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How did people survive without Petroleum?  RSS feed

 
Benton Lewis
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Calorie positive living in that environment would be difficult. Specific examples please, such as plains Indians and bison.
 
William Bronson
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? Like vegetable oil,right?
It's just fat. Game has fat, and can be hunted it trapped(trapping can take less energy).
Fish and shellfish ,nuts,seeds.
Acorns.
 
Loxley Clovis
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Specific? Hmmm... I guess saying 99.99% of humanity's 100,000+ year worldwide history without petroleum use is not specific enough.
As for "calorie positive", I've been researching the late Toby Hemenway's thesis on horticultural societies being extremely food abundant for the relatively little amount of work they put in. Horticultural being "gardening"; that is, they do some hunting, some gathering, maybe some farming, but mostly they tend semi-wild plants & animals. Thus far I've come up with that these awesome folks that you can research further at your local library:
Jōmon,
Milpa,
Hopewell,
the people who built the Amazonian Dark Earths,
Kumeyaay,
The Hawaiians were extremely well off & had free time to surf, do martial arts, dance, chant, sing, play sports, paint & reached a very high level of culture because of their abundant food-fuel-fiber-timber-medicine ahupua'a land management system.
TODAY:
Hanunóo,
Birom...
...if anyone finds other horticultural societies to add to this list, please let me know.
Yale anthropologist James C. Scott has some extremely interesting ideas on this topic & influenced Hemenway significantly.
As for "how they did it" - they intimately knew the flora & fauna of their bioregion.
 
Deb Rebel
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In the days before petroleum, there was coal, wood, peat. Oils came from animals mostly, rending their fats down. Whales were hunted because their oils made great lamp fuel and the demand was so great they were hunted to near extinction. The whaling ships were floating rendering plants, the oil stored in barrels and brought back that way, and most of the carcass would be jettisoned after it was peeled for the blubber. Some sorts had a reservoir of a very pure oil in the head that was highly sought after. They were running out of whales and the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania was hailed as a new source of (Kerosene) which could be burned in lamps. Tallow candles were messy, smelly and gave a poor light. Beeswax always has been expensive. Some animal oils can be burned, even ghee (clarified butter) can be burned, but. Kerosene was easier and cheaper to make and gives a fairly good light compared to other burnables.

Oil and fats in the diet, most cultures went from hunting and foraging to agriculture and keeping animals. The colder your relative climate the more energy one needs to consume and burn to stay warm as well as meet nutritional needs. Native Inuit ate a lot of meat, and pure fat, just to survive. It is said that Artic and Antartic explorers and researchers will eat a stick of butter if they have it with them, to warm up. Fats to burn.

People lived for millennia before the petroleum age. A bit differently but they certainly did. Petroleum replaced a lot of things and is what our society is built on, and replaced what came before. The issue about replacing it with something else, is what you asking, perhaps?

 
r ranson
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Benton Lewis wrote:Calorie positive living in that environment would be difficult. Specific examples please, such as plains Indians and bison.


Can you give us more idea what you are looking for. 

Petroleum use has only come dominate in the last hundred-ish years, and only in parts of the world.  That gives us several thousands of years and cultures to draw from.  That's a lot of specific examples, even for us. 

Could you be more specific about what specific kinds of examples you are seeking?
 
Harry Soloman
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http://www.indian-cultures.com/cultures/piaroa-indians/

You can ask them.
 
Benton Lewis
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Are there any detailed studies out there about how specific people's survived/currently survive without oil?  Maybe details like giving the amount of calories in specific animals and plants to show how they meet a person's daily caloric needs.  Perhaps its too difficult to even know how many calories a person needs to survive anyway.  Maybe there are staple food sources we don't know about that helped man.  Buffalo used to be in my area but no trace of them as far as i can tell.  The american chestnut used to be a staple too but its probably extinct.  I'm sure they ate all edible parts of the animals too and did not overlook food sources like fatty raccoons that most don't think of as food today.
 
Glenn Herbert
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So are you actually asking about petroleum, or edible oils? Your latest post seems to tilt the question to the latter.
 
