How Not to Be the Next North Korea

Sharon June 20th, 2008

John Feffer has a really, really good article over at Asia Times Online.  It points out the deep danger we’re in - how teetery both the world and America’s food and energy systems are.  It is well worth a read, particularly because of its clear articulation of the bind we’re in - the strategies we’ve used in the past to get out of disaster will only accellerate collapse in the very slightly longer term. 

 The analogy that I’ve been using for some time is to the seawater used to extract oil in the Ghawar and other aging giant oilfields.  Matt Simmons, the world’s expert on this subject, argues that you can make the oil production levels look good for a while - but the seawater you pump in only accellerates the day that disaster strikes.  And that’s true of our agriculture - at this point, we’re in a losing race between expanding food production and climate change - all the conventional strategies for growing more food push us faster and faster towards the day that the planet can produce much, much less food.  Every bite of food we eat now through conventional means takes food out of the mouths of our children.

I think many people, deep in their hearts, think that ecological disasters apply mostly to other people.  But, of course, as Midwesterners are finding out right now, that’s not true. And it isn’t over - every image of floodwaters we see is brown - washing precious topsoil away, and pushing artificial fertilizers into water tables.  And the rest of us will be thoroughly schooled in that lesson as well, most likely. 

So how do we avoid becoming North Korea - are there personal or policy approaches that can fix this?  Could you have guessed that I have some suggestions, some obvious, some perhaps not.

The first one is obvious - we need to get the oil and gas out of agriculture - and rapidly.  Farmers are already struggling to afford the fossil fueled inputs that are required for conventional agriculture, and industrial organic agriculture is almost as dependent on fossil fuels as conventional.  And all the fossil fuels, especially artificial nitrogen,  that we use are preventing future generations from eating.  Heck, it won’t take until future generations grow up - most of us under 50 will probably live to see it.

We’re seeing now just how oil and natural gas costs reverbate through the food system, and while it is possible to use wise forms of management to reduce those reverbations, the only possible way to stabilize the food supply and seperate it from volatile energy prices is to end the dependency of the food supply on fossil fuels.  We know that this is possible - besides the study mentioned in the paper above, other studies, including one last year at University of Michigan and a host of others have shown that organic agriculture can match and exceed yields.  Moreover, organic practices that match yields in optimal seasons often exceed conventional yields in times of plant stress - that is organic soils rich in matter hold up better to drought, heavy rains and other difficult conditions.  It isn’t a panacea, but in a world where drought and flooding are inevitable, we need the best cultural practices possible.

 But doing this involves replacing the oil and gas with *people* - that is, when Cuba moved to organic agriculture, it matched and exceeded agricultural yields on small farms.  But the large collective farms owned by the state never could match up yields - one of the agronomists concluded that “farms of this scale are not easily compatible with organic production.”  And that’s the problem - we can get our need for fossil fuels in agriculture down quite low, but we can’t do it without paying more people a living wage to grow food.  And no, this isn’t just me, the UNESCO report made essentially the same claims.

Which brings me to the second conclusion - gardens are even more essential in the fossil transition than they may be overall.  Think about it - food prices are already high - a shift in our economy towards more agricultural labor, and paying farmers better will keep food prices reasonably high, and involve large scale economic changes. That means the cheapest food out there is going to be food grown by those who are not depending on it to make a living - who grow food for subsistence or for very small scale sales on their own land or on community land.  And because they are less dependent on either hired labor or fossil fuels, gardens are the future of affordable food in the US.  Will they meet every need?  No.  But they can make the difference between getting by and widespread hunger. 

The next point is perhaps a bit less obvious.  A few years ago, in my paper “The Ethics of Biofuels” almost no one noticed that one of my principles was that we had to shift our “biofuel’ priorities from corn and soybeans for ethanol and biodiesel to…trees.  For wood.  And perhaps even more importantly, for climate stabilization and for erosion control and soil repair. The home heating crisis I’ve been discussing for years is beginning.  And there is the real danger that the US will deforest itself nearly as badly trying to keep warm as North Korea did trying to grow food.  The long term consequences of that would be horrifying. 

Thus, instead of pushing to grow food on marginal land, moving Crop Protected soils into production (which we’re seeing now), we need to use hilly and marginal lands to grow forests, ideally forests at least partly composed of edible protein, oil and other crops.   We will need the wood, as home heating moves back to biofuels. We will also need the erosion control - midwestern fields once had hedgerows, that could stop the flow of soil, provide space for wildlife, and wood for stoves.  Bringing back the hedgerows might be a beginning strategy.

