Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Grain Production and Population

by ATinNM Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 07:48:42 AM EST

This started life as a comment to an article posted by Fran in the Salon and got out of hand. From the Energy Bulletin:

With carryover stocks of grain at the lowest level in 34 years, [as of June 16, 2006, grain stocks rose in October 2006 to the lowest level in 25 years and have now fallen back again] the world may soon be facing high grain and oil prices at the same time. For the scores of low-income countries that import both oil and grain, this prospect is a sobering one. (...)

Farmers are facing a record growth in the demand for grain at a time when the backlog of technology to raise grain yields is shrinking, when underground water reserves are being depleted, and when rising temperatures threaten to shrink future harvests.

(more below)

From the diaries, with format edit ~ whataboutbob


Water tables are now falling and wells are going dry in countries that contain half the world's people, including the big three grain producers: China, India, and the United States.  In China, water shortages have helped lower the wheat harvest from its peak of 123 million tons in 1997 to below 100 million tons in recent years. Water shortages are also making it more difficult for farmers in India to expand their grain harvest. In parts of the United States, such as the Texas panhandle and in western Oklahoma and Kansas, depletion of the Ogallala aquifer has forced farmers to return to lower-yield dryland farming.

<snip>

Perhaps the most dangerous threat to future food security is the rise in temperature.  Among crop ecologists there is now a consensus that for each temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius above the historical average during the growing season, we can expect a 10 percent decline in grain yields. When describing weather-reduced harvests, crop analysts often refer to the crop prospect when weather returns to normal. They fail to realize that with the earth's climate now in flux, there is no longer a norm to return to.

More and more in recent years, crop-withering heat waves have led to major crop losses. For a recent example, the early estimate of India's wheat harvest this year of 73 million tons dropped to 68 million tons as high temperatures during the crop's critical growth stage in January and February shrank the harvest.

The troubling constraints on grain production growth, such as spreading water shortages and rising temperatures, are making it difficult for farmers to keep up with the record growth in demand.  As a result the world grain market may become a seller's market, one where higher grain prices, like high oil prices, are an integral part of the economic landscape.

and, from the same source referencing a June 21, 2007 article by Sarit Menahem in Haaretz headlined "World Grain Stocks Fall to 57 Days of Consumption":

The price of wheat shot up 30% in less than a month, to a 12-year high of around $420 to around $600 for 5,000 bushels.

<snip>

When it comes to agricultural commodities, you can't ignore the effect of global warming. The weather is changing. Floods and droughts are not good for crops.

The U.S. is the biggest wheat exporter and its main cultivation areas are Kansas and Oklahoma.

"The last winter was a terrible one. The ground froze. A week ago the region was swept by rainstorms that turned the ground muddy and impossible to harvest," describes Ron Eichel, the chief international markets strategist at Israel Brokerage & Investments. It's still raining, too and the crops are rotting. Only 9% of the crop is rated as being in excellent condition, [emphasis added] the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said this week, adding that 37% is in horrible condition.  

It is to be noted China does not published grain production figures so their production is an even worse estimate than those for the US and India.

The increase in Grain Production:

has been met with an increase in population [Note the timeline is different from the previous chart!]:

and while the rate of increase is declining the total population is increasing.  Giving:

[Again, the timeline is different.]

Peak Oil plays into this in two ways.  First, as the cost rises for crude the costs of agricultural production also rises.  Oil is used, notably, as a fuel for farming machinery but it is also used as a basis for many farm input: fertilizers, pesticides, & etc.  Oil, as fuel, is also used for transportation - at all levels of the farm to consumer network - but is also in surprising ways, e.g., burned to dry the grains to acceptable moisture levels for long term storage.  Secondly, as the price of gasoline (petrol) increases the use of grain as the raw material for automobile fuel  substitutes, e.g., ethanol.  Thus, grain prices must rise to cover the rise in production costs and grain prices must rise as demand for grain stocks as fuel substitutes grows.

Global Warming will play a part, again in two ways.  As GW sets-in the current prime growing areas with shift northward.  Unfortunately, the farmers in these areas do not have the equipment, nor do they have the capital to purchase the equipment required for large field-crop grain production.  To give an idea, a lower range John Deere combination harvester has a base price of around $100,000 (US.)  The tractor, and equipment the tractor pulls around the field, runs about the same.  Ancillary equipment: dryers, wagons, grain harvesting heads, total about another $100,000.  $300,000 may not sound like a lot of money but it's beyond the financial reach of most farmers.  Secondly, as GW really starts to impact the weather it is to be expected the weather will move out of "normal" (since ~ 12,000 BP.)  This is Bad News for farmers since once a crop is in the field there's really no way -- without a massive expediture in money and effort -- to irrigate the crop; they have to depend on rain.  And rain will be a sometime thing.  Worse it has to be the right amount of rain as too much is as bad as too little and it has to be at the right times too early is as bad as too late, or never.

The good news is GW will open up new areas for grain field crop production.  The bad news is those areas lack the infrastructure required for 'taking up the slack.'  Try harvesting, storing, and transporting 10 million tons of corn (zea mays) without harvesters, grain bins, and railroad lines.  Further, if you don't do it right grain dust can catch on fire and even explode.  

Prognosis:  food prices will rise.  World hunger will increase.  Without an "activist goverment"  (alert the KlausBot!) and a whole bunch of world co-operation we can expect famine, mass migration, and a very high likelihood of regional food wars - think Rwanda with automatic weapons and machine guns. (I doubt WW III is in the cards since we don't have the oil.)  If the EU had any brains you'd be making nicey-nice with Russia since they look to be a major winner in the food production department as well as being a up & coming oil producer to boot.

Display:
And it's way past beddy-bye time so I'll be back in about 8 hours.

Night all ...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 04:41:31 AM EST
Thanks for this article, ATinNM. Sobering.

My first wondering was, if grain prices are rising, wouldn't that benefit farmers in places like Sub.Saharan Africa, or even central and Northern Europe, where they could get better proces for their grain?

And another wondering, are their other cereals and grains that might be more adaptable? (Like rice, where there are more wet lands?)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 05:54:26 AM EST
Rice is not without its problems:

How Rice Releases Methane -- 309 (5737): 985i -- Science

Rice agriculture is possibly the biggest source of anthropogenic methane: Rice paddies cover about 130 million hectares of the earth's surface, of which almost 90% are in Asia, and emit 50 to 100 million metric tons of methane a year.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 09:41:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My first wondering was, if grain prices are rising, wouldn't that benefit farmers in places like Sub.Saharan Africa, or even central and Northern Europe, where they could get better proces for their grain?

I really hate to say this, and not just because DeAnanader is going to go crazy ;-0, but you can kiss most of Africa good-bye.  Drought, kleptocracies, elimination of snow packs, desertification, massive overpopulation (relative to food supply,) Imperialistic domination, XDR diseases, and yadda-yadda ... it don't look good.  

This could change, of course, at just about any time.  But with a projected mass migration south from the equator Africa is one area where I expect a regional food war.  Just to note: South Africa has nuclear weapons.  

And another wondering, are their other cereals and grains that might be more adaptable?

You have the obnoxious habit of asking very interesting questions!