Benton Lewis
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petroleum
 
Andrew Brock
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Eating only fruits and vegetables will yield approx 10% calories from fat. Add in avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, or a little meat and it's easy to get into the 20-50% fat. Websites like cronometer.com will tell you exactly what you are asking about
 
Wes Hunter
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Benton Lewis wrote:Are there any detailed studies out there about how specific people's survived/currently survive without oil?  Maybe details like giving the amount of calories in specific animals and plants to show how they meet a person's daily caloric needs.  Perhaps its too difficult to even know how many calories a person needs to survive anyway.  Maybe there are staple food sources we don't know about that helped man.  Buffalo used to be in my area but no trace of them as far as i can tell.  The american chestnut used to be a staple too but its probably extinct.  I'm sure they ate all edible parts of the animals too and did not overlook food sources like fatty raccoons that most don't think of as food today.


I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around what exactly you're after.  It sounds almost like you doubt that it's even possible to survive without petroleum, which, of course, clearly isn't true.

Check out Google Books.  There are lots of free downloadable public domain books available.  I'd suggest searching for something like "Native American diet," which ought to pull up a few detailed accounts of what different tribes ate, how they procured their food, and how they prepared it.

As far as caloric content goes, does that even matter?  Does putting a number to something make it more or less true?  For probably as long as humans have existed, they (we) have eaten what they needed, have gone hungry at times, have had plenty at times.  There's not much more to it than that.

And as far as the notion that so-called "primitive" peoples ate every bit of meat, ate all the organs, used all the hides and bones and sinews, and just generally didn't waste anything, I'm pretty certain that idea has been thoroughly debunked.  They were probably less wasteful than modern humans on the whole, but I think a false standard has been set in that regard.
 
John Weiland
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Probably posted elsewhere in the forum before, but relevant to the issue:  http://www.primitivism.com/original-affluent.htm
 
Jarret Hynd
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Benton Lewis wrote:petroleum....Specific examples please, such as plains Indians and bison.


A quick answer was that people just spent more time gathering food or growing food.

I think what your OP was about was the typical question Mark Shepard brings up about Permaculture actually feeding people via calorie dense foods. One thing I believe is different now compared to pre-industrial revolution is that people didn't "require" as many calories. Science has shown enough positive evidence towards fasting and calorie restriction diets that I am under the impression the modern recommendation of 2,000-3,000 calories a day is likely a bogus figure in order to propagate consumerism, but I'll leave that tin-hat theory at that.  

As for Indians, 1 hazelnut shrub produces on average 3-4 pounds of nuts, though back then maybe production was less. Google tells me 100g of hazelnuts are 628 calories, so there are 2844 calories in 1 pound and those are easy to store. I picked 4 litres of chokecherries in 1 hour the other day and that was in a wild pasture - food in nature is pretty abundant. Now imagine how the native indians used to manage the land, and the millions of buffalo, all the possible(perennial) foods would be more than enough to meet their day-to-day needs.

Edit: Just saw the comment about wanting studies. I can think of something for the calorie restriction, a documentary called "eat, fast and live longer" which reference some studies. 
 
r ranson
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Have a look at the book Just Enough.  This has very detailed examples of Japan in the Edo period.  Pre-petroleum living where the population thrived, reduced environmental degradation of the recent past and had farmers producing enough food to support large cities.  All by hand.  Very few livestock.  A combination of wild crafting and farming. 
 
Julia Winter
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Paul (Wheaton) did a whole series of podcasts going over "Just Enough."  You might want to listen to some of those.

Humans have been around for thousands and thousands of years, we've only been burning petroleum for less than 200.  The cool thing is that as we develop better solar and wind power, we can light our homes and power our machines without having to burn anything.  If we can figure out, I don't know, maybe how to seriously harness the power of tides maybe this petroleum thing will become just a phase we went through.

"Ancient sunlight," I've heard it called.
 
David Livingston
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Amish et al ?
 
Olga Booker
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Julia winter writes:"The cool thing is that as we develop better solar and wind power, we can light our homes and power our machines without having to burn anything. "


I am not entirely sure that this is quite as simple as that.  Have you considered the embodied energy to create these solar and wind powered contraptions?

http://www.theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/344771/can-you-make-wind-turbine-without-fossil-fuels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embodied_energy
 
Deb Rebel
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Before plastics, before electricity, before oil, there was the power of water. Water wheels. Spin shafts, use gears, grind grain or saw wood.... the power of the wind (look at dutch windmills), same thing, spin a shaft and with gears, grind grain or the like. Even pump water.

