Smc Newsletter March 07


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Smc Newsletter March 07

  1. 1. Volume 2, Number 3, – March 2007 The foreseeable future holds many likely challenges for our food supply: 1. People make more than a quarter-million (net) new mouths to feed—every day. 2. Rising living standards in many parts of the world are leading to greater demand for high energy demand foods like meat and fish. 3. Climate change is altering rainfall patterns: worsening droughts and intensifying downpours and floods. And every increment of carbon dioxide we dump into the atmosphere accelerates the deterioration. 4. The synthetic fertilizers our industrial agriculture depends on are made from rapidly depleting natural gas. 5. The pesticides needed to make large-scale mechanized monoculture workable are made from increasingly precious petroleum. 6. Mechanized agriculture needs oil to operate farm equipment. 7. Our current food distribution I Eat Too Much—Why Worry About Too Little Food? People you should contact about peak oil: •Senator Barbara Boxer act/email/policy.cfm •Senator Dianne Feinstein stein/email.html •Congressman Sam Farr 1221 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-2861 FAX (202) 225-6791 •Governor Arnold Schw… •President George Bush Now you can contribute a cent to SMC every time you do a web search—just go to, enter “Sustainable Monterey County” in answer to the “Who do you GoodSearch for” question, and search . Thanks to all those who have contributed help and funds to SMC system uses huge amounts of fossil energy to transport and process food. 8. Food crops are increasingly being diverted to make biofuels —many Mexicans are already suffering from the rising price of corn. 9. Long-standing agricultural practices have resulted in the great loss of topsoil. 10. In some areas, non-renewable aquifers have been largely depleted for irrigation and no easy alternatives exist. 11. Vast areas of agricultural land are being paved over for suburbia. The convergence of at least some of these trends has led to several years of decline in grain reserves, and rising grain prices. Most, if not all, of the readers of this newsletter will experience the early unfolding of these trends as a minor expense—the real pain is starting with poorer people who live far away. However, these trends are not short-term, and many are not self-limiting. They will get our attention eventually, even if we choose to ignore them until they’re streaming over our borders and banging on our doors. Mission: To ensure an orderly transition through the fossil fuel decline by cooperatively developing a sustainable economy for Monterey County. March 1, Thursday: SMC Discussion Group: Protect Yourself from Food Supply Risks, 6:45-9pm, Mty Youth Center, 777 Pearl St. March 4, Sunday: KRXA 540 AM Tomorrow Matters, 2:00-3:00 PM—Deborah interviews Benjamin Fahrer on permaculture. April 5, Thursday: SMC Discussion Group: UPCOMING EVENTS Transportation, 6:45-9pm, Mty Youth Center, 777 Pearl St. April 14, Car Free in Monterey County
  2. 2. S U S T A I N A B L E M O N T E R E Y C O U N T Y The winter strawberries that arrive by jet from Chile are only one of the more extreme examples. In some ways the beef and pork some of us eat may be worse. The manure from livestock once raised on diversified farms is now toxic waste that accumulates near highly specialized and concentrated feeding operations. Separating feed-growing and feeding operations saves money in a subsidized, cheap-energy environment—but it creates two problems: pollution of the environment around the livestock, and a need for synthetic fertilizer for raising feed. As fossil energy becomes more expensive (in more ways than one) transport of all kinds will have to diminish, as will the use of pesticides and fertilizer. This will lead to greater local crop diversity, recombination of livestock and feed raising operations, and a more FOSSIL FUEL DEPLETION WILL NECESSITATE SOME DEGREE OF FOOD RELOCALIZATION Deforestation, greenhouse gases. The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the reminder. About 70 percent of all grazing land in dry areas is considered degraded, mostly because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion attributable to livestock activity. At the same time, the livestock sector has assumed an often unrecognized role in global warming. Using a methodology that considered the entire commodity chain, FAO estimated that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport. It accounts for nine percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, most of it due to expansion of pastures and arable land for feed crops. It generates even bigger shares of emissions of other gases with greater potential to warm the atmosphere: as much as 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, mostly from enteric fermentation by ruminants, and 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, mostly from manure. Livestock production also impacts heavily the world's water supply, accounting for more than 8 percent of global human water use, mainly for the irrigation of feed crops. Evidence suggests it is the largest sectoral source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. While global figures are unavailable, it is estimated that in the USA livestock and feed crop agriculture are responsible for 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the nitrogen and phosphorus loads in freshwater resources. The sector also generates almost two-thirds of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. Excerpted from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Livestock Impacts on the Environment Years ago, in 1984, I did my first major study on agriculture, not because I’m an agriculturist, I’m not, but I was very troubled about the fact that extremism had emerged in Punjab, terrorism had emerged in Punjab, and nobody could understand. Where was it coming from? So I went and did a study, and I found out the anger of the farmers – it’s a peasant state, it’s a farmers’ state, Punjab. It means the land of the five rivers. It’s the most prosperous state of India, the most prosperous well-to-do farmers, most hard-working farmers, and yet the introduction of chemicals and mechanisation had meant that initially, they had subsidies and it looked like a free ride. Slowly, the subsidies got withdrawn, the World Bank paid for a decade but now they needed four bags of urea rather than one per acre. Their water levels had gone down and they needed more energy to pump out water, because the green revolution takes 10 times more water to produce the same amount of food compared to organic farming. –from Vandana Shiva’s Closing Address to the Soil Association Conference.
