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Is food the last thing to worry about post peak oil?

 
pollinator
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Judith, thanks for the compliment! I'm really trying hard to make sure that my neighborhood goes into a peaceful transition, instead of a violent one. I'm trying to set up local groups of various types and forge connections between existing ones, drawing the neighborhood together. And I'm trying to build the infrastructure for local food production now, before it is too late.

Yes, I don't like the prepping Us vs them stuff. They really seem to hate the "them" even now, before the collapse. Lots of talk about the blank blank blank "sheeple" and the blank blank blank welfare parasites. No good. Hate and fear are only going to make things worse, especially ahead of time. And annoying one's community and becoming known as the odd one out will make it much harder to survive; and that is what preppers seem to focus on doing!

Just look at the amount of water and fertilizer that go to lawns; it could all be going to food production.

I think if Toby is right and there will be a slow collapse, starting with the more complex stuff and moving to the less complex, there will be plenty of time for a peaceful, sharing transition, if we all do our part. In a fast collapse I think the good and well meaning people might not have enough time.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Tristan, good point about silvo-culture. And yes, I think we will have to eat less meat. Then again, maybe grasshopper stew, Tilapia steaks, and other such things will replace beef and chicken.

Edited to add; when fed grain (not that they should be) beef cattle have a 1:8 feed conversion ratio. Tilapia have a 1:1.5 conversion ratio.
 
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I've grown 2b to 6b and at varying altitude between 1000-6500 feet. With differing amounts of wind, rain, day length, and peculiarities of soil. This is my 50th year of gardening.

Grow zone 5a is about where you can get a lot of fruits and a few nuts to happen reliably for a variety of produce. I grow currently in a 6b at altitude (over 4000 feet) and have a few environmental issues (cold snaps or snow) for about 3 months. Working with that I can produce a 9 month long growing season and get one hot and two cold season crops plus long maturity, each year. (some tree crops are still an iffy because of the spring snaps taking the blooms/fruitset). Not that you can't produce field/garden crops at 2b, just know that you'll be pushing for short season crops that can take both cold and heat (at least usually you get summer day length with it). This takes knowing your climate, your average season tracks and some work to work with the seasons.

Animals are both less and more work, and indeed in some of the more arid grass covered regions, it is easier to run range animals than to grow a crop, but. By the same token it may take more land plus water resources to produce the meat than it is worth. We have had several years of bad drought in the traditional ranch areas, and the land could not support the animals so herds were thinned, reducing supply at the market and sending the prices up. Plus if extreme conditions happen, the animals can be tough on their range, and destroy the infrastructure turning the land from productive to effectively sterile as well as irreparable damage.

5a to about 7b is a good general swath if you are after a full range of cropping off your land, such as we are used to in our common 'food available from everywhere any time of the year' way of living. Colder zones I could enjoy things like the Brassica's and apples as more used to that climate, where I am now I can get hot weather crops a lot easier. I can still get apples, also peaches and pecans. Also in some areas you can get three full grow zones in 100 miles, so even if things broke down to animal cart or walking for transport it would be possible to transfer foods yet between those areas. It used to be that people were on their land and stayed within 7 miles of their birthplace usually, which is about a day's walk over 'wild' land. If there are trails or animal tracks or roads, even if they are rut-horrors, you could get something moved in about a week over 100 miles.

So when looking at just food production, it is what is your climate best suited for, how much space you have, and how 'no-work' do you want to go? I am in 'I will toil SOME for my table' and though I look for the lowest work options I still must be active in raising my food and working with my season and my crops to get a full and well rounded amount of food to go on the table. Permaculture has added to my reperitore definitely, and is a way to go to add to our available food croppage on the individual/family level.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Deb,

Great perspective. And yes, neither animals nor crops are ideally resilient in all cases. I think anywhere the population density is low enough, they should both be used, making it more likely that the system will to fail.

And I think those who live near mountains or other banded climatic zones, as you point out, will have a bit easier time.
 
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A little history lesson

Many crops were farmed at the dawn of agriculture.
Fruit tree seeds were planted along nomadic trails.
Root crops were also planted along camp sites and trails.
However, it was grains that were the key to formations of cities.
Until the inventions of modern food storage, it was salt, dry, smoke, and fermentation that were key to food storage.
Grains could be dried and stored for a long time.
With this storage of food came the need to protect it.
Ancient or primitive granaries were created, most often made out of pottery. Granaries were often built above the ground to keep the stored food away from mice and other animals.
Areas that produced this storable food became targets for takeover. In many cases the people farming storable food were forced to hand over a percentage of there crops to their new masters. Any area that produced storable food now had a resource that others could take away.
Herd animals also became storable food. However, there were limits to the movements of animals. Herds could only be taken so far. So most conflict was between herding groups located next to each other.
This was not the case for perishable foods. Food that could not travel well had little value outside of the place it was grown and consumed.
That is still the case in today;s world. Many farmers in the third world have crops that could sell in cities but transportation and storage are issues that prevent these crops from arriving in marketable conditions.