Short answer: Yes, No, Maybe.  (LOL)

One of the strangest aspects of US agriculture is the concentration of grain cultivation in areas that are actually marginal for that grain.  The Midwest should be growing wheat, instead of corn, and Kansas and Oklahoma, as they are part of the Short Grass Prairie ecology shouldn't be growing anything -- except grass and buffalo.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:44:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
South Africa was the first state in the world to give up its nuclear weapons capability voluntarily. When South Africa dismantled its advanced, but clandestine, nuclear weapons program and assumed a leading role in the nonproliferation regime, it was in anticipation of the country's immense political changes. The then President F.W. de Klerk's decision in 1990 to dismantle the apartheid system paved the way for democratic elections. All the bombs (six constructed and one under construction) were destroyed and South Africa acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991. In 1993 F.W. de Klerk admitted the scope of the country's past nuclear activities to the IAEA and gave them access to the country's nuclear sites for verification purposes. On August 19, 1994, after completing its inspection, the IAEA confirmed that one partially-completed and six fully-completed nuclear weapons had been dismantled. As a result, the IAEA was satisfied that South Africa's nuclear program had been converted to peaceful applications. Following this, South Africa joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as a full member on 5 April 1995. South Africa played a leading role in the establishment of the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (the Treaty of Pelindaba) in 1996, becoming one of the first members in 1997. South Africa signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 and ratified it in 1999.
(my emphasis)

Am I being asinine by assuming the motivation of giving up the nuclear weapons was not to hand them over to the blacks?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:54:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
During the Boer war didn't Britian refuse to give guns to the blacks?

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 08:52:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it's not asinine; that's widely acknowledged to be exactly the reason.

The ANC didn't argue to keep them because they had been anti-nuke anyway.  They didn't want to be a nuclear power.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:45:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what blows my mind is the over-reliance on just a few grains, corn, rice and wheat in europe and americas, rice and wheat in asia.

as the thin belt of naturally irrigated, fertile soils depletes and diminishes, we will probably get re-used to other grains, such as buckwheat and millet, which get short shrift, as do barley and quinoa, to name just four.

much to the benefit of our health, imo.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 08:33:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monocropping is a serious problem in the arid, drought-prone regions of southern Africa.  The historically diverse diets have shifted to an almost total reliance on maize (AKA corn), which drastically increases the population's vulnerability to weather extremeties, especially drought but also flooding, or anything that can cause widespread crop loss.

As a staple, corn is not the most nutritious crop, and it is particularly ill-suited to cropland where good rainfall is not reliable.  It requires a significant amount of rain at a particular time in the growing cycle, or the crop will fail.  It's particularly sad in Africa given that it's an introduced crop and was not the staple of anybody's diet until this last few generations.  Some leaders (like Banda in Malawi) encouraged people to "modernize" by embracing a maize-based diet and turning away from more traditional foods.  Nowadays, many people don't consider anything else to be "real food."

I know a few folks who have been out preaching diversification, trying to convince people that they can grow corn and other crops like millett, barley, sorghum, etc.  I've also met a few young people who've been trying to convince their families to diversify their crops as an act of self-preservation, but unfortunately it's difficult work for them.

An absolutely amazing woman named Dolores runs this restaurant in Swaziland that is based entirely on the idea that Swazi traditional food is not only good, but also the country's best hope against hunger.  I went there for the first time while there was a food shortage in Swaziland and 40 percent of the population was being fed by the World Food Programme.  She refuses to advertise, routinely rejects tour groups or invitations to the royal palace.  She doesn't grant interviews to the media.  Dolores doesn't want to reach foreigners, she wants to reach Swazis.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:39:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monocropping is a serious problem everywhere.  Now let's add, the corn (maize) variaties (sic) predominately grown in the US (sorry) stems from one genotype discovered by researchers at the University of Missouri - IIRC.  

Thus, entire Midwest is one Eatus Muchas beetle or Killus Plantus virus infestation away from complete crop failure.

Dwarf wheat, the mainspring of the Green Revolution, is grown everywhere in the world.  It shares the situation as US corn only doubled, redoubled, and in No Trump.

In the EU locally developed, historic, cultivars are illegal to grow for purchase.  That's why most of your veggies taste like sawdust, in comparision.  The US relies on the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace© to deliver crappy tasting veggies to the consumer.   In both places, the Beefsteak-like tomato was selected for its ability to survive being dropped 3 feet (one meter) onto a concrete surface without the skin breaking.  

Which brings-up an interesting question:  Just exactly how often are the little buggers dropped onto concrete floors anyway?  Perhaps there are some things we really don't want know about our food supply.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:56:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the EU locally developed, historic, cultivars are illegal to grow for purchase.

Do you have a reference to this? Seems like a natural thing to lobby the European Commission and Parliament on.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:01:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reference from: The Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tim Smit.

Can't give an exact quote or page number as locating my copy would require a major archeological expedition into the dim recesses of my pile of book boxes.  (I'm under the delusion my little remodeling task will end and we'll actually get to move at some point in my life.)  IIRC look in the chapter about vegetable gardening, but don't hold me to that!

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:04:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here are two columns by George Monbiot about English apple tree varieties (the demise of):
From the second piece:
A couple of weeks ago, I went to buy some fruit trees. I travelled to the world's most unprepossessing centre of biodiversity: Langley, on the outskirts of Slough. In the first half of the 20th century, most of London's fruit and vegetables were grown round there. The farms were supplied by specialist nurseries, which ensured that Britain possessed a wider variety of temperate fruit trees than any other nation. Two weeks ago, only one of them was left. In the 1940s, JC Allgrove's kept 1000 varieties of apple trees. It is still listed in the directories as one of Britain's great growers. But I was among its last customers.

Since the owner died two years ago, the business has been run by a volunteer, Nick Houston. "There are bits of ground here where no one's been for 20 years," he told me. Recently, scrabbling beneath the ivy which now covers the orchards, he found a fruit he had never seen before. It was a Baumann's Reinette: the horticultural equivalent of a Faberge egg. "But I had no idea which bloody tree it had fallen off". Somewhere in the nursery there should be two varieties - King Harry and St Augustine's Orange - which even the national fruit collection doesn't possess, but he hasn't been able to find them yet. The land is to be sold. Nick will salvage what he can and run a business of his own, under the old name, to try to keep the rare breeds growing.

He gave a one-word answer when I asked him what had happened to the business. "Supermarkets". Today the apples they buy are landing three miles from JC Allgrove's. Heathrow's first runway was built on strawberry farms and orchards. From the air, you can still see derelict greenhouses and the parallel lines on the land where fruit trees once grew. Richard Cox, the man who bred the world's favourite apple, is buried beside St Mary's Church in Harmondsworth, which will be flattened if a third runway is built at Heathrow.



Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:10:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
head explodes

[Anger management techniques employed:  I am calm.  I am rational.  Breathe deeply & let it go ... let it go.]

[profanity laced rant excised]

Gosh.  

That's unfortunate.

But I suppose it's more important to have a new runway at Heathrow than saving cultivars developed over a thousand years.

Please excuse me.  I would like to go outside and scream for a wee bit.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:31:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I suppose it's more important to have a new runway at Heathrow than saving cultivars developed over a thousand years.

It's called The Anglo Disease.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:48:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i thought they had to be capable of surviving a williams sisters wimbledon extended tennis rally, with serves a blistering 200 kph.

do not try this at home, kids.

that's also why you don't see ripe hayden mangoes or strawberry papayas around yurp much.

they don't make it over the net too often

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:22:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Be careful, you might be mistaken for a Malthusian.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 05:56:38 AM EST
I now refute the charge by stating:

At any time technological change could completely change the balance between food production and population.

(So there.  nyah)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:25:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe that a coherent mechanism would consist of the following elements:

(a) widespread installation of CSP inland, and wind turbines on coasts;
(b) widespread introduction of energy efficient desalination eg www.pleat.no

and the turning of much desert and marginal land to agriculture using permaculture techniques.

