saw as a possible outcome of an otherwise limited works program.

Actually, I did notice the reference, but it gave me the impression you mentioned it as a remote by-effect of your grand scheme.
I also noted your reply to a different post:

BTW: if all of those who believe industrial ag will go on turn out to be right, would it be so bad to have remediated some of our soils to permit a lowering of FF inputs?

and I'll be the last to disagree on that.
And indeed, 41 million Americans are "living" on food stamps, and in the coming months more will follow. To offer them an opportunity to earn a living "by slinging dirt" - as some have called it - can't be qualified as a bad idea. Only, the release of so many unvoluntary workers into the rural emptiness without the proper attitude for the job, does give me bad feelings in advance.
I'd prefer the gradual approach by which people who've prepared themselves build perma culture communities of their own. It will take longer, but what gets time to grow organically, and by its own merit, will endure, where government initiatives will flounder.

You are right that it wasn't central to my proposal. I am just considering the remediation and unemployment problems as possibly needing each other. It is a longer-than-usual term (for political solutions) proposal, but does not address the really long term issues. OTOH, the need for planning and developing communities to follow could be an add on proposal as we see what scenarios are going to play out in the long run. I do feel that the most likely scenario involves radical power down and that is why soil remediation that can lead to permaculture seems like a logical choice - keeps our options open, so to speak. Meanwhile we hopefully avert a situation where we have millions of young (and even not so young) unemployed and very angry men and women fulminating unrest.

As for your "gradual approach", I agree it would be preferable but I'm not so sure we have the luxury of time. Especially if we were to see a crash that would leave hundreds of millions (in the US anyway) without food resources. My fear, as stated in the article, is that these mobs would swarm upon all of the attempted permaculture communities like locusts.

United States Fact Sheet provides data on the state of agriculture in the US.

In 2008, there were 2,200,000 farms with a net income of $87,325,108,000 or $39,639 per farm.

Of the US land area of 2,260,994,361 acres, 922,095,840 acres were farmland. Of this, 406,424,909 were cropland.

The average farm size is 418 acres, but 54.4% of the farms are of size 1 through 99 acres. Almost 55% of principle farm operators do not farm as their primary occupation.

I admit I didn't read the whole article, so I hope you gave credit to one of the great architects of the "back to the soil" movement in recent history -- Chairman Mao.

Perhaps one his little red books are still available for distribution to use as a guideline.


Don't worry Gordon, I did give him credit, for all of my thinking on this. Had you read the whole piece you would have seen it. Then again, you didn't need to did you?


You're right, I didn't need to read the whole article.

I did, however, at least skim it for any worthwhile content, but then felt it wasn't worth a serious reading, since it is simply yet another fallacious attempt to persuade people that there is a "simple" answer to the very complicated problems of a lack of adequate and affordable energy, as well as a serious overpopulation issue.

Your solution is inadequate to solve either problem.

Which is what made me think of Chairman Mao and his abortive experiment in "social engineering."

Since you say you gave Mao credit, I did look more carefully at the article this time, but still failed to see your "credit" to Chairman Mao. I don't doubt it is there, if you say it is, but I did not see the reference stated obviously in the main text.

Since you give credit to Wikipedia as a further, reputable source, I would like to include an excerpt from that same source on Chairman Mao, describing in summary his economic policies, which is the cautionary note I intended by my comment -- that readers should be aware such "simplistic" methods have been tried before and have typically failed, often with terrible results.

Chairman Mao's "experiment" being one of the most recent and egregious.

The excerpt from Wikipedia (hardly a "suitable" source for such a serious topic, but nevertheless easy to read in summary) about Chairman Mao and his policies as they relate to social planning:

"Many Chinese believe that through his policies, he laid the economic, technological and cultural foundations of modern China, transforming the country from an agrarian society into a major world power.

Conversely, Mao's social-political programs, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are blamed for costing millions of lives, causing severe famine and damage to the culture, society and economy of China. Mao's policies and political purges from 1949 to 1976 are widely believed to have caused the deaths of between 50 to 70 million people."

This is the point I was attempting to make, which I assumed you and your readers would know, without my having to explicitly state it for you.


OK Gordon. I'll take my tongue out of my cheek (re: referencing Mao) if you stop going over the top (insisting this has anything to do with him).

Your solution is inadequate to solve either problem.

You might be right. But we will never know from this one terse statement. As for the rest being related to Chairman Mao, I suggest reading for comprehension classes (to replace skimming). Maybe then you would realize that this proposal, simple as it may be, has nothing to do with Mr. Mao or anything resembling his approach.


If you can't see the similarities between your simplistic "solution" and the many others that have failed in the past -- Chairman Mao, as I pointed out being only the first most egregious example that came to mind -- frankly, I cannot hope to explain it to you in any context you would be willing to understand or accept.

In terms of my "reading comprehension," I am sufficiently well educated to be able to skim an article to see if it is worthwhile reading or not, or if I would simply be wasting my time, and your article certainly falls into the latter category.

As to your comment that I might be right, but "from this one terse statement," we will never know, I would like to point out that it is you who are offering the "one little pill cures all" solution. I have made no such claim.

More importantly, why is your particular solution the sole direction all of humanity should strive for in the future? I am not offering a solution, merely pointing out that yours obviously is not a valid one.

So, if you maintain that your plan will solve unemployment, without forcing millions of people to starve to death, which is my contention, then prove it will -- prove me wrong. Since you are so confident, it should be relatively easy. Where are the "numbers" to back up your assertions? Or, do we simply go on faith alone? "Trust me," is getting kind of worn out since Obama took office.

How, exactly, does your solution solve ANY of our problems?

I am willing to concede you the point that it might help to solve our overpopulation problem -- mostly through massive die-offs -- but is your solution how we want to do that?

Again, since it is YOU who are proposing a "solution" to "Solving the Unemployment Problem and Preparing for Power Down Simultaneously" simply by "Put(ting) People to Work Doing Something Worthwhile," it is also incumbent upon you to answer my statement properly, or not comment on it at all -- certainly not in the disparaging tone you have used to me thus far.

I also do not understand why you think my statement is going "over the top," when your plan seems to have the exactly the same potential for doing the same as Mao's did -- that is killing millions (or, if your plan works really well, we could scale it up to billions) of innocent people.

For example, aside from simply exhorting people to "work hard and we shall prosper," what about the economics of supporting the transition of 6+ billion people from their present lifestyle to one of dirt farmers, with no energy whatsoever than the power of human muscles?

Suppose, just for an instant, that those 6+ billion people don't want to accept your "revelation?" Then what?

I admit Israel did essentially this same thing when their country was being formed, but collectively we don't have the social and religious coherence they did. Or, haven't you noticed? Maybe some of their energy was generated by their experiences during WWII, under the Nazi regime. We may get to experience those again if we can't solve our problems.

What about, from a geopolitical point of view, how do you intend to get all the nations on earth to cooperate -- or even the US, for that matter? What is your incentive, other than hard work and privation? Those undoubtedly are great selling points to a religious community of monks, but what about the real world?

I could go on for a long time with other examples and reasons why your plan won't work because people are not the simplistic idiots you assume them to be. They are actually quite complex and irrational, meaning not willing to listen to "reason" from people like you easily. But if you can't understand how real world issues and problems differ from the supposed feasibility of your simple solution, there is nothing I could possibly say you would understand.

If you think your solution is feasible, that's fine by me, but when you expect others to join you -- most of them going kicking and screaming -- to a life that rates about where the economy of the Middle Ages in Europe was, good luck!

Personally, I don't care what you people like you do to yourselves, but I know as you gain power, it will eventually affect my personal life, and in fact already has, and that I will not permit.

You really need to get out more.

The "bottom line" is your proposed "solution" completely ignores any negative ramifications whatsoever, as well as any rational way to achieve the goals you are talking about. I think the point that there may be some serious "collateral damage" to your idea is at least worth some serious consideration, which you seem unwilling to do.

Sorry, I've wasted enough time on this. So, end of conversation.



Your post is at best "bad form". You have yet to learn that you can disagree with someone without being disagreeable. You may have valid points but you lose your credibility by being so insulting and nasty. Shame on you.


In terms of my "reading comprehension," I am sufficiently well educated to be able to skim an article to see if it is worthwhile reading or not, or if I would simply be wasting my time, and your article certainly falls into the latter category.

You can "skim" (actually skip) an article to "save" your time but without reading every word of it you can't criticize it.

So, if you maintain that your plan will solve unemployment, without forcing millions of people to starve to death, which is my contention, then prove it will -- prove me wrong. Since you are so confident, it should be relatively easy. Where are the "numbers" to back up your assertions? Or, do we simply go on faith alone? "Trust me," is getting kind of worn out since Obama took office.

You need to research a topic called "Great Leap Forward". The farming policy of Mao worked superb and 1966 was an year of bumper crop. Food was so abundant that Mao took risk by attempting to quickly industralize china. He asked his people to melt all iron they can find anywhere (like toys, furnitures, windows' frames etc) and give it to govt. Chinese people did that in 1967 with so much enthusiasm and devotion that they didn't put needed care in farming, even then it went well for the year because of food reserves of previous year. They didn't stop there but continued this lack of interest in farming and melting everything iron for two more years. The lack of interest in farming resulted in food shortage that ultimately resulted in dieing of 30 million people. Please do research about it. The land policy was working. The rapid industralization policy didn't work. Whatever iron was collected was of low quality and almost of no value because of non-experts melting it.

I get it that you are a republican. What about bush? Trusting him made usa a better country? Trusting him made usa a more secure country? Trusting him make usa a more loved country?

What about, from a geopolitical point of view, how do you intend to get all the nations on earth to cooperate -- or even the US, for that matter? What is your incentive, other than hard work and privation? Those undoubtedly are great selling points to a religious community of monks, but what about the real world?

You and all your fellow republicans need to get out of this fear. No, world countries are not looking for or planning for an invasion of usa. Usa is very very secure due to its geography, its nuclear arsenal, its icbms, its b-52s, its satellites, its seven fleets and its hollywood. Usa can happily slash its budget to 20% and still be the most powerful country in world. Do your research.

If you think your solution is feasible, that's fine by me, but when you expect others to join you -- most of them going kicking and screaming -- to a life that rates about where the economy of the Middle Ages in Europe was, good luck!

Personally, I don't care what you people like you do to yourselves, but I know as you gain power, it will eventually affect my personal life, and in fact already has, and that I will not permit.

