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paul wheaton
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A big part of permaculture is about replacing petroleum with people. 

The average american adult uses 1000 gallons of petroleum each year (directly and indirectly). 

Petroleum is pretty predictable.  We buy it because it is so predictable.  We put it in our car and if there is a problem it is nearly always because of the lack of petroleum, or something else has failed.  Or a human being has caused a problem. 

If we are going to replace most of the petroleum in agriculture with people, we need to find the ways that people can be almost as predictable a petroleum.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Perhaps we will find ways to modify our attitudes and ways of doing things so that predictability isn't such a high priority.
 
paul wheaton
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If you have 20 people coming together to get something done within a timeframe, and only 2 show up and so it doesn't get done,  that leads to failure.  Whatever label you put on that system is a system where "it is unpredictable" or "you cannot tell of it will work until it is done".   But then those same 2 people using petroleum have a reputation of getting shit done.

An alternate scenario is that the 20 people do show up and get it done within the timeframe.  Over and over.   Good reputation.

I agree with what you are suggesting:  a system where rather than making an agreement to accomplish a certain thin within a certain timeframe, to instead simply express that you would like to have a thing and if it ever exists, you might still want to have such a thing. 

If you are paying somebody to build you a house by September 2017, and then you arrange for the moving truck, quit your job, etc.  then I think

modify our attitudes and ways of doing things so that predictability isn't such a high priority.


Doesn't quite fit. 

I suppose you could insist that the buyer only buy houses that already exist.  And if you have standards that are not on the market, you simply don't get to have a home that meets your standards - unless you live in something else for years while you build the skills to do it yourself.  In which case it boils down to:  if you use conventional systems, with petroleum, you can have what you want and when you want it.  But not with permaculture

I am proposing that i wish for all of the predictability within the space of replacing petroleum with people.   I wish to find a way where people can be more predictable.  That there must, somehow, be systems in place for that.   Software engineering depends on software engineers.   Things about predictability are much better now than they used to be.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I live in a world where human muscle power is reliably and consistently used to accomplish projects. It seems to me that there is nothing inherently unreliable about doing projects using muscle power instead of machines. The transcontinental railroad was built by people using hand tools. My farmer's market is filled with vegetables every week that were harvested exclusively by human muscle power. Some of them are even transported to market using only human muscle power.

If a group of people is under contract to do a certain task by a certain date, and they don't do it. Then that's a breach of contract. We have a long history of knowing how to deal with broken contracts... For one thing, only sign contracts with people that are known to honor their contracts.

If I'm running a business, and 18 of my 20 employees don't show up for work, then I'll be finding 18 new employees -- people that will honor their contracts. However, if I'm running a ministry, and people are donating their time, without a contract to do so, and only 2 show up of the 20 that were invited, then I welcome them gladly. And I don't think badly of the 18 that didn't show up. There may be a murky middle ground, where people are bound together by miscommunication,  ill-defined expectations, and vague contracts. I suppose getting a project done in that scenario would be iffy regardless of whether muscle or petroleum was used as a power source.

 
Rene Nijstad
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I don't think permaculture is only about replacing petroleum with people, but with all of nature, if we can figure out how. Pigs clear fields, chickens eat bugs, cows mow grass, etc. They're all pretty predictable at these tasks. They just need to be put in the right spot and can then do a lot of work for us without people even being any further involved. I think that needs to be part of the thinking too...
 
J.D. Ray
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I've stated before that I have little to no practical experience with permaculture.  But I drink and I know things, so there's that.

In corporate or enterprise software engineering (which differs from ad hoc software engineering), predictability is a key driver.  And predictability is supported by implementation of infrastructure.  The same is true (and actually more so in my view) in successful FOSS (Free-as-in-freedom, Open Source Software) projects: they use infrastructure like GitHub to ensure a structured way of communicating, implementing changes to the plan, organizing work, providing the results of the work to consumers, etc.

I strongly believe that the most successful permaculture projects do and will rely on infrastructure.  The faster you can get the infrastructure in place that will support your long-term design, the more successful your project will be.  Two requirements: a long term design, and a list of available resources. If you fail to have one of these, the road gets longer and more fraught with pitfalls.

