Skip to main content

An entry in the How To Be Poor series on voluntary poverty

One of the primary troubles with living well in a time of peak oil and deindustrialization is the tendency in our society to think in reductionist patterns rather than within the context of whole systems. Reductionist patterns of thinking have often--though certainly not always--served well within the context of industrialization and, as such, they've become one of the more dominant tendencies of our time. When faced with problems or predicaments, we often devolve into arguing over the details in an attempt to build a perfect response to the problem at hand. Seeing a list of troubled variables, we focus on them one by one (or simply focus on one of them at the expense of all the others) and attempt to mold said variable more to our liking. But in doing this, we too often ignore the effects such moldings will have on the other variables affected within the system and it's there that we run into trouble.

As a prime example, let's consider the question of how to eat well in a world with diminishing energy and resources, fraught with economic contraction and ecological destruction. Some years ago, I took a college class in sustainability and, to this day, I remember particularly some of the discussion around what sort of diet we may be able to provide the population in a world seriously lacking in fossil fuels and more focused on sustainability. The problem was defined largely as thus: we will need to feed somewhere between seven and nine billion people without destroying the environment and with reduced energy availability, so how shall we do that? The solution, as it turns out, was a textbook response in reductionist thinking.

The solution proffered, in vague and general terms, was that the world's population would have to shift to eating mostly a plant-based diet. Prime farmland would be used for growing staple grains for human consumption, rather than animal consumption, and the eating of animal protein would drop dramatically. It would not be eliminated, though. Certain range lands that would prove inadequate for growing staple crops or fresh vegetables--due to poor soil and a lack of water--could be used as grazing lands for cattle. That would be the main source of meat for the world's hungry mouths, and it would come more in the form of ground beef than steaks, because the range lands wouldn't provide for nice, juicy cuts. (Yes, I specifically remember that point being made, which even at the time seemed strange to me.)

You can clearly see the reductionist thinking behind this solution. It boils down to a few variables: the number of mouths to feed, the amount of land available for farming, and how we might maximize that land to provide a certain number of calories per mouth. That was the entirety of the approach to the question of how to feed the world. It took an entire planet, reduced the uncountable number of ecosystems down to one large number accounting for the world's arable acreage, and started making calorie calculations of staple grains, perhaps of mixed-crop rotations. You can see this sort of reductionist pattern in other approaches to sustainability issues. There's no shortage of people concerned about fossil fuel energy who will comment on the amount of solar energy that falls on this planet in any given day, the conversion efficiency of the latest solar panel technology, and from there whip up a quick calculation to note how many acres of the world's land we simple need to cover in solar panels to start generating all our electrical needs from the sun. If you really want to get fancy, you can throw in climate variables, ideal sitings of the aforementioned solar panels, and so on.

This is reductionism run amok and it's a particularly unhelpful way to grapple with our future. The simple reality is that being a reductionist in the deindustrializing future is not going to pay the same sorts of dividends as it has in the industrialized past. Going forward, we're going to be losing our access to the sort of energy and resource reserves that have allowed us to consistently approach our problems with reductionist methods, and that reality is going to leave us more at the mercy of whole systems than we have been. Or, more specifically, we'll continue to be at the mercy of whole systems, as we always have been, but our ability to create problems one variable at a time is going to go away.

That last sentence might be a bit obtuse, so let me better explain. In Wendell Berry's fantastic essay, "Solving for Pattern," [pdf] he notes that attempts to solve problems on a variable by variable basis tend to cause "a ramifying series of new problems, the only limiting criterion being, apparently, that the new problems should arise beyond the purview of the expertise that produced the solution--as, in agriculture, industrial solutions to the problem of production have invariably caused problems of maintenance, conservation, economics, community health, etc., etc." (p. 135 in The Gift of Good Land.) For instance, in attempts to create better economies of scale for raising livestock, an industrial solution has been to take cattle off pasture and put them in feed lots. Setting aside the question of whether or not this was a "problem" that needed solving (that set aside answer, by the way, is "no") this caused a number of new problems. Placed in a confined environment, fed a diet unnaturally heavy on grain, and left too often to mill about in massive amounts of their own manure, the cattle begin to experience poor health. With a reductionist focus on the problem of poor health, divorced from considerations of changing the root cause of it, the reductionist solution was to provide steady doses of antibiotics to the cattle. This creates a host of new problems--increased costs for the farmer, the eventual evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes, and so on--which are then either ignored or dealt with in the same reductionist manner, which then creates still new problems. And, of course, that's just one path of problems. There's a number of other paths meandering off from the decision to confine cattle, from the problem of waste disposal, the need for imported feed, the heavy environmental costs of ignoring the land's carrying capacity, the overproduction of meat, the declining health value of the resultant meat, the abuse of animals, the centralization of agricultural production, the resulting economic impacts, and yet more. It spirals out everywhere--confined animal feeding operations lead to industrial-scale slaughterhouses that horrifically abuse both animals and humans, an industrial form of grain production arises to feed the CAFOs, which abuses and degrades the land, which in turn abuses and degrades farmers, which in turn abuses and degrades rural communities and economies, which in turn abuses and degrades urban communities and economies. In our blind focus on variables, we tend to degrade and oftentimes destroy the entire system.