In already forested areas, the struggle is going to be for management.  And that’s going to have to be a big, big focus of our energies.  The thing is, it gets bloody cold up here ,and most of us have gotten used to “room temperature” being a heck of a lot warmer than it was in any other period of human history during northern winters.  The temptation to burn just a little more is going to be vast.  But we can’t - the pollution will be a disaster, and the deforestation worse.

So we’re going to have to strictly self-regulate our forests - and plant new ones as fast as we can.  And since this is not likely to make it on to the public agenda anytime soon, we’re going to have to do it on our own, on the small pieces of soil we tend.

It wouldn’t be easy for us to turn into North Korea - it would take a lot of bad management.  But it wouldn’t be so hard we couldn’t do it, either.  We’ve got to do better.


26 Responses to “How Not to Be the Next North Korea”

  1. Crunchy Chickenon 20 Jun 2008 at 11:05 am

    Yeah, but Kim Jong Il is HOT! Maybe he needs some air conditioning?

  2. TJon 20 Jun 2008 at 12:21 pm

    >>>The first one is obvious - we need to get the oil and gas out of agriculture - and rapidly.<<<
    It still feels to me that you are making a conflicting argument - that RAPIDLY (or at all) part will not happen unless the oil is insanely expensive. I made this point before in response to some other posts that you and greenpa made. And I keep hearing that high energy prices hurt people - I am not cruel enough to say that “Its a good thing” but I am realistic enough to believe that there is no better motivating factor.

    And also judging but a loud main stream sentiment they want to solve the “food crisis” by more GMO, more industrial ag, more, more more more…. So in that context - give them cheaper energy and we are F….D - vv. global warming, soils, forestst etc.

    So may be the war in Iraq, trouble with Iran, etc are all brilliant moves by our fearless leaders to finally get the oil/energy prices to where they SHOULD be - impossible to continue business as usual - and the fact that they get even more filthy rich in the process - well - they have to be compensated for their valiant effort to stem global warming and protect ecology.

    Lets face it Al Gores’ movie can’t hope to accomplish as much as a $200/barrel oil price can - not even close ;)

    Any thoughts ?


  3. Rosaon 20 Jun 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I live in one of those cold climates, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

    Along with planting trees *right now* (c’mon, can we get lower tech than this? There are a lot of unemployed young people wandering around my neighborhood, so they’re bumping up the police budget…maybe some of that money could go to hiring people to do something else?) we could be insulating buildings and houses *right now*. There’s already a group in Minnesota installing free solar hot water heaters for people with low incomes and eligible sites.

    That part isn’t high-tech at all, or very unfeasible in our current political climate either. We have funds for paying high gas bills for low income people, we could put some of that money into making their gas bills lower.

    But then I was reading about low-oxygen burning of wood as a source of carbon for the soil and a carbon-negative heat source…how hard would it be to set up human-powered low-oxygen wood heat for people who currently have gas boilers. Or for our warm communal spaces - schools, homeless centers, community centers. It’s expensive to hire labor, but we have big volunteer efforts right now for things like killing blackthorn and other invasive tree species…it wouldn’t be that much of a leap in sophistication to use that material for fuel, though it would take some investment in people-powered hauling equipment, and the low-oxygen stoves or boilers.

  4. karenon 20 Jun 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I think that article and your response are some of the more powerful reading I have seen in a long time. Wow! This needs to be across the front page of every paper in the country but of course this doesn’t jive with our fantasy world so no one will read it.
    Thank you for today’s post.

  5. Sharonon 20 Jun 2008 at 2:45 pm

    TJ, the problem is that high energy prices per se don’t actually get you what you need nearly quickly enough - that is, they get poor people to stop using energy disproportionately, when in many cases it is rich people who are the largest consumers. I do agree we need higher energy prices, but we also need to get the fossil energies out of agriculture before they price millions more farmers out of food production, and millions more people out of food. There simply are better ways to send signals than that.

    I don’t have any doubts whatsoever that energy prices are going much higher in the next few years - but it would be vastly smarter to respond to signals in advance of hitting a crisis point, not after it.

    Rosa, I agree with you, and that’s another post - the heating crisis is going to be a huge thing this year and in coming years, and there’s a lot we can do - many of the things you suggest and more.


