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Caloric model: quanitfying caloric impact?  RSS feed

 
Robert Ray
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Since this model is often mentioned how does one quanitfy caloric impact?
Let's use a tomato produced in my garden and one produced 200 miles away in a greenhouse.

Seed cost 2.95
Rabbit poop amendment essentially free
Cold frame from salvaged windows
Rainwater irrigation

What would be the costs associated with a the greenhouse tomato be?
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Nice one.Given those paramaters,its hard to nail you down for much caloric costs.In fact,by re-appropriating the materials you might get a caloric bonus.However,there are costs assosiated with being alive and paying attention to things so that must be taken into account.Furthermore,the limitations of the caloric model are revealed in the fact that the tomato is not focusing all its energy into calories.While its nice to salvage,I always point out that salvage of industrial civ.does not a sustainable culture make.Otherwise we might as well all just be dumpsterdivers.ULTIMATLY reality is what you can get away with so people will tend to be as wastful as a system will let them.Clearly,your model is calorically efficient from a subjective perspective but in the larger picture do we count the calories used in the manufacture of the products?and does reuse constitute a solution to the problem of current cultural direction.
 
Robert Ray
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Reuse would be a component of a solution of waste. But we'd need a much bigger bat for changing current cultural direction.
Reuse would be one of those things that the extended life of an item would reduce it's  end caloric impact.
So vague and ephemeral it is a hard thing to put numbers to. Just looking for how one determines impact with the model.
 
rose macaskie
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they paty poelpe to be porters here that means to do very little all day if you are gardening you can't do some other activity that would help you in some other way . it costs in some other activity if not in money. agri rose macaskie.
 
Brenda Groth
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caloric loss by planting, growing and tending the tomato, harvesting, preparing and eating..even chewing and digesting
 
Robert Ray
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If we break it down that far what's the point? I'll waste calories singing in the shower, sitting in the sun, laughing with the kids, and eating a warm tomato straight from the garden.
I'll start a better than I found it model and leave it at that.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Which illustrates my point perfectly.Our inability to quantify these things makes it easy to hide our ecological costs behind this complexity.So most people just go"jeez,I`ll just leave it at that".But the resources/fuel you use to make your place better than you found it makes other  places worse so you have successfully hid your ecological impact from yourself by outsoursing the cost(white mans majic).We are all connected and the karmic payback from such shell games is right around the corner.
 
Robert Ray
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Mt Goat
There are things you can quantify, your nut orchard in its infancy now will be better once in full production. Your leaving it better by it's being more productive is a measurable plus. But even then animal damage, plant disease could lessen its productivity or life span. Some even think a monoculture orchard is improper use of land though I'm not of that opinion.
Responsible outsource independence as much as possible would reduce ones impact.
But really to determine a model down to calories required even for digestion and breathing is never going to be an effective measuring tool there is no way for true empirical comparison.
You could measure what is brought into the picture by consumer negligence, buying something that is outsourced when it could be purchased locally. Thoughtful deliberation and a responsible attitude is required. Will it be too late? Maybe. Is it enough to have tried?
I don't think so, others have to be convinced that it is worthwhile and needed. Is praying for collapse the answer? I hope not but maybe the collapse you have mentioned would be a wake up call. Would collapse be pleasant? Not unless you prepared and an orchard or good garden is preparation or at least prudent.


 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Yes,my nut trees are an improvement in production but if I say I grow 50% of my food and some other person grows 50% of thier food but uses 10X the resources to do so,are we equal?or are we just viewing a single facet of a larger picture.Unfortunatly,the so called progressive element cant wean themselves off obviously unsustainable practices and instead just hide the true cost in the complexity and distort the language to thier favor.They will only be stoped by something outside of them(bring on global climate change!).Is collapse pleasant?no!Is civilization pleasant?not for much of the world currently.Do we have a choice anyway?probably not so might as well be on the winning team!
 
Robert Ray
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Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Excellent points, local production with local resources is an acheivement to strive for. Rather than a caloric expenditure model that is so specific to a model that measures import impact would be more beneficial and calories aren't an effective measurement.    Unfortunately an imported purchase might be calorically responsible if it can't be produced locally without a tremendous caloric expense. Trade was a component of pre-contact life and will always be for those things that can't be produced or obtained locally.
Caloric expenditure from working in a garden should be a plus rather than a debit to the model.  Repairative or activities that boost production or future production as in your orchard are not wasted if it increases local production and reduces import dependence. But an orchard that is not in full production could be considered caloric debt if we remove acreage taken up by it out of production. I look forward at it's future benefit and consider it a caloric plus on the balance sheet.
I could be playing and still expending calories. Where does that expenditure come into the balance sheet? Not that play is not an important part of being happy. Where does beneficial activities from working in the garden come into play, health benefits a plus or minus in the caloric model?
A mix of severing consumerism and gaining indepence from out sourcing to me seems an intelligent move.
I do like somethings that are not locally produced and total self sufficiency is never going to be possible for many, all efforts in achieving any step closer to that end should be applauded, even that balcony tomato plant and greens in a city apartment.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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I dont count working in the garden as a +(excersise wise)because most of my activities are physcaly demanding.Im not integrated into civilization enough to need to mitigate for it so I dont count gardening as having special psycological value either.Reality is what you can get away with.as long as we have easy calories in fossil fuels,playing does not need to show up on the balance sheet.But take the surpluss away and every second counts.Take civilization away and the dicotomy of work and play starts to dissolve altogether.I agree that some limited trade goes on in`sustainable`cultures but without a way to quantify the true costs and you open it up to whatever people can technicly get away with.THE next thing you know ,eco-groovy people are saving the rainforest by eating chocolate bars and driving to `fairtrade`espresso stands!.Civilization is so interconnected that if you cant get food from the store you probably are not going to be able to water your balcony garden or care about your tomatoes.When you count the caloric and$ cost for potting soil,seeds,water bill,hose,pot,and time(Which floor),Im pretty sure your loosing $ and using up alot of resources.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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So no,other than knowlege gained,I do not think growing balcony tomatoes is much of a step toward self sufficiency.Probably better than most hobbies though.Do the best you can with what you got where you are at!As far as the caloric equation with my nut trees goes-I do not count my calories until they are hatched.While it might be nice to play #s games in order to balance the budget.Hopefully we have learned how that can affect the economy.
 