Yet, as Berry argues in his essay, there are more elegant ways of solving our problems, and those tend to be rooted in whole systems thinking. He notes that such solutions that take into account the health of a system, rather than focusing exclusively on independent variables, cause "a ramifying series of solutions--as when meat animals are fed on the farm where the feed is raised, and where the feed is raised to be fed to the animals that are on the farm" (p. 137.) In solving for pattern--engaging in whole systems thinking, in other words--one often can discover solutions that nestle within one another, increasing the strength of the entire system and restoring much of its health. If there is a problem of poor health with animals in a CAFO, then perhaps eliminating the CAFO and returning the animals to pasture is a holistic response to the problem rather than in attempting to control the illness without confronting the source of the illness. In returning the animals to pasture, we will necessarily have to reduce the number of animals to the point that the land's carrying capacity is not exceeded. In scaling back the number of animals being raised for meat, we help to reduce the problem of over-consumption of meat and offer opportunities for more balanced ways of eating. In doing so, we are reducing the impact on the environment and the ecological destruction that so easily arises from CAFOs. Further, we decentralize our agricultural system, providing the opportunity for more people to make a living farming, which then provides for the reemergence of healthy rural economies and communities, which then benefits the health of urban economies and communities.

This is not the end of the story, though, and neither are those final few sentences a resolution to the issue of eating sustainably. Let's go back to the reductionist solutions proffered to the question of how to feed the world's population. It seems to make sense that if the world's population subsisted on a diet lower on the food chain, then less energy will be required to feed the world. And indeed, you can consistently find arguments in support of vegetarianism as an appropriate response to ecological destruction and unsustainable ways of living. We are reminded again and again that eating animals is eating higher on the food chain and that, therefore, every calorie taken in is necessarily the result of a greater number of calories of energy expended than if we had taken in a calorie of plant food.

I obviously don't dispute the simple fact that one calorie of animal protein is the result of multiple calories of plant protein. It follows that to eat the calorie of plant protein requires less calories taken out of the system as a whole. That's logical enough, and just because it's rooted in a certain reductionism doesn't make it untrue. (Reductionism does have its uses, after all.) However, how one plant or one animal calorie gets to my mouth is dependent on a wide variety of variables, so each calorie is not made the same. The whole system of food arriving in my stomach contains a number of variables beyond simply what segment of the food chain it came from.

In this sense, the question of diet has to be considered in a whole systems context, rather than a reductionist context. I already argued this point to a degree in an earlier post in this series, There are No Vegetarians in a Famine, but if we're going to grapple honestly with the question of what's the most sustainable and coherent way to eat, it's going to involve a lot of consideration of personal context, local landscape, and the local ecology. How does killing and eating a local wild animals compare to eating locally raised beef that lived on pasture? How do those options compare to beef from the industrial agriculture system? And how does all that compare to eating organic staple grains from a monoculture operation in California or Canada or the Midwest? What about conventional staple grains? Or how about an array of locally grown, organic vegetables? An intensive organic vegetable operation, a permaculture homestead, a mixed-crop and animal rotational system? The question of which of these foods or methods of production are most sustainable are rooted in locality and each individual person, as is the question of the health and satisfaction of a particular diet.

