Richard Heinberg: I'm actually gonna cover some of the same territory as Richard has already explored here, hopefully from a little different perspective, add a few helpful facts and figures along the way.
Food is energy and it takes energy to get food. These two facts, when we take them together, have always established the biological limits to the human population and they will always continue to do so. The same is and has been true for every other species as well. Food must yield more energy to the eater than is needed to acquire the food. Woe to the fox who expends more energy chasing rabbits than he can get from eating the rabbits he catches. If this energy balance remains negative for too long, death results. For the species in general the outcome is extinction.We humans have become champions at developing new strategies for increasing our share of energy captured from the environment. Harnessing of fire, domestication of plants and animals, adoption of ards***[1:14] and plows, the deployment of irrigation schemes and the harnessing of traction animals. Developments that occurred over tens of thousands of years all served this end. The process was gradual and time-consuming. Over centuries small inventions and tiny modifications of existing tools from ***[1:38] to horse-collars enabled human and animal muscle-power to be leveraged ever more slightly more effectively. This exercise took place within a network of natural limits. The yearly capture of solar radiation by the green biosphere was immense relative to human needs, but finite nevertheless and the vast majority of that solar radiation served functions that indirectly supported human existence. Giving rise to air-currents by warming the surface of the planet and maintaining life in the oceans and on land. The amount of human muscle-power was limited by the number of humans, who of course had to be fed by draft-animals who also entailed energy costs as they likewise needed to eat, also had to be cared for in various ways. Therefore, even with clever refinements in tools and techniques, in crop development and animal breeding, it was clear that we humans would inevitably reach a point of diminishing returns in our ability to continue increasing our energy harvest and therefore our population.
By the 19th century these limits were beginning to become apparent. Famine and hunger, as we have already heard, had always been common throughout even the wealthiest regions of the planet. But migration to other nations, crop rotation, and the application of manures and composts were gradually making those events less frequent and severe. European farmers, realizing the need for a nitrogen source in order to continue feeding their burgeoning and increasingly urbanized populations, began employing guano (bird excrement) imported from the cliffs of islands off Chile and Argentina. One can only imagine what it must have been like working on those ships. The results were gratifying. However, after only a few decades those guano deposits were being depleted. By this time, in the late 1890's, the worlds population was nearly twice what it had been at the beginning of the 19th century. A crisis was again in view, but again crisis was narrowly averted due to fossil fuels.
In 1909 two german chemists named Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch invented a process to synthesize ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen and the hydrogen in fossil fuels. The process, the Haber-Bosch process, initially used coal as a feed-stock though later it was adapted to use natural gas which is currently the feed-stock of choice. After the end of the great war nation after nation began building Haber-Bosch plants. Today the process produces 150 million tons of ammonia per year, equaling the total amount of available nitrogen produced from all natural sources combined. I think this is a very important point to keep in mind. The Haber-Bosch process has effectively doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the biosphere and concentrated it specifically for the purpose of growing crops for human beings. Fossil fuels went on to offer still other ways of extending natural limits to the human carrying capacity of the planet. Early steam driven tractors came in to limited use in the 19'th century but after WWI the size and effectiveness of powered farm machinery expanded dramatically and the scale of use of farm machinery exploded, especially in North America, Europe and Australia during the 1920's, 30's, 40's and 50's.
In the 1890's one quarter of US cropland had to be set aside for the growing of grain to feed horses, most of which worked on farms. The internal combustion engine provided a new kind of horse-power of course and also increased the amount of arable land available to feed humans. Chemical pesticides and herbicides developed mostly after WWII used knowledge pioneered in the laboratories that had worked to perfect explosives and other chemical warfare agents. Pesticides not only increased crop-yields in, again, Europe, North America and Australia but also reduced the prevalence of insect-born deceases like malaria. The world began to enjoy the benefits of better living through chemistry. Though the environmental costs in terms of water and soil pollution and damage to vulnerable species would only later become widely apparent.