Naturally this could not occur using our current deficit-based financing system.

But it could occur if investors (particularly governments unwilling to see further reserves going down the Dollar toilet) were prepared to receive a return of investment in energy,either via HVDC lines

http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/

or otherwise.

The enabling mechanism is the creation of funds consisting of "Energy Pools" of future production.

ie "Asset-based" Finance not dissimilar to Exchange Traded Funds invested in energy.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 07:29:29 AM EST
... the turning of much desert and marginal land to agriculture using permaculture techniques

Assuming GW and Climate Change, we don't know where the desert and marginal lands will be in 100 or so years.  Palm trees in the Thames Valley?  Scotland a major cotton exporting nation?  Coconuts in Finland?

(OK, I lied about that last one.)

I do agree with the shift to permaculture,  most of which principles are (as I understand them) what used to be called "Sound Farming Practices."  (LOL)  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:13:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Permaculture being? (too lazy to wiki)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 02:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We really need someone to code that plug-in that will allow one to highlinght text, right-click, and open a wikipedia search in a new window.
Permaculture is both a philosophy or lifestyle ethic as well as a design system which utilizes a systems thinking approach to create sustainable human habitats by analyzing and duplicating nature's patterns (ecology).

The word "permaculture," coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during the 1970s, is a Portmanteau-style contraction of permanent agriculture as well as permanent culture. Renowned environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki has stated: "What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet."

Today, permaculture can be described as a 'moral and ethical design system for the survival of people and their environment'. It seeks the creation of productive and sustainable ways of living by integrating ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture, agroforestry, green or ecological economics, and social systems. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Permaculture is also about careful and contemplative observation of nature and natural systems, and of recognizing universal patterns and principles, then learning to apply these `ecological truisms' to one's own circumstances in all realms of human activity.



Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 02:17:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
10 rating for this.

That plug-in would be a wonder, and probably the reason why Scoop in its present form will only last another 12 months at most.

I've been re-reading 'TOOLS FOR CHANGE' - An invitation to dance ISBN 1-904235-55-7. IMO we should all have a look at this book, because it outlines the dynamics and development of communities. I was sent a copy by a member of ET, and the insights I have gained from this book are alone worth all the hours, days and weeks I have spent here ;-)

Hopefully, if TGB and I can get our act together (with the other contributors to ET-TV), we might be able to buy some commercial software that would enable all we wish to do.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 03:22:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No need to buy software ; we can either switch to another free content management software or, migration being such a hassle, update our software. I'm a coder and ready to participate, and I'd bet I'm not the only one (although I'd need to learn some stuff about webcoding, it'd be the perfect occasion)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 04:08:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The biggest problem with Scoop is lack of internationalisation, and the fact that it's written in PERL.

Personally, I would suggest cloning the scoop functionality we like on top of Zope/Plone/CPS.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 04:50:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am SURE you are not the only one ;-) And we all need each other. Bringing different skills together. Isn't that how the Amish buíld barns? ;- )

We've had this discussion a few times. Our Dear Leader has admitted to knowing nothing about coding. I am not sure we have any technically literate people aboard in admin, other than our champagne socialist.

But in the broader 1000+ community of ET we have quite a few minds that can blow minds. The question is: how can we put these minds together?

IMO the search for that process: putting minds together, is the WHOLE point of ET. Bringing in the minds has, apparently, not been the problem. Getting these minds to work together  is the problem. And to do that, you need tools...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 06:08:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In New Mexico an evil activist Governor has been pushing the establishment of wind farms on our ranch lands.  The idea is a steer don't give a damn about a windmill whirling above their heads, there's no NIMBY problem since the nearest Backyard is 20 miles away, it would provide a good source of extra income for the rancher, it would increase state revenues for doing more evil activist things, allow New Mexico to be at the forefront of a whole new industry, and kick-off a economically beneficial autocatalytic reaction for the entire state.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:08:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, if water towers are not considered an eyesore in the US Midwest, I don't know what they're waiting to get a 2MW windmill in each town.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:11:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been kind of wondering about just this issue for awhile now but haven't managed to actually do anything about it, so thank you for this serendipitously timely diary.

Peak fuels might have a slight ameliorating affect here if it causes the abandonment low-density residential patterns, as this would free up square kilometers of arable land that has been "developed" out of production.

But I admit this is probably the proverbial fart in a windstorm.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 09:29:08 AM EST
Low density residential land-use patterns is one of my pet peeves in life.  Sitting underneath Silly-Con Valley, California, is some of the richest, most productive, soils in the world with a mild climate encouraging plant growth.  So what happens?  It get covered with concrete and single family detached homes.

But human beings are rational ... yup, yup, yup.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:49:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Low-density residential land use makes urban agriculture possible. The alternative is probably a dense residential core and a "green belt".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:56:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not convinced - yet - by urban agriculture.

In medieval times in England the standard unit required to - barely - feed four households on a farm was called a Hide, and it's roughly 120 acres.

Assuming we're much smarter now - hmmmm - we can perhaps get the grain requirements of a family down into an area of maybe five acres instead of thirty. (That's possibly optimistic. Modern farming returns grain yields of 20:1 but is very intensive, and also allows fields to lie fallow every few years, which is only possible if agriculture is collective.)

Five acres is roughly two and a half football pitches, which is a little bigger than most people's yards.

The permaculture people claim you can live off a much smaller space than this. And if you build some greenhouses to concentrate energy and keep bad weather out you can - perhaps. But you won't be able to do it by growing cereals, which are possibly the most energy intensive of all vegetable crops.

And other crops really aren't all that calorific. If you want to eat a minimum of 1500 calories a day, you need very, very big plates of vegetables, or - ideally - some other source of carbs.

So realistically the most you can expect from urban agriculture is a bit of fill-in, and perhaps some barter. It will certainly help, but mainstream agriculture really does need to be collective and large-scale for maximum social and economic value.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 06:10:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Missing topic here is fish.
by Laurent GUERBY on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:58:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, fish is going to be missing soon.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:50:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure where fish comes in when talking about grain production and over-population ...  :-p ...

but ...

The short answer is: world fish stocks have either gone or are going bye-bye (technical phrase) and the answer is Stop.  Stop fishing until they recover; IF they CAN recover - in the Canadian experience they won't.  

It is possible the Cod have moved north into the Davis Strait as a result of increased sea temperatures off the Canadian coast.  Reflecting the northward movement occurring in the lobster grounds off the coast of the state of Maine.  I'd have to do some research to see if anyone has even looked up there for 'em. (The cod, not the lobster.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:08:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Faarmed fish get fed grain, and people get fed fish?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:25:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless there has been a dramatic change in fish farming in the last 4 years ... (CYA!  CYA!)

Usually farmed fish are fed (so called) "trash fish."  The amount of grains fed to fish is insignificant.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:35:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mad fish disease?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:59:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since you ran away from the US - you coward - you don't know the Absurd Hysteria of the Moment© in the US press is widespread reports of attacks by small furry animals, with rabies, on small children.  

Attacks by Disease Maddened Fish is only a newscycle away.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:25:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nine times over the past seven weeks, the Asian transplant that can breathe air and scoot slowly over land has been caught in a 14-mile stretch of the Potomac or its tributaries.

...

Already, there is a snakehead fishing tournament scheduled for July, and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World at Arundel Mills in Hanover plans to offer a bounty on northern snakeheads -- $10 to $50 gift certificates, depending on the length of the fish.