You like it or not, you and your party and your country have to power down. There is no other way. There is no substitute of fossil fuels. Get it. We have discussed great deal on TOD about apparently potential solutions but none of them is up to mark by a long shot. All that we can do with collective effort is to power down in a controlled, systematic and gradual way to avoid panic, chaos and civil wars. One way or another you have to learn to live a simpler, closer to nature life with more manual work and more domestic animals.

By the time you read this line I request to please actually read my post, word by word, not just "skim" it.

Before oil, farmers supplied their own energy by growing hay and oats to feed to draft animals. With modern technology (which is NOT going to disappear any time soon) even with no oil available, farmers could grow their own fuel crops to produce ethanol and/or biodiesel right on the farm.
In the old days it took about 1/3 of a farmers land to provide the hay and oats needed to farm the whole farm. With modern technology only about 1/4 of the farm is needed to provide the energy to power all the modern mechanized farm equipment to run the farm. Mechanized equipment only burns fuel when working - Draft animals burn fuel 24/7/52.
But if farmers started growing all their own fuel, there would be 1/4 less crops available for "export" off the farm.
If farmers started once again to grow animals on their farms for fertilizer (manure), meat, milk, eggs, wool, hides etc... there would be a further drop in "grain exports" off the farm.
Farmers is such a situation would make out very nicely as the decline in "grain exports" off the farm would drive up prices and the farmer would probably make as much or more money and they would not have to be paying large amounts of money to buy oil based fuels.
As to using a shovel to move manure, why would any farmer even think about such a foolish waste of time and energy when a skid steer is much faster and more efficient?
Both Iowa and Minnesota Universities have active demonstrations of the capability to utilize stranded wind (wind generators that are not - and can not be - connected to the electrical grid) supplied electricity to make ammonia (nitrogen) fertilizer.
So, modern mechanized agriculture is here to stay, despite what some dreamers would like.
And when farmers start producing their own alcohol and biodiesel they will be using those fuels in their furnaces to heat their homes and barns. Wood will NOT be their primary heat source - only a secondary source. Cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking, hauling from the stack to the stove, hauling out the ashes, adding more wood to the fire every few hours day and night, etc... simply takes too much time effort and manual labor - And it does not give the capability to give nice even thermostatically controlled heat even when you are gone for a few days like liquid fuels can.
We are not going to give up technology and the gains it makes for humanity - just because fossil fuels production declines or stops.
On the other hand, this planet can not support the 6 billion people on the planet now - and certainly not the 9-10 billion projected to be here in less than 40 years from now. Either we drastically cut the population in a rational way (keep the highest quality people and get rid of the dead wood) ourselves very rapidly, or Mother Nature is going to cut it for us in most unpleasant way(s) and with disastrous results for the future of our species.
Overpopulation is the only REAL problem we have. All the rest of the problems are only symptoms of the real problem.

Wasn't "getting rid of the deadwood" something the Nazis tried? How do you define deadwood? Are they the elderly or disabled? Are they the poor folks in the Pakistan floods or the Haitian earthquake? Does the developed world simply stop giving aid to the poor majority and still expect to keep millions of immigrants out?

If farmers started once again to grow animals on their farms for fertilizer (manure), meat, milk, eggs, wool, hides etc... there would be a further drop in "grain exports" off the farm...

The CAFOs run 24/7/52 too. So whether the animals are managed in a distributed fashion or a concentrated fashion... they are still fed. It's a question of where the feed is delivered: barn yard or feed lot. The net differential might or might not be significant.

The real issue here is the subsidy. Does the farmer collect if he uses the grain for feeding his livestock, or must it go through the elevator?. My guess is that it must leave the farm. And so it does.

I imagine ADM and Cargill helped the farmer out in this matter.

Jon Kutz:
Excellent post.

Although I would say peak oil, and peak fossil fuels, is a real problem as well. Even if we had a stable population, we would ultimately deplete this one time gift of nature. Not to mention unsound creation of money.

But exponential growth of population does seem to be at the root of the current manifestations of these problems.

One fallacy I've seen preached not only in this thread but many other times is that people go into business with the idea of maximizing the number of employees. Private enterprise first goal is to maximize profits for the owners and for over a century this has first been done by minimizing the number of employees. It is called increased productivity by the use of better tools of the trade. Private enterprise only adds employees when the number of customers rises significantly. Those new customers must come from somewhere like a foreign country like China or India. Those countries are prospering (actually a small percentage of Chindians are prospering) because they have jobs that formerly went to Americans. The net effect in America has been a drop in the number of private enterprise employees. Domestically new customers can only come from the government adding employees. And the better paid those employees are the more private enterprise goods and services they can buy.

The combination of one way free trade and automation has changed economics in the rich countries in fundamental ways which the GOP refuses to acknowledge and in effect have drawn too many Democrats away from acknowledging. The Democrats have also failed to challenge their GOP opponents in to saying which federal government services they don't want in their state or district. Why don't GOP candidates say which highway projects their area will do without? Why don't they tell us which defense contractors they don't want in their state? Which military bases should be closed in their state? Is there really any good reason for having a naval base in the California desert? Why are the stealth bombers based in Missouri and not in Maine or Alaska where they would be closer to potential targets? Why are the AWACs based in Oklahoma? What enemy is Fort Knox protecting us from? Are they trying to keep those Yankee scoundrels in Ohio form crossing the river? Why don't the Red states refuse food stamp assistance and in effect cut the number of customers for those large grocery store chains? How about their state universities refusing any funding from the National Science foundation and especially funding from the Pentagon? The major airlines should stop landing in red states so the FAA can lay off air traffic controllers? They should quit asking the President to declare their states disaster areas after the next hurricane, flood, earthquake, or wildfire? Since government is always the problem they must not accept any federal aid of any kind in their states. That includes all those special tax breaks for businesses in their states.

Probably the transition to more ag based economy will take place slowly. I`m not sure there will be mobs of hungry indigent because people could be very weak, very tired, by the time they realize the food is really gone from the store shelves.
By then the rationing, the control (Yes I agree BAU industrial ag will be preserved s long as possible) will be underway.

But then, the changes will happen very naturally.

The rich and powerful will be getting more of the food. It will be only natural to clear away your driveway and plant cabbages so you can get some food/trading goods too.

I am pretty sure that a planned transition won`t happen. Because life is a complex themodynamic system not a paragon of virtue.

The system falls slowly and leaves those standing who can trade their skills for food (while everyone else is growing the food). The non-farmworkers are the elite. I think everyone wants to be an elite. So to determine who is going to be an elite it has to be a last man standing kind of trial by fire thing. I agree it`s not pleasant. But we want to fight it out and see who is really the winner in the evolutionary game. We need to know...inquiring minds want to know, need to know. Who is really the strong one, who really has a clue.

The die off process doesn`t have to be quick or violent or objectionable. It can be slow and drawn out, over a generation or two. People stop having children (the 20-somethings now, the poor here in Japan), medical care becomes more casual, people don`t try to avoid death (have you noticed all the articles about how great palliative care is), people shrug their shoulders and walk away from big cities and expenses they can`t meet. In the end they are walking everywhere and not even thinking about it.

I am afraid that the change to an ag society will take place as rapidly as the decline in FF mandates. If depletion of oil/fuel is 5% a year, then that much of ag will have to switch to local. At 8% a year, it takes less than 10 years to get below half.

This is assuming that even with triage of oil, transportation and production will fall. The wealthy will insist on having fuel for their yachts and jets, ya know. And they can pay the price... which is what will drive up fuel prices to where the po' folks will start that ag society. Or die.


Get Ready For A Monster Battle Over Potash And The Future Of The Global Food Supply

The initial thinking, last Tuesday, was that only BHP Billiton had the heft to acquire Potash at a price well north of $30 billion. But then late last week it emerged that Chinese firm Sinochem might be interested, and given that the whole premise of acquiring Potash is that it's a bet on the next generation of Chinese demand (from industrial commodities, to higher end food products), this makes total sense.

Whereas a year ago, the talk was all about securing oil rights for demand needs far in the future, suddenly the talk is all about food.

The "Power Down" scenario is rather alien to most governments. Democratic government cannot cope with the concept. The deficit is just too huge for politicians to face up to and any that do try to confront it will be out on their ear.

In fact the US Government has appointed an Energy Secretary (Dr Chu) with the duty to find the solution - hence the huge sums of money being pushed into BEVs, smart grid, alternative electrical energy storage technology, new nuclear options and renewable energy.

I find it unfortunate that many people who espouse the "Power Down" philosophy do not deal with the reality of global competition (China's buy-up of global resources for example), nor do they deal with the fact that over hudreds of years the efforts of mankind have been cumulative. New technology has provided answers before but there is an assumption now that it won't cope with the full effects of peak oil.

I would hope that those who espouse the "power down" theories are actively recommending to governments that population growth cannot continue? It is after all the "elephant in the room" that people shy away from.

I would also hope that they are promoting the new technologies? No? Given up?

I can easily recognise the possibility that peak oil will devastate the world economies, and that we need to work out how to avoid this.

But what I don't entirely buy into is the defeatist writings that also assume the worst. They often remind me of the people who were certain of a nuclear holocaust in the 1960's to 1980's.

After all. How do you know that ultracapacitor storage will not become the silver bullet for energy storage? How do you know that the nuclear research from fusion, use of thorium and miniaturisation of reactors and many avenues of new efficiency for solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and biofuels will not provide enough of a payback?

If we are to be constructive we should be talking about what we should do to lengthen the transition time to make solutions more viable.

What we are short of is not resource, but time.

Meantime, lets not keep talking about what could happen in the carnage at the bottom of the cliff until we have done all we can at the top.

I find it regretable that the people who write most about these topics are those who value conservation more than the needs of their fellow man.

Well consider this.

If solutions cannot be found and the US political system cannot cope with the need for expedient action, there will be revolution and suffering on a grand scale. External resource wars will come home.

So we all need to look for ways to support Dr Chu's efforts and the efforts of those who are looking for technological solutions.

Nothing else will work.

kind regards




Very well written. However, 40 years ago we had both time and resources and we have done very little to address this problem. People are starting to look at ways to "hedge your bets", I concur with you insight, "nothing else will work" but I doubt that Dr Chu's or other's efforts will be anywhere near effective.

