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Permaculture and the Myth of Scarcity
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
Posts: 544

PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:48 pm    Post subject: Permaculture and the Myth of Scarcity Reply with quote

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-10-02/permaculture-and-the-myth-of-scarcity


'The minister said, Stop. You dont understand. We cannot afford such luxuries here. In my country, people are starving.
This reflects a common conception about organic agriculture that it sacrifices productivity in the interests of the environment and health. It stands to reason that if you forgo pesticides and chemical fertilizer, yields are going to suffer'


'When people project an imminent food crisis based on population growth or Peak Oil, they take for granted the agricultural methods we practice today. Thus, while the transitional period may involve temporary food shortages and real hardship, permaculture methods can easily feed the peak world population of perhaps 10 or 11 billion well see by mid-century'


It's worthwhile clicking the David Blume article.
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a recent-ish (about 2001?) convert to the idea that organic intensive farming can produce more food per land area than "conventional" ag., I can endorse that. It's not often I completely change my attitude to something, but the clincher was (Green Party guest looks out of Renewable wearedodgy window at Renewable garden) "think how much food you could produce there if you had spuds/beans/chickens, and you already have all those fruit trees too. Now scale that up to tens of acres...".

I had, literally, never thought of it that way before.
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emordnilap



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes.

A relatively small proportion of the land given over to 'pasture' hereabouts could grow hundreds - thousands - of tons of veg.

Peas and beans grow really well here in the west of Ireland. We have masses of them for little work/land.
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
As a recent-ish (about 2001?) convert to the idea that organic intensive farming can produce more food per land area than "conventional" ag., I can endorse that. It's not often I completely change my attitude to something, but the clincher was (Green Party guest looks out of Renewable wearedodgy window at Renewable garden) "think how much food you could produce there if you had spuds/beans/chickens, and you already have all those fruit trees too. Now scale that up to tens of acres...".

I had, literally, never thought of it that way before.


Of course and you weren't meant to think about anything other than your compartmentalised slot, as is the way if it.

After we *do* start actually engaging and thinking about things, the picture changes, quite profoundly.

Here's some folk yapping about stuff on the broad-scale...
http://www.savoryinstitute.com/events/international-conference/2014-london-conference/
Major climatic events aside, growing stuff is not a problem.

ps...Just add, Darren Doherty, really is right on the Zeitgeist with the broad-scale stuff.

This blokes no slouch either http://vimeo.com/107121250
I'd advise anyone to take a in -depth PDC course, especially the younger generation, if there's going to be any work worth doing then good design will be crucial.
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
As a recent-ish (about 2001?) convert to the idea that organic intensive farming can produce more food per land area than "conventional" ag., I can endorse that. It's not often I completely change my attitude to something, but the clincher was (Green Party guest looks out of Renewable wearedodgy window at Renewable garden) "think how much food you could produce there if you had spuds/beans/chickens, and you already have all those fruit trees too. Now scale that up to tens of acres...".

I had, literally, never thought of it that way before.
I agree, intensive hand tended organic horticulture is by far and away the largest production method per area of land. But, it cannot be scaled up. Firstly, because our population, in this country at least, is so far above it's carrying capacity already that it is a moot argument as to whether there would be sufficient land to grow all that we self sufficiently needed even given 100% organic hand intensive horticulture. Secondly, it won't scale up because of all of the other systems requiring people (who won't be growing anything) that are required to maintain an otherwise utterly unsustainable civilisation such as the ancillary, non food producing jobs needed to maintain, organisationally as well as infrastructurally, the various systems our society needs in order to stay functioning. And I'm not on about frivolous stuff here. I'm talking about the water systems, power systems, sewage systems, transportation systems, policing, healthcare, social care, education, government admin, military etc.

It's way too late.
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biffvernon



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just read the section in Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything, about the Pacific Island of Nauru. It's bad what agrochemical farming did. Very bad.
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RenewableCandy



Joined: 12 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
But, it cannot be scaled up. Firstly, because our population, in this country at least, is so far above it's carrying capacity already that it is a moot argument as to whether there would be sufficient land to grow all that we self sufficiently needed even given 100% organic hand intensive horticulture.
But that's the wonderful thing...it needn't make us absolutely self-sufficient in order to help us: even if it only goes small-scale and adds a few percentage points to the UK's "ag. self-sufficiency rating" (currently about 15% for fruit-and-veg) that's no bad thing.

The bit that nobody mentions is, though, that this stuff takes up people's time but is also quite pleasant to do if done at one's own pace. Thus, it displaces people from activities such as driving around, shopping for things they don't need, or going on holiday somewhere.

As for the people in crucial employment, in theory there's nothing to stop them pottering in their garden growing a few beans/leaves/tomatoes at the weekends. And things like fruit or nut trees pretty well grow themselves: just this jolly eve someone has come 'round here with the idea we plant up some apple trees round te edge of our (huge) local playing field. I'm on the Committee...
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Tarrel



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not like we have a choice. Even if conventional ag. was more productive, it relies on energy inputs that just won't be available in the near future.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
.......Firstly, because our population, in this country at least, is so far above it's carrying capacity already that it is a moot argument as to whether there would be sufficient land to grow all that we self sufficiently needed even given 100% organic hand intensive horticulture. ......


Not true! According to three Zero Carbon Britain reports we can feed ourselves
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Catweazle



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

People are already growing more food than 10 years ago, not through any effort to reduce food air-miles but in an effort to save money. Teaching schoolkids how to grow veg and keep chickens would be more useful than RE. Couple that with a planning system that allowed small houses to be built on 1 acre plots and relaxed regulations for selling excess produce "at the gate" and maybe we'd get somewhere.