This is crazy. The rate of capture is one every 5 days and they are already organising a tournament?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:37:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That article is three years old.  There was a serious manhunt... or, um, fishhunt, for them when they were first found.  At the time, the hope was that the fish was in its first generation and could be eradicated before it really took hold.  That hope has long since passed....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:40:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, the tournament and the bounties were designed to encourage people to catch them, and to keep them rather than throw them back.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's clever.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:43:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually fer real and True ....

No, I didn't.

Now all they have to do is find the "scary invasive Chinese fish that breathe air and walk on land and eat everything in sight and breed like crazy" are illegal immigrant Al Quada terrorerrorists and we've got a Trifecta!

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:54:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
C'mon, it's only a matter of time before the grunion make it past the beach!  Invasion is immenent!  They must be stopped!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:06:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So THAT'S why the Long Beach, California, City Hall is a replica of Hitler's beach defenses.

Them gahdamn gunions won't make it to Ocean Blvd.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I mean people getting Creutfeld-Jacob's Disease from eating cannibalistic fish.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno about fishy CJD, but there's also the scary dinoflagellate that kills fish after giving them icky open sores and makes people sick too.  Plenty of fish hysteria to go around.  Not to mention your garden variety red tides....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:37:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't happen at this moment since they're being fed the ugly pelagic stuff that's pretty much all you get from the oceans these days and they don't dare showing on the shop stalls.

But I saw on french TV a few weeks ago a doc on big french fish farms that go full vertical: since the crap catches are also collapsing, they are breeding their own bait fish to feed the noble species that have a market (Salmon, Daurade, what's the english for that ?? probably Bar/Loup aslo, which you gotta translate from one coast of France to the other)

Guess in a few years, they'll probably grow their krill in clone vats to feed the feed...

Pierre

by Pierre on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:52:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
let's hope that's all they're growing in those vats...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:25:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG started on calories, then all food is relevant :).
by Laurent GUERBY on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I conceed the point.

But ... Fair Warning! ... if afew, et.al., start discussing the effects of beans on Global Warming I'm outta here.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We've different cultivars, a greater diversity of cultivars, and better cultivars than they had (circa) 1,000 CE.  Research has given us access to knowledge that, when applied, vastly improves yield per plant.  Together, we can produce several orders of magnitude more food/hide than they.

How all this affects urban agriculture beats my pair of Aces.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:27:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But then again, I suspect that the "low" density of a modern suburb is going to be too high for efficient agriculture of any type, particularly when one takes the (relatively) extremely dense road network into account that seals so many square kilometers of soil.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 07:38:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dervaes Family Farm on a suburban lot in Pasadena (Los Angeles area)

At Path to Freedom, the Dervaes family has steadily transformed their ordinary city lot in Pasadena, California, into an integral urban homestead. And, along the way, they are striving to become earth stewards, taking care of the precious gift we all have been given.

These eco-pioneers regard their 1/5 acre urban homestead as a sustainable living resource center where they are setting out to live by example while also inspiring others to "just do it!"

Their objective is to live as sustainably and self-sufficiently as possible in an urban environment in harmony with nature and each other, while also inspiring others to "think globally, act locally." Their homestead supports four adults, who live and work full time on a 66' x 132' city lot (1/5 acre).

The yard has over 350 varieties of edible and useful plants. The homestead's productive 1/10 acre organic garden now grows over 6,000 pounds (3 tons) of produce annually. This provides fresh vegetables and fruit for the family's vegetarian diet and a source of income.

The family operates a viable and lucrative home business, Dervaes Gardens, that supplies area restaurants and caterers with salad mix, edible flowers, heirloom variety tomatoes and other in-season vegetables. The income earned from produce sales offsets operating expenses and is invested in appropriate technologies, such as solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and biodiesel processor, to further decrease our homestead's reliance on the earth's non-renewable resources.

Over the years, by purchasing energy efficient appliances and using electricity conservatively, the modern homesteaders have cut their energy usage in half. Solar panels have reduced their dependence on electricity by two-thirds and have furthered their goal of energy independence. A solar oven is used to cook food on sunny days. And during the summer of 2005, the family built a cob oven, which is fueled by scraps of wood and twigs to create an energy source for cooking breads, pizzas, desserts, etc.

In 2003, the Dervaeses constructed a biodiesel processor from a discarded hot water heater, which enables them to brew low emissions biodiesel (a renewable, nontoxic, biodegradable replacement for petrol diesel) from used vegetable oil to fuel their diesel Suburban, reducing the vehicle's air toxins by 90%.

Citified farm animals

In addition, these urban farmers share their homestead with a menagerie of animals -- chickens, ducks, two rescued cats, red wiggler worms (which compost garbage) and two goats (Nigerian Dwarf and a Pygmy goat.

All the animals are treated with love, care and respect and full attention is given to their comfort and needs. Each breed is carefully researched and selected to fit into our urban homestead lifestyle and housing arrangements are designed for the animals' preferences and needs but with unique, space saving innovations. The family is vegetarian and none of the animals are raised for meat related purposes.

Future projects on the "to do list" are the installation of a greywater reclamation system, composting toilet, and a cistern to capture and store rainwater, which would dramatically reduce the use of precious water.

I wish everyone would quit saying "it can't be done" and pay some attention to the people who are already doing it.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:30:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brave and impressive, but also precarious. From their blog in January:

Just as we had feared - you kind of sense these things in your bones. The news this morning is devastating. Not a good start to the new year and upcoming planting season.  We still haven't rebounded from the hottest summer on record where we lost 90% of our heirloom tomato crop ( our most important cash crop that pulls us through fall and winter)  More recently having to deal with the big chill which wiped out the entire winter crop and set us back months.  Now with forecasters predicting a dry year the plants are going to suffer not getting the deep down moisture that we so look forward to in winter. It's going to be another long and difficult year, which I suspect will bring on quite a few changes in our lives.

Also, UK conditions are very different to Californian ones. We get much less sun here, much sharper winters - frost is normal, not exceptional - and a much shorter growing season. And we get a lot more rain. The usual Euro problem is that incident energy is much lower, so things grow more slowly. Not even Findhorn could match these people. ;)

Corn might work here, squash and root crops will, beans will, tomatoes will, berries will, but oranges and lemons won't, and the growing season for fruit is much shorter. I can imagine nuts - useful for protein balance - filling in as a high-calorie alternative.

Even so, 1/5 of an acre is an unusually large garden by UK standards. Allotments - small off-site vegetable gardens - are a popular hobby here, but the average size is something like 1/20th.

I suppose if lawnorder breaks down and there's a mad scramble for land, things might rearrange themselves.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 07:49:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Awesome that they're doing what they're doing, but doing it in a region that is water-poor is, frankly, a dumb idea when you're on such a small parcel of land.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 09:52:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ah well that gets us into the history of the Los Angeles basin, the theft of water from surrounding areas to build a megalopolis where none should really exist, etc. -- Mike Davis is the guy to tell this story, in City of Quartz.

the Dervaes family is where it is, doing what it can do;  I wouldn't have picked LA myself due to the precarity of the water supply, but it's where they found themselves.  I coulda picked on any of a thousand or so other examples out of the literature -- people reversing desertification by permaculture planting out in Arizona;  people reversing soil pollution (all over the place) by using brassicas, composting processes, and fungi to extract or convert toxins...

and yeah, suburban lots are larger in the US than in many countries.  which makes the US, paradoxically, a more promising place to relocalise food gardening...  even while it is the kingpin nation of corporate food.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 02:59:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I keep saying that the 4x higher population density of Europe (and 8x in Britain) is going to make things harder than in the US in many ways, if the fears about the coming crash are realised.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a lot of karmic / relative moral accounting going on when people envision the future, particularly when examining these particular issues. I think there is a part of people (including a lot of Americans) that can't believe that the US, with its radical overconsumption, could possibly come out better than much of the world once we've entered a permanent era of being energy limited, either in the literal sense or the moral "eye for an eye" sense. There's probably an article to be written there. We haven't had a good pie fight in a while either.