With human or animal power, turning a turnstile (pushing in a circle, aka spin a shaft...) to grind grain, saw wood, pump water. power a printing press...

Then there are walking wheels. Animal or human powered, to turn a spit with a carcass to roast (there used to be a breed of dog bred specially for this, some bigger wheels would use small children). Or many other things, some already mentioned.

The treadle. Foot powered. Spring-pole lathe, for turning; before the advent of electricity, sewing machines, spinning wheels...

There are many ways pre-oil to do things. Some of these are still used today.
 
Benton Lewis
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So maybe they developed high calorie, easily storable crops and traded them with each other.  Maybe somehow they could use a mule to plant those crops and get enough calories and nutrition from those crops to feed both the mule that was used to plant them and extra people.  Does anyone have numbers for the calorie content of crops, the amount of human and animal calories burned when planting them without using petroleum and the amount of calories needed by people and animals to survive each day and live this lifestyle?  That way, I can net the numbers and see the calorie surplus.  Were animals used to plow necessary or did they really ramp up the surplus calorie production?



 
Wes Hunter
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Benton Lewis wrote:So maybe they developed high calorie, easily storable crops and traded them with each other.  Maybe somehow they could use a mule to plant those crops and get enough calories and nutrition from those crops to feed both the mule that was used to plant them and extra people.  Does anyone have numbers for the calorie content of crops, the amount of human and animal calories burned when planting them without using petroleum and the amount of calories needed by people and animals to survive each day and live this lifestyle?  That way, I can net the numbers and see the calorie surplus.  Were animals used to plow necessary or did they really ramp up the surplus calorie production?





For calorie content, use Google.  It's going to be variable, but that will get you in the ballpark.

For human requirements, I think that's going to vary so much from person to person that you'll just never know.

The bigger issue, though, I think, is that you just can't make this a mathematical equation.  You can't prove or disprove the viability by plugging in numbers.  It's far too complex an issue to allow for that.

Really, I think the best thing for you, if you're really interested in homesteading, is to just start.  Grow some plants, raise some animals, do a little hunting and fishing and trapping, and go from there.  Evaluate where you're at, where you want to be, and how to bridge the gap.  But that can only be done by doing it.  You aren't going to plan a successful homestead on paper, press "play," and just watch it all hum like a well-oiled machine.

Otherwise, I think--and I've never used this phrase before--it's just fruitless mental masturbation.  I don't say that as a put-down, but as coming from someone who has too often tried to work everything out on paper when I should have been just doing it.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The bottom line is that plants and animals are self-replicating, and that many species produce a tremendous amount of food with very little labor, and zero petroleum inputs. Perhaps you have read somewhere that farming produces fewer calories in food than are burned up in petroleum. Whatever. Humans can't eat petroleum unless it's converted to something else. Might as well make the conversion.  The members of this forum are not engaged in that kind of farming. I plant by hand, I weed by hand, I harvest by hand. An hours worth of labor can feed me for a week, or a month. I am still harvesting from plants that were planted by my great-great-great grandmother and her peers. That's from before petroleum. There have already been plenty of examples cited of crops that produce abundantly with little labor and no petroleum. I'm not interested in doing that math as an academic exercise. The boots on the ground experience of me and my ancestors is that we can feed ourselves just fine without petroleum.
 
Benton Lewis
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I plant by hand, I weed by hand, I harvest by hand. An hours worth of labor can feed me for a week, or a month.


One hour of labor can feed you for a month.  That would mean you could work 12 hours and be fed for a year?  Do you mean just fed enough to survive or that you would be meeting your nutritional and caloric needs daily for the entire month?  What crops would you plant to do that?  Do you use petroleum when you irrigate?
 
Benton Lewis
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David Livingston wrote:Amish et al ?


Do the Amish really live self-sufficiently, meaning no inputs from outside their community?  Do they trade with outsiders for some stuff they could not live without?  If so, they would be a great example of a community living without petroleum today, as they did before humans used petroleum.
 