The trouble with using reductionist thinking to come up with a solution of staple grains and range land beef is that it presupposes a number of other variables that may or may not be viable in a deindustrializing future. The number of calories of energy it takes to produce a calorie of beef is usually calculated based on industrial agriculture rooted in the feed lot system. How does that compare to small, local farms utilizing a rotational grazing system and not feeding their cattle grain? The number of calories necessary to produce a calorie of soy or corn or oat or wheat is dependent on the way those plants were grown, what seed was used, what pesticides and fertilizers were or were not used, where it was grown, where it's being consumed, and perhaps even on whether or not a person feels more satiated on an equivalent number of calories of grain versus meat or any other type of food (assuming the person in question has options, which is not an assumption that can be blithely made in a deindustrializing future.) Most of these examinations of the most sustainable ways to eat are rooted in assumptions of industrial agriculture, as well as in assumptions that we can just pick and choose our diet without concern for our local realities. All of those are also assumptions that cannot be blithely made in a deindustrializing future. We don't know if the future will allow us centralized forms of agriculture that can create a somewhat consistent diet for the world at large. I would argue that it won't. A sustainable diet in the future may boil down to what's produced locally, and that will vary widely if local production is rooted in natural systems, on-site recycling of nutrients and no or little more energy than is provided by the sun that falls on the land. In such a system, you're a lot more likely to find systems of food production that utilize a mix of locally-appropriate annual and perennial crops along with various types of livestock. That's one of our better approximations of a natural ecosystem, and the natural ecosystem is the model that we're going to have to use if excess energy becomes scarce.

This brings me to a question I've been considering of late, which is how I might eat locally and sustainably, with the least amount of money. It's a question rooted in my attempts at voluntary poverty, my concern for the health of our world, and my desire for a graceful and sustainable future. The best solution I can come up with is not one that's overly concerned about the food chain, but one that's overly concerned with my particular context. It seems to me that the best way I could eat would be a diet that focused primarily on locally-grown, organic vegetables, berries and fruit, both from my own garden and from local, small-scale farms; pasture-raised meat from the two small farms I currently work as a farm hand for; my local source of raw milk, which I can also make butter, yogurt, and cheese from; chicken and duck eggs from local sources; some organic staple grains from the local grocery, including wheat from which I can bake my own bread; and some trade at the farmers market for other items, such as honey, fruit, cheese, and perhaps some baked goods. My diet already is partially made up of these particulars, but I have yet to embrace it completely.

The benefits of this diet are multiple. For starters, it's enjoyable and healthy. It's a diet I would and do take pleasure in. It strikes me as sustainable in the sense that it is focused mostly on food grown and raised within a radius of 15 miles of where I live, and it's food raised well, food the production of which I know intimately. It's whole food, and thus it eliminates much of the cost in energy, resources and money of processing, and greatly reduces packaging. It's also resilient in that most of it is not as reliant on long supply chains as the food in the grocery store is (though there is still reliance--all the local farms I know of use at least some inputs, though nothing like what industrial agriculture uses.) It strengthens the community by supporting local farms and farmers and it even strengthens my own work, as two of those local farms employ me. Relatedly, I can reduce my need for cash by gaining a good amount of that food via work-trade or other forms of trade. Furthermore, this diet solidifies relationships, care, and good work. It is inherently of my context, completely unique to me. I think that's important.

I'm not saying this is the perfect diet. And there may be a diet available to me that overall uses less energy and is a bit kinder to the environment, in certain ways. But this strikes me as a uniquely good diet for me, rooted in the consideration of the entire system in which I live and from which I gain my sustenance. Furthermore, this strikes me as a particularly resilient diet in the face of an uncertain future, and that's of the utmost importance. Perhaps just as importantly, this is a diet that works with and largely accepts my local limitations, rather than resorting to the blunt attempts at control that so often underlie reductionist thinking.

In fact, the resilience of this diet, the idea of resiliency in general, the folly of strained attempts at control in a deindustrializing future, and the necessities for engagement with community are all important considerations of both reductionism and whole systems thinking--as well as voluntary poverty and any response to a post-peak oil world--and those are the topics about which I'll be writing in the next entry in How To Be Poor.

(Cross-posted from my blog, Of The Hands.)

Originally posted to aimlessmind on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 01:23 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

    by aimlessmind on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 01:23:46 PM PST

  •  calories of meat vs calories of plant... (9+ / 0-)

    ...this is NOTHING compared to Calories of TRANSPORTATION!

    when you combine all the fossil fuels used in fertilizer, tractor fuel, transporting the materials to be processed, and again to market, and again to your home.  the electricity used in refridgeration and processing, and the plastics used in preservation and packaging (for shipping or for sale), for every calorie you eat, there are 10-100 calories of fossil fuel in there too.  The average vegitable has traveled 2500 miles by the time it reaches your table.

    a non-reduction you missed yourself in your example.

    We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

    by ScrewySquirrel on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 01:43:30 PM PST

    •  Indeed (4+ / 0-)

      I was getting at this with my talk of local production, but I didn't get around to specifying it in the detail you do. Transportation is huge. Packaging, advertising, the entire infrastructure (highways, oil production, machinery production, and on and on) that goes into industrial food is massive, and many of those costs aren't accounted for even in energy studies. That's all part of the whole system, and they're parts we often miss in these discussions.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 01:49:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think you are confusing (4+ / 0-)

    reductionism and over-simplification. They are not one and the same.