In the 1960's industrial chemical agricultural practices began to be exported, as we've heard, to what by that time was being called the third world. This was glowingly dubbed The Green Revolution and it enabled a tripling of food-production during the past half century. At the same time the scale and speed of distribution of food increased. This also constituted a means of increasing carrying capacity, though in a more subtle way. The trading of food items goes back to paleolithic times but with advances in transport the quantities and distances involved gradually increased. Here again fossil fuels were responsible for a dramatic discontinuity in the slow pace of growth. First by rail and steam ship, then by truck and airplane, immense amounts of grain and ever larger quantities of meats, vegetables and specialty foods began to flow from countryside to city, from region to region and from continent to continent. William Catton in his classic book Overshoot terms the trade of essential life-support commodities as "scope expansion". Carrying capacity is always limited by whatever necessity is in least supply as Justus von Liebig realized nearly a century and a half ago. If one region has water but no good topsoil it's carrying capacity is limited by the lack of topsoil. Another region may have good soil but insufficient rainfall. There the carrying capacity is limited by water. If a way can be found of making up for local scarcity by taking advantage of distant abundance as by diverting water from region A to water crops in region B the total carrying capacity of the two regions combined can be increased substantially. We can put this in the form of a formula, carrying capacity of A+B > carrying capacity of A + carrying capacity of B. >From the ecological point of view this is why people trade but trade has historically been limited by the amount of energy that could be supplied or applied to the transport of materials. Fossil fuels have temporarily erased that limit. The end result of chemical fertilizers plus powered farm machinery plus the increased scope of transportation and trade was not just a threefold leap in crop-yields but a similar explosion of human population which has grown fivefold since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
All of this would be well and good if it were sustainable. But if it proves not to be then a temporary exuberance of the human species would have been purchased by an enormous unprecedented human tragedy. Well, where are we now in this?
Arable crop land until recently was increasing because of clearing of forests, putting new lands into production and through irrigation. Now the arable cropland globally is decreasing because of salinization of soil, because of urban growth, erosion. Topsoil created over tens of thousands and millions of years is decreasing. In the US great plains about half of the original topsoil is gone, much of it washed down the Mississippi river into the gulf of Mexico. The nutritional quality of our food is actually decreasing on a yearly basis due to the gradual demineralization of the soil and this has been actually documented through measurements taken by the US department of agriculture since the 1940's. The number of farmers as a percentage of the population is of course decreasing. In the US at the turn of the last century something like 70% of the population were directly involved in food production. Today that number is more like 1-2% of the population. The number of domesticated crop-varieties is decreasing dramatically due to the consolidation of the seed industry. Not that many years ago in Bali there were 200 varieties of rice, each adapted to a different microclimate of that small island. Now there are only four rice varieties being grown in Bali. Of course the global population, as we've seen, is still growing. We're adding about 80 million people per year currently. We reached 6 billion just back in 1998 and since 1998 we've added another nearly half billion, roughly the total size of the population of North America just since 1998 or 1999 . As we've already seen again, grain production per capita globally decreasing now. A total of 2,000 million tons produced in 2004 which was a record in absolute numbers but for the past decade and a half population growth has outstripped grain production so there's actually less available on a per-head basis. And according to World Watch Institute we may be within sight of a decline in total production figures, in other words absolute production figures in food and especially grain.
Meanwhile the global climate is of course increasingly destabilized resulting in relatively minor problems for farmers now but these are problems that are likely to grow to catastrophic proportions just within the next decade or two.
Meanwhile available fresh water is decreasing. In the US 85% of fresh water use goes toward agricultural production requiring the drawing down of ancient aquifers at far above their recharge rates. Globally, as water tables fall, ever more powerful pumps must be used to lift irrigation water and of course those pumps require ever more energy usage. By 2020 according to World Watch Institute and the UN virtually every country in the world will face shortages of fresh water.
The effectiveness of pesticides and herbicides is also decreasing. In the US over the past two decades pesticide use has increased 33-fold yet each year a greater amount of crops is lost to pests which are evolving immunities to pesticides faster than chemists can invent new poisons. And then of course oil production is peaking as we talked about it in some length last night. That of course makes machinery more expensive to operate as oil prices goes up. It makes fertilizers more expensive to produce and it also makes transportation of food more expensive. And this, I believe, may be the single factor that brings all of these other problems that are like simmering crises to a full boil. The state of dependency on fossil fuels has become enormous. In the US agriculture is responsible for well over 10% of all national energy consumption. Over 400 gallons of oil equivalent are expended to feed each American each year. About a third of that amount goes toward fertilizer production. About 20% to operate farm machinery, about 16% for transportation of food, 13% for irrigation, 8% for livestock raising not including the livestock feed and about 5% for pesticide production. Now this doesn't even include the energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retailers or cooking. Trucks move most of the worlds food although trucking is ten times more energy intensive than moving food by train or barge. Refrigerated jets moves a small but growing proportion of food almost entirely, of course, to wealthy industrial nations at 60 times the energy cost of sea transport. Processed foods make up three quarters of global food sales by price though not by quantity. This adds dramatically to energy costs. For example a one pound box of breakfast cereal may require over 7,000 kcal of energy while the cereal itself provide only 1,100 kcal of food energy. All of this is fairly apparent to anyone who bothers to study the modern food system with an eye to it's sustainability. There is therefore already widespread concern over this subject and debate over the problem of how to avoid an agricultural Armageddon. Within this debate two viewpoints have emerged. The first advocates further intensification of industrial food production primarily via the genetic engineering of new crop and animal varieties. The second advocates ecological agriculture in it's various forms: organic; bio-dynamic; permaculture; bio-intensive and other methods. Critiques of the latter course contends that traditional chemical-free forms of agriculture are incapable of feeding the burgeoning human population. Here is a passage by John Emsley of University of Cambridge from his review of Vaclav Smils book "Enriching the earth, Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch and the Transformation of World Food".