  6. Rosaon 20 Jun 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I’m just really frustrated right now by all the tech talk. Electric cars! Photovoltaic! Individual light rail pods like a futuristic movie from the ’70s! Vertical farms!

    We have technology right now to address the climate crisis and we’re just not using it. How is different technology going to change that?

  7. RCon 20 Jun 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks for yet another laff Crunchy. I didn’t know about the low oxygen heating and I will be checking on that now. I’m in the tropics, we never heat, but we cook food. Where I am we have probably millions of tons of mesquite for the cutting, free.
    Thanks for the tips Rosa and Sharon.
    Any URLs about the low oxygen stoves would be appreciated.
    I would be making one, not buying one and that narrows down the URL options.

  8. Kation 20 Jun 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I’ve been telling my hubby this same thing for a while now, that I don’t see much point (a little, but not much) in getting a wood-stove to heat and cook on, when everybody else is doing the same darn thing. There was a concept explained in a book I recently read _Luxury Fever: Why money fails to satisfy in an era of excess_ that the author broke down simply as “Good for one, Stupid for All”. Woodstoves, at least as we view wood right now, are “good for one, stupid for all”. Not because wood can’t be grown. But, because nobody at this stage of the game has started thinking that far ahead. Well, nobody but you and I and some rare other folks. Everybody else sees “fuel expensive, wood cheap: fuel bad, wood good!” and cuts down as many trees as they can, to heat their homes through the winter. But, I don’t see these same folks replanting trees. And, quite honestly, those same trees take a LONG time to get growing.

    (I’m pushing for a wind-mill and/or solar panels on our house, as these don’t burn trees. Though I do see that at least for cooking, we WILL need eventually to install a woodstove. I just wish I knew where in our house we’d put one. It’s a tiny place that wasn’t designed for a woodstove. It’s going to be a challenge to figure the spacing out on that one. Then again, a battery bank for either a wind-mill or solar panels will also take up space. Hmmmmm…. Challenges.)

    We transplanted a skinny little birch into our front yard 4 years ago, to provide shade. Took it from the Father-in-law’s over-crowded “woods” around his house. In 4 years it’s gained MAYBE an inch in diameter. Only about 6 inches in height. The fact of the matter is, I don’t think the tree’s roots can penetrate the compacted soil around my little modular cottage. Subdivisions these days have the trees ripped out, the soil compacted, and if you don’t come in with a back-hoe and rip all the soil back out & fill in with something fresher, that soil is as good as concrete. Little to nothing will grow through it.

    So, even if we all go out and plant a hedgerow (great idea! Not discounting that!) along our yard’s boundaries today and into the next week, it won’t be next year that we have a ready supply of wood. It may not even be next decade. We’re already too late in supplying our future need for wood-fuel, as fast as we’ve already started depleating the current supply.

    And, at the same time, I still watch developers in my town plow down acres of trees for more “developement”. More “subdivisions”. A new patch of about 50 acres went down just this past month, off the edge of the road I drive to work every day. Those trees weren’t prepped for sale for winter’s wood-needs, they were piled into big debris hills, and are being left to rot. They may eventually be burnt in big bon-fires, if the fire-hazard rating goes down enough. But, the wood isn’t going to be prepped for woodstoves. It’s being wasted at the same time as the land it came from is.

    I’m sorry. Feeling like a downer when you had some excellent points. While I certainly agree with them on a personal level, I still think that it’s too late already, and still not enough people get it.

  9. Ailsa Ekon 20 Jun 2008 at 4:19 pm

    According to DH, we could heat our house indefinitely on our one acre that’s half woods, we just need to encourage the ash trees and discourage the slower-growing hardwoods. I imagine a certain amount of window insulating will be involved as well (no worries about dealing with the house being chilly, chilly is what I’ve already been aiming for already). If the weather’s decent on Sunday, we’re going to take a look out back and see what we want to do, maybe thin out a few more maples.

    We’re also part owners of a hundred acres of woods in northern Maine, which could heat us and a dozen of our closest friends indefinitely, but there’s a bit of a transportation issue there, or we have to pull up stakes and move.

  10. Rosaon 20 Jun 2008 at 4:54 pm

    RC, I don’t know that they have stove plans, but has a lot of information about low-oxygen burning. It’s really fascinating for a non-chemist like myself.

