Why Focus on Food and Farming?
Because when we look deeper into the problem we see that the source of our true wealth and long term wellbeing is our ability to grow our own food. We see that it is a key area in solving the environmental, social and economic aspects of the crisis.
Oil has become the foremost energy resource, there is no ready substitute, fossil fuels are limited by their quantity in the ground, and we have already used half the conventional (cheap) oil in view of the production peak. This is most important in the field of food and farming as it has become reliant on fossil fuels and is essential for human health and survival.
Artificial fertilisers, synthetic pesticides and herbicides are made using natural gas and oil. Farm machinery has mechanised most farm work which is driven by diesel oil. Overall the modern food system consumes roughly 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food produced. This includes energy costs for farm machinery, transportation, processing and oil/ natural gas used as feed stocks (for agricultural chemicals). This energy imbalance can not continue indefinitely.
Re-ruralisation a dominant social trend of the 21st century
The way we grow our food will change, it is unavoidable. There will be a massive reduction of fossil fuel inputs into agriculture accompanied by an increase in human labour and a reduction in transport. Production will be devoted to local consumption. One way or another re-ruralisation will be the dominant social trend of the 21st Century which will shift the ratio between the urban and rural populations.
If you wish to know more, read the Post Carbon Institute report “The Food and Farming Transition” published on its website (there is also a list of resources on the resources web page) It explains why re-ruralisation is going to happen due to peak oil, gas and coal no matter what we do. Richard Heinberg the principal author has been delivering this message for many years. Refining it as new research and data became available which consistently supported his original conclusions.
In what looks like desperation oil companies have spent trillions of dollars in the last few years to find more oil. Shale oil and tar sands have been found which cost many times more to produce than conventional deposits and will only delay the inevitable decline by ten or twenty years.
Intensive mega farms are not the answer either as they rely on artificial fertilisers and pesticides and energy intensive systems where big business control agriculture. ‘Meat’ by Simon Fairlie is an excellent book which asks the question: Can Britain Feed itself? By exploring the different farming systems available in Britain. The answer is yes, with the re-establishment of localised agriculture and application of regenerative farming methods
Soil Carbon regenerative agriculture grow crops in ways which build soil carbon and thereby reverse climate change, rather than using conventional ways which release carbon from the Earth into the atmosphere.
This can be done by using an agroforestry technique called Alley Cropping and the use of Biochar. Combining alley cropping with the production of biochar in specially designed stoves and returning the biochar to the soil in which crops are grown. This optimises the amount of carbon drawn down from the atmosphere by plants and stabilises this carbon in soils in ways which build soil structure. This system enables farmers to earn an income by producing crops for food and fuel in a way which reverses the causes of climate change whilst building soil.
Agroforestry can be a closed loop system of crop production which optimises photosynthesis and carbon draw down and the biochar stabilises much of this carbon in ways which can build soil through improving soil aggregation. To learn more see http://www.soil-carbon-regeneration.co.uk/