Here is the passage: "If crops are rotated and the soil is fertilized with compost and sewage, thereby returning as much fixed nitrogen as possible to the soil it is just possible for a hectare of land to feed ten people provided they accept a mainly vegetarian diet. Although such farming is almost sustainable it falls short of the productivity of land that is fertilized with artificial nitrogen. This can easily support forty people and on a varied diet."
Okay. But given the fact that fossil fuels are non-renewable, limited in extent, it will be increasingly difficult to continue supplying chemical fertilizers in present quantities. Nitrogen can be synthesized using hydrogen produced from electrolysis of water with solar or wind-power as a source of electricity but currently no ammonia is being commercially produced this way because of the uncompetitive cost of doing so. To introduce and scale up that process would require many years and considerable capital investment. The bio-engineering of crop and animal varieties does little or nothing to solve this problem. It is possible to fantasize about mays or other crops modified to fix nitrogen in the way that legumes do but so far efforts in that direction have failed. Meanwhile the genetic engineering of complex life-forms appears to pose unprecedented environmental and human health hazards as has been amply documented by Dr Mae-Wan Ho among many others. The bio-engineering industry itself consumes fossil fuels and assumes the continued availability of oil for tractors, transportation, chemical production and so on. That's one side of the argument. Those arguing in favor of small scale ecological agriculture tend to be very optimistic about it's ability to support large populations. For example the 2002 Greenpeace study "The Real Green Revolution, organic and agro-ecological farming in the south", while acknowledging the lack of comparative research on the subject nevertheless states: "In general it's thought that organic and agro-ecological farming can bring significant increases in yields in comparison to conventional farming practices. Compared to green revolution farming systems OAA is thought to be neutral in terms of yields although it brings other benefits such as reducing the need for external inputs. Eco-agricultural advocates contend that there is plenty of food in the world. Existing instances of hunger are due nearly to bad policy and poor distribution. With better policy and better distribution all could easily be fed well into the future. Thus given the universally admitted harmful environmental consequences of conventional chemical farming the choice should be simple. Some eco-agricultural proponents are even more sanguine and suggest that permaculture, bio-intensive or bio-dynamic methods can produce far higher yields than can mechanized chemical-based agriculture and experiments have indeed shown that small scale bio-diverse gardening can be more productive on a per-hectare basis than mono-crop megafarms and in some cases by far. However, some of these studies tend to ignore the energy and land productivity costs of manures and composts imported onto the studied plots. In any case, and there's no controversy on this point, permaculture and bio-intensive forms of agriculture are dramatically more labor and knowledge intensive than industrial agriculture. Thus the adoption of these methods will require an economic transformation of societies. Therefore even if the nitrogen problem can be solved in principle by agro-ecological methods and/or hydrogen production from renewable energy sources there may be a carrying capacity bottleneck ahead in any case simply because of the inability of societies to adapt to these very different energy and economic needs quickly enough. Even though it may not be politically correct in many circles to discuss the population problem we must recognize that we are nearing or past fundamental natural limits no matter which course we pursue. According to widely accepted calculations humans are presently appropriating about 40% of earths primary biological productivity. It seems unlikely that we, as a single species after all, can do much more than that. Given the fact that fossil fuels are limited in quantity and we're already in view of the global oil production peak the debate over the potential productivity of chemical genetically engineered agriculture versus that of organic and agro-ecological farming maybe relatively pointless.
We must return to a food-system that is less fossil fuel reliant even if it does prove to be less productive. How we might do that is suggested by perhaps the best resent historical example of a society in a fossil fuel famine. Here I want to talk a little bit about the instance of Cuba in recent years and I know there's gonna be a presentation on this subject later on but I hope to just set the stage for that. I'm looking forward to seeing it myself.