Todd Parr
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Benton Lewis wrote:
David Livingston wrote:Amish et al ?


Do the Amish really live self-sufficiently, meaning no inputs from outside their community?  Do they trade with outsiders for some stuff they could not live without?  If so, they would be a great example of a community living without petroleum today, as they did before humans used petroleum.


There is a very large Amish community here.  Amish people here now trade and do business outside their own community, but they didn't for many, many years and they could very easily go back to living only within their own community.

I'm not even really sure I understand your initial post.  You do understand that people lived for many thousands of years without petroleum correct?  Eskimos lived without petroleum by hunting alone as Deb pointed out.  The examples of "how" humans lived without petroleum fill many, many books.  Maybe you have a more specific question in mind?
 
Benton Lewis
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I understand they lived without petroleum or I would not be here today.  My question is how they did it and even though the OP does not say in the area of the United States, that is the area I want to know how they did it in.  I can generally say all those people who lived before oil was used give too many examples to even start answering this question.  I can pick a people group who lived before oil was used and say they are an example and if i did that I could find an extremely vast number of examples...keep picking peoples groups who lived before people used oil and...overwhelming amount of examples.

What I am getting at is how exactly did they do it?  Do any studies go into detail enough to get into the mathematics of calories burned and then replenished by food?  I can say native Americans used three sisters gardening as a staple and that helped them transition from nomadic to more settled villages, but how much nutrition and calories did they get from three sisters gardening?  How many calories burned making the garden and then how much nutrition and calories absorbed by their bodies to keep them healthy?   I know the mathematics are complicated and probably not even understood today, but maybe not precise math but just "close enough" math.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Benton Lewis wrote:What I am getting at is how exactly did they do it? 


Every family was different. Every farm was different. Every village was different. Just like each family, each farm, and each village is different today.

Benton Lewis wrote:Do any studies go into detail enough to get into the mathematics of calories burned and then replenished by food?


That math is trivial to do. The raw data is readily available. We know how many calories are in a cow. We know how many cows can survive on pasture in various climates. We know how many pounds of wheat can be grown per acre. We know how many calories are in a pound of wheat, and how many calories it takes to feed a man, a woman, or a child for a day. The raw data is easily looked up on the internet. That sort of math is easily done by anyone that can do basic arithmetic. I've done that math plenty of times in the past. I'm not interested in doing it any more... Because it doesn't matter. The Earth produces an abundance of food for very little labor. Life lives. Live grows. Life reproduces. It does so regardless of petroleum. We are surrounded by abundance.

I'll give one more example. My apple orchard grows without petroleum. My labor consists of pruning the trees in the spring, and harvesting the fruit. So for two hours of yearly labor I can harvest around 180,000 calories. In other words, two hours work can supply all the calories I need for 90 days. That's for one tree. I'm caring for 30 trees. That sort of math applies widely across many crops and many species!
 
Deb Rebel
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If you are from a heritage that provided for themselves you may still know the skills to live and live well, in that climate, that that background of your ancestors came from.

I am one of those, that the ancestors came from roughly one area, moved into one with similar climate and could support their known activities, to survive and thrive (cultivated plants and animals did similarly and produced harvest similarly and in about the same amounts.

They grew gardens and planted trees; raised livestock; collected and processed their harvests. Many did the same things. My paternal grandfather brewed and vented, he started heavily in Prohibition but the recipes and methods were HIS grandfather's. My paternal grandmother made cheese with newborn calf stomach (rennet) [every spring a farmer took turn breeding an off cow just to get a calf, and the stomach would be shared]. That grandmother, her friends and neighbors and relatives... every year we gathered wildstuff and made dyes. And dyed our own. Yes they could render out flax (she didn't but she traded dyeing stuff to the ones that did) and also spun wool, and all the old skills. Dipped candles. Collected honey, my grandfather kept hives. He would borrow a big stainless centrifugal caster to empty the combs.

Sausage, we had a press and we made our own including our own natural casings. I still own one. Crocks, ones you could crawl into... we borrowed my grandparent's redwing 50, and would butcher a hog and cure it ourselves. I helped with that many times.