Since growing and transporting food uses only 3% of US energy, and another 4% for refrigeration and cooking, this seems to mis-directed response to limited energy( or at least FF supply)
Why not pay people to walk or bicycle to work instead of driving? This is going to to save much more oil. For the 10% unemployed,, pay to help improve insulation of homes and offices, walk school children to school so their working parents don't have to drive them, help seniors carry home groceries so they dont have to drive.

The money could come from the 400Billion savings in not importing foreign oil, and the reduced health care budget because people are exercising more. Healthy people will actually eat less food so will even make savings on the trivial amount of energy used to grow and transport food.


Why not pay people to walk or bicycle to work instead of driving?

Can't answer that since I was only thinking about the fact that so many people are out of work. They would have to have jobs before you could pay them to walk or bike.

Also, this isn't about saving oil. That is something we should do also. This is about making preparations for when we do run out of FFs. Sooner or later.

Now that the soils have been so badly damaged it will take years of careful management to rebuild the natural capacities of these soils. And it won't be done with tractors so much as with compost, shovels, and horse-drawn wagons and plows.

Where do otherwise intelligent people get the idea that horses are better than tractors? Even the (figuratively) ancient steam engine thresher running off wood recovered from downed trees has a higher EROI than a horse. I have a little over an acre of Sweet Sorghum that I planted with a tractor (using well under a gallon of fuel). Provided I can develop the harvesting, I'll likely have over 500 gallons of ethanol, and.. let's be *extremely* pessimistic and say it takes me 100 gallons to harvest and distill. (More likely it will take 5 gallons, and the distillation energy will come from burning the stalk, or from wind power).. This puts me at a net of 400 gallons of fuel per acre for non-farm uses.

Internal combustion engines are significantly more efficient than live muscle mass, which must be kept fed through the winter. Human labor maybe.. but not horses. There is a huge amount of built capacity in the form of engine blocks in junkyards, which with *human intelligence* can be brought back to working condition and converted to tractors if industrial manufacturing falls apart. Hell, at least one of the tractors my father still uses on his farm is older than I am (35 years)

Agriculture is going to get smaller, simply because every farm operator is going to have to be a high-level systems manager, with systems arguably more complex than the space shuttle. (the biodiversity in the soil, weather variability, crops, etc). This will hopefully leave a lot of options for knowledge workers *on the farm*.

Agreed that total demechanisation is unlikely. My little 35hp tractor does the work of many hours of human power with just a few gallons of fuel each year. It runs well on B-100 and if we had to scale back to far fewer gallons and hours/ year, the payback in productivity would be significant. I can move a ton of mulch/compost/manure in about 10 minutes using perhaps a pint of biodiesel. Try that with a shovel and wheel barrow. I also refuse to reject modern techniques such as planting on plastic mulch and PV powered drip irrigation. Great time and resource savers, saving water and the use of weed/pest control products even on a small scale.

Horses are better than tractors, cars, trucks, bikes because:

(1) Horses need no fossil fuels.

(2) Horses don't cause global warming.

(3) Horses don't cause noise pollution.

(4) Horses can reproduce themselves.

(5) Horses are good company.

(6) Horses need no roads to move.

(7) Horses can be trained to work semi automatically.

(8) Horses can be eaten.

(9) Horses' skin can make good shoes.

(10) Horses produce milk.

(11) Horses can be fed on crop residues, grass and low quality grains that humans don't eat.

(12) Horses' solid excretions can be burn in stove to cook food on.

(13) Horses' provide a better way to manage your herd of sheep, goats, cows etc.

(14) Horses knowing where you live can take you home when you faint, drunk or injured.

(15) Horses can put their brakes saving you when you accidentally push them over a bridge, hill.

(16) Horses can become good playmates for your children.

(17) Horses can warn you of a burglar etc by seeing, smelling them when you are asleep.

(18) Horses can be helpful in impressing your woman that you are a strong and caring man.

(19) Horses can auto repair by healing of wounds when damaged with little care and cost.

(20) Horses can amuse you when you are sad by doing tricks, dancing, jumping etc.

(21) Horses can smell natural dangers like lions, snakes etc to save you.

(22) Horses can be helpful to you in being healthy and avoiding diseases by riding on them.

(23) Horses helps you in becoming good managers because you learn how to take care of and take work from a living creature. After all, the term "management" literally means "horse keeping".

(24) Horses help you become more positive as you learn to love, care, sympathize a living creature.

(25) Horses help you going close to nature as you go on horse rides and see the real world oppose to living in a virtual world of cinema, tv, computer. This reduce the mind control effects (including slavery, greed, selfishness) put on you by media, politicians, corporations and bankers.

etc etc etc

Draft type Horses, ones that make good work horses, are somewhat rare in the US. The market is so bad now that few people are breeding them. If the time comes and good work horses are needed precious few will be available.

In this part of the US, draft horses are easy to come by. Now a well trained "sane/safe" draft horse... well that is another story. I believe that there are more horses in the US than at any other time in history. It won't be the "availability" of horses but teaching humans how to work with and care for a horse that will be the issue, kinda like my grandfather learning to use a computer.

Horses need much upkeep. I left my car in the garage for three days last week while I was out of town and when I got back it was dead. I had to get a new pair of shoes after stepping in my car poop. We have a whole crew of people who do nothing but clean up my car poop. I spent almost 6 months training my car to work.There are good reasons that cars displaced horses.

(1) Horses require land.

(2) Horses' pasturage requires land.

(3) Horses' hay crops require land.

(4) Horses require tons of mechanical equipment for the harvest and storage of said hay crop.

(5) Horses require metals for tack and shoes, and blacksmiths or farriers.

(6) Horses require barns and stalls for storage of said hay crop and the horses themselves.

(7) Horses require expensive veterinarian visits when they get sick.

(8) Horses can kick you in the spleen.

(9) Horses can drive your buggy into a ditch and give you a head injury.

(10) Horses require an extensive infrastructure for their maintenance.

(11) Horses' shit must be moved and spread with mechanical equipment.

(12) Horses fart in the presence of polite company.

(13) Horses spook and run rampant killing bystanders.

(14) Horses sometimes suffer from prolapsed penis and must be put down.

(15) Horses require fencing--extensive, expensive fencing--and electricity to keep them on the land or else they'll run away and get killed in traffic.

(16) Horses require water and water pumps to keep them hydrated.

(17) Horses are not born fabulous but must go through a prolonged training period which usually requires that you hire someone to train them.

(18) Horses require a grain store, a hardware store, a farm store.

(19) Are there any wheelwrights still around?

(20) I love my tractors.

(Have owned horses. I like them, but they're no panacea.)

Lets see:

(1) Horses require land.

(2) Horses' pasturage requires land.

(3) Horses' hay crops require land.

A horse with average mass 500 kg needs 40 calories per kg mass per day, 20,000 calories per day. One kg of hay (hay is when grass etc become dry enough that they are 80% or more dry mass and 20% or less moisture) equals 2000 calories. So, a horse needs 10 kg of hay per day. One kg of grain means 2,500 calories digestible by horses, so 8 kg grain per day. Traditional farming yields are 1600 kg hay, 800 kg oats per acre in one summer crop every year.

Lets make a system in which we let horses feed on pasture in summer and provide them a diet of half hay and half grains in winters. Pasture is land where grass grows naturally without any human effort, the downside is low yield of 400 kg per acre per crop.

Lets suppose we are keeping a couple of horses for breeding and calves. Since horses can work for 15 to 20 years we need not keep a lots of calves due to low replacement rate requirement. I calculated that a 20% body mass of calves is all we need for replacement, the rest being adult horses. Also note that since required replacement rate is quiet low (a calf can be fully grown and working in 2 to 3 years), the female horse is free to work 80% of her adult life (rest being spent exclusively to take care of calves).

1,250 kg horses body mass needs 50,000 calories a day which means 25 kg hay a day. 180 days a year, 25 kg hay a year, means 4,500 kg hay, that means 11.25 acres of natural pasture. For the other 180 days a year, 25,000 calories are provided by 10 kg grains, 25,000 calories are provided by 12.5 kg hay, altogether 1800 kg grains which requires 2.25 acres and 2250 kg hay which requires 1.375 acres. Add them all up: 11.25 acres pasture + 2.25 acres grain crop + 1.375 acres hay crop equals 15 acres.

If land is short, then all this land can be cultivated to grow hay, leaving no land for natural pasture. At that rate, 360 x 25 kg hay means 9,000 kg hay, which means 5.625 acres. Hay can be stored for winter with some losses in nutrients, if that losses are 33% then we need 2.8125 x 0.5 = 1.4 more acres, meaning 7 acres in all.

Horses can be fed crop residues of grains too, which are 25% to 50% of grains yield. Lets say 25% and knowing that its 2,000 calories per kg, one kg of grains means 2,500 calories from grains plus 500 calories from residues (25% of 1 kg is 0.25 kg, multiply by 2, equals 500 calories). If crop residues are 50% by mass of grains yield then 1,000 calories from there, total 3,500 calories.

I suggest that we provide half calories of horses in form of grains and rest half in form of hay and crop residues. Its because its better to store grains than hay for winter, because grains loses less nutrients in storage than hay and because we can eat grains in times of trouble but we can never eat grass. So, 50,000 calories, half comes from grains so 25,000 calories / 2.5 equals 10 kg grains, 5,000 calories comes from residues, rest 20,000 calories means 10 kg hay. So, we need 3,600 kg grains and 3,600 kg hay per year. I also suggest that we prepare for 400 equivalent days for a year, not 360, to have some safety margin. So, 4,000 kg grains and 4,000 kg hay per year. At a traditional farm it means 5 acres for grains and 2.5 acres for hay. Lets keep the rest 2.5 acres in form of non-arable land in village (rocks etc) for actual keeping of horses and for some water storage. A half acres pond is advised for substantial quantity of water storage, both for horses' drinking and cleaning and also a safety storage for crop water. So, a 10 acres (7.5 acres arable) is all you need.

Lets see how much such a horse can work in a year. Assuming everything is done traditionally, we have one crop a year, which means 1 month of plowing every year. When a pair of bulls can plow an acre a day, horses being double in mass than bulls can each plow the same. A land need to be plowed 1 to 3 times depending on soil, lets take average, 2. So, each horse can plow 15 acres in a month. We have two horses so we can plow 30 acres in a month. Admittedly we have to give off a quarter of that, 7.5 acres for the keeping of horses, so in a sense EROI over here is 4.0. It means we have to give off 1 acre in keeping of horses to get 4 acres plowed by that horse.

