[permaculture] Peak Oil -

Tommy Tolson healinghawk at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 20 01:29:34 EDT 2007

Marjory wrote:
> Perhaps Toby, in your experience growing food is easy.  And I am finding
> after years of working very hard and making many, many mistakes, it is
> getting easier.  but by no means is it as easy as it was presented in the pc
> course.  It is damned hard work and a difficult apprenticship which takes
> about a decade going at it with everything you have.  And then you are just
> a beginner.  I can't tell you how much I've seen die, how many designs I've
> built that didn't work or fit thier intended purpose, so many ideas that
> sounded so good when we were all in a circle singing and holding hands in
> class.  The mistakes and losses are a harsh teacher.  Yes, I took a pc
> course with an internationally known teacher, yes, I've studied as much as I
> can, yes, I've put every spare moment I can into the project.  Yes, some
> things are working.  I've visited almost all of the precious few local
> farmers who actually produce food for a living.  I have visited almost
> everyone who even attempts sustainability.  There aren't that many real
> examples of a sustainable food produciton system where someone is actually
> living off of it.  There are a handful acattered about the country (USA).
> All of them took years to develop.
Our food forest in Santa Rosa, CA did not get to the point where we were 
actually living off of it.  It was going to where we were going to have 
fruit and berries enough to trade for whatever else we needed to eat, 
though.  I had not even got started on the market garden piece of the 
design, with the farm stand out on a busy street, Mountain View Avenue.  
In another couple of years, we would have been in great shape.  But we 
had shitty neighbors all around us.  No community.  I don't know what 
you're doing, but it doesn't match my experience at all.  With sheet 
mulching and drip irrigation, adobe soil, swaled and bermed, grew 
anything we planted.  I suspect that my next food growing endeavor will 
take place where SFRs once stood in Austin proper.   Toby's sustainable 
urban situation seems to center on SFRs but I don't see how, with the 
energy waste involved.  Mild climate will be essential for SFRs to 
remain in the landscape, unless they're straw bale or Earthships or some 
other super insulated structure.  The ecocity center uses a lot of 
common walls, so energy as heat is used over and over and over before 
escaping, the same way that water is, in a good functioning Permaculture 

30% of current energy expenditure is invested in shitting in the 
drinking water then trying to clean it up so the next person will drink 
it.  We must complete the cycle and return human wastes to the land.  We 
know how to do this safely with composting toilets, but most people in 
the US don't yet even admit they shit.  
> I don't think it is realistic to talk about an eco-village or city unless
> you address food and water.  So many people focus on the straw bale houses
> or the solar panels - what will they eat?
This is accurate, I think.  Food and water has to be provided for in the 
early design.  An ecocity moves SFR folks into ecocity centers, strips 
their houses, and reclaims the farmland or forest they sit on.   Any 
properly designed ecocity structure harvests rain water from all 
possible surfaces, filters it, and provides high quality water to the 
community.   Ecocity structures also provide growing areas in many spots 
not generally thought of in conventional architecture.  I don't see 
sixty story straw bale ecocity center structures.  I see papercrete 
being viable in some applications. 
> Tommy, I was reading the president of the Texas Organic Famres Assoc. say
> that there isn't enough locally grown food in the entire Dallas area to
> supply even one elementary school with produce for lunch.  It is also true
> for most of the Texas counties.
I believe this.  You can't grow organic on soil that's been chemically 
treated in the last four or five years.  It won't grow anything worth 
eating until the damage is repaired with mulch and compost and perhaps 
amendments, if you guess correctly what the soil microorganisms require 
for a resurgence, or if you know to get your soil tested to see what it 
needs.  Texas went conventional at some point, with huge farms growing 
monocrops, using soil to produce crops from petrochemicals.  It has not 
recovered, and we are in a terrifying position, considering there is 
twenty years of oil left in the Earth and Texas Aggies run the TX 
Department of Agriculture.
> Very few of the pc teachers in the Austin area produce much of thier own
> food - and many of them produce none and never have.  They simply repeat
> Mollison, show the Global Gardener, and assume that little detail of eating
> is handled.
The Permaculture teachers in the Austin area remain mysterious to me.  I 
don't know what any of them do, or don't do. I only know that there are 
a lot of people going in what I consider to be the wrong direction, 
considering what the near term looks like.  Eating may not be 
everything, but when you're hungry, nothing else happens, after a 
while.  Green building may make us feel good, but it does nothing to 
change settlement patterns that don't work in the Post-Oil landscape.  
Denial is the name of the game here, it seems to me.  I think nothing 
but nature should be allowed to exist for three hundred feet on either 
side of a riparian corridor.  I think wildlife corridors should go 
through Austin.  I think the SFR should go the way of the dodo.  I think 
we should abandon the car now, and build lives around what results from 
that, so that we are fairly well situated for the Post-Oil landscape.  I 
think we should require business to meet us in our lives, rather than 
forcing us to conform to business needs.  I think locals should have 
absolute local control over urban planning and development.  I think a 
lot of stuff that seems to be anathema to supposed PC folks in Austin.  
But I have three degrees from New College of California, a movement 
school for more than thirty years.  It's a stretch to call the local 
Permaculture listserve tame.  It has to get some life to achieve tame.  
We're talking cadaver-like. But I'm living in an apartment, buying all 
my food, writing a novel, being nuts, observing.  
> Isn't it correct that prior to the use of fossil feuls (say before 1880 or
> os) that 95% of the population was involved in agriculture?  Most of the
> population was involved in producing food.  Those people were just as
> intelligent and capable as we are today - perhaps moreso.  Yes, indigenous
> groups who didn't go into ag had a much easier lifestyle, but they also had
> a much more fetile land to roam on than we do today.
Petrochemical corporations didn't discover PR firms until after WWII.  
After they could clean up their images without cleaning up their acts, 
they ran roughshod over farmers, selling them chemicals that killed 
their soil and bankrupted them. 

Tommy Tolson
Austin, TX

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