Of course Cuba, back in the 1980's, was more reliant on fossil fuels for agricultural production than even the United States. Cuban farmers were using more fossil fuels per acre than American farmers. So the collapse of the Soviet union at the end of the 1980's was a catastrophe for Cuba. Their oil use was reduced by over 50%. At that time the Soviet union, which was the worlds first or second foremost oil producing nation at that time, was exporting oil to Cuba at such a discount that the Cubans was actually re-exporting some of that oil for a profit to earn foreign-exchange income. So that simply went away at the end of the 1980's. Oil use was reduced by over 50%. Per capita energy use in Cuba fell to 1/15'th to 1/20'th of US usage. Since that time Cuba has been in the process of changing from an industrial society to an agrarian society and they have emphasized biological solutions to their various energy and social challenges. They found that their focus is to build human resources through education and of course Cuba produces more doctors per capita than virtually any other nation in the world.
Here's what happened. In 1991 Soviet personnel left Cuba and economic subsidies which had amounted to something like 6 billion dollars a year vanished. The GDP collapsed by 85% in the first two years. As a result of all of this the Cuban people suffered. They lost weight, on average 20 pounds per person. A 30% per capita decline in calorie consumption from food. There were some recorded cases of blindness from malnutrition but probably the full scope of the effects of malnutrition in that society will not be known. A whole generation of Cuban children grew up malnourished. There was of course a major decrease in the material standard of living. So what did Cuba do during what they came to call the Special Period? Well, at that time there had been already some Cuban organic agronomists who had been advocating for the adoption of more organic agricultural methods within Cuba and for the most part their advice had been falling on deaf ears. But once the fossil fuels became much more expensive, weren't available, these agronomists were called in and basically given free reign to redesign Cuba's agricultural system. They abandoned the Soviet industrial model of agriculture. They broke up the large state-owned farms into smaller private plots and co-op farms. They basically went organic because they had to, because they didn't have the chemical fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides. Meanwhile they maintained their free decentralized medical system and used their limited oil resources to generate electricity because to them electricity was actually more important. That was providing the absolute necessities of their minimally industrialized way of life. So they had to save fossil fuels wherever they could so they deemphasized the private automobile and they began moving people around by ox-cart and these giant vehicles that they call a camel which is basically a tractor trailer-rig in which they cram about 300 people in the trailer. They also found a new use for traffic-cops. Traffic-cops now would stop any car on the road that had empty seats and make it wait until enough hitchhikers showed up to fill up the car. As a result of all of this the Cuban society did survive. The economy, as of 2005, is growing again steadily but at a very slow rate. Food production is up to about 90% of the pre-crises period but at nowhere near the pre-crises level of energy inputs. There's been very little new housing, mostly remodeling of existing housing structures. That fact is mostly due to the high energy cost of cement which is very short supply. Transportation is still very much an ad hoc improvised basis. Everybody shares every vehicle on the road. Cubans adopted a mostly vegetarian diet but they did so involuntarily. This wasn't for any sort of ethical reasons, it's just that there wasn't much meat to go around because meat production required more energy. Meat eating went from twice a day to twice a week. Of course therefore they needed to supplement their diets with more vegetable sources of protein. They decreased their consumption of wheat and rice because they simply weren't appropriate to food production on the island. With less transportation they had to move producers and consumers closer together, so this meant more urban gardening. Encouraging the growth of gardens all throughout the cities like Havana. Any kind of empty land was immediately put into agricultural production and rooftop gardening was adopted. Rural areas improved their education for farmers. Many people moved from Havana to the country. In order for this to happen they had to raise salaries for farmers above the salaries being offered for office workers in the cities. So this encouraged people to move from the cities to the countryside to participate in agricultural production. As a result of all of this of course their is very little obesity now in Cuba due to the healthier diet and more physical work. So let's look at some pictures.
Much of this information or all of these pictures are from my colleagues Pat Murphy and Faith Morgan of the organization Community Service in Yellow Springs Ohio who've made a number of trips to Cuba specifically to study the Cuban response to energy famine and how this may offer us lessons for how to deal with the coming energy famine in the rest of the industrialized world.
They found usefulness for raised-beds which help with hand labor.
These raised-beds can be built over existing pavement as on parking lots and even city streets.
The modernized agrarian; this man earns more than an engineer.
