Forward to a better environmental future

There really is no such thing as “peak oil” in any practical sense, but we can see peaks in human activities. The U.S. probably reached peak gasoline in 2007, i.e. we will never again burn as much gasoline again. We probably reached peak U.S. CO2 emission about the same time. Our emissions are generally falling. Today scientists believe we have reached peak farmland, i.e. our footprint on the land will be reduced in the future.

This thanks to improved agricultural productivity. In the not too distant past, farmland under the plow increased in relation to the amount of crops grown. From 1870-1940, for example, the corn harvest closely tracked acres planted.Today we produce five times as much corn each year, but on LESS land. We will ever again plant as much land in corn as we during the 1940s.

The total amount of land planted in crops worldwide continued to rise in recent years because population was growing and the world's people were improving their diet, i.e. eating more in general and eating more meat. But these trends are slowing too.

Population growth is much slower than it was a generation ago and is expected to slow and maybe even reverse within the lifetime of people already alive today. As for eating more, people's appetite for more and better food goes up, but then also stabilizes. Although we all know some people who are pushing the limits, eventually there is only so much a person can eat.

We can expect agricultural yields to continue to improve, especially if we can get beyond the troglodyte fear of GMOs. Even w/o this source of improvement, there are lots of things that can be done. I read recently about a lettuce bot that can efficiently weed, thin and pick lettuce. This will improve cultivation techniques, while dispensing with the need for backbreaking labor current applied in the fields.

We can already see the results of more efficient agriculture, although it is so much around us and happened so slowly that we might not notice. In the last century, forests in the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe have returned as cropland no longer needed was recolonized by forests. There is more forest canopy in the Eastern U.S. then there was in 1812. With that has come wildlife. Deer, turkeys and even squirrels were almost extinct in some states a century ago. Today they are common enough to be pests in lots of places. ears are back on our tree farms. Before about ten years ago, they had been absent for a hundred years. I am not sure I am completely happy about their return, BTW. (I prefer not to share my land with dangerous animals. I don't really think that they would be more afraid of me than I would be of them.) But return they have.

Anyway, the smaller footprint on the land will give us the luxury of small scale organic farming for the upscale markets as well as the capacity to conserve natural areas and better protect soil and water resources. We really need to update our conception. For my entire life we have talked about fragile nature.

It has been a narrative of sad loss. According to this paradigm, each year there was less: less clean water, fewer animals and trees etc. I recall "ecological clocks" ticking inexorably toward a bleak dystopia like those portrayed in movies like "Soylent Green" or "Blade Runner." But we have turned a corner w/o perceiving it. And we did it by going forward, not backward. Today we have more and better options than we did in 1970, when I first started to worry about these things. It has turned about much better than I thought it would.

In the new paradigm, we need to restore humans in nature. IMO, in the old paradigm there is too much separation. We want to protect nature FROM humans. This follows naturally if you believe in the idea that we are merely trying to slow the inevitable loss. In the renewable and renewed world we live in today, I think it is important for people to understand their integration. I like the idea of community farms, not because I think locovores are more ecologically beneficial (I don't) but rather because it helps people understand where food comes from.

I also think we need to encourage a new generation of hunters. Hunting is dying out, as the older generation of hunters literally dies out. It would be a good thing if at least some of our calories came from wild game now expanding numbers into our neighborhoods. No matter what, the mind-sets and adaptions of the past fifty years will be increasingly out of date in the next.

Please see an article we wrote a few years back on bioenergy and food.

Posted by Christine & John at December 22, 2012 5:28 PM
Comments
Comment #359307

On a slightly different subject, there are rumors that Paul Ryan (the TP favorite) may be chosen to replace Boehner as Speaker. I wonder what that would mean? Perhaps conservatives are digging in; one can only hope.

Regarding wild game; I have a freezer full of deer meat. Since I live in FL; specks will be spawning soon and that means plenty of fish on the table.

Posted by: Billinflorida at December 22, 2012 9:19 PM
Comment #359318

Bill

It is good that you are still an active hunter. The problem is that each year there are fewer active hunters. We are missing out on recruiting new ones. Meanwhile, the PETA people spread their malevolent ignorance farther and farther. It becomes more and more difficult to manage wildlife populations in a scientific affordable fashion.

Posted by: C&J at December 23, 2012 11:57 AM
Comment #359325

Years ago when I lived in Wisconsin we had some winters with huge amounts of snow. Deer overpopulation became readily apparent when many starved to death. The DNR did some hay drops in some areas that helped but predation by nature and by man just wasn’t thinning the herds enough.

Those with good intentions who wish to protect Bambi from humans simply do not understand what happens when natural populations outgrow the environment’s capacity to support them.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 23, 2012 7:14 PM
Comment #359333

The problem of overpopulation of herbivores will correct itself as the price of food (especially meat) climbs because of inflation, government intervention, and natural shortages due droughts and crop losses. The NRA believes there is beginning to be a renewed interest in hunting. As we move closer to becoming a 3rd world nation, people will just naturally begin to eat anything that moves, rather than watch their families starve to death. Food stamps will only last so long.

Posted by: NRAinstructor at December 23, 2012 9:51 PM
Comment #359367

NRAinstructor

I have met people who used to hunt in order to put food on the table. But rural populations might not include enough such hunters. My friends down south kill six or seven deer a year, but still there are too many.

A bigger pest species are beavers. They are hard to kill with traditional hunting methods and the skills of trappers are disappearing as the often older, white rural males who used to do most of this kind of work it die out and trapping rules become more “humane” as the demand for pelts is ruined by PETA activists and other pinheads.

Posted by: C&J at December 24, 2012 6:25 AM
Comment #359447

C&J
The movement of folks from the cities to get away from the crime and hectic pace is making it unsafe to hunt in a lot of places. A lot of rural areas close to cities of 60,000 or more are getting to built up to hunt safely. This causes deer and other game to get over populated.
In my home county there used to be a least a mile between neighbors. Today they’re no more than 200 feet apart in some places. Even folks that own 300 or more acres can’t hunt safely because houses are to close.
Even down here where I live today it’s starting to get that way thanks to folks moving here from Valdosta.
This year alone I’ve counted 8 to 10 deer a day feeding with my cattle. This is up from maybe one or two a year when I moved here 26 years ago.
I have a sister in Fayetteville, AR. The last time I was there I saw an 8 point buck walking down her street one night. She lives almost in the middle of town.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 26, 2012 6:22 PM
Comment #359454

BTW C&J
The easiest way to kill beavers is to set their lodges on fire. You have to do this at night when the beavers are in their lodges. But don’t let fish and game catch you.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 26, 2012 10:39 PM
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