Note that uptil now our horses have worked only 1 month a year. They can be made to work in rest 11 months too in transportation, in irrigation, in mining etc. Let me explain the irrigation part here. In Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, China, Iraq, Syria etc there is a simple machine made of wood which is called rehat. A well is dug in ground and a simple machine is made which pulls water from well in a series of buckets and each bucket moving in a semi circle position drop water in a canal below that takes this water to farm. Its a simple machine and horses can be made to work on moving it. If the working of machines sounds too complicated then try archimedes screw which can be moved in the same direction indefinitely and keep moving a liquid to a height. Since it always moves in one direction, a horse can be put to move it in circles.

Some industrial usage of horses can also be taken. Oil from oil seeds is extracted in Pakistan by about the same mechanism. In between two cylinderical pieces of wood or stone oil seeds are kept and a bull is put to work. Even wheat can be milled this way. If you get creative you can weave this way, first set up the machine, a very large machine, then move horses and when thread is weaved in one direction (lets say bottom to up), stop the horses, move the machine 90 degrees and move the horses again to weave from that direction (right to left). Even electricity can be made this way, make two ponds of water, one at a lower ground and one at an upper ground. Use a horse to move an archimedes screw that moves water from the ground pond to upper pond. Keep doing it till the upper pond is full. Then open the gates of upper pond to let water fall in the ground pond. Put a turbine in the down path of water moving from upper pond to lower pond. The turbine will move generating electricity.

Yes wind can be made to do the same thing and if the pond scheme is used then fluctuations in wind speed is no longer a problem. Whenever wind moves with enough speed it moves the archimedes screw and you get energy. Archimedes screw is like 85% to 90% efficient so very acceptable. The other problem with wind, its direction can be solved by making a horizontal circle instead of a vertical circle therefore catching half of the winds (all winds within our needed 180 degrees direction). Admittedly leaving that system on its own may result in occasional back moving of the screw but if wind patterns are understood then still a viable machine can be made.

I don't know but may be a tractor like machine can be made which can store energy in form mechanical clocks store in them.

Please note I discussed a traditional farm above. In a modern farm, even without using green revolution seeds yields can be multipled by 4 (by 2 due to two crops and by 2 more due to irrigation, better knowledge etc).

(4) Horses require tons of mechanical equipment for the harvest and storage of said hay crop.

(5) Horses require metals for tack and shoes, and blacksmiths or farriers

Learn to work by hand. Soon your automobiles and electric machines would be departed from you. Better train yourself now, in times of ease and abundance than when you have to do that by force, in times of scarcity and troubles. 75% population of world plow, seed, care and harvest crops by hands and still live comfortable lives. Its not in your sense of comfort and ease though.

Tons of storage? Well a cart moved by hand can take 250 kg of load in one turn. For a 5 ton movement of goods from farm to store house you need like 20 turns, can be easily done in 2 days time.

Horses, unlike tractors, are not covered from head to toe by iron. They are not made of iron, either. We put iron shoes on them which are very small pieces of iron. You are over complicating the entire thing. One blacksmith in a couple of villages used to be norm for 3,000 years.

(6) Horses require barns and stalls for storage of said hay crop and the horses themselves.

One stall and barn is sufficient for two dozen horses. How many are you planning to keep? I would say a couple of horses is enough. A horse need only as much space as a toilet and lives happily in that. Its not human, its not you, its not greedy, it only takes what it needs.

(7) Horses require expensive veterinarian visits when they get sick.

(8) Horses can kick you in the spleen.

(9) Horses can drive your buggy into a ditch and give you a head injury.

You need to learn the medication stuff yourself if you want to keep any animal, bird or insect. If the veterinarian visits is legal requirement then that law need to be changed. As long as you are capable and knowledgeable enough to take care of your animals, govt need not interfere. Where are your emotions about individuality, small size govt etc on this?

A horse could, would and should kick you in your privates if you don't know how to handle them. Thats a lesson for you from nature. A car would hit you to a pole or drown you in a river if you don't know how to handle it.

Perhaps the only horses you know are fancy race horses breed and used for your amusement. A poor animal like horse needs very, very little infrastructure. Yes, a horse needs to run and need large piece of land for that purpose to stay healthy but it need not be an arable land. You can ride your horse outside your village ten miles. It also helps you get some vitamin from sunlight.

(11) Horses' shit must be moved and spread with mechanical equipment.

No. You can pick it up with a shovel, carry it on a cart and put that on a plot away from your house. Let it dry for a day or two there. Then bring now solid stuff to your house and burn it in your stove. Use a close stove with a small passage of air so that the ashes remains in stove. After a while, collect those ashes and spread that on your farm. It do need effort. It do need human labor. It do need manual work. Thats why its an excellent thing to indulge unemployed into. Unemployment means availability of large scale unused human labor, learn to use it.

(12) Horses fart in the presence of polite company.

Why take horses inside buildings. As long as they are in open air this can't be a problem, unless ofcourse you have fed them something wrong which made them ill.

(13) Horses spook and run rampant killing bystanders.

Only when you treat them bad which make them want to run away so panicly.

(14) Horses sometimes suffer from prolapsed penis and must be put down.

So do you. Its a disease which can be avoided, reduced and cured. Get them medicines when they need. Simple.

(15) Horses require fencing--extensive, expensive fencing--and electricity to keep them on the land or else they'll run away and get killed in traffic.

Ok this can be complicated but there is a solution. Get to your nearest hardware store and get a nail, large size and thick. Now get a hammer, dig that nail in ground. Now get a thing called "rope" (google it), tie one end of it on the neck of your horse, other in the nail in ground. Might be extremely complicated but it do work.

(16) Horses require water and water pumps to keep them hydrated.

You, 75 kg mass needs 2.5 kg water a day. Horse, 500 kg mass, needs 16.67 kg water a day. Lets say 20 kg in summer. Its still a bucket of water. Either get that from your well and put that in a large bowl in their stable, or take them to a pond a few times a day.

(17) Horses are not born fabulous but must go through a prolonged training period which usually requires that you hire someone to train them.

What about driving a tractor or a car? You didn't learned that in a day, did you? A horse can substitute a tractor (by plowing), a car (by personnel carrier horse cart), a boat (by swimming with you on back of it) and a bike (riding fast on bad roads) so when you learn to ride a horse you save time in learning how to ride each of tractor, car, boat and bike (driving each of these needs separate training times).

You need to be more self sufficient. You not really need a teacher to train you how to ride horses. You can trust your instinct. Practise. Be friendly with the poor creature. You can learn how to ride a horse on your own, many do, no rocket science there.

No sir. Unless you are keeping two dozen horses you don't need any extensive grain store, farm store. You do need to buy one time stuff from a hardware store, things like horse shoes, nails etc but its a one time purchase. Unlike a tractor you are not dependent on spare parts.

(19) Are there any wheelwrights still around?

You mean horse carts? Even if there are not they can be made. When your country can make nukes it can also make horse carts.

(20) I love my tractors.

(Have owned horses. I like them, but they're no panacea.)

If you love non-living things over living things then your mentally is materialistic. You need to change that. You need to love life.

I don't believe you ever owned a horse. If you do you would be loving it. Were you spending time with it? How much time?

What you quoted was not claiming horses were better than tractors. It was in recognition that when petroleum is no longer available you won't be running tractors anymore.

There's going to be land to feed inefficient horses that eat like crazy all year round, even in winter when there's not much for them to do - and there's not going to be land to grow inputs to make B100 to "feed" a small tractor that only "eats" when it's actually doing work? Isn't this a bit off the deep doomer end?

Try to put that tractor out to pasture and let it make its own fuel.

Horses eat grass, not corn. People eat corn, not grass. Is that too far out to understand, or is there something I am missing here?


What kind of far-out doomer-porn meme requires the tractor to "make its own fuel"? Even the horse never "made its own fuel" back in what you seem to think for some unfathomable reason were the good old days. People maintained and cultivated the pasture. People put up winter feed without which the horse would have starved. People smelted the metals, tanned the leather, and hewed and worked the wood to make the implements and apparatus without which the horse would have been utterly useless for farm work.

So, now, why can't people use some of those skills to rebuild or recycle a tractor once in a very great while, and fuel it with B100? Who imposed the arbitrary rule that everything learned since the, oh, 7th century must be forgotten and ignored? Did that rule come about because this is some kind of callous "Survivor"-type TV game about resurrecting the dead past no matter who must die to do so? What is the point?

People didn't bio-engineered horses. Horses were living on planet tens of millions of years before the first human. Guess on what they used to feed themselves on?

A pasture by definition is natural grassland which requires no human effort to grow grass. Horses left on these pastures can feed themselves without any human assistance.

Horses did able to survive tens of millions of winters before any human find out how to store feed for horses for winter.

You are forgetting that horses are living creatures who can live happily and sustainably without any human assistance.

Tractors need to be made and repaired which requires a lots of iron. To get that iron, in absence of fossil fuels you have to burn wood which has problems of smog and smoke. Also there is not enough wood left in world to do any large scale burning in factory furnaces. It was infact the shortage of wood back in 1700s that leaded to usage of coal.

Tractors need to be fueled and in absence of fossil fuels you are left with bio-fuels. Bio-fuels in all its forms is marginally energy positive which made it unsustainable, problematic and at substantial number of times a loss activity net energy wise.

Now you are showing your zeonist nature when you directly attack islam. You need to learn about great muslim scientists, from jabir bin hayan to abiseena to berouni etc. You have to need to learn their great contributions including algebra, rules of optics (that lead to making of camera), rules of mechanics (that lead to making of internal combustion engines), trignometery, surgery, knowledge of medicines, knowledge of logic (the binary logic, discovered by aristotle in 320 bc and almost forgotted till 800 A.D. when muslims refound it and found more about it, its the binary logic that lead to making of computers) etc etc etc. Between 700 A.D. and 1250 A.D. almost all the scientific discoveries and inventions were made by muslims and the rest were made by a handful of indians and chinese. From 1250 A.D. onwards the speed of scientific advancements in muslim world (and in all the world because muslims were at the leading edge of science since a long time) slowed but still moving with substantial speed till about 1600 A.D. after which unfortunately muslims started becoming ignorant of science. In military sciences muslims invented greek-fire (a liquid that catches fire when exposed to air, a precursor of gun powder), after china invented gun powder muslims got this technology and enhanced it, the first missiles were made by tipu sultan in late 18th century south india, barbarosa invented submarines in the first half of 16th century A.D. when no european fleet can stand muslim fleets of ottoman empire, muslims invented the first rifles. The list is very, very long and I am just writing here what I remember off the bat.

