Food wordcloud

Facing up to the transition

As we begin the difficult transition from fossil fuel based dependency towards an ecologically sound future, there are different areas of our resource use that we are able to have a considerable impact in reducing, on both a personal and community level.

Food is one area we can make a lot of difference in terms of drastically cutting back the amount of carbon based energy which is used in the whole process from seed to table.

The amount of fossil fuels that are used to produce our food is staggering, according to Dale Pfeiffer, author of ‘Eating Fossil Fuels’ 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expanded to feed each American on a yearly basis, Pfeiffer provides a breakdown of the different aspects of production, including the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer, the operation of field machinery, transportation, raising livestock, and pesticide production. Despite the fact that 400 gallons are used in the agricultural side of food production, this figure does not count the oil usage in the costs for packaging, refrigeration, and transportation to retail outlets.

Localised food production and supply are essential for a future which see much less and eventually no gas and oil supply whatsoever. We do not have a clear time frame for when these resources will run out, but we do have much evidence to suggest that things are getting pretty desperate where oil is concerned, we are seeing military conflicts involving the oil hungry West and producers such as Iraq, Libya, and highly likely Iran and Syria in the not too distant future. The Alberta Tar Sands extraction in Canada is a costly process to refine usable oil from the tar in the sand. The proliferation of deep sea oil drilling tells us that the easily accessible oil wells in land are no longer productive. So even though we cant say when these resources are going to run out, we can clearly see that there are some very desperate measures occurring globally in securing oil supplies.

Despite this grim scenario that we currently face, there is still much we can do, It is not only possible to grow an abundance of food without the use of fossil fuels, it is also absolutely essential that we do this due to Peak oil and peaks in other resources, on top of these considerations there are issues of our own personal health in relation to eating that has used oil and gas based fertilizers and pesticides as part of the production process, but most importantly the damage that we are doing to the delicately balanced eco-systems that sustain life on Earth.

Ecologically sound food production without Fossil fuels

Because there are multiple issues that we need to address in terms of food productions, going organic simply isn’t enough, organic growing will provide us with cleanly grown food, but it does provide any solutions within the context of peak oil and the distance that our food travels from seed to plate. This is where Permaculture design and practices really come into their own. The zoning in permaculture design tells us to grow food close to our home, it shows us how develop perennial food systems that need little or no input once they are up and running. Permaculture systems are able to increase fertility on a seasonal basis wither low or no inputs, which means that we cut out the use of any fossil fuel based fertilizers altogether.

Grow it locally!

Growing food locally makes a lot of sense, on a lot of different fronts, firstly there are no transport costs involved whatsoever, compared to supermarket produce which driven from a distribution centre, to the supermarket, then driven from the Supermarket to your home. Growing your back garden or yard means that you are walking a few feet from your kitchen to the garden to harvest you fresh produce. Local growing also means that we get the benefit of extra nutrients that are lost in the time it takes from farm to supermarket which averages out at between 4-7 days before it reaches our plates. By employing organic growing methods in our overall permaculture design we can also be rest assured that our food is clean and free of fossil based additives.

For a permanent culture

In order to create a permanent culture we need to move away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable low impact means of powering that which we do as human beings. Perennial and self seeding permaculture systems remove fossil fuel from the whole food journey from seed to plate, these systems enable us to create resilient local food cultures based on local weather systems and other ecological factors. There are many millions of individuals and thousands of groups globally who are actively participating in community food growing projects, urban permaculture collectives, and low impact sustainable agriculture. Localised community permaculture growing also provides access to clean nutritious food where there was none before, within this context it creates food inclusivity which we see as being one of the major outcomes of a permanent culture.

Other information and useful links:

Post Carbon Report on Food Transition

Article on a food transition project in Edinburgh

Articles on food transition from Transition Towns

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