Is food the last thing to worry about post peak oil? It would depend on how storable your food was. The more storable the better your chances of building a surplus to get you past lean times. By the same token the more storable the more likely other may seek it out and take it from you.
With permaculture it is possible to diversify the crops and harvest times. One could rely less on storable food and more on extended harvesting of food.

As for edible animals, in many cases feed for animals becomes a issue. Also, theft of animals becomes an issue. It is very likely that one may be forced to depend less on domesticated animals and more on hunting and fishing for a food source. A well stocked pond could provide feed for chickens and people. People still eat possum, raccoon, squirrel, wild birds, etc. many of these animals have actually adapted to human environments very well.

So it is highly likely a post petrol world will be very different from our current world. But it is also likely that non-storable foods and famine foods would be last on the list of foods to be taken away by others.
 
master pollinator
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alex Keenan wrote:
As for edible animals, in many cases feed for animals becomes a issue.



I've personally found it very difficult to raise domestic animals (chickens) without outside inputs. So difficult I had to quit for the time being. http://www.permies.com/t/55362/chickens/critters/Chickens-compost Though I believe in theory that domestic animals might be raised in a regenerative manner, I would like to see more examples of it actually being done. I would like to see more of these ideas moving from theory to proof. I'm not talking about people eating rats, etc, because they're starving, or about the Eskimos, I'm talking about whether or not it is possible to raise domestic animals for food in a regenerative (permacultural) manner, whether pre-peak oil or post-peak oil.



 
Gilbert Fritz
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Let's talk about the use of livestock in permaculture in the thread I started for it a while back. I think it will gum up this thread.

I will throw in that I don't think chickens are actually the idea post peak oil livestock, and I will explain why over there.

Link: http://www.permies.com/t/56315/permaculture/Critters-permaculture
 
Gilbert Fritz
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This morning we had a power outage that affected a whole swath of the town! Talk about a complex system.

Education as currently practiced is also a complex system; if Toby's theory is correct, it should start breaking down about now; and it sure seems to have. What can we do about this?

The internet is also a fairly complex system; will it start to break down? Will more and more sites start charging for admission, as ads generate less and less return? (Due to less disposable income; almost all ads are for discretionary spending.)

Sewage collections systems are fairly simple, but treatment systems are complex, and need the rail system to keep hauling dangerous chlorine tank cars around.

This might be a good point to go off on a tangent; there are really two things being discussed here, an ideal post peak oil future (permaculture) and what is likely to happen as peak everything/ societal breakdown starts happening. The big question is, what can we do to make A and B overlap?

So with sewage, the collection system will probably keep working for a while. Individual homeowners, though, might not be able to replace their connecting pipelines, so some people will drop off the system. And the treatment plants might just start dumping raw sewage into the rivers and ocean, like they did a hundred years ago. (And as some cities do now in heavy rain storms that flood combined sewer systems.)

In our old home location in a crumbling mining town on the east coast, the old houses had been turned into slum triplexes. One old house just had the broken sewer dumping into the basement, for a long time; the very poor people renting it couldn't get anything better, and the landlord wouldn't do anything about it. There were also rats and other problems. Eventually, everyone was forcibly evicted from the house by the city. Then the house was set on fire by . . . somebody. Then the house was seized for non-payment of taxes and bulldozed to avoid further trouble.

And, mind, this neighborhood was actually not in that bad of shape, this house was definitely the worst on the block.

So what can we do to make the likely post peak oil scenario something more positive? Could a city process all its waste by composting toilets and greywater systems? What will happen to the last 40 percent or so of people on the system once enough people have dropped off it so that there is not enough money to maintain the mains, and not enough baseline flow to keep the pipes clear? How do we ensure a managed breakdown of this complex system, and keep the local code folks from keeping the status quo in place, thus ensuring a catastrophic breakdown?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:what is likely to happen as peak everything/ societal breakdown starts happening.



Most discussions I've seen about that are based on fiction. Even the premise "societal breakdown" is entirely dependent on a fast crash, which I personally find incredibly implausible.