Scientific advancements in its nature is good, its their use that makes it bad. Some technologies are so much ready for bad use and so hard to be used for good purpose that they better be abandoned. An example is nuclear fission, it comes with unsolved problem of radioactivity that can destroy a land for tens of thousands of years and can result in cancers. Nuclear fission is good when its done outside planet earth, on moon for example and energy is sent to earth. Use of fossil fuels is another example, it results in dependency on a one-time energy availability which once gone not come back (unlike wood, hay, crops etc), it also results in global warming. At some places use of fossil fuels is indeed good, for example in making strong plastic, in making wax, in making lubricants, in making grease, in making glue for ship parts.

I had a chance to get two fine donkeys recently for free. While I have plenty of pasture for them, as a matter of practicality it didn't make sense.

My tractor is a great listener.

Donkeys are noisey and don't have a key to shut them up.

I would spend as much or more on ferrier and vet costs as my current tractor costs for fuel and lubricant.

My tractor sits quietly in the barn for weeks without complaint. When I need it, it's glad to see me and goes right to work.

My tractor is happy with B-100, just a few gallons a year, and rarely needs water.

The lubricants my tractor needs have a very long shelf life. I am well stocked.

I have dogs for companionship and their "alarm factor". Donkeys don't like dogs.

It makes more sense to use our pastures for things we can eat. Donkeys are a bit stringy according to reports.

My neighbor uses draft horses and mules for logging and plowing. He says tractors are safer and WTSHTF he will be glad to do some plowing in exchange for some pasture time for his draft animals.

I expect some fuels and lubricants to be available for food production for many years, long enough to transition to other means of doing work. Besides, if there is no fuel no one will steal my tractor. It's likely that if there is no fuel for food production, people will be eating each other (after they eat your horse).

I can't prove it of course, but I believe that for the most part we will be using tractors for the vast majority of farm work for the forseeable future and probably forever, since they can be made to last just about forever and do so much useful work on such a small amount of fuel.

More than likely we can manufacture the fuel by any one of several means more economically in terns of land, dollars, or energy than we can raise food for draft animals.

Ghung is right about the tractor sitting quietly in its shed until it is needed;and the reality on the ground is that most farm machinery sits for months on end and then is used intensively for a few days or weeks.Furthermore as I have said here before, even a small tractor using only a few gallons of diesel can do several times more work in a day than even the most powerful team of horses.And it can do it again the next day, too, no rest period needed.

Now a horse or two might be put to very good use in conjunction with a tractor on some farms, especially if it can also be utilized for other non ag work such as toting a kid to school or fetching home a sack full of stuff from the grocery and hardware store.A horse is perfect for riding fence lines, checking cows scattered out in a large pasture, and pulling a small wagon while your are harvesting sweet corn or cantaloupes by hand, as it can learn to move up with you as you move thru the field, and wait for you as necessary.

Now I will not deny that at some point a long way down the road that we may again be living in harmony with the land and producing most of our needs locally on a small scale.But very few of us if any are going to live to see this in big picture form.People will be moving to farms and working on them for lack lack of better opportunities,probably, pushed along by public policies designed to reduce the expense of supporting them.

But the skills and infrastructure such as housing to necessary to create the envisioned new ag model simply don't exist, and they are simply not going to come into being over the next few decades, any more than wind and solar are going to be ramped up fast enough to maintain bau.

We will work thru a transition, quite possibly accompanied by war and a die off, over several generations.This generation and the next one are going to farm mostly with ff, supplemented with manufactured fuels.The fuels will be there because they will be preferentially allocated to food production.But don't expect to be eating citrus flown in from Central America in New York, or green beans flown from Africa in London,or very much corn fed beef anywhere, once tshtf.

Fuel won't be available for that sort of food distribution.

Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." --Johnson (1755)

Please let's not wallow in arrant nonsense. Everything is not in corn and grass; and hardly anything that is in corn or grass is obliged to remain forever in corn or grass. Not in 1755 and not now.

Horses eat grass but they haven't got the stomach structure of water buffalo or oxen. So people fed them some grain when they needed hard work from them, as implied by the quote. And even leaving that aside, land is at least partially fungible despite, say, X's persistent silly rationalizations for overdoing ethanol. And to use horses on any meaningful scale we'd need to give considerable land over to feeding them, because we're not feeding the required number now. We may have more horses than in 1755, but we also have two orders of magnitude more people, so we'd need plenty more horses than we had then or have now. That would take land that's not now feeding horses.

When you genetically modify a horse to have:

  • a power take off to run equipment like mowers, sprayers, etc.,
  • a hydraulic pump to raise and lower attachments, and
  • a pulley for use with belt driven equipment like hammer mills, buzz saws, etc

let us know.

Besides, I don't believe that draft horses would meet OSHA requirements for worker safety.

Put that tractor out to pasture and let it reproduce itself, let it auto repair itself, let it be your food and fuel, let it automatically drive you home when you can't drive etc.

When they are not working they are still making meat, milk, leather, fuel for you. When they are not working in a farm they can still work in transportation, factory and mining.

Would you consider it doomish to run to bomb shelter when you know that nuclear missiles are heading towards your city? Would you continue business as usual? Please do see "the arrivals" at youtube to understand the level of hypnotism and mind control americans and europeans are suffering from.

There's going to be land to feed inefficient horses that eat like crazy all year round, even in winter when there's not much for them to do - and there's not going to be land to grow inputs to make B100 to "feed" a small tractor that only "eats" when it's actually doing work? Isn't this a bit off the deep doomer end?

A horse is not you, it knows how much it should eat.

Let's please not be obtuse and stupid about this. A horse is a mammal. It's warm blooded. It must eat all year round whether it is doing any useful work or not. Unlike a tractor which "eats" only when it's working.

They are better because they are sustainable, alive and food and fuel.

If these things come to pass we will need both tractors used with great care and horses.


I get your primary point, and agree with you totally-we need to get humping double time to save and renew our soil (and water) resources;this is an utter necessity, not just a desirable goal, if terms of main taining a livable world for future generations-and for the younger people alive today;and since we are going to be forced by necessity to put a lot of people to work on some sort of make work programs that have pay no immediate returns ANYWAY, it only makes good sense that a lot of them should be working along the lines you suggest.

I have often commented here that despite the high average intelligence level , the members of this forum tend to read everything literally, rather than analytically, for the insights to be gained thereby.

Other than the fact that you didn't say much about the time frame needed and available to make the transition to a powered down agriculture, I think your arguments are compelling to say the least.

I do disagree in respect to a few details however;I am reasonably sure that if we transition to a renewables economy without a collapse-which seems unlikely, I'm afraid-there will always be fuel for farm machinery;industry simply isn't going away because we are out of oil and ng, or even coal;in a hundred years,we will still be casting ande maching iron,in small quantities i admit, but I simply can't think of a better use for it than to build a tractor or a railroad.

A gallon of biodiesel will accomplish a lot more work than the hay corn or oats which can be grown on the same amount of land can accomplish when used to fuel a horse-several times more work, actually.

And although the tractor I inherited from my grandfather which was new in 1957 is considered worn out, actually it isn't;replacing less than ten percent of the components by wieght would put it into good enough order to run it another half century.Machinery can be built to last indefinitely , if the designer so specifies.

That old tractor can plow more ground on ten or fifteen gallons of ethanol- if I modify it a little-in a day than a man with a team can plow in a week.No contest.

Hey Oldfarmermac.

I don't really disagree with the potential for the extension of machinery long into the coming power down. In fact in my blog I write about a village in which the use of "appropriate" technology is a necessity in order to maintain a human life style -- that is one in which every individual has the opportunity to achieve (or at least work toward) self-actualization. It is our human heritage to build and use tools that can be powered by local and accessible energies. I have no problem with that at all.

At the same time I am not really trying to prognosticate beyond recognizing a few major and, seemingly, inexorable trends. The major one being that the extraction of fossil fuels relies heavily on the economic infrastructure we have today. If that (e.g. the financial system, the industrial manufacturing system, the bulk transportation system) fail at the scale we are used to, I fear that the capacity to extract FFs will also fail.

Perhaps local production of biodiesel will keep some farming equipment viable (and as several have noted, preclude the need for going BACK to horses). I just think that what that equipment will be used for is quite different from industrial style agriculture, a form of food production that will rely more heavily on soil health and principles from ecosystems. The latter were what existed to sustain human existence when we were hunter-gatherers and it actually did quite well by us. My being enamored with permaculture comes from the fact that it is based on modern systems ecology knowledge and therefore principled as well as experimentally (experientially) verified.

I never want to come off as wanting to RETURN to some ROMANTICIZED past period, as some who have commented here characterize it. My approach is to consider appropriate scale and complexity given the net energy flows that we can actually have. I suspect that will be considerably less than many people now hope for.



I believe you have summed up the overall situation very well indeed , considering the fact that you have to paint damned fast with a very wide brush to fit such a huge subject into an essay of a length suitable for TOD.

I too believe that is very possible, maybe even probable, that industrial society will suffer a fairly sudden collapse or severe decline as ff supplies decline.we might simply haver to transition as best we can under emergency conditions to powered down agriculture.

If so, life ain't going to be pretty for a decade at least;in such a situation, we will get a generous first hand taste of life as it exists for the god forsaken people living in Somalia or North Korea.

There is little doubt in my mind that bau agriculture as we know it will undergo such a transformation over the next few decades that todays older farmers would be utterly amazed at the sight of a mid 21 century farm.

And most of these changes are probably going to be compatible in spirit or principle with permaculture, by which I mean that from one year to the next, things gradually move toward a more sustainable long term model.I just see the transformation happening gradually at first as such practices prove to be more economical and practical than older methods;and then accelerating at a great rate as people find themselves in a position such that a job growing food involving lots of hands on work morphs into a desirable career choice- because it will involve a govt wage subsidy which will take the worst of the uncertainty out of the risky business of farming.

Incomes are definitely going to decline a great deal as the easy ff ride plays out;I forsee tens of millions of people getting into gardening in a serious way here in the states over the next decade not because there is a lack of food in grocery stores-but because there is a lack of money in wallets and checking accounts to pay for it- people reasonably well off by today's standards will find it desirable to stretch thier incomes by any means possible before too long.