The American suburbs are my favorite example. The idea of abandoning them is ridiculous - if it comes down to it, you start putting two or three families in one house, abandon certain houses and subdivisions, and fill in with farms. The near-term doomers have a comical over reliance on assuming that there will be no adaptation.

In the medium term I still think Europe is better off - in a world of declining (but not critical) energy resources, infrastructure efficiency becomes the main variable in determining your (mostly material) quality of life.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 02:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe has a few hundred years' head start on the US in the resource depletion department.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 02:36:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what the suburbs notably lack is any transportation infastructure other than private autos.  so in a fuel-poor future they might easily split off into townships quite separate from the urban cores they sprawled out from.  the yuppies with no survival skills who built and originally inhabited them might leave, but I think they would quickly become microfarming belts, with each ridiculously huge house as you say, occupied by more than one family or by extended families.

the real problem is the quality of construction, for whuch in many cases "gimcrack" would be too kind. w/o endless inputs of repair/maintenance I don't see the average carburb home standing up well over a 40 year period.  the structures are so flimsy that they rely on high-tech and lightweight roofing materials -- anything heavier wouldn't be borne by the spindly little wall joists.  I imagine that creative survivalist families and townships would encase the entire structure in strawbale and adobe (or cob or whatever was locally available) to improve insulation and create a stronger perimeter to support more traditional roofing materials...  but this is idle speculation and more appropriate for a sci fi story than our immediate discussion...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:01:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
40 years is enough time to allow a "soft landing".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:02:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I'm an angry fatalist, Mike Davis is one one of my favorite authors, although City of Quartz is probably the only book of his I haven't read (but I think Ecology of Fear covers most of the same ground). If Los Angeles did not exist, then the land would be good for, well, the same sort of agriculture it was used for before the megalopolis showed up (hinted at by my "on a piece of land that size" qualifier).

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 01:59:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
an angry fatalist

nice phrase.  moi aussi.

it's one thing to watch the crowded bus roaring straight at the brick wall and still accelerating... that's fatalism... what's angry-making is that it's a small freestanding brick wall in the middle of a huge coordinate grid of other choices;  knowing that the crash could easily have been avoided (where "easily" is a function of "preventing a bunch of greedy psychopaths from constructing our social reality"), that's (for me) the angry part...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
angry fatalists...

fate rage....

it would be easy, if all were on board.

i see it as a communication challenge.

like speaking japanese to turtles, but more fun.

and hopefully a better payoff

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:28:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, UK conditions are very different to Californian ones. We get much less sun here, much sharper winters - frost is normal, not exceptional - and a much shorter growing season. And we get a lot more rain. The usual Euro problem is that incident energy is much lower, so things grow more slowly. Not even Findhorn could match these people. ;)
Of course, Southern California is on the latitude of Morocco.

We tend to have a mental picture of the US and Europe as being eye-to-eye so to speak, but have a look at any map and you'll see that the US is noticeably south of Europe (15 degrees on average, maybe?). The Mediteranean is temperate but Caribbean is subtropical. Madrid is on the latitude of San Francisco (and New York). Oslo is on the latitude of Anchorage.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:53:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even so, 1/5 of an acre is an unusually large garden by UK standards. Allotments - small off-site vegetable gardens - are a popular hobby here, but the average size is something like 1/20th.

I suppose if lawnorder breaks down and there's a mad scramble for land, things might rearrange themselves.

The UK has a population density 8 times that of the US, so people might get less than 1/20th of an acre.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:55:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The survivors would possibly get more. Outside of the cities, population density is relatively sparse. Wiltshire is mostly open fields. Out here the density is something like 20 people per square mile.

Google says there are about 14 million arable acres in the UK, and 60 million people. Assuming families of 4 - a bit of a stretch - that's around one acre per family.  

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 09:56:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I agree with your analysis for the most part, I do not believe that the problem of moving the crop cycle northward would be equipment.

First, presumably the idle equipment in the south would be for sale. Second the investment even for new equipment would be repayed fast with increasing prices.
Third, governments will subsidize it. Fourth, irrigation is practicable IF the water table is sufficient -- it is being done in large scale for grain in Greece and I am sure it is done elsewhere (see Israel etc).

No the bigger problem is that the soil in vast expanses of the North has no nutrients suitable for crop production. Either massive scale of fertilization or very smart crop alterations would be needed to make cultivation work.

Any way, as Migeru says, be careful you might be labeled a Malthusian :-)

Orthodoxy is not a religion.

by BalkanIdentity (balkanid _ at _ google.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 09:39:52 AM EST
Thank you for your comment.

First, presumably the idle equipment in the south would be for sale.

True.

Second the investment even for new equipment would be repayed fast with increasing prices.

Maybe.  The price at the grain elevator paid to farmers and the price paid by the ultimate consumer of that grain have little to do with each other, at least in the US.  Eventually the producer price should rise if other potential factors aren't introduced: confiscation, price limits, & etc.

Third, governments will subsidize it.

This is tricky.  Long term agricultural policy in the US is set to favor the large ag trans-nats: Cargill, ADM, IBP, Monsanto, & their ilk.  Short term ag policy (2 years or less) is established by a barely controlled riot.  

I hope you are right shown to be correct but I wouldn't count on it.

Fourth, irrigation is practicable IF the water table is sufficient

Irrigation, in the US, is losing effectiveness.  The various aquifers are nearing depletion in the short grass prairie and salt accumulation in the vital top 1/2 inch of the topsoil in California is lowering productivity - to put it mildly - in the Central Valley and Sacramento River areas.  

No the bigger problem is that the soil in vast expanses of the North has no nutrients suitable for crop production.

Absolutely true.  And a whole 'nuther topic and one that I cannot claim to have any great expertise.  What I do know is the inadvertent introduction of the humble, common, European earthworm was the best thing you Euros did for the US.  The 'castings' (i.e., worm shit) are extremely rich in plant nutrition and their burrowing turns the topsoil over bringing trace minerals up from the subsoil.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 12:57:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There were no earthworms in North America? That's wild!
Only two genera of Lumbricid earthworms are indigenous to North America whereas introduced genera have invaded areas where earthworms did not formerly exist, especially in the north. Here forest development relies on a large amount of undecayed leaf matter. Where worms decompose that leaf layer, the ecology may shift making the habitat unsurvivable for certain species of trees, ferns and wildflowers. Currently there is no economically feasible method for controlling earthworms in forests, besides preventing introductions. Earthworms normally spread slowly, but can be widely introduced by human activities such as construction earthmoving, or by fishermen releasing bait, or by plantings from other areas.

Soils which have been invaded by earthworms can be recognized by an absence of palatable leaf litter. For example, in a sugar maple - white ash - beech - northern red oak association, only the beech and oak leaves will be seen on the forest floor (except during autumn leaf-fall), as earthworms quickly devour maple and ash leaves. Basswood, dogwood, elm, poplar and tuliptree also produce palatable foliage.

As expected for introduced species, they may be considered a "pest".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:08:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There were earthworms.  They didn't do as good a job in a short amount of time as the European invader.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 01:27:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are obviously a lot more knowledgable on this topic than I am and thank you for taking the time to answer each point.

I would just like to point that your view appears to be very US centric -- not that this is a problem -- but I had in mind other areas like Greenland and Siberia as well.