Sometimes the resources available include human capital, sometimes they include petroleum-driven machinery.  Heck, sometimes the presented final design relies on petroleum (plastic things, gas engines, etc.), and that, I suppose, is OK so long as you're willing to vary the value of "perma".  If your design is established to get you and your family to the end of your life, and that's what you consider permanency, I'm not going to judge (really; I'm no one in the grand scheme).

So, if you want to do a permaculture project, my advice, FWIW, is to figure out what resources you have, design something, then make a plan for achieving the vision within the scope of the available resources.  Sometimes the plan will be achievable.  If not, re-design.  Factor in un-predictability (commonly referred to as "risk").  If either the level of unpredictability is too high for you, or even if the level is low and it occurs (a twenty percent chance of rain turns to a hundred percent as soon as it starts raining), re-design.  Once you have a plan you like, implement.  Also consider your exit strategy.  Because with that, you can turn failure into part of the plan, and it turns out to be success.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Interesting topic. I think you could almost rephrase it as replacing convenience with people. Most of the rest of the planet lives like this.

I have accepted that petroleum is not going to be replaced as a convenience fuel in my lifetime. I hate to say it. Biofuels (which is an industry I have family members working in, I worked in and I wish would be viable) are not viable on a convenient scale. I don't see the increase in demand generating an economy of scale for the issues laid out in the article (there are many more diatribes out there, I just picked this one). Suffice to say batteries are making much more progress than alternative fuels, but they are a way of storing energy, while fuels are both storage and energy. Suffice to say that storage is only half the battle. I worked on a fuel cell project about 20 years ago when it was the hotness, and the same issues are still around, you basically have to generate H2, and it takes energy to do it.

Convenient power generation for batteries- Nuclear is unpopular and expensive due to a variety of factors. Solar is being installed in ways/places that will never pay back and will (I think) hurt the view of solar going forward. Hydro is popular in theory but NIMBY issues prevent big new projects, and big areas just don't have possibilities. New installations of industrial (convenient) hydro of any size has been flat for decades (since the 80s).  Facilities are being upgraded, which is great, but not likely to be >10% of grid-level generation. Wind and solar need to be coupled to a storage system (like pump storage is great) or tied in a grid over wide areas. Wind has most of the same issues as hydro, just different geographic areas. Lots of NIMBY issues, and you don't get lakes out of it. I have purposely not gone into the environmental reasons each are problematic. They are too numerous to do justice.  Small scale inconvenient generation is the best way.

So for the foreseeable future, convenience=fossil fuels. What most people don't realize is that in much of the world, Russian petrogeology is widely accepted. This postulates that liquid petrochemicals are continuously regenerated from CO2 taken up in the oceans. This is an unknown % of total CO2 but in Russian petrogeology is the vast majority. Worldwatch (which is not necessarily authoritative I know) says 93% is ocean-based. This is not some minor viewpoint from uneducated people, it is the reason China, Russia and India (which was tied heavily to the USSR until quite recently because the US was allied with Pakistan) really don't think there is likely to be a "peak oil". They believe it will require continuous exploration/exploitation, but that it will be available. It will remain reasonably convenient under this view, and that is a lot of people and global political clout! We need to have other ways to show a better way. The Loess Plateau project is an inspiration.

So while I agree with Joseph that convenience is not necessary, modern society runs on reliability. I think an operation that can have a tenfold labor variability is very robust, and I applaud you for creating one. That is really remarkable. It seems difficult to voluntarily scale up. Now in a crisis situation, you are looking smart as a fox. People are terrible at predicting crises. I was a hair-on-fire enviro for years, but as it pertains to the organized groups 1) their predictions have been outlandish, making it difficult to affect modest change and turning off possible allies and 2) they have gotten fat off the industry and don't care about niche ideas -they don't bring in the donor money. I have been re-energized on here (thanks Paul!) because these are modest (generally) things that can spawn a virtuous cycle and developing trust. This is all about a way of moving people onto the Wheaton scale, which can be liberating. I think this approach is much more resilient. I still need to pay my taxes every year. The tax authorities are not going to care about my soil health.