These things, how to make borscht (beet stew), which was pick everything you could find in garden, sometimes all we had were beet leaves, etc. This was a way of using everything.

How did you survive before petrolieum? Large family, the nuclear family. A lot of the same live in the same area and help each other. You collect the things you need to survive. My grandparents could easily be offgrid, as they still had the harness to put draft animals to the plow or to pull the loads or power the grindwheels to make the flour. You had a full circle farm; people, animals, growing things. The food stream tended to make sure no calories are wasted and all got fed and made it through the year. It's not perfect, I remember years when we had crappy hay production and had to go on a real search to get enough, in good years we would make extra just in case we had a bad year to skirt into, and otherwise; a good farmwife had enough jars (don't you look crosswise at her sacred jar collection) and put up enough to also get through a bad year. You learned to depend on yourself, look ahead, plan ahead.

If you are asking how people lived, look through here on Permies. A lot that know all the offgrid and older skills, have shared the knowledge here. That's how you make it without oil. Subtract making electricity or using motors or engines; and you have it. For almost anywhere from the tropics to the sub-artic.
 
r ranson
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Benton Lewis wrote:What I am getting at is how exactly did they do it? 


Every family was different. Every farm was different. Every village was different. Just like each family, each farm, and each village is different today.



Exactly my answer.

Do any studies go into detail enough to get into the mathematics of calories burned and then replenished by food?


YES. There were when I studied at University.  Usually under the title "ethnography."  I suspect there are thousands of studies out there which can be accessed (usually free of charge) with a libary card.

how exactly did they do it?


Like everything else on this site, how we do it depends more on where we are in the world than anything else.  It's all location dependent.

There are some great books mentioned in this thread already.  So I think the next step in your journey is the local library. There are many books that have the information you seek from statistical ethnography to archaeology, to period texts. 

Pick one culture or location you are interested in.  Choose three keywords and search the library catalog.  Ask the librarian to help you come up with the keywords and find books, they love that.  Borrow every book they have that includes one or more of your keywords and take them home.  Give half an hour to each book and really look at it.  Look at the table of contents first, then the cover, then the index.  Flip through it.  Then, if anything catches your eye, read a paragraph.  If it shows promise, put it in the read pile, the rest put in the return pile.  This should give you about 20 books, of which, maybe three will be worth reading cover to cover. 

For example, I wanted to learn how peasants ate in England before modern industrial farming.  My key words were "England" "cooking" "food" "middle ages" "medieval"  This gave me about 140 books at my local library.  I took them home (not all at once as their limit is 60 books).  I flipped through each one and discovered about 20 books that were relevant to my research.  Some were translations of medieval cook books, some were farming textbooks from 12th-century Andalusia (now Spain), some were detailed archaeological accounts with tables of numbers, and some were children's books.  I also discovered books that weren't directly relevant but had some great snippets of information that I could use.  I read those 20 books cover to cover (some many times) and amalgamated that knowledge to create a complete picture of things.

This is a basic research skill that helps with everything in life.  A skill that, alas, I fear forums are killing.  We can just ask general questions and hope for a good response.  Quite often the response is only as good as the question.  However, if we take a trip to the library first and then ask detailed questions, we often get really useful responses.  A little bit of post secondary education or even some learning annex classes at the local community college can help build these skills - it also gives you access to the academic journals and the most amazing librarians in the world, while you're a student.

If the library isn't your thing, how about starting a thread about a specific culture with specific questions?  What did such and such a culture eat?  How did they acquire their food?  What tools did they use?  How did they cook it?  How did they deal with waste? 
As for calorie calculations - yes, those are out there too.  However, that's applying a modern measurement to cultures that didn't have them.  It really isn't an issue outside our culture.  Other cultures saw food more holistically.  Using calories as a measure reduce our understanding of how other cultures understood food.
 
Benton Lewis
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I'll give one more example. My apple orchard grows without petroleum. My labor consists of pruning the trees in the spring, and harvesting the fruit. So for two hours of yearly labor I can harvest around 180,000 calories. In other words, two hours work can supply all the calories I need for 90 days. That's for one tree. I'm caring for 30 trees. That sort of math applies widely across many crops and many species!


