[permaculture] The US is no longer food self-reliant?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Aug 17 13:20:39 EDT 2012

On Aug 17, 2012, at 7:13 AM, Marjory wrote:

> Toby,
> The US is NOT food self-reliant.  It take IMPORTERD oil to grow all the 
> food the US produces.  Currency collapse means no way to buy feul, means 
> the combines quit rolling, and the shelves go bare.

We trade for that imported oil; there's linkage there. The people who sell it to us are dependent on the food, and everything else, we trade them for it (the dollars are just markers--it's goods that trade). Trade is a stabilizing force, not destabilizing. The "oil independence" position is no more rational than "I have to grow all my food by myself." And, almost half of our imported oil and LNG (for fertilizer) comes from Mexico and Canada, our most stable trading partners, with whom we have immense political leverage, even in a currency collapse. Canada and Mexico need to trade oil even more badly than we need to get it.

Look at the numbers: In 2011 we imported 45% of our oil. Our food--growing, processing, shipping, cooking--uses about 17% of our oil consumption. We produce 4200 calories per day per person in the US, delivered. If we lost half our oil (really unlikely!), we could cut food production in half and still deliver 2000 calories a day. Diverting that amount of oil use--8% if needed--to food will be a critical priority; gov'ts know that hungry people topple regimes. Yes, it could happen, but food is really the simplest need to take care of after shelter. I can see short term shocks, and they would be followed by martial law to deliver food and payments to corporate farmers to produce; the plans are in place (we're not the only ones who know this!). And rapid conversion to local food production has been demonstrated countless times: Cuba, Russia, Argentina, Victory Gardens, etc, etc. Food is too simple to fix, compared to finance, health care, insurance, law enforcement, education, and the rest that is far more ready to collapse. They are far more complex systems; they'll go first. I'm much more worried that my fire department will fail than I am of running out of food.

Obviously we need to be putting a lot of effort into food security. And funny thing is, we are already. That's why everyone, from the USDA and Homeland Security on down, talks about it so much. I'm grateful to all the food activists who have put the issue on the radar screen. I think it's taking care of itself at just about the right pace. To me, food looks like a problem, which is solvable and being solved, unlike a predicament, like Peak Oil, which is not.

The obvious problems--and food is very, very obvious--and are rarely the ones that get you. 


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