Aquifer depletion is a significant problem and that is why I put the 'IF' in my statement. I presumed (without knowing) that undepleted aquifers can be found in the North and therefore provide an additional 50 years of reliable water supply for irrigation.

Orthodoxy is not a religion.

by BalkanIdentity (balkanid _ at _ google.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 09:29:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I kept my response US-centric due to my lack of knowledge of the agricultural potential of the soils in the higher latitudes under projected Global Warming.  ("lack of knowledge" = "doesn't have a clue"  ;-)  

In general, underground water sources in the US have been discovered and are undergoing depletion.  In specific - to my knowledge - there is only one major source that hasn't been developed west of the Mississippi in the US.  That source is brackish thus requiring a good deal of energy to allow it to be used.  Outside the US?  Again, I don't really know but I suspect they have been found and are being depleted (thinking of the Aral Sea) as well wherever agriculture is currently, or has been, practiced.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 12:55:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the world's largest aquifer (so far largely unexploited) is the Guaraní aquifer, which is under Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Maybe that has something to do with Bush's new 40,000 Ha ranch in Paraguay?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry... his new what?
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His new 40-thousand-hectare ranch in Paraguay. That's 20Km squared.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:24:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<whimper>
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:41:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why are evil people always one step ahead of everyone else?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait, you don't have a ranch in Paraguay?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait, you do?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 02:37:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aha!

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 01:16:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're still around, can you drop me an email? The guys over at TOD (the oil drum) would be interested in a version of this diary for their site. Interested?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:53:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
email sent


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:21:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i think it's quite possible the high rate of celiac disease is a reaction to the disproportionate ratio of wheat in the westTM, the better part refined, to add insult.

grains, well-digested, supply polysaccharides, or slow-burn sugars that give sustained energy, as opposed to the fierce, brief burn you get from mono-saccharides, like sugar and fructose.

they also are much gentler on the pancreas, and the isles of langerhans.

there would be a marked reduction in diabetes (and cancer, heart disease) if people retrained their bodies to become cerealarians, as well as enough food for everyone as less of that valuable protein was shovelled (along with their own brains) into cows.

but cows are not particularly know for their deep rationality or swift thinking, so not surprising so many of their eaters have similar issues...

<ducks...>

a l'orange, bien sur!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 08:42:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a good sens of the litterature on the topic but I believe most studies on global warming and food production still claim that the agriculture of OECD countries will benefit from a 2 deg C mean temperature rise, which I think would imply a more or less neutral effect of climate change on global food supply until at least mid-century according to mid-range climate scenarios. However, most work on this I have seen is not very recent and as far as I know could be wishful thinking. Unfortunately, the "Impacts, adapatation and vulnerability" section of AR4 (IPCC report) isn't yet available so we don't have a detailed synthesis to assess the models with regard to their sensitivity to CO2 fertilization levels which is a debated topic and whether droughts and heat waves as seen in the last decade are sufficiently accounted for. At any rate, the effects of warming on agriculture will be much greater in developping nations which doesn't bode well on the reactivity of developped nations on this issue.

Since we are including climate change in the equation of the food supply, soil erosion will probably also play in important role at these time scales especially when combined with Peak Oil and fertilizer cost: "As a result of erosion, during the last 40 years about 30% of the world's arable land has become improductive and therefore has been abandonned for agricultural use (WRI 1994)."
in "Soil Erosion and the Threat to Food Security and the Environement" By Pimentel, D., Ecosystem Health,Vol6, # 4.

by Fete des fous on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:47:18 PM EST
The relation of increased CO2 to plant growth is very much a topic of on-going research.  Earlier studies indicated, as you say, a neutral effect.  At least one report published in the last year, however, reported a net decrease in food/plant production.  I do not know the academic standing of that report.

Like you, I'm waiting for the IPCC to get off its collective asses so I can read the 'baseline' consensus.

Re: Soil erosion

Is a subject I've had to triage out.  Not from lack of interest - far from it! - but from lack of time.  Would you be interested in writing a diary?  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:03:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eli Rabett of Rabett Run has a concise summary of the evidence as of a year ago about CO2 fertilization:

  • There is no CO2 fertilization effect for C4 crops although increased drought resistance may be significant.

  • FACE studies show that current ag models significantly overestimate CO2 fertilization for crops

  • C3 crop CO2 fertilization saturates somewhere between 600 and 800 ppm CO2

Weeds grow well in high CO2 Crops?

Doesn't it seem that DeAnander is much better prepared to write a diary about this? ;-)

by Fete des fous on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 10:00:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to add that even if you do not develop the question, you should consider including in your diary (for future postings) a simple statement regarding soil erosion to let your readers know that it is also a formidable challenge to crop sustainability.
by Fete des fous on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 10:10:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
soil erosion will probably also play in important role at these time scales especially when combined with Peak Oil and fertilizer cost: "As a result of erosion, during the last 40 years about 30% of the world's arable land has become improductive and therefore has been abandonned for agricultural use (WRI 1994)."

soil erosion is not exclusively, but very commonly, a side effect of industrial ag practises such as scorched-earth farming (burning, poisoning or scraping off all surface vegetation prior to planting the cash crop), over irrigation (washing topsoil -- degraded and polluted with poisons, excess nitrates and heavy metals) away into streams and lakes;  compacting of soil by the passage of heavy mechanised equipment, thus preventing water absorption and increasing runoff and the formation of permanent hardpan (desertification in other words).

that land has become nonproductive not because it inevitable "gets worn out" -- there are fields in Asia that have been farmed for 3000 years and are still productive -- it has become nonproductive because it has been vandalised by stupid, profit-driven rather than food-driven or survival-oriented farming methods.

oh dear oh dear, I need to go calm down.  I'll be typing in all caps next :-)  gonna go take a break...

seriously, all, do some reading... the literature on sustainable ag is huge and growing daily, and the living success stories are many and also growing daily.   it's not a question of "could our agriculture be more productive?"  it's a question of "why in hell are we still doing this all wrong?"  and the answer is, basically, because of inertia and because a very powerful elite make a lot of money by doing things wrong and wiping out all competing knowledge and models.  [takes deep breath]  gonna go rack some home made wine and enjoy the fact that I cannot (yet!) be arrested for making it.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 06:02:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Make this diary number 3.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 06:06:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, there is little doubt in my mind that productivism is responsible for the high rate of ecosystem services destruction, including those services important to food production (climate regulation, water and soils budgets). And although it is a more complex issue, overpopulation also can be mostly attributed to the unsustainable rates of resource depletion that have enabled people to spend well above the means afforded by their regions.

I assume you are also right that we could feed sustainably modern world population, but as you guessed, I am not familiar enough with sustainable agriculture and the earth carrying capacity to say so and, as you noted, it would also demand much more than our optimizing agricultural techniques for resource conservation to get there. In fact, nothing short of a radical transformation would probably suffice. Consumption in developped countries would have to be cut back to sustainable levels, efficiency would have to increase across the board, and waste eliminated. It'd probably entail a total restructuration of our economies on principles much broader than financial profit, and necessitate favoring local economies to minimize the energy expenditure of long distance trading, the full accounting of externalities, major investments in RD and infrastructure to enable the all of it.