Joseph, you have inspired me to not install a big-ass greenhouse. I need to figure out how to get stuff to work without it. The inconvenience is part of having a winter, which is natural and hopefully happens every year. I need to have a higher tolerance for unreliability in my plants. I need a bigger garden with more failures, which generate better ideas. I think the big issue for Paul is how do you scale up? It is just me and one buddy doing this. If I want to be able to really make an impact, I need fellow travelers so we can share resources and knowledge.  I need a bunch of them because there is way too much for me to know. They should not have to drive here. We need a succession plan, which is resilient across generations. This takes some trust, and I frankly don't trust most people to that level. Trust takes time. My family is not as into this as I am. They are not as mentally prepared to be inconvenienced. They need to see small successes and get some trust in the process. They are people I love and I need to meet them there.

I think my big jump is local power generation and electric vehicles/equipment. This is a MAJOR ticket item. I have not bought several cool toys because of the reviews of chainsaws on Permies, which probably means other things are not far off. I would never consider it without buy-in from my spouse. I have retained an area to build it in my property plan (which is hard because you want it near your house, and there are lots of things I want near my house). I have one neighbor who is semi-off grid, and am learning the ups and downs from him. This will all be presented to my spouse. This is not a sales pitch, this is a trust decision.  

There is every chance I delete this entire post. I think this just encompasses so much frustrating personal history and vaporware in place of tangible progress. I will throw it out there. 
 
John Weiland
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Perhaps we will find ways to modify our attitudes and ways of doing things so that predictability isn't such a high priority.


Paul Wheaton wrote:

...it boils down to:  if you use conventional systems, with petroleum, you can have what you want and when you want it.  But not with permaculture. 


....and not just with petroleum.  As Joseph alluded to, slave labor, motivated in various ways from guards to modern day "overtime" compensation, could accomplish much predictable work.  Our current concept of predictability is predicated on the same ideology that produced 'the machine'....which clearly has its advantages, but is nevertheless grounded in a vision of control seldom widely discussed.  Still, we have not stopped evolving and may encounter a means by which human labor and predictability are someday blissfully wedded.
 
Travis Johnson
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My prediction in the short term, as it pertains to homesteading and farming is, Fossil Fuelless Farming will be the next big trend.

Whole Foods is currently in a tail spin, and organic food sales are slumping, and as a whole the American People are fickle...they like a good story; that is, they like to buy stuff, and they like to buy stuff that is different then their neighbors. I am not saying that it will be easy for farmers, for farmers there is the catch 22 of having enough land to raise veggies and livestock to sell, then having the burden of having enough land to provide feed for he animals pulling the equipment as well.

I still think Buy Local will have a huge impact on niche marketing, and really Grass Fed Only, Organic, and some other forms of farming have peaked. I am not saying they are bad, I am just saying that for the American People they are bored with them as stand-alone-products, and want to buy food that is different then what their neighbor is buying. Finding Fossil Fiuelless Farming will probably be one of those new ways. Oh it can still be organic or grass fed only food for sure, but these foods produced by another way. Already I can envision the stories on the news gracing a team of huskies pulling a mowing machine, or goats towing a plow...animals besides just horses, oxen and mules, farms producing food without fuel and in unique ways.

This could dovetail really nicely into Permiculture where there are food forests and gathering methods in place. The real challenge then will be, not competing with other forms of markets so much, but actually supplying enough food for the people as the concept of Fossil Fuelless Farming gains momentum. This will take people immersed in Permiculture, and then one thing will be provided that may now be missing; a financial incentive. I do a lot of volunteer work at a Children's Camp and am their Maintenance Coordinator. What I know from experience is, the only time people were unreliable was because I failed to properly motivate them. I see that motivation being financial in nature.

