preview / intro
5. The roller-coaster economy. This isn’t the place for me to offer my explanation for the probability of global economic collapse. (See http://www.ellenlaconte.com/excerpts-from-life-rules/#chpfour for that.)
No pundits, talking-heads or economic analysts (well, very few) deny there are rough economic times ahead. Even many of the cautious among them acknowledge that we may be looking at five or six years of high unemployment and many of the lost jobs won’t be coming back.
The less cautious, like me, predict the collapse of the whole fossil-fueled, funny-money, inequitable, overly-complicated global economic system in the lifetimes of anyone under 50.
Well, at the rate we’re going in all the wrong directions politically and economically, I hazard the guess, anyone under 80.
Clearly, depending on the present system to provide us with most or all of our food reliably or long-term, is unwise in the extreme.
Which is how we get back to why we need to garden as if our lives depended on it.
Bringing food production processes and systems closer to home is going to prove vital to our survival. We need to take producing our own and each other’s food as seriously as we’ve taken producing a money income because growing numbers of us won’t have enough money to buy food in the conventional ways and there will be less of it to buy.
So what’s our recourse?
Ellen Laconconte – via The Peoples Voice April 1, 2011
Spring has sprung—at least south of the northern tier of states where snow still has a ban on it–and the grass has ‘riz. And so has the price of most foods, which is particularly devastating just now when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, retired or retiring, on declining or fixed incomes and are having to choose between paying their mortgages, credit card bills, car payments, and medical and utility bills and eating enough and healthily. Many are eating more fast food, prepared foods, junk food—all of which are also becoming more expensive—or less food.
In some American towns, and not just impoverished backwaters, as many as 30 percent of residents can’t afford to feed themselves and their families sufficiently, let alone nutritiously. Here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina where I live it’s 25 percent. Across the country one out of six of the elderly suffers from malnutrition and hunger. And the number of children served one or two of their heartiest, healthiest meals by their schools grows annually as the number of them living at poverty levels tops twenty percent. Thirty-seven million Americans rely on food banks that now routinely sport half-empty shelves and report near-empty bank accounts. And this is a prosperous nation!
In some cases this round of price hikes on everything from cereal and steak to fresh veggies and bread—and even the flour that can usually be bought cheaply to make it— will be temporary. But over the long term the systems that have provided most Americans with a diversity, quantity and quality of foods envied by the rest of the world are not going to be as reliable as they were.
What’s for Supper Down the Road?
As they move through the next few decades Americans can expect
- the price of conventionally produced food to rise and not come down again,
- prices to rollercoaster so that budgeting is unpredictable,
- some foods to become very expensive compared to what we’re used to
- and others, beginning with some of the multiple versions of the same thing made by the same company to garner a bigger market share and more shelf space, to gradually become unavailable.
Tremors in food supply chains and pricing will make gardening look like a lot more than a hobby, a seasonal workout, a practical way to fill your pantry with your summer favorites, or a physically, spiritually and mentally healing activity, or all four. Gardening and small-scale and collective farming, especially of staple crops and the ones that could stave off malnutrition, could become as important as bringing home the bacon, both the piggy and the dollar kind. Why?
Why’s Gardening So Important Now?
There are at least five reasons why more of us should take up spade, rake and hoe, make compost and raise good soil and garden beds with a vengeance, starting this spring and with an eye toward forever.
1. Peak oil. Most petroleum experts agree that we shot past peak oil in the US around 1971. Lest you’ve missed the raging (http://www.postcarbon.org), that’s the point at which more than half the readily, affordably retrievable oil in reserves has been used up, what remains is more expensive to retrieve, and the dregs are irretrievable. We’ve shot or are about to shoot past peak worldwide, estimates of when ranging from 2007 to 2013, with many oil company execs agreeing to at least the latter. There are no new cheap-easy oil fields coming on line. Any new fields you hear about or new methods, like tar sands drilling are expensive, water guzzling, dangerous, environmentally disastrous and unlikely to produce more than a few years worth of oil, and that a decade or more down the line. That means abundant, cheap oil is about to be history. What difference does that make?
For one thing, there is no replacement for oil that can do all that oil has done as cheaply and universally as oil has done it. I offer an exercise in Life Rules, “The ABC’s of Peak Oil” which helps readers imaginatively subtract from their lives everything that depends in one way or another on cheap easy oil. It doesn’t leave much. (See Beth Terry’s website http://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/, for example, for what subtracting plastics may entail.)
The global economy that presently supplies us with our food, runs on cheap oil and lots of it. It runs slower and less predictably on expensive oil that’s hard to get because it’s located in hard-to-reach or high-risk conflict-ridden zones. Cheap, abundant food on the shelves of grocery and big box stores and food banks, on our tables and in our bellies depends on cheap abundant oil for fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and to power farm machinery and transport food from fields to processors and packagers and then to purveyors and consumers, around the world. Past peak, that system’s going to have maybe half the half-life of the strontium 90 that’s escaping the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor: 15 years, if that. One good-sized global crisis, if Japan’s ripple effects aren’t quite it yet, and not that long.
2. Peak soil & space: A couple of links between peak oil and peak soil: First, it matters that one of the proposed alternatives to oil is biofuels. Acreage around the world is being converted from production of corn, wheat and soy for human and animal consumption—i.e., food—to production of ethanol and biofuels to put in trucks and cars and . . . Which makes remaining corn, et al, more expensive. Some energeconomy geniuses are proposing that Afghanis, for example, convert the fields of opium poppies that are their primary agricultural export, not to growing grains or legumes or other staple foods, but to biofuel (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/putting-poppies-in-the-gas-tank/8379/), which would, not coincidentally, make the gasoline that goes in American military equipment much cheaper and provide Afghanis with a profitable market item rather than food.
According to a 2009 National Geographic staff report, (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/06/cheap-food/bourne-text), “The corn used to make a 25-gallon tank of ethanol would feed one person for a year.” Tell that to Archer-Daniels-Midland, Al Gore’s deep-pockets friend and mega-ethanol and corn products producer.
Second, the huge oil-gluttonous machinery that has made factory farming possible has compacted soils, literally crushing the life out of them.
continue at truthseeker.co.uk – http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=24647
- Garden As If Your Life Depended On It, Because It Does (alternet.org)
- The Sustainable Marriage [Casaubon’s Book] (scienceblogs.com)
- Different Types Of Vegetable Gardens (juicingforhealth.wordpress.com)