Unfortunately, the identification of the root cause of problems and their solutions by few individuals has never guaranteed the ability to gather the political will to implement systemic change or even simple remediations. The limits to growth were already mostly identifyied nearly 40 years ago and nothing has been done to begin addressing any of it, au contraire. The almost total lack of consciousness of the importance of soil conservation in the crop sustainability equation, even among people aware of the wall we seem to be approaching at ever greater speed, as well as the willingness to perpetuate productivism by reform minded elites point to the need for multiple levels of discourse (is there a problem? what's the cause? what are the solutions?). It thus seems to me that it is also worthwhile to spend a little time simply but clearly and rigorously identifying what is irremediably unsustainable about intensive agriculture and how it will fail to provide for our future needs.

by Fete des fous on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 09:28:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are two underlying assumptions in the diary w/which I have to differ, or at least make warning noises about.

one is that industrial mechanised agriculture is 'efficient' and hence is the only way to produce 'high yields'.  this is only true if we accept that 'efficiency' is measured in wage-labour hours per hectare per season per tonne, and that the tonne is a monocrop tonne, as for industrial food processing or export.  far more food value -- as opposed to tradable/shippable commodity value -- can be obtained per acre w/o mechanisation, with diverse polycultivation and sustainable soil management.

the second assumption (which derives from the first) is that our goal is to Save Mechanised Agriculture, as it is our only hope.  imho -- and I'm not alone in this opinion -- our best survival option at present is to abandon large-scale mechanised monocrop agriculture as quickly as rats fleeing the proverbial sinking ship, and start diversifying, localising, and climbing down a few notches on the food chain ASAP.  feeding grain to cattle -- let alone feeding grain to cars -- is not the smartest use of our resources. shipping tonnes of apples from Canada to USA, while in the same year shipping more tonnes of apples from USA to Canada, is just plain insane.  growing western grains for export in third world countries, rather than using the local land base to grow locally adapted crops to feed the local people, is called, er 'colonialism', and it's not a great idea.  forcing people off their highly adaptive local diets and driving their local cultivars into extinction, so that we can dump agricultural surpluses from fossil-intensive monocrop ag onto them, is a kind of slow-mo genocide.

think for one minute about that statement:  it is illegal to grow for sale many traditional cultivars.  what level of Enclosure are we talking about here, where the most basic human activity -- growing food and  selling or trading the surplus -- has been made illegal?  why is this acceptable for even one second to any resident of the area where this law is in effect?  why are not mobs with torches and pitchforks in the streets?

BTW, the staggering loss of information, diversity, and cultural heritage as traditional cultivars are extirpated by corporate-friendly monocrop commodity substitutes is not limited to the UK.  I think there were something like 5,000 varieties of potato cultivated in the Americas;  the corporate potato is down to about 3 or 4 varieties, and they are a cloned  crop (like bananas and apples).  there were more than 2000 named varieties of apple in the US about 100 years ago, iirc -- Pollan's The Botany of Desire has a whole chapter on apples that provides the history and numbers, read 'em and weep -- and now the abominable Corporate Red Tasteless ["Delicious"] has displaced them all.

this is not merely a matter of gourmet fussiness;  the corporate monocrop "foods" are inferior not only in taste, but in nutritional value and in the energy-cost of their production.  they are not well adapted to any particular biome and hence require extra coddling and care;  they are so pest-vulnerable due to the density of their planting in huge monocrop swathes that they need far more pest control (meaning, regular spraying with neurotoxins) than any of their predecessors.  and the enormous size of the plantations implies the dependence on heavy ag machinery and automation that drives all but the deepest-pocketed capitalists out of the business.  the whole model is insanely vulnerable and precarious -- pick your metaphor, "too many eggs in one basket" or "overcapitalised" or "top heavy and teetering," but it is a very fragile system and likely to fold along any of several fracture lines:  a wave of pests or diseases that could wipe out millions of acres of identical (sometimes clonally identical) plants;  variations in rainfall or temperature when there is zero variety left in the cultivar base to give any resilience against changing conditions;  and worst of all, the complete loss in only 2 generations of the cumulative knowledge and skill of millions of small farmers who knew how to feed their families and their communities.

there has been an Enclosure not only of land, but of knowledge and of the very germ plasm of the plants on which our lives depend.  because dependency of the consumer creates a captive market and therefore a comfortable monopsony (I think that's the right word?) in which a cartel of commodity food barons can set prices and control the market, that dependency has been encouraged and engineered until most people are wholly at the mercy of the corporate food chain, and have absolutely no idea how to grow, or prepare, or preserve any basic foodstuff for themselves.  this is commonly called "progress".  I call it collective suicide...

btw wheat is not a particularly nutritious crop.  it became valuable to humans because it was easily stored and preserved -- thus making it easier to stockpile against lean years, and easier for elites to enclose, control, hoard, and dole out in exchange for obedience.  the nutritional content of today's wheat may actually be inferior to the dominant strain grown in Iron Age Britain (I can come back with a ref on this one);  we've been breeding plants for all kinds of reasons that have everything to do with profiteering for rentiers, packagers, processors, retailers, transporters, etc. and nothing to do with getting necessary nutrients into human mouths -- hence the drop-kickable tomato and the other cardboard vegetables and fruits that masquerade as food in chain supermarkets.  wheat is not the be-all and end-all of crops.  it's just a high-status crop that's culturally central to the wheat-beef marauders of the Caucasus and hence N. Europe.  potatoes are more nutritious pound for pound -- potatoes plus dairy are a very good protein/amino acid mix, each complementing the other.  and many other grains are more nutritious and less resource-intensive (quinoa springs to mind).

my own pessimism is not due to a belief that we can't produce enough food -- I think we could produce a hella lot more food than we are now;  but our food system is choked by the diversion of energy and quality at every turn into the pockets of speculators, monopolists, Enclosers, rentiers, etc.   the goal of our food system is not to produce food -- it is to produce money profit.  the contradiction between these two goals is not felt when there is a surplus of cheap energy to cover the gap.  once the cheap energy runs out, the contradiction is felt and we face the moment when the profiteers, to maintain their control and their profit-taking and the centralised monocrop ag that permits this level of monopoly and Enclosure, will have to condemn even larger numbers of people to starvation than they do today -- perhaps even white people in northern countries -- and this will actually be noticed and cause anger and unrest.

meanwhile the local food movements ferment quietly, with a "food underground" building in most areas of most countries.  I pin my hopes -- slim as they are -- on these movements.

it is worth mentioning that while Mollison et al codified permaculture as a system for western readers, many of the practises they describe have been traditional throughout the world for millennia.  it is symptomatic of the insanity of Euro/Anglo colonialism that a couple of whitefellas have to write it all up in scientific language for simple common sense to be recognised as anything other than "primitive and backward".  what is primitive and backward is the crazy priest/king/monopolist centralised ag we are doing today.  permaculture and the traditional polycultures from which it derives [some indigenous activists would go so far as to say "was stolen"] are far more subtle, advanced, and productive than the factory ag methods we use to farm money rather than food.

and this whole topic makes me so damn angry that I'd better stop here, because my next few thoughts involve piano wire and a list of names.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:20:18 PM EST
turn this into a diary?! Pretty please?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:40:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reality is calling me away from the computer but I want to quickly 'Ack' your comments.  I hope to return later this evening for a more substantial response.

As of June 24, 2007 the dependence of global grain production on mechanization, and other 'Green Revolution' techniques, is not an assumption but a fact.  We've got a generation of farmers who simply don't know any other way to farm.  Even my Amish neighbors back in Iowa would spread the Round-Up™ with great glee.

