Tuesday, May 31, 2005

agricultural world

Will the word return to its agrarian roots once we've tapped down our pools of oil? In the purest sense, there wouldn't be much choice. People will find ways to eat. Probably more concerning is how such a transition might take place.

Conditioned by disaster movies, it's easy to think first of a sudden calamity that severs our links to oil and technology followed by a grim scenario of death and destruction. But oil supplies will dwindle. It may happen faster or slower but oil will play out gradually over years.

Eating depends on a food supply and eating is central to staying alive. With oil supplies gradually drawing down, the strain on the food supply chain from farm to fork also will increase. Modern commercial agriculture is petroleum dependent and as oil gets more expensive, the system gets more expensive, too.

There certainly is the potential for people, a lot of people, to grow their own food. My small suburban yard could produce a bunch of food if the time was spent to grow, harvest and store crops. We'd be spending our time growing food instead of commuting to jobs that may not be there in the post oil glut age.

There's a Rolling Stone magazine article by James Howard Kunstler called The Long Emergency. If we can set aside some of the obvious doomsday stuff, we should all see the potential.

Still it's the social aspect that has me concerned. Can our social system adjust with out killing each other? If the oil supply dwindles gradually, I'm optimistic enough to think we can make the needed changes. If the oil supply plays out more quickly, a transition is going to be more painful.

I've listened to interviews with Jon Thompson, former president of Exxonmobil. Thompson always stressed energy efficiency and encouraged a national energy policy based on it. Thompson, I thought, was always pretty blunt about oil supplies while managing to stick to the soothing reassurances required of an oil executive.

Leadership is needed badly. And I don't mean someone who thinks they have all the answers. I'm talking about the kind of leadership that can draw together people from the oil company board room to the most strident environmentalists. Leadership would demand dialog and then develop a whole menu of programs to attack energy and food production all across the range of diversity.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

organic thoughts

There was a mildly thought provoking essay about organic food by Ron Johnson in Agri-View, a statewide agricultural newspaper.

Agri-View Newspaper

The upshot from Mr. Johnson was that most people probably don't wake up and go to sleep each day worrying about good safe food. I think he's right. But there is a feeling that organic food is somehow better or better for you than regular old store-shelf stuff.

This isn't something we can quickly discuss because so often the whole debate, such as it is, resembles theology versus science. Enough people share a value system that favors organic food production to have created a growing market. The presumptions with organic food production are that it's produced in such a way as to not harm the environment and therefore is free of any substance that might make its way to your table.

We're all right with that. Shoot, less use of chemicals is a noble notion and one I think many producers will agree with.

What happens though, is that millions of people eat conventionally produced food and fare just fine. Those eating organic food do fine, too, I'm sure. Do the people eating organic feel or live better? I bet many will tell you they are healthier for the choice.

We just don't know with scientific certainty. People will tell you they feel better when they quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating meat, quit reading newspapers. I feel better after a few days away from work.

There isn't much of a controversy in my mind about organic food production. The country is apparently affluent enough that people can base what they eat on a personal value system having little to do with supported facts. If the amount of chemicals used in food production is reduced then so much the better.

So enjoy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

left right and down the middle

About the time I sit down at the key board to say all the things I mean to say, my mind goes blank. Initially, I was going to go on about how hard it is to vote for Republicans. But then I realized it's almost as hard to vote for Democrats.

Both parties right now are driven by extremes.

The more one party characterizes the other, the more that party does to live up to the characterization. Republicans are corrupt, war-mongering, greedy, big government deficit spenders while Democrats are painted as godless baby-killing faggots.

The second you think that's nuts, something comes along and makes it all seem true, say a grueling war or absurd fights over church and state issues. All of this is muddled by media impressions. There isn't so much a thing as facts as impressions. Media can get the facts right sometimes and still create a false impression.

Politicians are quick to exploit impressions. Media manipulation is big industry and high art. Whatever, it all gets carried into the crevasses as people imitate what they see as conventional wisdom. You may wonder why things are a little out of focus around the local school board or village council.

Friday, May 06, 2005

yapping for attention

As much as internet communications promise to bring people together, people defy the promise. There are several blogs I routinely read, mostly liberal, and I take a spin though the conservative blogs, too.

Then I quit because I get discouraged. Reluctantly, I return in a few days to affirm nothing much has changed. If this is a conversation then I must understand the language of barking canines.

So much is flat nonsense. It's a text-based flea market. One gets attention by barking loudly which sets off a louder chain of barking and howling. Sometimes I want to kick a noisy dog right into the basement where it can't be heard or set off any more howling in the neighborhood.

That's the discouraging side. That is, discovering in my own character the urge to shut someone up. I used to think it was better to have people's ideas and opinions right out in the open where we could all have a look. Now that I'm able to view so much, I guess I'm surprised at how daft it all becomes.

Which is the point in the first place.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

organic values

In the field of agriculture (har), the production of organic food has earned a fair share of press and a growing (har) market. Organic food sounds so appealing. After all, who can be against safe, wholesome food? None of us, no?

If we want safe wholesome food why do we eat so much crap?

Okay, too many questions, too rhetorical. For the record, I have long supported the idea of organic food production and even more so have promoted community supported agriculture (CSA) organic or otherwise.

But I'm no purist. My main replies to people who start in on me about how bad modern commercial farming practices are is to A) Grow your own really, B) get connected to a CSA farm, C) speak with your money and buy organic.

I sincerely believe you can get good food in the basic suburban supermarket, too. But if you're really worried about it, take your money into the market and use it. On point C, it looks like more people are doing exactly as I suggest and creating new niche markets for farmers as they spend.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

first one


Never one to think this is a serious endeavor, I do think it's worth a stab. A thrust?

So we'll see how it goes and how it looks and how it works.