Immediately they began breeding more oxen in Cuba because they realized that oxen would be necessary and of course horses tend to compete with people for grain because horses need to eat grain, oxen don't.
So they decided oxen would be a better way to go than horses and they immediately began breeding oxen for traction animals.
I mentioned rooftop gardening.
Very widespread throughout Havana and the other cities but also rooftop raising of food animals like chickens, hamsters and rabbits.
This is a picture of downtown Havana and you can see a really considerable amount of food production right there within the city.
The transition to a non-fossil fuel system will take time.
The Cubans took fifteen years to arrive at where they are now.
We have to emphasize here that we are discussing a systemic transition. We can't just remove oil in the forms of agro-chemicals from the current food system and assume that it will go on more or less as it is. Every aspect of the process by which we feed ourselves has to be rethought. Given the likelihood that global oil peak will occur soon, this transition must occur at a rapid pace backed by the full resources of national governments. Without cheap transportation fuels we will have to reduce the amount of food transportation that occurs and make necessary transportation much more efficient. This implies increased local food self-sufficiency. It also implies problems for large cities that have been built in arid regions that are capable of supporting only small populations on the regional resource base.
Think of places like Las Vegas, Nevada or even Los Angeles, California. How much food can be grown in those places? We will need to grow more food in and around cities certainly. Currently Oakland, California is debating a food policy initiative that would mandate the growing of 40% of the vegetables consumed in the city within 50 miles of city center by 2015. If the example of Cuba were followed rooftop gardens would result as well as rooftop raising of food animals as we saw. Localization of the food process means moving producers and consumers of food closer together but it also means relying on the local manufacturing and regeneration of all the elements of the production process from seeds to tools and farm machinery. This would appear to rule out agricultural bio-engineering which favors the centralized production of patented seed varieties and discourages the free saving of seeds from year to year by farmers. Clearly we must minimize chemical inputs to agriculture both direct and indirect such as those introduced in processing of foods. We will need to introduce draft animals in agricultural production and as the Cubans found, oxen may in many instances be preferable to horses because of the need of horses for grain their tendency therefore to compete for humans for carrying capacity. Governments must also provide incentives for people to return to an agricultural life. I think it would be a mistake simply to think in terms of the need for a larger agricultural work-force. Traditional agriculture requires social networks; intergenerational trust and bonding and knowledge sharing. We need not just more workers but a rural culture that makes agricultural work rewarding. Farming requires knowledge and experience so we will need education for a new generation of farmers but only some of this education can be generic. Much of it must be of necessity locally appropriate. It would be necessary as well to break up the corporate megafarms that produce so much of todays cheap grain. Industrial agriculture implies an economy of scale that is utterly inappropriate and unworkable for post-industrial food systems. Thus land-reform will be required in order to enable small holders and farming co-ops to own their own plots. In order for all of this to happen governments must end subsidies to industrial agriculture and begin subsidizing post-industrial agricultural efforts. There are many ways in which this could be done. The present regime of subsidies is so harmful that merely stopping it in it's tracks and doing nothing else would itself be advantageous. But given the fact that rapid transition is essential, the offering of subsidies for education, low-interest loans for land purchase and support during the transition from chemical to organic production would be essential. Finally, given the carrying capacity limits that we've been discussing, food policy must include population policy. We must encourage smaller families by means of economic incentives and we must improve the economic and educational status of women in poorer countries around the world. All of this sounds like a very tall order but the alternatives: doing nothing or attempting to solve the problem simply by applying more technological intensification will certainly result in dire consequences. In that case existing farmers would fail because of fuel and chemical prices. All of the worries of existing trends mentioned earlier would intensify to the point that the human carrying capacity of earth would be degraded significantly and perhaps to a very large degree permanently. In some, the transition to a fossil fuel free food system doesn't constitute a utopian proposal; it is an immense challenge and will call for unprecedented levels of creativity at all levels of society but in the end it is the only rational option for averting human tragedy on a scale never before seen. Thank you very much.
Presenter: Thank you very much Richard. If you have any ***[36:15] of comments ***[36:16] will take them.
Spectator #1: ***[36:17] Cuban example, what's happened to population in the last fifteen years?
RH: Cuba's population is growing but quite a slow pace. It's the slowest growing population in the Latin-American region. So they have recognized the need to keep population growth low but the population is still growing and it's a bit of a problem because there simply isn't enough housing for everyone in Cuba.
