My several weeks of chaos, guests and madness are still in progress, not leaving me an enormous amount of time for blogging. But I did want to mention something heartening I noticed the other day. This may not mean much for those of you who don't pay too much attention to the peak oil movement, but to me, it is good news indeed.
For those of you who don't know, Richard Heinberg is the person who wrote the first, and still most canonical book on oil depletion and its consequences, _The Party's Over_, and he's probably the most influential person in the peak oil movement. When Heinberg speaks, not only do true believers listen, but so do governments and scientists - he's testified before the EU and congress and has proved himself to be have a remarkable gift for synthesizing evidence from a range of fields.
This year, he's turned a large portion of his focus to agriculture, has been a strong voice for the deindustrialization of agriculture (one of my particular passions). Because I think Heinberg's analyses are consistently good, I was excited to read this particular passage in his recent interview with _Acres_:
"Using the knowledge that we’ve built up over the last several decades about organic farming, about small-scale food production using techniques such as permaculture and bio-intensive and so on, I think it’s possible for us to produce food in a way that doesn’t destroy topsoil, in a way that preserves fresh water and that feeds as many people as we have in the world today. But it’s going to require a lot more people doing the work of producing the food, because truly sustainable agriculture is a much more labor-intensive process."
I think the notion that we can feed the world *as it is* represents something of a turn around for Heinberg. In _The Party's Over_, he says,
"How Many people will post-industrial agriculture be able to support? This is an extremely important question, but one that is difficult to answer. A safe estimate would be this: *as many people as were supported before agriculture was industrialized* - that is, the population at the beginning of the 20th century, or somewhat fewer than 2 billion people." (Heinberg, 196)
Now I don't want to overstate what Heinberg said in _Acres_ - I don't think that this in any way represents a change in his advocacy for self-limitation, including population limitations, nor should it. But I do want to point out that one of the best minds I know, having turned his focus to food production, agrees that even a catastrophic loss of fossil fuels does not have end in hunger (and if Russia is telling the truth about continued indications from the US that we'll bomb Iran, that's good news indeed). We can feed ourselves, if we are willing to do the work of farming and gardening.
Someone recently said, "I'll believe we can feed the world with organic agriculture when we feed 1 billion people." Which delighted me, since a 1995 FAO report points out that we're actually feeding more than 2 billion people already with low input, largely organic agriculture, mostly by small scale farming. And those 2 billion people tend to be poor, and to have been pushed off the best land in their countries. What could we do if instead of export crops, they got to grow their own food there? What could we in the rich nations do on our lawns and greenspaces?
I recommend you read the rest of the interview, and, if it isn't 20 degrees there (like here), you could go out and plant some potatoes.
Sharon in upstate NY