    And Kati, I’m right with you on the downer thing. On the other hand, planting trees and native grasses is a carbon sink if we don’t use them for anything, so it’s a win-win kind of preparation/mitigation work. Not that this year’s seedlings help with this winter’s warmth, or this year’s trash can potatos are going to solve our dependence on globalized agribusiness.

  11. Charleson 20 Jun 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Sharon, this article on “Woody Agriculture” is similar to what you mentioned. The author grows chestnut trees and hazel bushes - protein, starch and oil in those two - and talks about how Woody Agriculture can solve all the problems of erosion and fertilizer pollution and a lot of other benefits over annual crops, including periodic coppice for firewood, etc.:

    To stay warm without cutting down all the trees, we need to think about sleeping, working, and socializing in smaller rooms. I’ve seen scenes in poorer northern countries where lots of people cram into a small warm kitchen having a great time, the heat provided by the cookstove. Sleeping quarters could be much smaller.

  12. pineridgeon 20 Jun 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Charles, thanks for the link, I’m going to check it out after I post.

    I am so lucky to live in WV, where (to me, not all) it is too hilly to cut down the forest. I couldn’t imagine having the hills around me naked. I have so many different species of plants and animals surrounding my home that wouldn’t be possible without a forest. Even my view is graced by it.

    On the same note, we heat only with wood. Don’t even have a back up source of heat. I sometimes feel guilty about this…wishing there was a way to stay warm without it. But there isn’t, so we try and harvest responsibly-right now we are still cutting trees along our roads, they were coming down either way- or trees that have blown over in wind storms.

    When dh is clearing brush, he laughs at me because I mark all the hard wood trees tht he isn’t allowed to clear. And he laughs again as I remind him of my grandiose plan to pick up the bucketfulls of acorns and pignuts for the pigs this fall. He does not laugh when he sees the deer eating under the big white oak in our yard. Then he drools, lol.

    I will never take these woods for granted. This is the true treasure of WV, not the coal underground.

  13. Kimon 20 Jun 2008 at 9:40 pm


    I’ve recently discovered your blog and now find myself avidly reading backwards in my few spare moments after DS goes to bed. Just a little bit about myself–I live in the Northern Virginia metro area. I’m married with an almost 5 month old son. Since the birth of my son, I’ve been thinking more and more of how to give him the best possible future and, honestly, right now it doesn’t look very easy for him. My previous (decidedly casual) approach to recycling, preparedness, saving, and so forth no longer seems adequate. So I happened upon this blog a couple of weeks ago while I was researching food storage and I’ve been reading it ever since.

    I could go on, but I’ll just comment on the original topic. Here in the NoVA area, development is rampant, even with the economy and the housing market being the way it is. Over the last several months one of my favorite routes to work, which used to be a tunnel through seemingly endless green, now only has bare fields all down it waiting for the housing development to go in. I almost cried when I saw them clear cutting the woods. Also, just up the road from us, they entirely clearcut about forty acres, then put in ginormous houses on five acre lots. People just don’t get it. They really don’t.

    Anyhow, thank you for your great blog. Already it’s a great inspiration to me. I’m definitely going to make a stab at Independence Days, even though I don’t have much area to work with.


  14. RCon 20 Jun 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you for the help Rosa and Charles; and to Kati, I do grow thousands of trees for fuel and food and construction and sell them to the public and I would bet many other readers here grow trees.
    The mesquite grows very fast here, like a weed, with very little need for water. I live on a relatively dry tropical island. Mesquite burns really hot.

  15. Greenpaon 21 Jun 2008 at 8:26 am

    Rosa- I’m pretty sure trees, at least, are a substantial carbon sink even if they ARE harvested. All those roots; and leaves that fall off, gets eaten by worms, and taken underground- a half percent increase in the soil carbon, in the top foot of soil- turns out to be tons of stored carbon over a few acres. In row crops, that carbon is plowed back to the surface, and oxidizes in a few years; in any tree culture situation, you don’t plow of course; and the carbon tends to be stable, and build.

    If your eventual harvest kills the root system- the roots rot in place; very little of that carbon ever comes back to the surface.

    This is not a causal observation; rather a professional one; years of work. Measuring the underground carbon dynamics is a nightmare- you have to dig, which is crazy expensive, and you need very intelligent diggers, or they throw away the roots with the dirt-

    So far, my excavations have caused foresters’ jaws to drop right on the ground; they won’t believe it unless they see it.