 
Tj Jefferson
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Travis,

I'm hoping. It doesn't mean my livelihood but I have worked with two local producers who are really banking on the real local production of food. There are limitations- people absolutely will not pay for staples but we are trying to educate them. I take hours to improve the soil on local producers which means convincing them of a three-year horizon. This takes a great deal of trust. It is hard to convince small producers because amendments and fertilizer are subsidized and cheap. Intellectual labor is expensive. My relatives who farm would rather gross 1.2 million and pay 1.15 million than gross 200k one year and make nothing for a couple years. Tax law and industrial ag are tough competitors.
 
r ranson
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paul wheaton wrote:A big part of permaculture is about replacing petroleum with people. 

...

If we are going to replace most of the petroleum in agriculture with people, we need to find the ways that people can be almost as predictable a petroleum.


What I'm hearing is that sometimes, when people work together in a group they can do epic stuff. 

But sometimes they falter. 

How can we work with human's natural tendencies to create more of the first and less of the second?

I would love to know this.  I'm especially keen to learn practical solutions for small groups and communities. 
 
Travis Johnson
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The USDA requires...or at least did...producers to get some education on farming before they got loans, and so I took some classes on farming one winter. We had various guests and one was an agricultural accountant and he told us about a farmer who did just what you mention...

The guy was a dairy farmer and had a good year and would have had to pay $35,000 to taxes. Wanting to "stick it to the man", he opted to put a down payment and buy a tractor, which the accountant told him not to because he really did not need it. Two years later the price of milk dropped out and he lost money, but now he had a tractor payment that he could not afford. Soon he was filing for bankrupt. Naturally these guys blame everyone but themselves, but the truth of the matter is, if they guy had simply paid his taxes, kept the other 65% he was legally allowed, he would have had money in the bank to ride out the tough times.

Farms do not fail because they have no money; farmers are essentially Girt's and have vast resources to sell, what they do not have is cash-flow and that is that kills most businesses.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Seems to me that people not showing up for work is a management issue, not a permaculture problem, nor a problem with fuel.

I look around  my community, and make up stories about the people that live in it. For example, I think of many of my childhood friends as the rich Lords and Ladies that live in their castle on the hilltop. They drive the latest model cars. They have their boats and RVs. They might have a backhoe parked out back, even if it rarely gets used. They get their machine harvested food from a grocery store, typically in a box,  can, or plastic. Their meat comes to them cold, and wrapped in plastic. If they need a post-hole dug, they pay for a machine to dig it for them. 

I think of myself as a peasant living in a shack in the woods. I do most of my travel via human muscle power. I weed my garden mostly with tools powered by human muscles. I get my food from the dirt. I might wash or peel it to get it ready for eating. My meat comes to me warm and bloody, wrapped in feathers or fur. If I need a post-hole dug, I get out a shovel and dig a hole. If I need a lot of holes dug, I ask a friend for help. More than a few friends will help for the price of a bottle of wine and an afternoon of shooting the breeze.  It also helps that we have a rich network of interconnected indebtedness. Alan remembers the generous tips I left for his staff when he operated the local eatery. Tom remembers that I showed up to help him repair the roof on his house after it was damaged by a falling tree. Mark remembers that I overpaid his grandson for lawn mowing while he was saving money to go on a mission.

I consider myself fortunate to have lived under a vow of poverty for about 18 years. I don't have to imagine what a low-energy future would look like, because fuel is already too pricey for me to afford. When I do the math, I would have to grow, harvest, and sell 300 dozen ears of corn just to have a vehicle sitting in the driveway. It would cost an additional 500 dozen ears of corn to provide fuel for it.  With numbers like that, it's easy to make the choice to live without a vehicle.

I often undertake earthmoving projects with simple tools like a shovel and wheelbarrow. It's amazing how strong and capable human muscle power can be.

One of my favorite tools: A wheeled hoe. The Lord on the hill would use a rototiller to do the tasks that I do with a wheeled hoe.





 
Travis Johnson
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I completely understand Joseph.