Spectator #2: It seems to me ***[36:43]-***[36:48] transformation ***[36:50] start to work on the perception that it's okay to have ***[36:52] family, it's okay for some couples not to have kids. It's okay to have maybe an only child. It's a perception of time maybe that we measure cities and distances in terms of how far ***[37:04] travel is. 60 minutes away, ***[37:08] by what? Perception of physical work, the change in our perception of what it means to be a physical worker. It's sort of a ***[37:15] theme amongst societies now. I don't garden and I don't get my fingernails dirty, I'm an office worker now. I've worked my way up.
RH: Could I just say something about that? This is I think a very important consideration for the poorer countries because there you have millions of people who are aspiring to the industrialized urban way of life. For example the townships in South Africa. You don't see gardens there in the townships. Here are people living in extreme poverty and they could certainly benefit by growing a few tomatoes or potatoes or something, but they don't do that because they associate growing your own food with poverty. That's where they came from and they want to move into the urban existence of Cape Town and Johannesburg and be like the folks who own cars and so on. I think that perception has to change, just as you said.
Spectator #3: Can you ***[38:10] share with us your experience about what's happened when you go on television ***[38:15] there is no way of avoiding a population crash ***[38:19] realize that ***[38:20]-***[38:21]. How do you handle this and what's happened to you and you come out in one piece.
RH: Well, I think for people who don't even understand the problem of peak oil for instance, just bringing them that information is about as much as their brains can contain at one moment and it's really only after one has absorbed that and a few other worrisome facts about the un-sustainability of our modern industrial society that one can begin to really talk about the full consequences. It's more than the average person can absorb all at once. But for policy makers, these people have to understand this because even if it's very difficult just from a human standpoint to absorb the news these people are responsible after all for making the kinds of decisions that will determine life and death for perhaps millions of people. They have to be made to understand it.
Spectator #4: I think you need to emphasize the de-urbanization does not necessarily mean de-industrialization because the kind of industrial set of values can be done in local dispersed communities that are self-sustaining in food can be quite as ***[39:34] in sense of small scale. ***[39:37] your talking to ***[39:39]-***[39:40] because it suggests we ought to go backwards. In fact we want to make more intelligent use of the knowledge that we have in a dispersed network of self-sustaining populations.
RH: Yes I partly agree with what you say because I think there's a great deal we've learned during the industrial period about things that can be produced and ways of producing them. We will be able to adapt but we're simply going to have a lot less energy with which to pursue the productive process and that's going to mean, if you look at what industrialization has been and what it has meant, we will have less of it. So you can call it anything you want but it's going to be coming down off that peak of mechanization of the human experience and the human relationship with nature. De-mechanization if you will.
Spectator #5: The ***[40:34]-***[40:36] economy of ***[40:36] living ***[40:38] is the critical term that we've got to get across when we're talking about the future rather than going back. I think there's a whole education process. ***[40:45]-***[40:46] agriculture. Regularly and every time I promote organic farming or ***[40:54] what you're talking about it comes back that she has a view that it's too expensive. People won't pay that money for what? A good food but ***[41:08]-***[41:08]. I'm just wondering whether maybe ***[41:11]-***[41:12] on this as well. On the web I noticed there's an International Kitchen Garden Association, it seems to be a sort of a celebration of growing some of your own food. I'm just wondering whether you've come across that or whether there is anything you can suggest that would help get over this mind-set thing by making it an attractive or popular or interesting change.
RH: I'm not sure I can think of a way to make it seem like an overwhelmingly attractive idea to people who are already overwhelmingly invested in a very elaborate, well-funded, inexpensive in terms of food production per minutes worked to be able to by a tomato or whatever. It's an overwhelmingly attractive system as it's set up, what we desperately need to understand is that we can't continue that. I think your minister of agriculture needs to understand the problem of peak oil. It would be nice if we could advertise the transition to a fossil fuel free agriculture as being easier and cheaper and so on and it is more rewarding in many respects and there are advantages but purely on that basis I don't think the transition will occur. If it were going to it would have by now because there have been plenty of organic advocates around for the last 20 years talking about the advantages of organic versus so called conventional agriculture. What we really have to understand is the chemical based industrial agriculture simply cannot be continued because of the problem of peak oil. The longer we wait to address that problem the more likely it is that we will face this carrying capacity bottleneck in it's direst form. We have a responsibility to anticipate this problem because even the US department of energy or at least a report prepared for the US department of energy is acknowledging that this problem is inevitable. There should be no controversy about that. There may be a little controversy about when it's going to occur but there should be no controversy that the event will occur. We have to prepare for it. If we wait until the event itself there will be very dire consequences. That message has to get across.