That's then kind of examples I'm looking for.  I didn't think of looking up calorie counts before starting this thread, but i think it would help answer my question.  I would need to know what necessary nutrients were obtained from the foods too, not just calories alone, though probably it might be argued they did not get the nutrients they needed and just lived long enough to reproduce, basically.  I did find one article that kind of is what I'm looking for, if it would include farmed crops and animals:  http://woodtrekker.blogspot.com/2013/09/living-off-land-delusions-and.html

I can tweak my OP to be more specific and get answers my question that way too, probably. But asking the general question and seeing the answers has helped.
 
Deb Rebel
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I know from history that some quotes from the days of late US slavery, that 'house rations' from the slave owner, the average ration was about 1100 calories (look up the Alan Alda hosted series, he had one where he went to one of the recreation plantations, that use live action actors that play their parts to give a feel of how it was to live there..) and they had to work to boost it over 1400 calories which was the minimum for the average. A field worker at hard labor could burn a lot more than that. I also remember an industrial revolution quote mentioning the reason tea houses were so popular in that era in England, that a worker that worked hard all day, ate 1400 calories, a cup of hot sweetened tea could give them a real buzz. Just for a little sugar.

I can say personally, as a teen of roughly adult size (17-18 I was 5'5", weighed about 110 at full weight-small frame and wiry-could put 125# over my head for hours a day-aka shoving bales) and could easily drop a good five pounds a day in the field for especially haying season (we made small square bales mostly handled by hand) in water weight and calories burned. And eat over 3500 calories a day. Over night with hydration and a large supper, could put the weight back to burn off despite five meals a day (three good meals and two, sometimes three, large snack breaks). Seeing those numbers later in life about earlier times and what might be on the plate. Though the men were closer to 5'4" and the women about 4'10" ... genetically they might get larger but between probably poorer nutrition for their mother while carrying them plus less than optimal nutrition in their forming years (from the 1780's until the turn of the 20th century, one might be at work in a factory job between six and ten. Life expectancy was 40 to the turn of the 20th century and 45 was a ripe old age.)

Someone in around a zone four climate, of modern body size and at least a maturity of the low 20's to low 40's, doing a lot of manual labor might need 2000-3500 calories a day to maintain general health.

Your idea of working up the numbers have a LOT of variables. And metabolisms vary greatly, not only between individuals, but vary according to age, general health, activity level, what is consumed and in what proportions, and weather/environment. One can adapt to cool/warm/wet/dry/level/altitude but all can change.

So you're looking for hard numbers and it might take you choosing a specific set of parameters (How much land, where it is, what the climate is, what grows there, the experience of the person(s ) that are growing; their metabolism, age, gender, seasons of year, what they are subsisting on, and what they're doing and how they're doing it.

Petroleum gave us affordable lighting, then it gave us the internal combustion engine to do work for us, easier than keeping draft animals, then there was bakelite and electricity and motors to do insulation, and light our way and give us more easier ways to do work for us... but we as the human lived for centuries before it.
 
r ranson
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Another thing to consider, depending on the genetics of the population, what time of day they eat, affects how well the body converts the calories from the diet.  For example, the English Medieval peasant population at their main meal at noon.  They broke their fast late morning with a snack, then had their main meal at mid day, with a small meal late afternoon.   Scientists are now discovering that many people with that genetic background eat best if they confine all their meals within an 8 hour period in the day (fasting for the remaining 16 hours).  Here's an introduction to the idea by the BBC.  If they eat three large meals a day like our modern ideas, then the body doesn't use the callories in the ideal way - The body needs a lot more callories to get the same result.  Different genetics have a huge effect.  Eating at the ideal time seems to reduce the needed callories by almost 20% (rough numbers from memory).

How the food is cooked will also effect what the nutritional value is.  How it's preserved.  If the person lived in the city (most of the world had urban populations and all that food came from farms, some very far away) or the country.  The cooking vessels can influence the trace minerals in the food which will drastically effect how the body processes that food. 

It's variables like this (and there are so many more) why it's so hard to apply modern measurements to non-modern ways of life.  But there are people who love measuring things like callories in diet: Anthropologists. 