    Then there’s what happens when tree carbon is transferred into the mycorrhizal system. Huge and complex beyond belief.

  16. Nitaon 21 Jun 2008 at 10:26 am

    We manage our woodlot for marketable timber, or lumber for farm building projects, and utilize storm damage and diseased trees for our firewood. We only sell logs when the price is very high, most of the time this is only every ten years or so. We have started planting fast growing chestnut for food and fuel, the leaves having 25% protein make good livestock fodder, and chestnuts easily coppice. They have been a good choice for replanting steeper areas we want to take out of pasture.

    Heating and cooking with wood enable us to utilize fuel that is here, with just a small outlay in cash for the gasoline to cut and tranport the firewood. We can utilize all the ashes in our garden for a lime supplement which helps offset the cost of working up the wood.

    For our climate this works, because trees naturally grow quickly here. The challenge for farming, is to keep trees from growing in cleared areas!

    However, most of our state is desert, (Oregon) where wind or solar makes more sense. There isn’t any one easy solution, each area will have to find the most workable solution.

  17. thriftwizardon 21 Jun 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Yes, plant hedgerows! Not just for wood, but also for food and to encourage beneficial wildlife. As a child we went out berrying every autumn; we would gather enough to make jam to last the family a year, and hazelnuts, and sloes, rosehips and elderberries for wines, preserves & sauces. I still go out foraging in autumn, with my own kids, but I don’t see any other families out there now, and our English hedgerows (and their inhabitants) are slowly dying as they are hacked back by indiscriminate flails. Swift-growing species, often foreign imports like knotweed & rhododendron, recover quicker & are crowding out the slower, useful, wildllife-friendly natives. No-one even seems to be noticing the loss of this wonderful resource, but I can’t blame our farmers; flails are very much cheaper & quicker than humans, and until recently our Government were paying them to grub hedges up. And so there’s nowhere left for the pollinating insects to hide & breed, or the predators that prey on pests, and nowhere left for the wild roses to grow.

    Thinking about living in smaller spaces (which mostly we Europeans do as a matter of course) take a look at 4-poster beds, and cupboard beds. They originally evolved to keep heat in; perhaps that’s the ultimate small space! Not sure how healthy they were, though…

  18. M.Squirrelon 21 Jun 2008 at 9:28 pm

    A few years ago, a local news station showed what it was like to be at the home of its newest, and youngest, weather man. He showed the viewers his fireplace-insert stove, told us that he got the wood from his neighbor (who owned a tree service), and related the story of how the gas company actually came to his door, worried that he had turned his gas off because the fireplace insert warmed his home so well.

    Since then, I had been keeping an eye on my neighbor’s curbs on yard-waste day. Whenever I saw burnable wood placed at the curb, I stopped and snagged it. We also have a very old locust tree that needs yearly pruning of branches that it selects for self-destruction, as well as the house behind us having ash trees whose limbs tend to break off and fall into our yard during ice storms. People in the suburbs throw out an amazing amount of good firewood that simply goes into the cities compost pile!

    In the evenings, after the fire was put out, we’de heat the kids rooms up with an electric heater for about an hour before they went to bed, and piled thick blankets or sleeping bags on top of the beds. By the time the room gets cold again, you’re snuggled under these thick blankets. And since Mama Squirrel gets up before everyone else without trying to, its no problem for me to get the house warmed up with the fire and cooking breakfast. Coffee, hot tea, and hot chocolate are liberally given out on these days as well.

    My mother thought I was crazy until I told her how much I was saving the first winter that natural gas prices sky-rocketed…hundreds of dollars a month. We also use a few tricks in the summer to keep cool without the air conditioner. I just remember those times sleeping in upstairs of my grandparent’s Victorian-age homestead farmhouse, where there was no heat or air conditioning, and I remember reading how Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family would have no fire after they went to bed, and woke up with their bed full of snow that came in under the rafters.

    Once upon a time, we knew how to do it. We can do it again.

  19. toddon 21 Jun 2008 at 9:37 pm

    My wife and I have been on a self-reliant path for around 40 years. We’ve been doing what many people are just now considering, for a long time. For example, we put in our first really, really small PV system in 1981.

    My experience leads me to believe that psychology plays a tremendous role in the actions people actually take. To avoid becoming the next NK, people have to come to terms with the reality that what they most believe is wrong.