    •  Fair Point (5+ / 0-)

      I don't know if I completely agree. I think the attempts to understand a complex system by understanding its pieces is an approach that too often doesn't lead to an understanding of said system, or that leads to an over-simplification. Perhaps then I'm talking about over-simplification rooted in a deficient use of reductionism.

      Or maybe I'm just splitting hairs.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:23:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  holistic thinking breaks down under strict limits (4+ / 0-)

    There's a reason the population of Ireland was so terminally dependent on the potato for sustenance; in a society where most people owned very little land, but still had to feed themselves, they resorted to the crop that produced the most Calories per unit of land.  Land was too limiting to allow for a more holistic approach.  The argument for a vegetarian/vegan diet still holds true.  If arable land is limited by total supply (ecological breakdown) and/or social conventions (a few people own almost all of it, and use it for profit), most people will be led in a similar direction.

    Likewise water use.  In a future of extreme and permanent drought, water supplies may be stretched so thin that more water-intensive activities (like meat versus grain) may not be an option even if they are more efficient overall.

    I could say the same about energy use in a post-carbon world.  Option A might be more energy efficient than Option B, but if it uses too much energy period to be practical, people will have no choice but to go with Option B.

    Finally, carbon budget.  In a future where people are desperate to curb emissions, cow farts and cutting down forests for grazing land may not be acceptable no matter what other benefits might be realized.

    There are limits to optimization, and adaptation to particularly severe selection pressures tends to dominate over lesser concerns.

    Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

    by Visceral on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 02:52:02 PM PST

    •  But can limits also encourage holistic thinking? (4+ / 0-)

      I don't disagree that harsh circumstances and strict limits can lead to destructive and desperate behavior, but I also think limits can sort of force holistic thinking and a recognition of whole systems. If you're limited to a small piece of land, you have no recourse to outside resources, and you use said land in a way that's obviously destructive, there's a strong motivating force to change the way you're using your land. This may not be rooted in a conscious form of systems thinking, but the destruction is obvious, the unintended consequences are obvious, and if you're to survive than you have to change your ways since you can't make up for the destruction with outside-sourced energy and resources.

      Much of the rest of what you say I agree with. Efficiency as we define it today probably isn't going to be the driving force in the future, because efficiency as we think of it today is usually rooted in eliminating some element via the use of fossil fuels. Thus, we think it's efficient to eliminate human labor and replace it with machines, but that's only because we often define efficiency in economic terms as most amount done with the least amount of human labor--and that's only a function of a fossil fuel economy.

      That's getting into the question of resiliency vs. efficiency, though, and that's part of what I'm going to be writing about in the next post.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:29:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Doesn't this reinforce the underlying point? (3+ / 0-)

      My interest in this diary has less to do with the agricultural specifics than the premise that the systems are almost always more complex than you've accounted for.  The addition of water constraints or carbon sequestration as significant parts of the model doesn't change the idea that it's better to try for a more complete accounting of the system as a whole (or Whole, or WHOLE,...)

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by Jim Tietz on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:44:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  but the English overlords were raising grain (6+ / 0-)

      on Irish lands and exporting the grain

      dependance on potato was a political problem, much like the monoculture farms in many places caused by the need of the wealthy to skim off a profit from lands

      fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

      by mollyd on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:11:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  political or not doesn't change anything (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        When people need to squeeze maximum Calories out of a severely limited supply of land, they're not going to waste space on heirloom tomatoes or pasture for a cow.  They're going to grow the one crop that can (and has) just barely fed a family of four on less than an acre.

        The reason why the supply of land is so limited doesn't matter.

        Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

        by Visceral on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:02:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Consider backyard chickens or ducks. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aimlessmind, alwaysquestion, Kevskos

    Google "backyard chickens" or "urban poultry" and you'll find tons and tons.

    10 reasons to go for ducks instead of chickens:

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:24:39 PM PST

    •  I love duck eggs (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alwaysquestion, HeyMikey, Kevskos

      And ducks themselves. Love chickens as well, but the ducks seem even more appropriate for out here on the Oregon coast. We get around 100 inches of rain a year; the chickens often look a bit miserable in it while the ducks can't seem to get enough.