Yesterday the banker stopped by to talk about our sheep expansion. The fact the she came by the farm and on a Saturday afternoon says a lot of good things about it no less, but in going over the numbers, she was rather put off by the fact that we had no debt. Ultimately she doubled our personal monthly expenses (in farming called household withdrawal) because it just did not look right to her. We discussed things for awhile before we just agreed to leave it as "potential profit to the farm", but the thing of it is, we do not need any profit for our work. The fact that Katie and I can subsist on our own, raise our 4 kids and be husband and wife/best friends is enough. I am 42 years old and retired, that is living the dream I would say...

But this left me with an issue. Now I have to prove somehow I can make enough "household withdrawal" from the month we get the extra sheep, until they actually start paying for themselves at 13 months in. It was twice as much money as it needs to be because she doubled up on the amount needed. We just don't need it. She just does not understand how frugal we are, and how little money we spend. It can be done, we prove it every month...

In the end I just placated her and said we would just cut wood to get us through that first year.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Joseph, that is a cool implement and I see it comes with attachments. Had you done a thread about equipment for petroleum-free gardening? I would be interested in what you really need versus time-savers for larger plots. I am interested in the large single wheel kentucky-style wheel hoes versus the two wheel. I stick-planted using PVC/funnel but the wet clay clogged it immediately. I think I need a wider pipe or oil in the end or something, anyhow I have a lot to learn. But even clogged it was super quick to plant beans and corn (I dropped them in like a WWII bomber pilot which had some losses). I had pretty much zero germination from rootcrops and spring greens with scatter seeding in unprepared soil so I need to either upgrade equipment or not grow them. Culturally I pretty much live on them, so that is not much of an option. I think your ability to tolerate vagaries in your schedule and labor is inspiring. I have been trying to figure out how to get more tolerant of disruption in my growing, but since my schedule is fairly rigid and my weather is not, it means I need more schedule-tolerant plants. I have to currently prioritize that over taste, because I may have a three week time frame I have no time off, so I often plant when I don't want to. Kings don't have to live with inconvenience or be very ingenious.  I do have to balance time, and that means I use a chainsaw versus a crosscut saw, but it means thinking about each workflow and being conscious about it.

Travis, we eat like kings in my opinion, especially during the summer. I literally have trouble going out to eat because it just annoys me that the quality of food is so meager, and I bring meals to work. Most prepared food you are paying for convenience. My friends are shocked at how little we spend outside our mortgage, and we have to turn on A/C when they visit just because people think it is strange to not have 72 degree all summer and 74 all winter. It is surprising how much social pressure there is to spend into debt, and I suspect your banker lady has no friends who don't think that way. I probably spend less on food and transportation than some of our custodial employees, just because the pressure is significant.  Part of the solution is simply to treat people well regardless of their "station in life", or even to actively seek out and encourage those who forgo convenience and debt. You and Joseph certainly are a shocking contrast in the culture!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm currently using the single wheeled version of the wheel hoe I showed (Planet Jr style). The double wheel version looked clever in the catalog, but it really sucked in the field. I keep intending a thread about weeding. At this point in the growing season it'll have to wait.
 
David Livingston
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To me the elephant in the room that no one is talking about directly is money . Joseph has built up obligations a whole net work of them that acts like money . Bit like a " gert "
I don't think Paul has been in place long enough to build up this local net work . So therefor he is dependent on paying folks ( and not paying them if they don't turn up ) or relying on vulenteers . The problem with the latter is they are like string you can pull them but you cannot push them . You can never guarantee how many follow in your wake  and pushing them never never works
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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David Livingston wrote:Joseph has built up obligations a whole net work of them that acts like money . Bit like a " gert "


It's much worse than that... It's much better than that... My village and my family have been accruing these obligations for 157 years. And even before then, the mutual-obligations were accruing in Missouri, Illinois, England, Sweden, etc... We brought them with us. My grandfather's friends still offer me warm greetings based on the mutual-obligations they accrued with each other, even though my grandfather has been dead for 3 decades. And I honor and fulfill the mutual-obligations accrued by my grandparents, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my lovers, my nephews, my nieces, my cousins, etc.

