[permaculture] Global Food Supply Near the Breaking Point

Sean Maley semaley at yahoo.com
Fri May 19 10:11:23 EDT 2006

--- "Lawrence F. London, Jr." <lfl at intrex.net> wrote:
> "create an unsustainable practice like agriculture"

A quick attempt to clarify:
The term "agriculture" is being used to indicate a practice forcing specific species to exist,
despite the best efforts of nature to communicate that the species don't belong and on a scale
which extends beyond the needs of the immediate community, thus creating surplus that must be

> So what label do you prefer to describe food/fiber production?

A well thought out guild, or what nature provides on her own.  If nature does not accept our
suggestion, we must learn to live with her dominion over us.

> Are you suggesting that billions of people should compete with other lifeforms
> for access to wild field & forest feedlots for nutritional sustenance? Sure would
> provide a healthy diet but would leave little time for other activities even if there
> was enough food from these sources to go around.

Yes.  It's not like we own the land and the more life in the web, the more of us there can
sustainably be.  Fertility begins with the soil.  However, we can't eliminate competition.  We
don't know for sure that we will always be a part of this food web.  In ways, we are best served
by eating further up on the food pyramid or from highly reproductive species like insects and
pioneer plants, otherwise know as "pests", "weeds", or "invasive species".  At the same time,
"there is no one right way to live."  Some will eat bugs, others legumes, yet others both, and
don't forget the carnivores.

Your assertion that it takes more time to forage than farm is a myth.  "Primitive" culture proves
time and again that the efforts are considerably less than what happens when you put a lock on the
food supply.  Your culture tricks you into believing they must toil more than you and suffer,
otherwise, you wouldn't feel so compelled to toil and suffer for yourself.  In reality, these so
called "primitive" cultures don't really forage, per se.  They frequently use a process of
horticulture very much like permaculture.  In fact, David Holmgren states specific influences and
similarities in his recent book.  If you understand permaculture well enough, you may be taken by
surprise visiting these locations.  David Holmgren in "Beyond Sustainability" mentions learning
more in these locations than he teaches; the tables are turned in a sense and it was hubris to
think he would be showing the natives how to live better.  It seams more fruitful to show them how
our culture manipulates, so they can evade the culture more successfully.

> How about some good support and encouragement for the masses to seek ways to
> utilize sustainable practices and materials to produce food in a sane way,
> locally for local consumption. Ecologically aware, biointensive, regenerative
> methods employed in integrated farming and permaculture systems can produce amazing results,

Learning permaculture is a start.  Many of us have an opportunity to resurrect some of the
traditions of indigenous culture that once thrived where we live, whether "Algonkian" for me, or
Cree further south.  Embedded in their language, stories, songs, rituals, and traditions can be
found the knowledge that any permie can respect.  You can't begin to understand their language
without first understanding the land.  Walking away from civilization isn't a bad thing.  Quality
of life is what you make for yourself (working for the man isn't quality).  I'm sure, also, that
many of our toys can make it with us beyond civilization.

> often unpredictably so. Its straight up from there. I have witnessed this happening on my land
> as I prepared 4 acres of biointensive raised beds for vegetable production.
> I could hardly believe what I was seeing. The production potential of this land is immense and
> will only increase.
> I provided an initial massive shot of manures, composts, rock dusts and hundreds of hours of
> tractor-based tillage
> and it has been coasting ever since.

There isn't "one way" to walk away from civilization.  We may be arguing semantics when we use the
word agriculture.  Using permaculture designs, I expect that you aren't exactly following
traditional practices of agriculture.  I have mentioned "Arator" before.  Farmers have been doing
what you are doing for a very long time.  This is where this discussion gets bogged down in
semantics and woo woo.  I mention "Arator" because building soil quality is the whole point, but
those damn Hamiltonians leave the farmer with a dilemma.

In simple more conventional terms:
If you tax the farmer, he has to turn around and raise the cost of his product.  If the product -
whether cotton, soy, or hog - costs more, then the people will complain that the farmer is trying
to get rich off of things that are fundamentally needed.  If the product must stay the same price,
the farmer must find a short cut:  slavery, reduce crop rotation, change to easier product, etc. 
What is cheap, gets cheaper; what is expensive gets more expensive; land quality diminishes,
despite full knowledge of future consequences.  Whether it is a dumb king, government patronage,
or greedy businesses, farmers become stuck riding out the 10,000 year storm.

This story repeats over the course of history.  God kings become displaced by generals.  Generals
become displaced by politicians.  Politicians become displaced by dictators and kings.  Dictators
and kings get replaced by republics.  The pattern is that good land practices get exploited by a
political process, where the person with the keys to the food supply gets the patronage.  With no
surplus, there is nothing to protect and cause patronage.  The fact that it is more nutritious is
a bonus.

> There are ways to practice agriculture and there are others best left undone.
> Those who teach permaculture should spend more time an effort teaching soil improvement
> practices. There are new worlds to conquer in that arena.
> LL

Nobody disagrees with focusing on soil quality.  Some great work was accomplished in the Amazon. 
Without that beautiful black, fertile soil, there would be no evidence of how large and complex
that civilization once was.  Even there, there can be found desert where agriculture was once


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