So to me, this discussion is a total non-starter.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hi Tyler,

I think what is likely to happen is exemplified by the story I told of that house. When it was built, it was a nice house; across the street from a beautiful church, possessing a nice chunk of yard, within walking distance of a school and a park. It was the fulfillment of some American's dream. And then it crumbled; let out by a remote landlord, doomed to crumble away, the scene of yet another battle between the desperate poor and the increasingly authoritarian police, the victim of arson, eventually demolished leaving a trash strewn, toxic weed lot. That is what societal collapse will look like; we've all seen it, it does not look like the movies. That is where we are all going, unless we can think up a better solution, a permaculture solution, and enough of us act upon it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: That is where we are all going, unless we can think up a better solution, a permaculture solution, and enough of us act upon it.



It's already been thought up, we just need to implement it, I think. I recommend folks read "Permaculture a Designer's Manual" by Bill Mollison, and also look into the Transition movement. This has been hashed out over and over. I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about it here, just that these ideas have been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere, for decades, and are being implemented in many places. I think the most important discussions we can have are about what we are actually doing, not theories about what might happen in a fast crash. I don't find those discussions to be of any use except in some exercise of the fictional imagination - I've seen people reference "The Road" in these kinds of discussions. It's nearly useless, in my opinion.

We don't need to come up with solutions, in my opinion. We need to implement those which have already been invented, and are being implemented at the present moment.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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I'm guessing that there will not be a fast crash, baring an astroid. However, I do think that permaculture will not be in time to make a smooth and painless transition to a post peak oil society. For a while, things will keep looking more and more like the ugly side of Detroit, and not the brighter side that will hopefully take over one day. The middle class and the poor having to make do with less and less; less and less order, income/ wealth, infrastructure, services, etc. while the .01% retreat into their gated communities and fantasies of a perpetual progress. If we had started back in the 50s, maybe we could have avoided this. But it will not look like the crazy fiction out there, more like the great depression, or Germany between the wars, or Venezuela, or Detroit, or Greece, or prehaps like the slow and gradual decline of Rome. And this will have a huge bearing on our permaculture designs; all permaculture is relative to the context. We many not be able to depend on our current infrastructure, which will make our permaculture work both more difficult and more rewarding, more necessary and more urgent.

That is why I started this thread.

I have read PaDM, but a few years back, and I should read it again. And I have read stuff from the Transition world, and am really pleased at how much success they have. But it is a case of too slow, too late, as anyone can see in the slums of any big city. It will change the world in the end, but there is a rough spot up ahead. I don't think we should ignore that; instead, we should figure out what is going to snap first and start building alternatives to that.

 
pollinator
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Gilbert Fritz wrote: That is where we are all going, unless we can think up a better solution, a permaculture solution, and enough of us act upon it.



It's already been thought up, we just need to implement it, I think. I recommend folks read "Permaculture a Designer's Manual" by Bill Mollison, and also look into the Transition movement. This has been hashed out over and over. I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about it here, just that these ideas have been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere, for decades, and are being implemented in many places. I think the most important discussions we can have are about what we are actually doing, not theories about what might happen in a fast crash. I don't find those discussions to be of any use except in some exercise of the fictional imagination - I've seen people reference "The Road" in these kinds of discussions. It's nearly useless, in my opinion.

We don't need to come up with solutions, in my opinion. We need to implement those which have already been invented, and are being implemented at the present moment.



Reading that just now, I have to 100% agree. We already have the solutions. We already know what to do.

Well, those of us here do anyway

We can and often do talk until our faces go numb about the possibilities, the likelihoods, the problems and catastrophes, the impediments to progress...I myself am guilty of this, and will freely admit to enjoying it far too much. Zombie Hordes, Nuclear Armageddon, Peak Oil / Mad Max scenarios, the collapse of the "Western World"...these are not only fun to talk about in that same way watching gory horror movies is fun, but it gets the creative juices going when you channel the fear such discussion incites into useful directions (Can I grow enough turmeric here in Maine to have supply should the global shipping system fail? What other coffee substitutes can we plant this year, just in case? If the sun goes blewey, how thick of a green roof and cobwood walls would we actually need to shield the blast of radiation?).

There's lots of places to talk about that stuff...could recommend a few I used to frequent - good communities out there with lots of very knowledgable people. What you can learn by talking to a true, died in the wool conspiracy theorist that's been around a few years will leave you in a cold sweat. Those are conversations, though, that never really lead to solutions. The deeper you go, the more problems you find...the more terrifying the situation we're all in becomes.

But again, we already have the solutions. We know what to do. What we don't have yet are enough people doing it...enough people figuring out what works in their local environment, enough people doing the necessary outreach in the cities and suburbs, or enough people leading their communities by example.

We here on Permies are few in a global population of permaculturally inclined people doing what we can, but even counting them it's only hundreds of thousands...maybe millions.