I am still reaping the benefits of my great-great grandfather's reputation as a plant breeder. He developed the variety of wheat that became the most widely planted wheat in northern Utah and Southern Idaho. The high productivity of that wheat blessed the lives of our whole region. As a result, they bestowed honor upon his name, and still afford me a modicum of honor based only on the part of my name that I share with him.

I still remember my horror the day I figured out that I was part of that network, and that I was completely engulfed by it. Then I relaxed, and let the idea permeate every facet of my soul. Today, my membership in the mutual-obligation-network is at the core of who I am, and how I function as a farmer.

 
Kyle Neath
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I admit that I've always felt a lot of unease at the idea of "people replacing petroleum" — it's not that I disagree with the idea, it's just that it never really felt plausible with any solution I've seen presented. I could go into detail as to why I'm skeptical, but I don't think it would be that useful to the conversation. One thing that I think a lot about is how the permaculture crowd often devalues the power and usefulness that petroleum has brought us.

Tj touched on some of this, but I think it's worth re-iterating:

- Gasoline is the most available energy form known to man. You can get it almost everywhere, and anyone who's used a gas chainsaw and a battery-powered chainsaw knows the difference in energy.

- Gasoline is tremendously portable — the same gallon of gas that powers a truck can power a log-splitter, power-washer, well-driller, chainsaw, or snowmobile.

In my mind, petroleum has allowed all of us to carry around a small army worth of labor in our pocket ready to work for us in any capacity at any moment in time. That's a tall order to fill, and it's a bit frustrating to me that so many dismiss it as easily solvable. It's a tremendous challenge, and doubly difficult if we demand our solutions to be ethical as well as practical. We often forget that many of mankind's pre-petroleum engineering projects were accomplished with slaves. Roman architecture? Yep. Pyramids? Yep. US rail system? Yep. NY subway? Yep. When I look back for examples of large engineering & agriculture projects that do not include petroleum or slaves, I come up almost entirely blank. I have difficulty seeing a future in which people are more predictable than petroleum without mind control.

Which to me begs the question: are we trying to solve the wrong problem? Petroleum has allowed us to work as if we have a small army in our command. Perhaps that solution is not to replace the army, but to change the shape of the work. To me the best answer of how to replace people with petroleum is to get more people growing food and to reduce the distance between ourselves and our food. Reduce the need for large scale, and you reduce the need for petroleum.

I hardly feel that I've figured this out. I believe the question of how to replace petroleum with ________ is going to be the great challenge of my generation. I am curious to see if we end in an energy-rich world (Elon Musk's future) or an energy-lean world (Paul's future).
 
J.D. Ray
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Kyle Neath wrote:
...

- Gasoline is the most available energy form known to man. You can get it almost everywhere, and anyone who's used a gas chainsaw and a battery-powered chainsaw knows the difference in energy.

- Gasoline is tremendously portable — the same gallon of gas that powers a truck can power a log-splitter, power-washer, well-driller, chainsaw, or snowmobile.

...

I believe the question of how to replace petroleum with ________ is going to be the great challenge of my generation. I am curious to see if we end in an energy-rich world (Elon Musk's future) or an energy-lean world (Paul's future).


Friedrich Diesel developed his engine to show that we could have an engine that ran on non-petroleum fuel (peanut oil in the demonstration at the 1900 World's Fair).  Peanut oil (and rapeseed oil, and many other plant-based oils) can power internal combustion engines if we are willing to deal with the (relatively minor) inconveniences of startup, shutdown, and maintenance.  We don't need to do without the internal combustion engine, an amazing bit of technology that, as you say, permeates our lives, but we can do with less petroleum if we want to.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2500
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Kyle Neath wrote:To me the best answer of how to replace people with petroleum is to get more people growing food and to reduce the distance between ourselves and our food.


When I've done the math, it takes much less fuel per pound to bring food to my valley from 800 miles away than it does for me to take it from my farm to the closest town. There are huge economies of scale available for semi or train transportation that are unavailable to me as a small-scale farmer.

 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 212
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
23
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When I've done the math, it takes much less fuel per pound to bring food to my valley from 800 miles away than it does for me to take it from my farm to the closest town.