I am enough of a populist to hope that as the situation begins to get really painful, the more numerous and (less well off) portion of the citizens of this country will be abler to organize themselves in such a a way that they can force the passage of legislation which will make it extremely difficult for the elite to contunue an energy hog lifestyle.

The sort of legislation I have in mind:

a punitive tax on jet fuel, a draconian luxury tax on personal cars bigger than todays compacts,a consumption tax on electricity usage above certain basic levels, and so forth;such policies will buy time and help maintain order.

I suspect there are a large number of not-mutually-exclusive policies that would minimize but nor eliminate the pain of power down. I've just tried to stir up some thoughts about this one possibility. I had hoped someone might help me find a salable argument for the current political climate (my cynicism expressed my inability to find such an argument). Thanks for your participation in the discussion. Your experience gives you a leg up on matters of food production.


The main advantage in returning to the horse is the effect it would have in reconnecting us to the natural rhythm of life. Using a tractor puts us at odds with the natural order, the unnatural noise, the pollution, the chemical smells, dripping fluids, excessive heat, the lack of life energy.

There are quite a few comments here were people are down right defensive about their tractors. I suspect that when someone is defensive it is like someone has put a mirror in front of them and they don't like what they see.

Horses are very smart and to get there willing cooperation they must respect you.

Geez,ryeguy, I think you take us tractor guys much too seriously. Those of us who farm some and have tractors, etc. are some of the most resourceful and self reliant folks around. When it comes to adaptation time they will be way ahead of the curve, the "whatever works" curve. If it makes sense for a group of farmers to pool their resources and keep a tractor and all of its implements functional; seed drill, corn picker, manure spreader, front end loader, hay baler, plows and harvesters, I'm sure they'll find a way. When it makes more sense to use draft animals, they'll do that too.

Like I said, it's whatever works. This isn't some religion.

This isn't some religion.

Astute point; I go back and forth with this. I have no use for religion but sometimes I do wonder if there is not some little something behind the curtain. When I am using my JD 1010, it is like probably not, when I'm with one of my horses I think just maybe there might be.

Ha! We had a JD 1010. Great little tractor. I gave it to a buddy who rebuilt it to like brand new. (It was originally designed to work rice paddies in SE Asia. I still have a manual that came with it in Vietnamese.)

I know what your saying, but when I have a 5 acre blackberry invasion I can pray or I can hook up the bush hog. Someday I'll have goats to do my mowing for me ;-)

Your idea would make a good start. I would add a project or three. One would be rebuilding our railroads. Take the money from highways and airports.

Another could be to rebuild our city public light rail. Cover light rail with solar panels to provide some of the energy. Start national solar and wind generator factories to provide national and state electricity.

Institute real national heath care for everyone provided via national health clinics. Getting rid of health insurance companies would eliminate an unnecessary middle man. Institute Federal medical schools to quadruple the number of doctors. All qualified applicants from existing premed schools get in tuition free and must serve wherever needed in the national clinics for a period of 10 years.

Eliminate malpractice lawsuits. Egregious malpractice become a criminal offence with prison time.

Reinstitute the old income tax system without loopholes so that the top income earners pay 90% on anything above $200,000 per year. Then have decresing percentages down to the poverty line. Those below the poverty line get brought up to it via direct payment. Have a minimum corporate income tax of 10% of gross sales worldwide. This tax is dropped gradually to to zero for every 10,000 American employees with jobs in the 50 United States. Have 10% duties on all imports to keep the playing field level.

How about some other idea folks!

Govt can put ban on shifting of capital outside country. To enforce that, an upper limit on proportion of capital being in liquid form can be put. That brings power back in govt's hands from corporate hands.

One way to fight unemployment is to force corporations to have a standard number of positions according to work done by those corporations. This is to prevent corporations from forcing an employee working at multiple roles. It also put a limit on down sizing where a very small number of employees are forced to over stretch doing far more work than what is healthy for them in long term.

All medical facilities must be public and free. Period.

All education facilities must be public and free. Period.

All lawyers' licenses must be canceled, all over the board and no new licenses be ever generated. Lawyers help rich and powerful get out of due punishments of law by giving them an unfair advantage, whereas poor suffers more than they should because judges suppose their lawyers would be defending them. Infact, getting the truth is a duty of judge himself. When a person is unable to express himself, its the judge that must go the extra mile to understand what he is saying. Role of judge need to be increased, role of lawyers need to be eliminated. Also all judges need be males to avoid sexism, emotional biases, periods influenced irregularities and illogicalness. Laws need to be simplified and displayed on road crossing for everybody in empire to understand, like what hamorabi king of babylon did 5,000 years ago.

Interests on all loans needs to be abolished right away. Lender can only get the original loan back. No more interests, no more "need" of growth, no more concentration of wealth in a few hands, no more banks, no more govts helping banks, no more unfair advantage to large businessmen, no more zeonism, no more israel, very few wars.

Most powers of govt need to be delegated to local committees, counsils, soviets. On every 10,000 people there need be a representative of govt, elected by people (only males of age above 30 or 40). Only powers left with central govt should be defense, currency, constitution and foreign relations. The local level govt must have atleast these powers: police, judiciary, tax collection, charity distribution, maintenance of public buildings, education, medical.

Currency must be only gold and silver. Gold for large transactions like buying of house, vehicle, land etc. Silver being 70 times cheaper for buying groceries, clothes, restaurant bills, bus fares etc. All paper currencies need be abolished to prevent govts eating people's savings.

Every locality discussed above need to have a large hall like building with a dome on top where anybody without a place to live can come and live. Clean water, toilet, bath, ventilation, stove, locker facility need to be provided by govt at this hall free of charge. Ideally this building should have three floors, a ground floor where people can gather once a month for a meeting or once a week for entertainment, an upper floor for living of homeless people, a basement for storage of food items and medicines and wood and soaps etc. This building need to be built at a height, lets say on a hill, to be safe from floods.

Working hours need to be reduced to six per day for all works. Ideally working hours for farm, factory and office workers need to be between dawn and noon, about 6 am in morning to 12 pm. People work six days a week, 40 weeks a year.

Management levels work at multiples of 8, that is, at each management level, subordinates get multiplied by 8. This manager don't produce any goods or services of his own, except the service of management, that is beside the duty to manage he is not given any other duty. This manager need no supporting staff like secretaries etc. This manager get a clean double salary than his subordinates of the immediate low level.

Things need to be made of strong materials like wood, metal and with substantial thickness to last for a long time. Utensils for example need to be made of copper with a half or quarter inch thickness, beds and chairs need to have an inch or two thickness, walls half meter to one meter. Use of glass need be avoided everywhere except in windows, mirrors and lenses, that is no more glass use in making fancy walls of buildings.

Govt should get itself involved in keeping a large number of domestic animals like horses, bulls, donkeys, camels etc to not only have an abundant alternate means of transportation but also train people in basic art of animal keeping. These animals should ideally be kept in a shed near the locality building discussed above. A large ground need to be left around the main building for those animals to graze.

I have enjoyed reading your posts. However, your statement "Also all judges need be males to avoid sexism, emotional biases, periods influenced irregularities and illogicalness." I found to be somewhat "over the top". Obviously you must be female considering your emotional biases toward horses. I think you will find that all human hormones effect/influence illogicalness, including testorome, if anything being male should preclude you from being a judge!!! LOL

If this is an example of the "Wisdom" from Pakistan,
I just can't wait until that new TOD member joins, DumbnessFromPakistan
It should be quite entertaining.

You forgot to mention that all persons must wear their underwear on the outside and inside-out to show that it is clean. (Actually that was Woody Allens' idea in his Bananas movie)

I hesitate to bring up anything that sounds remotely like partisan politics, but you sound like a "reincarnation" of Herbert Hoover, or at least that of some of his ideas, on how to turn this country around back in the very early 1930s -- which I hasten to say is for me a positive.

Hoover has been the victim of a very effective smear campaign to discredit his name, primarily because the wealthy hated him for raising taxes income and estate taxes on them specifically, including raising the corporate taxes, and trying to save what was left of American jobs through the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

There is a summary of his life on Wikipedia, which you might find interesting, given your stated views, especially the sections entitled "Great Depression" and "Economy."

I point this out to you with no other motive than the thought you might personally be interested in pursuing this line of reasoning further. And then, only because your thoughts seem to parallel many of the economic policies espoused by Hoover, which have been completely forgotten today.

However, if I am mistaken, I apologize ahead of time.

I think it is most unfortunate we have forgotten the lessons from the history of that period, especially since it is the lessons learned during that period of the early Great Depression that seem to be the most pressingly similar to what the US is facing, or are about to face, right now.

If Obama is truly struggling to come to grips with this economy and create jobs as he maintains, then he could do far worse than implement some of Hoover's economic policies -- although, I doubt he would have any better luck than Hoover did, since the wealthy seem to be firmly in control once more.

Unfortunately, I do not expect any better economic times ahead than those during the Great Depression. In fact, we face them with far less resources and greater desperation.

At least then, the US had still had the economic means to recover, unlike now.




He perhaps is the only engineer president of usa. Being a mining engineer and geologist with actual working experience both in usa and abroad he perhaps did understand the unstable basis on which the then booming economy of usa was built.

You are right that he was targeting by the rich for raising of taxes. Like obama's proposed health care plan is dubbed "obama care" so do shanty towns of his time as "hoovervilles". It seems like even then media was powerful enough to fool people with one-liners. Very few people actually have the mental capacity, willingness, education, skills and time to think deep and question things. Majority (and its a very huge majority, something like 90 to 95 percent) just flow in the tide. Thats why democracy is a bad idea. Giving every adult voting right gives power in hands of media. This cancer has spread so much that now not even american presidents can come in power without aid of media. It was not always like that. The real system on which empires were built and sustained was giving the decision power in hands of few, very few thinkers. Leaders were selected, not elected.

This reminds me four horses of satan for modern times that i figured out: Nationalism, Evolution, Democracy, Banking System.

Hoover being president and being president in such times of trouble when usa gdp falled two third in two years, when unemployment was 25% etc could do much better. First thing he needed to do was to take power in his hands. He should have closed all banks and all private media companies. He should have nationalized critical industries for short term and then privatize them to large number of small business men after 5 to 10 years. He should have banned tractors thereby sending the unemployed back to farm. He should have not only stop taking any money from germany (world war 1 reparation payments) but also give germany aid to get it out of trouble. That would have prevent nazis from coming in power. Europe and america had put huge load on war torn germany after world war 1 and left it go down. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Depressions calls for nazi and mesoulini like leaders.