We need billions. Paul's empire is growing, but we want it to grow faster. We need it to grow faster.

Until every person on the planet knows somebody who produces some of their own food as well as enough of a surplus to share, barter and sell, there's not enough people "doing it". Until every other person you meet walking down XYZ Street in your nearest city tells you about them and their family helping to build a huglekulture at the local park, there's not enough people "doing it".

"Doing it" is what will save us, regardless of when Peak Pick-Your-Poison hits
 
alex Keenan
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
"Most discussions I've seen about that are based on fiction. Even the premise "societal breakdown" is entirely dependent on a fast crash, which I personally find incredibly implausible".

I am in my late fifties now. I remember stories my grandfather and his friends talked about during the great depression.

Tyler, do you know how many Americans starved to death during this period?
Do you know how many males were unsuitable for military during WWII due to nutritional deficiencies?

Cannot history repeat itself?
We had a period of economic problems along with automation replacing farm labor.
Could we not have a period of economic problems along with AI, robotics, etc. replacing labor?
 
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As an alternative to theorizing, what actually happened in a number of major historic catastrophes has been researched by a UC Professor, and the results popularized in Rebecca Solnit's book, 'A Paradise Built in Hell'. It might surprise you ;) And knowing how Londoners actually survived the blitze, ala Ludi's reference, might remind us about what is really valuable .... and what it actually costs. Also, I haven't read it, but Fernando Aquirre's 'A Modern Survival Manual', about his experience in the 2001 Argentine economic collapse, might be enlightening (... or not ;) I'd like to know more about the different circumstances in NYC in 70's (scary inflation, oil embargo, etc) and the 90's (economic boom, etc) that might account for the different levels of looting.

Since we can only 'know' the future via 'educated guesses', it might behoove us to stress the 'educated' part ;)
 
Deb Rebel
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I am sitting in the original dustbowl. If you have seen Ken Burn's documentary, "The Dust Bowl", I know or knew most of those he interviewed. The era left a lasting legacy here on those that live here, and how things are done. Both sets of my grandparents were born before WWI and started families before the Great Depression. They led into WWII...which was despite everything another round of make do in a different form. It is a mindset that is missing from a lot of places. Burns has a lot of footage he didn't use, but he was recording a living memory history, which makes his work that much more relevant.... Permies and permaculture is the closest I have seen to that sort of type of whole attitude and way to do things.

This is what we need if stuff cracks apart. A lot have gotten so far away from the entire concept--that is what I worry about. If stuff as we know it (society, our money, our infrastructure, our transportation network) goes sideways, can we pull together, pull through, get-it-done, and have the skills, resources, and even the bodging skills to do it? Preparing by learning ways to be more self sufficient and off grid is the best course.

The last era coming into our modern age was the 1950's and 60's. Post war, baby boom, and rural electrical service reached most everyone. (REC). That is the last generation that truly lived off grid in the US. The front end of that generation is 70. The back that might have a memory of it is about 55... it is passing from active living memory. WWI is gone, the Depression is passing right now, and WWII is also reaching that point. Permaculture is what we need, but will it be too little too late? It goes from 'what can *I* do' to 'what can *WE* do' really fast.

[Corollary to Living Memory...as a small child, I met a WWI vet after a parade. He told us a few stories (several adults and kids) about the war (Somme Offensive). Then he said as a small child, he had met a civil war vet, who had done as he was doing now, sharing memories. He told a few he remembered (Bull Run), and said that fellow had said as a small child he had met a man from Valley Forge, who had told stories (Stony Point), and passed a few on. Nearly 200 years spanned by three lifetimes, four counting mine, makes 240. Living memory is a precious thing. We need to keep things going.]
 
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alex Keenan wrote:
Tyler, do you know how many Americans starved to death during this period?
Do you know how many males were unsuitable for military during WWII due to nutritional deficiencies?

Cannot history repeat itself?



History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

American's aren't starving to death in the traditional sense. But if you use Gary Taubes logic, then yes, Americans are starving.

80% of Military Recruitments Turned Down and the number one reason why? Obesity.

So, yes, we need to worry about food. [aside - could a Jewish mother possibly answer that question in the negative?]

Food has never been cheaper, and has never been less nutritious. This is why we have an obesity crisis. It's because our food isn't fueling us so we're eating more. At least for the time being, we don't have to worry about running out of food, but we do need to worry if our food can actually fuel (and satiate) us.

I joke all the time about the zombie apocalypse. But my driveway is a mile long, up hill. With the rates of obesity and diabetes increasing every year, they're gonna have a hard time making it up  to my place. And they are going to be so disappointed in my food. It's not gonna be wrapped in plastic so they may not realize it's food anyway.
 
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