      I'm renting a room in a house right now and I don't think chickens or ducks are an option, but one of the farms I work for--just down the road--and another farm I used to work for--also just down the road--have poultry. And the other farm I work for does, as well. So I've got local egg options, for sure.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:32:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting. Marking to comment and read later (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:07:35 AM PST

  •  We are an already over populated world (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I believe it is the root of the problem.  Of course, how we manage food resources and how we transport it is also key as well as the water shortage issue mentioned in an earlier post.

    We refuse to have a serious conversation about population in this nation and around the globe.  The Chinese are for sure addressing it, albeit in their usual iron handed way.

    I agree completely on your premise of looking at the WHOLE system.  Everything you said was important.  But we are running out of water and we are running out of usable land and  reducing forest and wildlife habitat due all to overpopulation.

    I've stopped giving money to feed children in other nations and started giving to birth control programs around the globe.

    •  No doubt we've overshot our resource base (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Population is one of our biggest issues. Unfortunately, there's not much desire to manage it and, so far, fossil fuels continue to provide most people the illusion that this level of population can be sustained.

      It can't, though, and it will drop quite a bit over the next couple centuries. No zombie apocalypse, but we'll see rising death rates, rising infant mortality, crumbling public health, suicides, increased drug and alcohol usage . . . not sure what will happen with birth rates. Will the crumbling of pensions lead to higher birth rates or will economic uncertainty lead to lower rates? Not sure, but the overall trend will be for a contracting population.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:40:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The less religious nations have a better shot (0+ / 0-)

        at addressing this issue.  Look at the European nations that are advanced and do not embrace religion.  They have an educational system that addresses sex education.

        The world can do this easy way, through sex education, family planning and the understanding of resource management OR the hard way, with famine, etc..  As you say, it will be the hard way.  History has already shown that with no one learning lessons along the way.  One could point to Darfur.  One could also point to what the future holds for Mexico.  And by proxy, the U.S..  Not a pretty picture.

      •  speaking of rising death rates (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind, alwaysquestion

        I think we're already seeing a big rise in health problems and illness due to (over) consumption of food that has very little nutritional value, and further, is contaminated with chemicals throughout growing and processing.  

    •  There is no overpopulation. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Food is a renewable resource. The problem isn't that we don't have enough food and/or water for people. It is that we don't have efficient resource allocation.

      And with more and more technological advances there is no reason to believe we will ever have a problem producing enough resources for an ever-expanding population. The question will always be how we allocate what the world produces in a way that sustains the people while also incentivizing future production.

      The first rule of government should be "Do no harm." The urge to act can frustrate the desire to help.

      by Common Cents on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:10:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Is this snark? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kevskos, ozarkspark, aimlessmind

        There has been much to say about water shortages as well as clean water.  Fred Pearce has an excellent book:

        You can check out this author here:

        We cannot take water from the already lowering Great Lakes and transport that to Darfur, for example.  So some drought areas are simply screwed.

        Water is needed for food.  Water will be the life ingredient that determines sustained population as it will be the first to run out.

        Again, birth control and sex education is key.

      •  No, there's some serious overpopulation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And that will become more and more clear as fossil fuels become more expensive and more scarce. Not to mention as ecosystems become more damaged and unstable. We've already claimed too much of the biosphere's productivity and, even aside from that, we're living on the ghost acreage of fossil fuels.

        William Catton's Overshoot would be an excellent book to familiarize yourself with.

        Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

        by aimlessmind on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:02:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Looking at the planet as a whole system it is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alwaysquestion, aimlessmind

    clear that the natural population size for large mammals of similar size to humans - i.e. black bears, dolphins, elk, etc. - never exceeds 20 million individuals (white tailed deer are out of balance at around 20million right now because of elimination of predators and adaptation to rural suburbs).

    Seven billion individuals is hugely out of balance - much less nine or ten.

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 10:24:21 AM PST

  •  Yes, we need to examine the original assumptions (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aimlessmind, alwaysquestion

    Many times those are the cause of the problems.

    Unfortunately for me, I can't eat most mammals, an have to have milk products with little to no fat in them, due to allergies caused by a tick bite from a Lone Star Tick. It's becoming an epidemic in the Southern states.

    Ironic, isn't it, that those that are out in the woods/pastures/meadows are more likely to end up with the allergy. That means more men, hunters, farmers, etc are going to get the allergy in the years to come. That may do more to drive down the demand for beef and pork than anything else.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:36:37 PM PST

    •  Fascinating (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've heard nothing of the Lone Star Tick. I'll have to read up on that a bit.

      One of the many things I'm thankful for living in the Pacific Northwest is the distinct lack of ticks being a major problem. As a hiker, a lover of forests, and someone who works outside most of the time, I appreciate it greatly.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:09:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site