Fast forward to today, obama ofcourse needs to call back all troops from all wars usa is involved in and do that immediately. Obama also need to close all (over 1000) american military bases outside usa. Obama need to power down america in a controlled manner, by putting more people in farming and manual factory labor. Obama needs to close down wasteful institutes like nasa etc to save money. Obama need to cut down budget of american military 5 to 10 times to make it at par with budget of next country with highest military budget. Obama needs to slowly dismantle large cities (all cities over 4 million population) and give rise to villages, towns and small cities.

Rather than President Hoover, the whole thread brings to mind Vice President Agnew and his phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism". (Actually, it was written for Spiro by William Saffire.)

Institute real national heath care for everyone provided via national health clinics.

Oh, goody. I'm sure those will work just as reliably and punctually as the 3:35 city bus, except that at least when the bus fails to show up for the umpteenth time, it's "only" an inconvenience. How exactly is either the bus or the clinic supposed to work effectively, when it's run by the government, and thus by law staffed by tenured and therefore oftentimes shiftless, incompetent, and unreliable (but nonetheless obscenely overpaid) civil "servants"?

How many residents of soviet union, france you heard who died or suffered because of bad health care service provided by govt?

I can tell my experience here. In Pakistan govt do provide health care service free to all residents upto high-end surgeries like bypass, neuro etc. It do takes effort of standing in lines, getting appointments with long time periods in between but at the end if you stick to it you can get totally free health care including medicines and hospital stay and even food. Comparing that with private health care which too we have plenty here and I have experience of both to a large extent due to my ill father (he had replacement of retina, two cataract surgeries, damage of ear drum, angina, teeth problems, skin disease) and mother (she has diabetics, a cataract surgery and several diabetic related skin problems surgeries and faintness), I found out that private health care though very convenient and fast is insanely expensive and not expert enough. Public health care is very expert because of very large experience of doctors there who see tens to hundreds of patients every day. In private clinics and hospitals they see may be 5 or 10 patients a day. Also the entire paramedical system of public health care, the workings of nurses, ward boys, sweepers etc is very good and systematic. Also public health care facilities are always very large hospitals with plenty of choice of doctors to choose from. Also since they are not working for money so they don't put patients in unnecessary trouble of extensive testings, over stays in hospitals.

Soviet Union? ROFLMAO. Everything was run by the government, and their life expectancy was a sick joke. Naturally one never heard much about it (or anything else) since dissenters got packed off to Siberia, or simply shot dead.

France? Fortunately for them, service is not exclusively provided by the government (as presumably it would be in a system of "national clinics" with everything else abolished, as set out in the original post.) Couverture maladie universelle is more of an insurance concept as the name suggests. About two-thirds of the hospital system is indeed provided by the government, which leaves one-third private to keep the government honest and provide a backstop when they get lazy. (And the system often does not cover 100% of medical costs, with the co-pay according to a mind-numbingly complicated ticket modérateur schedule, something which should be kept in mind by starry-eyed Americans and others who seem to think everything in Europe is just one big jolly free ride.)

"If at the end if you stick to it you can get totally free health care..." Well, sure, if you've got the stamina to stick to it that long. But that probably means you're not very sick yet. The trouble is, not-very-sick people often get a lot sicker while they're waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, and then the stamina is gone...

I often disagree with your posts, but a non-western perspective is always valuable. Thanks for your posts.

There are something like 40 million people in the U.S. without any heathcare. I expect that number to grow. You also seem to be thinking that our current corporate run government is the only type of government possible. It is not. In any case, a doctor who is late for the start of his daily appointments is better than no doctor at all.

That 40 million is bogus - most have chosen not to have any, or haven't bothered to enroll in government plans for which they are eligible.

Also, there is an increasing number of US retail health clinics. This is the way most healthcare should be bought - just go there when you need to and pay out of your pocket. The government tax subsidies of employer health plans, often with full coverage, seems to have made enormous damage to your health system.

No matter what the problem or where they live, people will do what they have always done...squabble about it and do nothing.

WFP, you would have loved "Mr. Ed"...

Thanks George.
I am thinking in evolutionary terms, especially punctuated evolution.
This bottleneck event might trigger a cladogenisis.
I am hoping that post human might remove food from economic activities and put it firmly into the cultural realm.

My vision is a food forest with GMO's such as perennial wheat and other creative solutions growing rampantly.
Animal GMO's will serve as willing transport when needed

Humans would also be GMO's. Ovulation as an act of will springs to mind.

Humans will serve as a component of the Internet mind.

This is not "back" to anything at all.

I watched a news report a few years ago about the decline in dairy farming in Switzerland. For generations Alpine farmers had taken their cattle up the mountains to feed in the mornings and brought them back down in the evenings. The problem was the younger generation couldnt be bothered with getting up early or the physical work. They all wanted to work in offices with computers hence the decline.

That? Or maybe it payed better to work in an office and not produce anything but paper profits? I see a huge difference between those who serve the common good, by adding value to materials or fixing things and those who play with paper. Playing with paper is the way to go. Reverse evolution, like with the peacock, personnel success leads to species detriment.

Yeah, it is the same story everywhere. Only true desperation will make people go back to the land. No one wants to be first in line. People here would rather do without marriage and kids than leave the city and their cell phone/restaurant meals/nice clothes lifestyle. (Actually I think that is fine, their choice. I would say the pressure to have kids is certainly off here! Noone would dare mention it.....people can`t afford all the things that go with a baby: a house, car, etc.)). They will just stay single, living off handouts from their parents, spending time in book stores. God forbid they should go and live in a village and farm! Some do go that route but they are rather pitied for having to be bored in the middle of nowhere.

There was a TV program which took two peach/grape farmers from the sticks (an older woman and her daughter-in-law) and brought them to Tokyo for makeovers. Everyone in the studio was agog over the new hairdos, the clothes they got in boutiques in Tokyo, the makeup done by pros.....the subtext is that they are not beautiful and sophisticated until they have been touched by the big city. Everyone would rather be a pauper in Tokyo than a wealthy peasant....

MikeB wrote this further up in the thread and it really deserves a better response than I've seen so far:

"One might even say that "organic" and "permaculture" are shibboleths in the peaker "community." It doesn't help that the term "permaculture" is so vague as to be meaningless ("planting things in curves instead of rows" is the manifestation I see most frequently). And after working at an organic farm and seeing the inputs of organic matter, diesel, and plastic that go into the production of weeds and insects--I mean fruits and vegetables--I can't for the life of me see how this method could work at all at a large scale (never mind the huge expense of "organic" pesticides)."

I think too often permaculture is seen as just a synonym with organic farming.

It's not.

The innovation in permaculture is the food forest. The reason it's important is that by modeling a natural woodland, it is the closest thing we can get to a functional ecosystem. But since the species are stacked towards food production, yields are much better than just going out foraging.

What is being proposed in this article is basically Sharon Astyk's "nation of farmers". I would go farther and say what we need is a nation of permaculture gardeners, not farmers.

The reason we need this is that it's the only way for us to "geoengineer" the planet to combat climate change in a benign way, and to address species loss.

I don't think organic farming does that. A large part of the damage to the ecosystem is taking place through agriculture. This is not just the diesel tractors and trucks, but disruption of the nitrogen cycle and destroying natural habitats, among many other things.

Do I think we'll be able to stave off a die-off if we all join hands and practice permaculture? Geoff Lawton might say yes. I don't, especially if we keep shooting for more population doublings. But if you want a long-term sustainability, and some sort of final reconciliation with the natural world, which is the whole purpose of permaculture, you have to think about ecosystems, not just about "how long can I keep doing X to produce Y."


For those like MikeB who propose that we stop fighting and love Monsanto, don't fall into tunnel vision.

We as a species will ultimately be limited by the weakest link in the chain. If we are able to use shale gas or nukes or wind power to keep pumping nitrogen fertilizer into 'dead' soils, then we'll just move down the line to the next weakest link in the chain. For instance, the way we grow our crops leads to massive erosion and nitrogen blooms. In the west-coast where most of our fresh produce is grown, pumped irrigation (what little they're allowed to pump due to water restrictions) is salting the soils there just like what happened to ancient mesopotamia.

The list of limits to growth is so vast that we often can't think of it in total, but as long as we try to solve things in isolation, we're not solving anything at all. We're just slapping on band-aids.

So whenever I read about how we just have to reallocate resources and suddenly BAU's got a new lease on life, that may be true. Maybe we can kick the can down the road, but then we'll erode the great plains all the way down to the bedrock. Or we'll convert the ocean into carbonic acid and completely kill all sea life. The trend-lines for all these things should already be clear to any oil drum veterans.

Yet it seems like some people here really have a hard time seeing that we have an _ecosystemic_ problem rather than just a liquid fuels crisis!

If all you're concerned about is stalling the consequences long enough to get through the rest of your life without fighting the zombie horde, by all means push for stacking a new layer of cards on the house of cards. But that's not my definition of sustainability nor do I think it's morally responsible for future generations who will face an even more dystopian outcome.


Do I think this permaculture proposal is politically feasible? No, I don't, not the least of which is because permaculture has been so poorly marketed to the masses that even in a forum like this that people merely conflate it with organic farming. Permaculture may be a valid form of earth stewardship, but it has failed to popularize itself over the last 30 years. Only now that it is being embraced by doomers, showing up in blogs and youtube videos, and is entwined in things like the Transition Town movement is it starting to make some headway.

The other problem with permaculture is the long lead-times required for it to pay off in the food forest domain. The reason organic farming is more attractive is that it's more instant gratification. Even those who are into gardening will have a hard time allocating land for trees that won't yield for several years. For instance, I have grape vines that are in their second year and haven't fruited. Developing the patience to wait for perennials is very hard to do, and will be even harder if we fall into a real food crisis. And it also assumes stability. If it takes decades for a sweet chestnut to reach maturity, it only takes a few minutes to chop one down. Whereas (outside Cormac McCarthy novels) annual agriculture can bounce back almost immediately after entire cities are razed to the ground.

As such, permaculture is dependent on the world maintaining some semblance of stability. It can not respond to crises beyond the domain of simple bog-standard organic annual agriculture. There's really nothing novel about that outside of the cliche' about using ducks to eat slugs.


