Friday, April 25, 2008

Politics Of Food Is Politics
Surfing the net today, I saw both $7.00 and $10.00 gas in our future. We as a society are not ready for it. We need to fundamentally change our relationship with our food supply. De Clarke and Stan Goff write about food politics.

The airline industry has been very forthright about their problems. They are saying, "We were neither tooled nor organized for $120-a-barrel oil." Most of us get this, because we associate transport technology with fossil hydrocarbons. We drive cars; and we buy the gas to put in those cars. Planes run on No. 1 Jet Fuel and if oil prices go up, so does the cost of jet fuel. Most of us are less likely to associate is oil prices with food prices.

We buy food at the supermarket; so we don't generally experience -- directly -- the association between fuel and food. The connection, however, is every bit as central in the current food production regime as the link between aircraft engines and their fuel. Industrial monocropping for global distribution is "neither tooled nor organized for oil at $120-a-barrel." It is not just the far-flung food transport network (much of it refrigerated and fuel-hungry) that creates the intimate dependency on oil; it is the whole scheme called industrial (or corporate, or "modern") agriculture.

This oil/food link -- during the onset of what some call the Peak Oil event -- has resulted almost overnight in steep food-price inflation, hitting peripheral economies like a tsunami.

Sustainable agriculture produces more food per acre than mono culture factory farms. They do not however produce large profits like the mono culture farms.

Many well-substantiated studies show that intensive biotic polyculture -- that is, the cultivation of many species of food plants in a small footprint, using biotic soil amendments and nutrient recycling -- produces far more food per hectare than factory farming; uses far less water; and builds, rather than destroying, topsoil.

Although more human ingenuity, care, and attention are required, the adoption of permaculture principles and techniques reduces the drudgery of food production considerably; the permaculturist is assisting food to grow rather than forcing it to grow (or more hubristically, "growing" it), which is much less work all round than our cartoon cultural memory of dawn-to-dusk backbreaking peasant labor (which became backbreaking to pay "tribute" and debts to people with weapons and ledgers, not survive).

What intensive biotic polyculture does not do is maximise money profits, minimise labour inputs, or facilitate large-scale extractive cash-cropping.

For these reasons -- not for any failure to produce food for eating -- it is derided by industrial agribiz "experts" as impractical, inefficient, inadequate, etc. In fact, poly/permaculture's abundant success in producing food for eating is one of the things that makes it a frightening prospect for those who control people by controlling people's access to food.

What they don't want us to know is that it works. Eisenia hortensis -- the European nightcrawler (earthworm) -- under ideal worm-farming (vermiculture) conditions double their volume through reproduction every 90 days. Each individual worm can eat approximately half its body weight each day. A pound of E. hortensis, then, can consume a half-pound of non-oily, vegetable kitchen scraps each day. The majority of that mass is excreted as an extremely high quality compost, with a bit of fluid (worm tea) left over (considered by many to be the organic uber-fertilizer). So, potentially, one pound of worms can convert around 180 pounds of kitchen scraps each year into the highest quality organic soil additive. Every five pounds of worm-castings can convert one-square surface-foot of soil into a super-producer for a four months. So one pound of worms can sustain 12 square surface-feet of garden throughout the year for the highest levels of productivity.

Via Avedon.

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