I didn't want to be a total turd in the punchbowl, but more fuel is used shopping than shipping too, you are right on Joseph. A prior pseudoblog touched on the use of petrochemicals in production, and that is a major factor, and "organic" inputs are still high. Cost about the same fuel to spray BT or organophosphates. This is why I want to do what Joseph and so many others do and limit my inputs. Grow my nitrogen, store water in my soil. Move carbon into the soil. This just makes so much sense to me.

I watched the videos at bionutrient.org (thanks Dan Kline) and this approach makes so much sense. Fix mineral deficiencies as cheaply as you can, compost in place and then let the plants be plants. I love the price point sensitivity on these, I could have amended my entire property for 3x what I spent on my garden!
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1197
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That is why I am appalled by the current way logging is done. Everyone looks at the current way tops and slash are chipped, hauled off to the mill and sold (For a mere $1 a cord mind you), and then will wonder in 20 years time...what the heck were we thinking. What landowners are doing is scraping up their future soil and selling it for chump-change and saying, "jeesh my land looks so clean."

Nope, you just look silly...silly being a kind word as I wish to say something stronger...

Just let that tops and slash sit, it will rot, create its own compost and thus top soil. I can farm on that...that is carbon and eventually nitrogen for my soil!!

Yes it looks horrible...for 2 years. Be patient man...that wood took at  least 35 years to grow, I can let it rot for 2 years and be WAY ahead of the game nutrient wise.

But what do I know, I am just a dumb sheep farmer.
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 354
Location: Western Kenya
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Where I live petroleum power isn't an option. Nobody in the village owns a tractor, or a rottatiller, or weedwacker, etc.  There are cows to plow if you have large tracks.  I found cows too destructive, as while they were plowing they trampled other things in the surrounding areas and or the handlers were careless and let the cows eat crops in other plots.  So now I rely solely on people power.  There are plenty of unemployed men and women who are looking for work as day laborers.  Still its not without problems.  In general, they are not permiculturists and they are not willing to learn new things.  They don't take instruction, and will only do the work the way its been done for generations.  They will even refuse the job if you demand your method be followed.  So that limits the work I can hire out, and puts a very heavy burdon on me to do more myself.  Its kind of a one woman show around here.  I hire workers for hand plowing new places (breaking sod), and doing some domestic work that I am not too particular about, like hand washing the laundry.  I try to feed my workers well, and if they do a good job in a reasonable amount of time, I usually add a little something on top of what we agreed.  That makes my workers happy.  However, I refuse to make partial payments for unfinished work, and I refuse to renegotiate the payment after work has started, and that makes me unpopular with the day laborers as those are common games they like to play to rip off their employers. 

People can be frustrating to deal with.  But a reliable worker is an awesome resource.
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 212
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
23
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Where I live petroleum power isn't an option.


I have lived in the (whatever is the correct term these days) underdeveloped/third/developing world, and it is true, but not as idyllic as people think! I wish we were more responsible with our consumption, but as much as I think I am tough and resilient it is a relative term for sure, and it is not live or die for me! It was shocking to me to see that people are generally about the same all over the world. There are some people that work hard, some that are lazy, some that are altruistic, some that will rob you blind. Varying ratios depending on culture, but living outside the easy world is an good cure for too much idealism, at least for me. When I lived in Brazil I had coworkers who lived in places you would want to upgrade for livestock but would have you over for a meal, and wealthy ones who would take your stuff just to do it. The percentage of people with real needs sure increased, but the percentage of people with "wants" didn't go down at all. We are all a mess. The first world is just messes with means.

Poverty is not a virtue any more than riches. Voluntary poverty (Joseph) is an example of being "poor in heart". I think I am too rich in heart, working on it...

 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 273
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Regarding the idea/ideal of people being "predictable," and the notion that large projects (must?) have been done with slave labor, I wonder if we aren't overlooking something as simple as an Amish barn raising.  Lots of "predictability" there, all labor willingly given, all labor earned.  There's a lot of social capital built into such a system, and a lot of mutual benefit.  Could this model not be utilized for all sorts of other projects?
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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