Thanks for the informed comment and response to MikeB. I was silly enough to think that providing a link to permaculture and Holmgren's page would suffice to allow those who had not actually done a little research to get caught up in understanding what the term meant. Clearly there are commentators on the blog who happily forgo such research in favor of maintaining their cherished beliefs. Alas and alack.

One small point, however. I am not actually proposing that permaculture is THE solution so much as using it as a point of reference in terms of what might be done/required for soil remediation. I think it is a high standard to meet, but one that positions us best if the worst should come about vis-a-vis fossil fuels depleted and alternatives not scaled up to meet the same level of demand. In which case permaculture communities look like the only really viable options. But that is in the future and to be determined. Meanwhile I only propose to offer work to millions who need jobs now doing something that would be useful even if BAU were to re-obtain.

Like you, I would that permaculture be better communicated to the public. I am trying to either start a school nearby or even some courses at the university where I teach.


If Mike B has proposed that "we stop fighting and love Monsato", I missed that post.

He is one of the most astute commenters here when the subject is the reality of crops in the fields.

I don't believe you have read his words at all carefully.

It must be understood however that his comments are mostly geared to a real time, present day and near future to mid term future time frame.

Of course if one stops to think about it a bit, one will realize that if we don't live thru the near and mid term, we won't have to worry about the long term. ;)

Mike and I think alike as the result of both of us having extensive actual experience as well as a sound understanding of the science, day to day work, and economics of food production.We are both passionately concerned, and worried, about the future.We know things are going to change -a lot.We just foresee a different set of changes from the ones so often visualized by theoriticians.

But we also actually know why some of the schemes so passionately advocated by arm chair experts and amatuers with little real world experience aren't going to work-at least under prevailing real world conditions.

Maybe in a hundred years the agricultural world will look like George Mobious envisions it.Maybe it will look pretty much as it does today, with food mostly being grown on large farms powered by renewables, and shipped on trains that go within a few miles of any place with a few hundred people.Electric or biofueled trucks could easily deal with the last few miles at either end of the rail spurs.

I do foresee renewables being relatively cheaper than fossil fuels, bur still expensive enough that they will necessarily be used very sparingly.Conservation and efficiency are going to be the key words goinbg forward.

More than likely both of these scenarios are totally off someplace in left field

"Of course if one stops to think about it a bit, one will realize that if we don't live thru the near and mid term, we won't have to worry about the long term. ;)"

No matter how bad things get, SOME humans will survive. So the survival of the species is not at issue. The question is how much will remain of the ecosystem when the dust settles. As long as we cling to short-term thinking, and kick the can down the road, the sheer weight of 7-10+ billion of us will surely render the planet a hollowed out shell by the end of it.

So we really have a Tragedy of the Commons situation in which people can't snap out of thinking about their immediate security.


I agree with your response-but I intended my comment about our surviving the near and mid term was to be read as referring to the vast majority of us as individuals, not the species.

Government was instituted to secure rights and govern those who consent. It was not instituted to solve problems. It doesn't even have the power to create money (see USCON, Art. 1, Sec. 8, and Sec. 10). The economic problems stem from usury in a finite money token system coupled with voluntary socialism (via FICA). Those two anchor chains are dragging America into the abyss.

Frankly, the 1930s Great Depression (in America) was over decade long because of the government meddling. We face a similar, protracted period of economic pain and suffering, based on current trends.

However, if people did have absolute ownership of their lands, and no threat of expropriation by "servant government", I would think that they would soon find the best way to put that land to use, for their own gain. Other countries and cultures farm on a much smaller scale than {regulated|subsidized} agribiz, and at a higher crop yield per surface area (but at a higher cost in labor).

Cynicism compels me to not expect anything closely resembling wisdom, when it comes to partisan politics in a socialist entitlement system.

"...if people did have absolute ownership of their lands, and no threat of expropriation by "servant government" ..."

That also leaves Corporations with the same access and freedom from unpopular rules.. which as we've seen, leaves both Companies and Individuals encouraged to Extract, Extract, Extract.

We need to have certain decisions made on a 'collective' scale in a fair balance with the private freedoms that we also need. We do really need to, as the founding fathers said, continually refresh the Government of, by and for the people.. but that will always have repercussions when people see 'riches' that the rest of the society has found must be extracted 'with limitations'.

George I'd like to understand more about your overall thinking towards the notion of economic limits. As we know, the production of credit is roughly equal to the production of future promises--which must be paid back with labor and resources. This is why, imo, the current and rather primitive conversation taking place within the humdrum of US partisan politics, in which Left and Right are pitted against each other on the issue of deficit spending, is off target. For example, it is quite silly for Paul Krugman to appear on national TV and assert "we've got plenty of money" in the same way it is nonsense for the Right to claim that some new, marginal productivity benefit can accrue to the economy by dropping taxes even further. At further extremes we have James Galbraith, who imo subcribes to a quack theory roughly known as Chartalism. I bring this up because I assumed you shared the view that creating new credit claims was synonymous with creating new future claims on resources. So I noticed when you wrote the following two lines.

1. "While the politicians wring their hands and cry about how awful the jobs situation is, and as they contemplate a possible stimulus package (except, of course for the Republicans who have bravely led the fight to curb the deficit — as if it mattered)."

2. "The American people are extremely spoiled. They actually believe that because they are Americans they have some rights to consume without consequences."

In my view, the notion that we have the right to consume without consequences is exactly the same as the notion we have the write to produce credit, without consequences. Especially public credit.




I will try to expand later. I have an appointment now.

Basically (and I write about this on my blog QE under biophysical econ and political econ) creating credit is OK if it is for investment in something that will pay off in that future by producing more income than would have been the case without it. That is what I think this proposal says (or I meant to say!)

Thankyou. Yes indeed, I feel strongly there is a new faultline now between Keynesians who simply want to throw new debt-marked capital at the existing system, and Keynesians who want to target such new debt-marked credit to build needed capacity. I am of the latter. (As an aside, Krugman et al started out in the latter camp, and have converted to the former in the past 18 months). I might even go farther: while the world is still trapped into the USD reserve currency regime, I might be tempted to simply print currency that is not debt-marked, and build rail, utility grade solar and wind, and agriculture stuff. Indeed, in the middle of your post, you seem to lean in that direction as well.


Keynesianism can't work on a finite planet, period. Ultimately the ability to service debt will collapse without exploitation of ever higher amounts of resources, whether it be land, people, food, fossil fuel energy, what have you.

Keynesianism only works if you assume people will be colonizing the Moon and Mars, and we'll find much there that is of value.

Good luck with that.

Printing money doesn't work either. It merely causes inflation and destroys prudent savers.

Moreover, his belief in "countercyclical" spending demonstrates a stunning naivety about human psychology, as if politicans would take away the punch bowl right when the party gets interesting.

How many people-how many human souls-have been sacrificed in war to satisfy the need for ever more economic growth? How many useless strip malls and buildings and roads and cars are built?

Keynes was smart, but also lucky. He lived at a time when there was still so much fossil fuel energy left to exploit, and thereby, to service debt.

There is no creamy nugget of energy at the center of human sociopolitical organization.

And even if there was, what would we do with it? Build a utopia?

Keynesianism is a bad Orwellian joke that people will ultimately awaken from.

'Keynesianism is a bad Orwellian joke that people will ultimately awaken from.'

Everybody says that about everybody else's system.

Never did well in College Economics. In all the years elapsed since, I have yet to see any evidence that the "Economists" have done very well in it either...

They will try to "model" it endlessly, but I would wonder how they would input "Greedy Bastards" as a Variable?

The "Game" has been rigged for a long, long, time.

Since George is a computer scientist, he knows all about the "greedy algorithm". It's actually a useful approach to solving all kinds of optimization problems. I wouldn't be surprised that steady greed is all that is required to account for resource depletion. I use it myself for my models.

Wondered how you could factor in that one:) And on second thought, I'd reckin' its not a Variable, but a "Constant"...


In any case it would be wisest to count upon such a falling off of contributions from the provinces as well as from abroad.

And how is this falling off to be made good? Why, in heaven's name, by setting to work ourselves! No need to rack our brains for far-fetched panaceas when the remedy lies close at hand!

The large towns must undertake to till the soil, like the country districts. We must return to what biology calls "the integration of functions"--after the division of labour the taking up of it as a whole--this is the course followed throughout Nature.

Besides, philosophy apart, the force of circumstances would bring about this result. Let Paris see that at the end of eight months it will be running short of bread, and Paris will set to work to grow wheat.

"What about land?" It will not be wanting, for it is round the great towns, and round Paris especially, that the parks and pleasure grounds of the landed gentry are to be found. These thousands of acres only await the skilled labour of the husbandman to surround Paris with fields infinitely more fertile and productive than the steppes of southern Russia, where the soil is dried up by the sun. Nor will labour be lacking. To what should the two million citizens of Paris turn their attention when they would be no longer catering for the luxurious fads and amusements of Russian princes, Roumanian grandees, and wives of Berlin financiers?

With all the mechanical inventions of the century; with all the intelligence and technical skill of the worker accustomed to deal with complicated machinery; with inventors, chemists, professors of botany, practical botanists like the market gardeners of Gennevilliers; with all the plant that they could use for multiplying and improving machinery, and, finally, with the organizing spirit of the Parisian people, their pluck and energy--with all these at its command, the agriculture of the anarchist Com mune of Paris would be a very different thing from the rude husbandry of the Ardennes.

Steam, electricity, the heat of the sun, and the breath of the wind, will ere long be pressed into service. The steam harrow and the steam plough will quickly do the rough work of preparation, and the soil, thus cleaned and enriched, will only need the intelligent care of man, and of woman even more than man, to be clothed with luxuriant vegetation--not once but three or four times in the year.

Thus, learning the art of horticulture from experts, and trying experiments in different methods on small patches of soil reserved for the purpose, vying with each other to obtain the best returns, finding in physical exercise, without exhaustion or overwork, the health and strength which so often flags in cities,--men, women, and children will gladly turn to the labour of the fields, when it is no longer a slavish drudgery, but has become pleasure, a festival, a renewal of health and joy.

"There are no barren lands; the earth is worth what man is worth"--that is the last word of modern agriculture. Ask of the earth and she will give you bread, provided that you ask aright.

A district, though it were as small as the depart ments of the Seine and the Seine-et-Oise, and with so great a city as Paris to feed, would be practically sufficient to grow upon it all the food supplies, which otherwise might fail to reach it.