  3. 3. S U S T A I N A B L E M O N T E R E Y C O U N T Y There is vast waste in the way we feed ourselves. Therein lie a problem and an opportunity. The problem is that it will have to change—maybe quickly. The opportunity is in all the effective ways that we can change. An average American food calorie now implies the expenditure of about 10 fossil fuel calories, but some food takes a lot less and some takes a lot more. • Meat and other animal products are a trophic level above fruits, vegetables and grains. That means they require about ten times as much input per unit of output as the vegetarian stuff does. If you know how to eat well as a vegetarian, you can substantially reduce your expense and your ecological footprint, while still being healthy and well-fed. • Processed foods are more energy intensive than fresh, whole foods. • Locally growing saves energy and improves freshness. • Organic methods use much less fossil energy than industrial agriculture. Add all the best things together and we can feed a pretty big population sustainably. FOOD SECURITY IS EATING WELL ENOUGH—WHATEVER COMES For the human race, the discovery of fossil fuels has been like an unexpected inheritance, or a winning lottery ticket. So far we have been profligate spenders, partying like there’s no tomorrow. Will we sober up before or after the riches run out? Further Reading The Oil Drum Association for the Study of Peak Oil--USA Energy Bulletin Oil Addiction: The World in Peril, Pierre Chomat Eating Fossil Fuels, Dale Allen Pfeiffer Plan B 2.0, Lester R. Brown Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, Meadows, Randers & Meadows
  4. 4. Steering Committee Members Deborah Lindsay, Director Ruth Smith, 831-620-1303 Committee Chair and Budget Chair Virginia Chomat, Secretary and Co-treasurer Pierre Chomat, Resident Expert Mark Folsom, Newsletter Editor, George Wilson, 831-372-0659 Committee Evaluation Coordinator Denyse Frischmuth, 831-643-0707 Volunteer Coordinator and Urban Environmental Accords Coordinator Robert Frischmuth, Co-Treasurer Program Heads: Annette Chaplin, 831-372-8725 Sustainable Pacific Grove Linda Parker, phone # 831-656-0664 Big Sur Powerdown C O N T A C T I N F O R M A T I O N MARK FOLSOM: Phone: 831 648 1543 E-Mail: We’re on the Web! See us at: groups/monter ey Newsletter Design by Adrienne Allen Director’s Note In my house I’ve started putting away a small cache of food – not several years’ worth, but certainly enough to get my family through a month or two. One of my tricks is to buy food in bulk; a 50 lb bag of wheat or rice, for example, which I break into smaller portions and store in thoroughly washed and dried 1 gallon apple juice bottles and stash away in the pantry. I like glass bottles better then plastic as mice have proven skilled at chewing through even fairly thick plastic containers. Another good deal is to buy sale items in quantity. Albertsons has a 10 for $10 section. Once I’ve confirmed the expiration date is well within a reasonable consumption time frame, I’ll stock up on certain foods my family eats regularly. We then rotate through these items to keep supplies fresh. I keep these items in places were we actually use them. It’s not about putting food away and forgetting about it… it will go bad and then money and food is wasted. It’s about having extra around and being able to handle crises in a managed, levelheaded manner. Recently someone asked me why I bother… that when an emergency hits, the folks who haven’t put food away will come barging in to take what I’ve collected. This could prove a true statement, but what if we all put food away? What if we did what they’re doing in San Francisco with the “Are you Prepared?” program… The City of SF realizes that emergency services cannot be in every location when a critical city-wide disaster occurs. They have handed the responsibility back to their citizens to prepare themselves and ultimately be more sustainable. I have studied Peak Oil for several years. I have read hundreds of papers on the subject and one of the first recommendations for mitigating the crisis of declining fossil fuels is to store food. Ask yourself if you’re ready for fuel prices rising to a point that transportation vehicles are unable to afford to ship their wares to our community. “Are you Prepared?” if you’re not… then now’s the time. Deborah …Establishing year round local food systems in Toronto would be difficult, though possible, but in Dublin I have found it to be much easier. I am still amazed at the diversity of vegetables that I can harvest fresh from my allotment every month of the year. Of course parsnips are the king of winter vegetables, becoming sweeter after a few hard frosts, and providing the ground is not frozen or waterlogged, they are content to stay in the ground until needed. Celeriac, winter radish, scorzonera and salsify, though not traditionally part of the Irish diet, will easily wait out the Irish winter in the place where they grew. It is also best to leave Jerusalem artichoke, or more accurately the sunroot, buried until needed. Add the roots and tubers traditionally stored in the shed or cellar, including potatoes (the staple of the Irish diet), swedes (referred to as rutabaga in North America but which the Irish insist on calling turnips), beetroot (the most noble of all vegetables) and the humble soup carrots, and you have a feast readily available throughout the cold months and into the spring.