Robert Ray
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Mt Goat
We often see #'s fudged, building a swale was called a caloric loss yet an orchard not yet in full production is not counted until it does begin to produce?  How to come up with a model that is truly representative of our footprint?
What number of people form a civilization? Can two civilizations exist in the same space?Current civilizations that are more sustainable do not have the western comfort that many have become acustomed to.
  Once you hit that send button you have taken advantage of some type of imported energy (grid, hard line,photovoltaic/alternative energy purchase) and have left a fingerprint of that message somewhere.  You might not be as disconnected from civilization as you think if you look at that scenario. I agree eco-groovy is not necessarily eco-savy. I can purchase an apple 365 days a year and if it is not from cold storaage locally it comes from some source outside my locavore circle.
Once we realize that wants are not needs we will all begin to change the consumerism driven market.

 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Are people able to seperate wants from needs volentarily?Ive seen pretty much every activity rationalized as a need.Usually under the term`cultural need`and every agrarian fundamentalist from florida to alaska will assert their god given right to have tomatoes growing regadless of the ecological cost.They killed off the natives for their culture as well.Im not saying WE should stop them using force but I am saying I believe it will take force to stop them.Of course I use civilization too and I dont hide from it when I do.Its impossible not to as long as its the defining structure in society and landscape and controls most resource flows.Being marginalized into participating comes from a diferent motivation then having it as an end goal.Im on this forum because the current social/propert distribution model promotes isolation and contact with others is important.That doesnt meen I agree with it.Calories spent should be counted when spent and calories gained should be counted when gained.I did not mean to imply that a swale only counts as a loss,just that it might take awile for a return.I think its safe to say a greenhouse bought new will never return its caloric cost but earth moving may.
 
Robert Ray
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Location: Cascades of Oregon
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And that's the key probably to this whole thing. Once we run out of bread we'll eat cake?
So sad that your collapse scenario might be a necessary knock on the head.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Tragic indeed!Id like to clarify that as a model its probably good to amortise the costs and returns over the life of the activity but in real life it probably is smarter to check the nut trees instead of the #s esp if your survival depends on it.Thanks for the banter even if its gotten alittle played out.
 
jeremiah bailey
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The following can give you a loose idea of what it takes to move product over the road by truck. I am a mechanic who works on diesel semi trucks. Our fleet commonly carries 40,000 lb loads, with a common fuel consumption of 6 mpg carrying those loads. This info is based on long-haul over the road trucks. On that info I will base the following. I had to do some conversions as the needed info wasn't always in the same units of measure. 40,000 lbs is 18,143,694.8 grams. The calories of tomatos is based on a single, large 3" tomato weighing 182 grams, which contains 33 calories. That is 99,691 tomatos per load for a total food calorie value of 3,289,803 calories per truckload, based on model tomato. On the above stated fuel consumption of a loaded truck, it will go 100 miles on 16.6666 gal of fuel. A gallon of diesel fuel contains 32,907,454 calories. This is 548,457,566 calories to transport 3,289,803 calories worth of tomatos a distance of 100 miles. How's that for inefficiency? 166 times the calories transported. There are many variables affecting the actual mileage, but I don't see anyway that the outcomes would vary enough to even come close to breaking even. Think about a truckload of tomatos from California to the midwest? From Merced Co. California to Indianapolis, In is 2256 miles. Thats 12,373,202,688 calories consumed by transport.
 
                            
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Location: NSW, Australia
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Jeremiah's got it spot on. To do a full caloric production value assessment you should even integrate the amount of calories that you eat (men: 2500 calories p.d. Woman: 2000 calories p.d. as per scientific assumption) and divide that over the number of hours that you worked growing that crop and assess the caloric value of any tools that you use to grow that same crop. Plus you need to take into account the caloric values used by any other entity who assists you (worker, delivery of any kind).


Furthermore, the calories used to produce the truck that is used to transport your produce divided by the number of years or months of operation and anything that assists that truck to keep on running... But don't  forget the energy (caloric value) used to sell your produce. In a supermarket environment that would included light, cooling, transport and even the energy used to run the tills....

It's a method to calculate the true costs of anything and it is very interesting to use this. Particularly because using currency doesn't give the right picture if you take into account falling and raising petrol prises and currency exchange rates.

Example of how complicated not using caloric value can be:Let's take petrol: 1 US gallon is 3.77 litres. 1 US gallon of petrol costs $ 2.90 (4th Jan 2010, WA). $2.90 = EUR 2.01. One litre (1/4 gallon) of petrol in the Netherlands is EUR 1.38 so 1 US gallon in the EU would cost $ 5.20 but that amount changes everyday due to exchange rate fluctuations. So therefore, caloric value is easier....

b.t.w. please don't think i'm an expert on this. Just happen to work for German energy giant...

Pascal
 
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