If the local library can't help, and one isn't already a student, one can buy a membership a the local university library.  This gives full access to the books and academic papers (and if the university teaches Anthropology, these books will have lushious tables of numbers including hard numbers on diet and calloreis) and the help of friendly librarians. 

 
Shannon Simmons
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Humans sustained themselves just fine with out oil. A better question is how will we sustained ourselves without oil. Modern society will face much more challenges in a life without oil.

Our reliance on a global economy made possible by cheap energy has allowed us to concentrate populations and build infrastructures that are completely unsustainable when we no longer have cheap liquid fuel to transport foods from areas of high production to areas of high population. We will need a complete restructure of our societies, eating local will be come a necessity instead of a catchy phrase.

We have no alternative energy source that will prevent this. Over time we will all have to live simpler liver relying on less and less energy.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Deb: I sure know about burning lots of calories while working. I'm 6'1". I use cronometer.com to keep track of calories consumed and burned. It displays the nutrition and vitamin content of all the foods I commonly eat, and if its missing something like sweet potato leaves, I just substitute for something common like spinach. It estimates calories expended to do various tasks. It displays a summary of vitamins, minerals, and macro nutrients compared to RDA.

I remember one fall day, when I was doing my emergency frost harvests. I had biked the 14 mile round trip to my field. The work day was 16 hours. After super, I entered the data into the program. It responded with "To maintain your current weight, you can eat 4300 additional calories today." Ha! Like heck if I could eat that much more food. I had already stuffed myself.

I love using a nutrition calculation program!!! It makes it easy to see how I could feed myself better. For example, it was easy to see that some foods (soybean oil, and canola oil) were problematic for me. I was getting a huge excess of Omega-6 oils from them, and was deficient in Omega-3 oils. Therefore, I eliminated fast/processed foods. Substituted for coconut oil at home. An started eating more fish, flax, and chia.  I started growing flax and chia on my farm. They are crops that don't provide the huge calories to labor that things like fruit trees provide. They take a lot more labor, and are more fussy to grow and harvest. But I make a point of growing them and eating them, because they provide a nutrient that I would otherwise be missing.

As a result of what the program was showing me about my nutrition, I wasn't getting near enough of the types of nutrients that are provided by green-leafy vegetables. So I started wildcrafting weeds from the garden, and started growing and eating  more spinach, kale, parsley, etc. And I incorporated more herbs into my diet. Wildcrafting enough greens for breakfast doesn't take any longer than going to the grocery store to get some off the shelf. And they grow and seed themselves without any labor from me. In otherwords, I started eating my weeds.

The program showed me that I was chronically deficient in potassium. That was solved by changing the type of salt that I add to my food.

I was only getting about half the RDA of vitamin E, so I used the program to estimate how many ounces of vitamin E rich foods I would need to eat to resolve that issue. For me, nuts ended up being the easiest way to provide that nutrient. So I started paying more attention to eating the walnuts. I had been collecting them and storing them all along, but not eating them regularly.

I would make "what if" recipes...  putting in different ingredients to get the most nutrition out of a meal with the least labor... For example, carrots and orange squash are high priority crops for their vitamin A content.

But even without a nutrient tracking program, we are mammals.  I believe that our bodies instinctively seek out the types of foods that supply the nutrients that they need.



 
Benton Lewis
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r ranson wrote:Another thing to consider, depending on the genetics of the population, what time of day they eat, affects how well the body converts the calories from the diet.  For example, the English Medieval peasant population at their main meal at noon.  They broke their fast late morning with a snack, then had their main meal at mid day, with a small meal late afternoon.   Scientists are now discovering that many people with that genetic background eat best if they confine all their meals within an 8 hour period in the day (fasting for the remaining 16 hours).  Here's an introduction to the idea by the BBC.  If they eat three large meals a day like our modern ideas, then the body doesn't use the callories in the ideal way - The body needs a lot more callories to get the same result.  Different genetics have a huge effect.  Eating at the ideal time seems to reduce the needed callories by almost 20% (rough numbers from memory).