I sincerely wish it was otherwise ... but there it is.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 06:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah, the Amish and pesticides/herbicides, that's a really strange story.  but I think they could be convinced otherwise (a friend of mine is an IPM specialist out in Amish country and she has had great success just by showing that you can save money by getting off the chemical treadmill)... no Amishman ever saw a nickel he didn't like, as they say.

the indoctrination of 2, 2.5, almost 3 generations of farmers into the chem industry version of Lysenkoism or Ptolemaic astronomy is gonna be hard to undo.  but with the price of petro products heading skyward it is gonna happen, one way or t'other.  the corner they are painted into is getting very very small, and anyone who can show a way out is gonna be listened to at some point.

whether that point comes soon enough to prevent major disruptions, an intesification of global food theft, etc. -- is another matter.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:10:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
one more afterthought.

sustainable localised ag is incompatible with totalitarian control.  people who have food security are very hard to conquer, micromanage and rule, as the US found out in Viet Nam.  this is one reason why colonial powers work so hard to stamp out indigenous crops and Enclose land and water in the countries they conquer:  not only do they want to steal the soil productivity for their own profit, but they know that people with no food/water security will bow the knee rather than watch their children slowly starve.  "foreign aid" is not about charity.  it's about control.

a food system based on total centralised control (basically a command economy run by a small number of capitalist barons rather than a small number of communist commmisars, and don't ask me if I can tell the difference 'cos I can't) is, however, massively inefficient.  it requires long supply lines and Taylorised/industrial ag practise that is so energy intensive it's the biggest negative-sum game in history (well, perhaps since the Pyramids?).  it's only the cheap fossil fuel that enables the non-adaptive, insane practise of simplifying the cultivar palette down to a few primary colours, relying totally on clonal crops, and feeding people a kind of mash processed at enormous energy cost from trash crops (the USian zea mays food chain).

the collapse of the cheap fossil fuel not only implies the collapse of the centralised industrial ag system -- the collapse of the centralised industrial ag system implies a crisis for totalitarian control.  relocalisation of food implies devolution (doesn't anyone ever mull over how Cuba 'lightened up' considerably as soon as they were forced by their own Peak Oil sneak preview to devolve food production back to individual farmers and local markets?).  devolution means reduced opportunity for centralised profiteering.

so the very steps needed to feed our populations during an energy crunch are the same steps that threaten the fantasies of megalomaniacs who want to "rule the world".  three guesses whether these very dangerous men will see reason and let go of their pretensions to power and glory so that ordinary people can eat.  it is this -- a crisis of control, not a 'crisis of production' -- that really worries me.  industrial ag has crippled our food producing capacity and created artificial scarcity for 3 generations.  we'd eat better and more plentifully if we got rid of it.  but it's also one of the primary mechanisms of social control that keeps our elites perched on their upper rungs.  they have passed laws forbidding people to save and share seeds and plants.  there are few laws more abominable.  at what point does massive, organised rebellion against this totalising food Enclosure begin in the West (it has already begun -- nay, has never really ended since the enclosures started -- in the 3rd world)?

I know it sounds like I'm ranting, and I am, I am...

the corporate/industrial ag nexus has rendered us more and more vulnerable to the very crises of climate and hydrology that their fossil-intensive and toxic methods have helped to precipitate.  and they profit, daily, from our very ignorance, poverty of resource, and vulnerability.

Recommended reading:  Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest;  James Lieber, Rats in the Grain;  Richard Manning, Against the Grain;  H Flores, Food Not Lawns;  J Gussow, This Organic Life;  Magdoff et al, Hungry for Profit;  Nyerges, Extreme Simplicity:  Homesteading in the City; J Pretty, Agri-Culture;  Mollison, Permaculture;  Hemenway, Gaia's Garden;  Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables;  Katz, The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved;  Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire; Fukuoka, One Straw Revolution;  video The Power of Community (Cuba's food production paradigm shift);  video Polyface Farm (Joel Salatin on the success of sustainable practise on his family farm)... I could go on...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:55:13 PM EST
Make this your second diary.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
of ProgressiveHistorians, a community site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 07:41:28 PM EST
And I am honored to be asked.

Cross-posted.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 11:49:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Food Fight
For those of us who have grown up in post-war Britain food prices have gone only one way, and that is down. Sixty years ago an average British family spent more than one-third of its income on food. Today, that figure has dropped to one-tenth. But for the first time in generations agricultural commodity prices are surging with what analysts warn will be unpredictable consequences.

    Like any other self-respecting trend this one now has its own name: agflation. Beneath this harmless-sounding piece of jargon - the conflation of agriculture and inflation - lie two main drivers that suggest that cheap food is about to become a thing of the past. Agflation, to those that believe that it is really happening, is an increase in the price of food that occurs as a result of increased demand from human consumption and the diversion of crops into usage as an alternative energy resource.

    On the one hand the growing affluence of millions of people in China and India is creating a surge in demand for food - the rising populations are not content with their parents' diet and demand more meat. On the other, is the use of food crops as a source of energy in place of oil, the so-called bio-fuels boom.

    As these two forces combine they are setting off warning bells around the world.

    Rice prices are climbing worldwide. Butter prices in Europe have spiked by 40 per cent in the past year. Wheat futures are trading at their highest level for a decade. Global soybean prices have risen by a half. Pork prices in China are up 20 per cent on last year and the food price index in India was up by 11 per cent year on year. In Mexico there have been riots in response to a 60 per cent rise in the cost of tortillas.

[...]

 In the past 12 months the global corn price has doubled. The constant aim of agriculture is to produce enough food to carry us over to the next harvest. In six of the past seven years, we have used more grain worldwide than we have produced. As a result world grain reserves - or carryover stocks - have dwindled to 57 days. This is the lowest level of grain reserves in 34 years.

    The reason for the price surge is the wholesale diversion of grain crops into the production of ethanol. Thirty per cent of next year's grain harvest in the US will go straight to an ethanol distillery.  As the US supplies more than two-thirds of the world's grain imports this unprecedented move will affect food prices everywhere. In Europe farmers are switching en masse to fuel crops to meet the EU requirement that bio-fuels account for 20 per cent of the energy mix.




The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 07:36:39 PM EST
i believe wheat, especially its ancestor, spelt, or 'farro' in italian, is highly nutritious and balanced, but i suspect it's the gluten it contains that makes it such a plastic medium...no other grain has been so 'handled' and it morphs into more textures and consistencies than any other grain.

rice comes in second, but not close.

potatoes are very yin, and eating them too often will make you want to hang out in pubs 24/7 and croon 'danny boy'.

lactose intolerant folks would have issues extracting all needed protein from cheese.

eating more oats, rye and barley would make a great start to weaning oneself off the insidious ubiquity of mutilated wheat molecules.

wallpaper paste is not good for the stomach, long term. i remember my parents mixing up white flour and water to hang wallpaper!

seitan, pancakes, buns, rolls and crumpets....

tarts, pies, and so on....

don't come out too well with other grain flours.

wheat was great, the fibre and wheatgerm oil are marvellously healthy.

now, better choose spelt, i reckon, and vary the grains consciously, making sure to include millet, (makes the best burgers, helps dry out the cells, helps with bloat and water retention, (especially in conjunction with lymph drainage massage), and is high in calcium.

cooked unskilfully, it has the appetising appeal of wet sawdust!

buckwheat, cooked as 'kasha', is a deliciously warming winter food.

in japan, buckwheat noodles are very common, wheareas here in yurp i've only come across them as a regional italian pasta product, called 'pizzocheri', in valtellina, n. italy, where they are cooked with cabbage and melted cheese.

in hawaii. it was possible to find a noodle made with buckwheat and wild yam flour.

this was hands down the tastiest.

miso soup with yu, tofu and soba...lucky bruno-ken!

what a great thread this was...thanks to all

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:19:00 PM EST


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