  20. Kellieon 22 Jun 2008 at 12:28 am

    You should check out the study that oil is actually NOT a fossil fuel but that we have an endless supply because it generates constantly.

  21. retired curmudgeonon 22 Jun 2008 at 7:03 am

    for efficent wood cooking check out rocket stoves. many sites/plans but this is simple one –

    I got interested when I started to grow mushrooms which involves a lot of boiling water but stove equally good for canning which be a lot of this fall.

    in my area– southern nh have seen more gardens in hen ever and more woodpiles dring for winter.

  22. Sue (coffeepot)on 22 Jun 2008 at 8:38 am

    You know the story in Genesis where Joseph was made governor.

    Gen 41:46 Joseph was thirty when the king made him governor, and he went everywhere for the king.

    And Joseph began to store grain.

    Gen 41:48 Joseph collected and stored up the extra grain in the cities of Egypt near the fields where it was harvested.
    Gen 41:49 In fact, there was so much grain that they stopped keeping record, because it was like counting the grains of sand along the beach.

    I see no place where Joseph while storing for the famine began pointing fingers at others.
    In my own mind and personal opinion, all the finger pointing you do Sharon is unproductive and could be used gathering for your local.

    You can’t save the world. Rich vs. poor and taking food from the mouths of babes will not help matters.

    While I love your writing usually, I see way too much unhelpful tones within the context.

    Just my own thoughts and probably won’t change your tones a bit.

    I say get busy and start gathering.

  23. Greenpaon 22 Jun 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I’m so glad somebody invented the “rocket stove” to help out the developing world! Now we can cook with twigs! Cool!

    And they’ve been doing exactly that in China for around 4 thousand years now- the entire cuisine is built around short, hot cooking times- in a wok (which fits right onto the top of the fire- twigs, pine needles, rice straw).

    What will they think of next! :-)

  24. Kation 22 Jun 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Also loving the look of that Rocket Stove! Wondering if it’s adaptable to cooking from inside the house, or even heating a home. (Though, as to heating the home, I still don’t know where or how we’d install one in our little place.) I’ll have to look for that Ianto Evans book mentioned, I guess. (*grin* Cooking outside is great during the summer, but I’m not up to lighting that puppy outside at -40 deg. in Jan to cook my family’s dinner. *wink*)

    Thanks for sharing the link, Retired curmudgeon!

  25. Green Assassin Brigadeon 23 Jun 2008 at 10:52 am

    I don’t think wood is going to be much help, I know people in B.C. Valleys that claim winter smog is becoming a major problem because many people have rushed to wood stoves/fire places etc.
    A city full of wood stoves would be like London England in the 50s

    I also know people who have had problems with tree poaching on wood lots, and to make matters worse there are often ignored laws against moving firewood in my region because of an infestation of a Asian Beatle that does not belong here, the bug is spreading because of idiots who don’t read or don’t care. Deforestation by infestation and over use is likely.

    The only wood stoves that should be sold must be the highest efficiency with catalyst reburn of gasses or units like the masonary furnace/Russian furnace, even then any large number would be intolerable in an urban setting.

    More importanly new building codes and programs to retrofit houses to need less energy should be higher priority than backsliding to wood stoves. Living small in multi generation homes will become the norm again.

    Since food is more important than most day to day transportation, I suspect the argument will probably be made that fuel should be prioritized to agriculture rather than the public. I think this move will come before any move to low energy farming. N Korea makes the military its priority for the delivery of both food aid and energy, How we prioritze energy use will be the deciding factor of how far and how fast we collapse .

    I think electrical farm machines with swapable battery paks makes a lot of sense, low speed, efficient, high torque electric motors are perfect for the job. While we wiil eventually be forced to cut the oil based chemicals and ferilizers we do not need not to lose all the mechanized advancements. Food is more important than a sunday drive, electric tractors should be a priority.

    I think N.A. can feed itself even if we went low tech and returned to the land, the problem however is N.A. would no longer be able to feed the millions outside our borders like we do now. I don’t think we would fall as far as N Korea would without its current diet of aid but many other countries would approach N Korea’s status if N.A. no longer had surplus to sell or donate, and peak oil will certainly bring us to that point eventually.

  26. Ricksteron 24 Jun 2008 at 6:15 pm

    David Holmgren, one of the founders of the Permaculture movement, thinks wood is a very viable energy source. Here’s a quick good on the issue. He elaborates on this in his books.

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