Interesting.  I googled "anthropologist study diet" and one of the top hits was this article about anthropologist finding ideal human diet: http://www.comby.org/documents/documents_in_english/abrams-dietary-requirem-82.htm

So maybe genetics would determine the diet a person survived on in the past; or rather, the past diet of their ancestors might determine what foods that person could best live on when they lived. Maybe I could not survive if I recreated and lived on a pre columbus native american diet because their bodies adapted to the diet and can make due but mine, given my ancestral history, might not be adapted as well to that diet.  Not sure of my ancestry but I'd guess its probably mixed because America is a melting pot.

 
r ranson
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I know with my genetics, I have a lot of trouble using calories from New World foods.  I have to limit my consumption of potatoes, tomatoes, corn and other foods of that sort to be condiments rather than the main part of the meal.  Eating old world foods, I can easily exist on about 1200 to 1500 calories a day (and farm organically, by hand - we farm smart, not hard, so it counts more as endurance moderate activity rather than hard labour).  If I eat tomatoes or potatoes, I need at least 2200 calories in a day or I feel weak. 

It looks like that article has a great reference list of things to read.  Genetics is one factor.  How people are used to eating is another.  Time of day they eat.  How the food is stored and prepaired.  Then there are trace minerals - this has a huge effect on my sheep and can drastically alter how much food they require and how they grow.  Weather.  Shelter/clothing.  Day length.  These all directly affect how mine and my livestock's dietary needs.  Little things like needing a different zinc to mag ratio in the spring just before the hunger gap reduce the urge to consume too many greens too quickly which can cause digestive and problems with hair, nail and horn growth. 

Our way of looking at science likes to put numbers on things.  This is great if you're in the ivory tower.  But take those numbers and applying them to the real world, I discovered how different each location is and how incomplete those numbers are. 
 
Benton Lewis
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Still don't know how they survived without petroleum.  My hunch is that it would take the entire population in an area to be devoted to growing and preserving food; it would have to be a way of life that everyone works at.  If everyone had a garden and shared surplus, growing and preservation knowledge and seeds then I could see them doing it.  But the lone family doing it after one day getting tired of modern life and heading towards the woods seems more myth for the vast majority. 

I tried to look into how the Amish do it and read each family farms 80 acres.  They all have organic minifarms, help each other out, and are all devoted to making it work.  Sounds like a permaculture community.  If anyone has a book or resource I could read that would detail how the Amish farmed when they did not have tractors and all, let me know.  Though I see a lot of metal equipment like storage bins when looking at photos of them...
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Metal smelting, and blacksmithing is easily done in wood-fired kilns. That technology existed thousands of years prior to petroleum.

The way people fed themselves without petroleum in the past will be different than how we do it in the present, or into the future. The genetics of our crops are not the same. The genetics of our bodies are not the same. The climate is not the same. The diseases and pests are not the same. The soil is not the same.

For as long as we have records, there have been crafters, and skilled-workers that did tasks other than food production.

Humans are gregarious. We cooperate together to do more things as a group than we could do as individuals. In my world view, there is no such thing as lone-wolf homesteading. We all depend on a vast network of interconnectedness, both to the natural and the cultural worlds.

 
Deb Rebel
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Look up the homesteaders of the 1970's. The Homestead Act of 1865 was still on the books and a few people filed on it up in Alaska. Couples that each claimed 160 acres, then cut down another 10 and planted 10 acres of trees to do the 160 acre tree claim per each one. The government shut that one down, but those that filed were allowed to proceed. A few did get to their five years and their deed.

And look back to the original era. There were couples as young as 12 and 13 that married, and took a wagon from St. Louis to Oregon to claim land. Think of two kids that age with a horse and a covered wagon going out there and making a go of it. They did. There were many little tricks and secrets on what to do at the land office, like writing 21 in your shoes with chalk outside the office then going in and when you had to swear 'are you over 21' they would honestly answer yes...

In these cases, two people with the right skills, a horse, a few basic tools, and a milk cow, a few chickens... made it. Made a living, fed themselves, provided for themselves and were able to purchase needfuls (It may be a trip of days undertaken once a year to get certain supplies, but they had goods they gathered, hunted, or made to trade).

Petroleum allowed surpluses and for more cities to be supported. If we lose petroleum the major issue is that it needs to be replaced with something else, energy producing, to sustain those surpluses needed to support the population. That is what I think you are after; there is certainly life and civilization BEFORE the petroleum age, and there will be something after it.

 
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