I'm sure that half the problem is that people don't know just how easy it is to grow food, they're blinded by adverts that suggest food needs to be processed by rocket scientists or celebrity chefs to make it edible. Every school should have an allotment type garden supplementing the wearedodgy, and adding a qualification at GCSE level would help those kids who had a gift for it.
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fuzzy



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Organic farming doesn't work best in farming for retail. If you grow your own, you generally eat most damaged produce. This stuff would be wasted for retail even if we lowered our crazy standards, and farmers are reluctant to compost the same crop waste for bugs etc. I used to think washed crops were naff until you see how much water and garden soil you waste cleaning garden produce in your wearedodgy. UK farms are a very distorted supply, with subsidies, lobbying, retailer pressure, food imports, and tenant farmers. The UK needed land ownership reform 1500 years ago. A nation of crofting families using modern methods and selling at markets would be happier and live OK.
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
RenewableCandy wrote:
As a recent-ish (about 2001?) convert to the idea that organic intensive farming can produce more food per land area than "conventional" ag., I can endorse that. It's not often I completely change my attitude to something, but the clincher was (Green Party guest looks out of Renewable wearedodgy window at Renewable garden) "think how much food you could produce there if you had spuds/beans/chickens, and you already have all those fruit trees too. Now scale that up to tens of acres...".

I had, literally, never thought of it that way before.
I agree, intensive hand tended organic horticulture is by far and away the largest production method per area of land. But, it cannot be scaled up. Firstly, because our population, in this country at least, is so far above it's carrying capacity already that it is a moot argument as to whether there would be sufficient land to grow all that we self sufficiently needed even given 100% organic hand intensive horticulture. Secondly, it won't scale up because of all of the other systems requiring people (who won't be growing anything) that are required to maintain an otherwise utterly unsustainable civilisation such as the ancillary, non food producing jobs needed to maintain, organisationally as well as infrastructurally, the various systems our society needs in order to stay functioning. And I'm not on about frivolous stuff here. I'm talking about the water systems, power systems, sewage systems, transportation systems, policing, healthcare, social care, education, government admin, military etc.

It's way too late.


An excerpt the Blume article linked within the OP.

' Restorative agriculture?\which goes far beyond sustainable agriculturedepends on solar energy replacing fossil fuel use. Buckminster Fuller and I discussed this back in 1983 when he wrote the foreword for my book Alcohol Can Be A Gas!, that accompanied my ten part PBS television series at that time. (Alcohol is a virtually pollution free engine fuel which is superior in almost every way to gasoline.) World photosynthesis in its fully undesigned state, produces biomass in wasteful agriculture and in the wild which far exceeds human need. Our analysis shows that world biomass photosynthesis produces between 6 and 15 times what we used to power every human need every year, including food, electricity, transportation, and heat.

In a designed system, especially a permaculturally-designed system, we could increase the biomass produced by an order of magnitude and in so doing supply all our needs in a much smaller footprint. For instance, you only get about 200 gallons per acre of alcohol fuel from corn, but 1000 gallons from sugar beets, 1200 from Jerusalem Artichokes, 1500 gallons from annual sugar cane in southern states and a variety of other crops which, when properly designed for climate, might yield 2500 gallons per year from two crop cycles. This would be done while increasing soil fertility and providing all the animal food we need as a by-product (replacing the corn which largely goes for animal feed now) at a fraction of the energy cost of corn-soybean agribusiness. This is all possible right now without any new technology'
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Mr. Fox



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers for those articles, peaceful_life Cool

David Blume wrote:
Even though the increased labor would be totally justified by the increased profit, corporations are totally allergic to dealing with labor. Labor is messy. It organizes, it wants a fair share of the profit, cities want tax money to pay for worker habitat infrastructure and other pesky things that corporations will avoid at all costs. Our current form of agribusiness is a textbook case of design maximizing the advantage of capital to the disadvantage of labor facilitated by the artificially low cost of energy.


Not sure I've ever come across him before. Glad I did. Smile
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Little John



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pre-hydrocarbon industrial age technology and energy supply, no society on earth in the entire history of human civilisation has ever supported a population remotely near the size of population currently existing. There are only two plausible reasons why:

1) They were too stupid (for the entire history of human civilisation right up to about 1750) to have ever figured out how to maximise their agricultural potential.

2) Prior to the surge of energy available for work afforded by one or two key technologies around 1750AD, in turn leading to a cascade of secondary technologies that were born on the back of them, it was not possible to maximise agricultural production over and above what was already the case.

Broadly speaking, I'm going with (2)
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Tarrel



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there's been a gradual ramping-up of our ability to sustain a larger population, from the time of hunter-gatherer to early experiments in agriculture, then to the generation of surplus allowing some folk to specialise in particular types of work (e.g. doctors, keeping more of us alive for longer), through to food preservation, allowing us to eat a healthier diet for more of the year, through to current "industrial ag.".

Of course the real exponential growth in population has happened since we started to mainline on fossil fuels.

Population level is a function of birth rate, death rate and life expectancy. When we had the capacity to produce less food, and it took more of us to do it, I imagine population was kept under control not so much by the amount of food there was to go round, but by a myriad of other control mechanisms, such as disease, lower average life-expectancy, higher infant mortality, leading to fewer people reaching the age of fertility, etc., all of which could be attributed to a poor / insufficient diet plus the fact that we were so focused on producing it that we didn't have time/energy for other endeavours, such as science and medicine.

Now we seem to have reached a state where we feel so entitled to life that huge resources are invested in prolonging life as long as possible; allowing individuals to give birth who, in the natural scheme of things, probably couldn't; using fertility treatment and surrogacy to grant children to non-heterosexual couples, etc. Not passing judgement as to whether this is right or wrong, but it does add to the overall population footprint.
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