You know I’m a sucker for the end of civilization stuff. This article, which compares the presently-collapsing United States with the collapsed USSR was a thoughtful read, and probably a good antidote to the polyannas popping up and saying that, no, really, everything is actually fine and will be fine forever, who are themselves a good antidote to the doomsayers proclaiming that everything is completely fucked and will be fucked forever. My own view is that some things are completely fucked, some things aren’t, but I don’t really know wtf is going on, as I never hesitate to mention.
Anyway, you know how I love to point out how idiotic all these biofuel initiatives are, and how everything about agriculture is larded with hidden energy costs that nobody ever bothers to mention in any sort of public venue, although my favorite people are the ones who say that, yes, we have all kinds of hidden energy costs producing food, so let’s get rid of them by producing a bunch of food, which we will then _convert_ to energy, which we will then use to produce food! Ha! God bless America!
Sorry. Got derailed a bit. Here was the quote I wanted to share:
In the United States, the agricultural system is heavily industrialized, and relies on inputs such as diesel, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and, perhaps most importantly, financing. In the current financial climate, the farmers’ access to financing is not at all assured. This agricultural system is efficient, but only if you regard fossil fuel energy as free. In fact, it is a way to transform fossil fuel energy into food with a bit of help from sunlight, to the tune of 10 calories of fossil fuel energy being embodied in each calorie that is consumed as food. The food distribution system makes heavy use of refrigerated diesel trucks, transforming food over hundreds of miles to resupply supermarkets. The food pipeline is long and thin, and it takes only a couple of days of interruptions for supermarket shelves to be stripped bare. Many people live in places that are not within walking distance of stores, not served by public transportation, and will be cut off from food sources once they are no longer able to drive.
When the folks living in the exoburbs and rural areas start feeling some of those hidden costs when they buy their frozen pizzas, that’s when we’re really gonna come face to face with the unsustainable nature of the current state of affairs. I’m not looking forward to that day. But with a bit of industry, it need not be a total loss:
An even simpler approach has been successfully used in Cuba: converting urban parking lots and other empty bits of land to raised-bed agriculture. Instead of continually trucking in vegetables and other food, it is much easier to truck in soil, compost, and mulch just once a season. Raised highways can be closed to traffic (since there is unlikely to be much traffic in any case) and used to catch rainwater for irrigation. Rooftops and balconies can be used for hothouses, henhouses, and a variety of other agricultural uses.
Frankly, the most depressing part for me is that I have zero of the skills that will be useful in the new world order. Growing shit? Hunting? Carrying big baskets of vegetables on top of my head? I would prefer to hit the ground running, and not decay into ruin before either dying or else figuring out some new compromise with the world, but this will be one of those things that you never take steps to deal with until it’s too late.
Perhaps I could revive the living god thing we started at USC.
I can’t stop! This article is so good! Behold:
Here we are, only a year or so later, and I am most heartened to see that the US auto industry has taken my advice and is in the process of shutting down. On the other hand, the government’s actions continue to disappoint. Instead of trying to solve problems, they would rather continue to create boondoggles. The latest one is the idea of subsidizing the sales of new cars. The idea of making cars more efficient by making more efficient cars is sheer folly. I can take any pick-up truck and increase its fuel efficiency one or two thousand percent just by breaking a few laws. First, you pack about a dozen people into the bed, standing shoulder to shoulder like sardines. Second, you drive about 25 mph, down the highway, because going any faster would waste fuel and wouldn’t be safe with so many people in the back. And there you are, per passenger fuel efficiency increased by a factor of 20 or so. I believe the Mexicans have done extensive research in this area, with excellent results.
It’s the last line that got me.