[permaculture] Global Food Supply Near the Breaking Point

Jerome Rigot rigot.3 at osu.edu
Fri May 19 09:57:54 EDT 2006

Hi Marjory,

Your conclusions are not very optimistic.

But I am wondering how real they are, as it seems to me that they are 
not really taking into account the adaptability of humans and the 
power of community. If we look at the Cuba example, when peak oil 
(due to the loss of Soviet oil) suddenly fell upon the island in 
1990, people not only survived, but thrived (check 
http://www.communitysolution.org/ for additional info and for the video).

Havana is a large city, probably over 1 million people, and according 
to your conclusions, it should not have been able to sustain the 
people inhabiting the city. But they were sustained, and one way 
people were able to survive was by developing community gardens, 
square-foot gardens, container gardens, roofs gardens, etc... all 
over the city, creating a local urban agriculture and local urban economy.

So, would this be impossible to happen in Texas?


At 09:08 AM 5/19/2006, you wrote:
>A small group here in Central Texas did some analysis on what would it take
>to grow enough food locally for the existing 1 million population that is in
>Travis County.  You know the 'lets all start a victory garden' scenario?
>The Jeavons bio-intneisve method of food production was assumed along with a
>vegetarian diet.  From the bio-intensive method, 40 beds per person are
>needed which amount to 4,000 sq.ft.  We assumed each household could garden
>800 sq.ft. at home (actually a bit optimistic and would require cutting down
>a lot of trees, but close to real), and all available park land, other
>public lands, greenbelts, vacant land, and exisitng ag land was converted to
>bio-intensive gardens (not potlitically possible but the resources are
>there).  Well, there wasn't enough land, so then it was scaled it down to
>each person only having the 12 bio-intensive growing beds (in bio-intensive
>12 beds are for actively growing and the remining 28 are for compost and
>fertility crops).  The assumption being that the compost crops could come
>from somewhere else - that is not really very realixstic, but worth looking
>at.  We still had only about half of the acreage we would need.
>Then we looked at the other big requirements - compost, experience, water,
>and seeds.  In Austin, we actually compost the biosolids from public waste
>and make what is known as dillo-dirt.  We have several other large
>composting companies in the area which produce large quantities of compost.
>The 'soils' in this area are typically rock, caliche, and clay - so compost
>is essential.  Adding together all of the commercial compost production, and
>some assumptions about exisitng home composters, we have less than 1% of the
>minimum required for the most resource consrving method of food production
>Central Texas is the meeting place of 5 very different bio-regions and our
>weather patterns reflect that diversity and are extremely challenging.  I've
>spoken with many of the local farmers who produce for market and the
>consensus is that it takes at least 10 years to be able to consistantly
>bring to market - or to consistantly be able to provide for yourself.  (From
>my limitied 3 years of working with to grow my own food I will testify to
>every minute of the ten years being necessary.)  So there is the problem of
>a long apprenticship and a question of having enough experienced people to
>Although we get approximately 34" of annual rainfall, it comes at irregular
>times.  The experience of those who are working towards complete off-grid
>living have found that at least 35,000 gallons of storage are needed for a
>family of four (for thier drinking, hygene, and food production needs).  A
>six month drought is common here.  Although people in the city may be able
>to rely on the public system for thier needs, this does demonstrate the high
>dependancy on that public system functioning properly for food production.
>And finally seeds.  The conclusion we reached was that if the descent was
>slow enough, then seed production could keep up with demand.  But a sudden
>increase in demand could wipe out available seeds in a very short time.
>We don't have any hard statistics on the locally grown food in our area, but
>from surveys of farmers markets, the consensus of what we know is it is much
>less than 0.1% of what is needed.  Overall, it will not be possible to
>sustain the 1+ million people here.  It would take massive amount of
>cooperative work and education to  provide a spartan, survival diet for a
>redcuced population.  And, these efforts need to have been started years
>I believe this situation is very similar to most of the US and many of the
>'developed' countires of the world.  An unpleasant combination of too many
>people and too few resources, which even the immense creativity of
>permaculture and other methods will not be able to offset.

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