[permaculture] conservatism/food/references requested

Harmon Seaver hseaver at gmail.com
Tue Feb 19 09:57:03 EST 2008

Toby Hemenway wrote:
> John & Maia O'Brien wrote:
>> I would like to see the references.
>> Do any come from Cuba's "special period" experience?
> All the data come from the US, but thanks for mentioning Cuba. Cuba's 
> ability to feed itself with little oil is the shining indicator that 
> food is not the problem some think it is. Cuba also had a very abrupt 
> transition, and the transition for much of the world will most likely be 
> more gradual, so perhaps less stressful than Cuba's. To my knowledge, 
> Cuba is the only nation to face a near-complete loss of oil, and they 
> did it successfully. So one could say, with only a little statistical 
> chicanery, that 100% of the nations that have faced a major oil 
> shortfall have made it through successfully. Take that, doomers!

   Cuba was and is far different from the US -- the people there are
tough and used to making do with little. Not so in the US. But take a
look at India, another country used to poverty, where far too many
farmers got suckered into the "Green Revolution" and started using
agri-chemicals and hybrid seeds. Since about 1997, there has been an
epidemic of suicides by farmers -- over 20,000 a year -- and their
families because they can no longer afford the rapidly increasing cost
of fertilizer, and their land, poisoned with chemicals, no longer will
grow crops without them.
   Fertilizer prices in the US have been increasing tremendously, and
the oil crises is just getting started. When gasoline is $10-$15 a
gallon, how many chemical farmers will be able to afford fertilizer?
   You claim that there is "plenty of land" near cities to grow crops,
but I'd bet that 99& of it is poisoned in the same way and will take
many years to restore to natural fertility. Cuba's land was mostly still
farmed naturally.
    China's growth (and oil use) is not declining so far, but let's say
it does a bit. Let's say that by 2015 it only needs 80% of the world's
oil supply. Heck, let's say it only needs 50%. India and other
developing countries (including in a large part the oil-producing
countries themselves) will need the rest. The International Energy
Agency just put out a report last summer that said there would be major
economic chaos in just 4-5 years, mostly because oil-exporting nations
would be using so much more of their oil themselves.
    And there's another factor with oil supply -- while the US has been
busy doing everything it could to make enemies around the world,
especially in Muslim countries, China has been doing the opposite. Guess
who will get the oil? Venezuela is building a pipeline to the Pacific so
it can sell all its oil to China.
    I think the US is in for a very rough ride, and lot of people will
go hungry. In Cuba, the average person lost 20lbs. Most people in the US
could well afford to lose weight, but I'll be there will be tremendous
problems with looting, crime in general, and even killing for food.
    Permaculture and natural, organic farming in general is obviously
the answer, and I guess it depends upon just how rapidly the whole
crises comes about, how quickly farmland can be restored, etc. but the
basic problem in the US is that there is zero political will to deal
with the problem. Heck -- nobody in the government is even willing to
talk about it, let alone do anything about it.
    My family will have plenty to eat, and plenty of fuel for our
vehicles and machinery, but we'll also be a long, long way from any city
of any size.

Harmon Seaver

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