Americans Waste 2030 Trillion BTU of Energy in Trashed Food

By Brigid Darragh
Friday, October 8th, 2010

“Finish your vegetables. You shouldn’t waste food. There are starving children in (insert developing nation you’ve never heard of as a six-year-old here).”

If only the words of our mothers, fathers, caretakers at large stayed with us from those evenings at the kitchen table, through the high school cafeteria, and then later in life, when we were single and cooking for one or two people and regrettably tossing wilted lettuce that we never got around to eating during the week straight into a Hefty bag…

A recent study from Environmental Science &Technology journal says Americans could save as much as 350 million barrels of oil a year by not wasting food.

Those barrels actually make up 2% of our total energy use………………

Full story at


Who Will Grow Your Food? Part I: The Coming Demographic Crisis in Agriculture

Posted on: January 4, 2010 9:00 AM, by Sharon Astyk


What kind of radical cultural transformation would we have to have to allow middle class parents to say “I hope you grow up to be a farmer.” Or “Honey, why don’t you take some agriculture classes along with calc and physics?” Or “Honey, have you considered a cow college? Cows are great!” What would it take to make agriculture a profession of status? Eric and I are going to explore this question in one of the next posts in this series, talking about how we might begin integrating agricuture and systems science together for kids and college students.

When one out of three or two of every American kids was farmer, you could count on a large number of bright young people to grow up and become farmers. Even after the population began to decline, we benefitted from the fact that, as the expression goes, “The American public is lucky that farming is a disease not a job.” That is, despite every pressure to send out anyone bright and thoughtful, some of the best and brightest still stayed at it. It is a testament to the power of agriculture.

But the truth is that rural areas can’t bear the brain drain forever, and that we need thoughtful, well educated, creative people in agriculture *DESPERATELY* because as Greenpa put it in the comments to a previous post, we’re inventing a viable agriculture. That is, we’ve never before had to deal with the fact that there are no new frontiers, there’s no land we can afford to abandon, there’s no new place to go to avoid the consequences of fouling our land and wasting our resources. We need people who can create a sustainable – not in the superficial sense of the word, but really, truly sustainable – that is, can go on forever – agriculture. And that will take the best minds we have, and every kind of human intelligence, wisdom and thoughtfulness. And we need it soon.

For low income urban kids, even in the garden, the problem will be access to land, and also, access to a world of nature that expands beyond the highly structured nature of very small garden plots. That is, farming isn’t just learning to grow food, or learning to raise animals – it is learning to manage a space that is both wild and tame, and to have them exist simultaneously. A good farm pasture should support nearly as much wildlife as a comparable forest. A farm woodlot should support even more. A community garden plot or a public park offer little chance to teach kids to know and trust and understand the wild. We need a generation of people who have ties to such spaces – as I’ve written about before, establishing urban-rural ties may be our most central project.

We are facing a problem that literally has never been faced in human history – we don’t have enough people who know how to feed us to keep going foward. And for the most part, we’re not even fully aware of the problem. We have no plan going forward. And our children are being taught that farming is unworthy of them. This, folks, is a crisis.

Full article at

Local-food activist makes the farm-bike-sailboat connection

by Elly Blue, BikePortland

Jan Lundberg moved to Portland a year ago because it seemed like the best place to pursue his intersecting passions for food security, peak oil, bicycles, and sailing.

These passions will be coming to fruition later this month when the oil analyst’s brainchild, the Sail Transport Network, will launch into its first major, ongoing local venture. Lundberg is finalizing plans to deliver malted grain from Vancouver, Washington to a brewery further down the Columbia River by a combination of cargo bike and sailboat.

The next phase in the project will be to use the same bike-boat combination to deliver the finished product — bottles and kegs of beer — to Portland markets. (Lundberg asked that we not name the brewery until the plan is finalized.)


Part of the farm-bike-boat delivery team at last year’s Village Building Convergence on the dock at OMSI.

Lundberg intends this partnership to be the seed of a radical change in the way we transport — and think about — food.

“Just taking care of a brewery and being able to distribute some beer is not really food security,” he told us over the phone. “But what you can do is add on to this existing system with more farms, more bike carts, more sailboats, and more CSA subscribers — and that’s the way it grows.”……………

Full story at

The food and farming transition: toward a post carbon food system


by Richard Heinberg and Michael Bomford, Ph.D.

The seeds of the new food system have already been planted. America’s farmers have been reducing their energy use for decades. They are using less fertilizer and pesticide. The number of organic farms, farmers’ markets, and CSA operations is growing rapidly. More people are thinking about where their food comes from.

These are important building blocks, but much remains to be done. Our new food system will require more farmers, smaller and more diversified farms, less processed and packaged food, and less long-distance hauling of food. Governments, communities, businesses, and families each have important parts to play in reinventing a food system that functions with limited renewable energy resources to feed our population for the long term.

Download the PDF (1.9mb)

posted at

originating from

Powerdown Toolkit #6: Deconstructing Dinner March 29, 2009

Posted by Graham in : General , trackback

This is the introduction to  week six of the Powerdown Toolkit 10-week community learning course created by the Cultivate Center in Dublin. It has an accompanying TV show with a 30-minute episode accompanying each week of the course, soon to be aired on Dublin Community TV.

Deconstructing Dinner: Food Miles, Trade and Food Systems


Food is energy. Nowhere is this truth seen more clearly than in the conflict for land and resources between food for the hungry in the developing world and biofuels for the energy-hungry motorist in the industrialised nations. {Murphy, P. Plan C}……………..

For full details visit

A Farm for the Future

Back in February, Chris Vernon wrote a post called “BBC Covers Peak Oil: A Farm for the Future”. The peak oil documentary is now available in available on Google at


information from
Included are some comments from Chris’ original post. The Oil Drum is listed in the credits!

Regenerative Agriculture.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself” (Roosevelt 1937).

Modern agriculture is based almost entirely on fossil fuels and natural gas. The former are used to run tractors and other kinds of farm machinery while the latter is cracked in a thermal catalytic process called “steam reforming” to make hydrogen…………………..

…………………While modern farming almost entirely relies on such synthetic fertilizers in “open systems”, regenerative agriculture refers to “semi-closed systems”: i.e. those in which inputs of energy, in the form of fertilizers and fuels, are minimized because those key agricultural elements are recycled as far as possible. Conventional agriculture is mostly “open” and hence large inputs are necessary since much of them are wasted and it is a matter of maintaining a sufficient productive density of fertilizers, pesticides, mechanical energy, to maintain production on poor soils with much of the living matter and natural animal life (earthworms, beetles etc.) gone. Indeed, modern soils have been described as dead, and only remain productive because of artificial and voluminous inputs derived mainly from crude oil and natural gas. As the latter sources of energy and chemical materials begin to wane and finally fail, so will most of the world’s agriculture.

Although they are usually more energy efficient overall, regenerative systems generally need higher on-farm labour than open systems do, as shown by a study of 1144 farms in the United Kingdom and Ireland. From a conventional economic standpoint this is seen as a disadvantage and a disincentive to move over to using regenerative systems. However, in terms of relocalised communities and economies, so long as the labour costs are practicable, there may be positive benefits, in terms of the maintenance or creation of social capital and community livelihoods: i.e. the economy is retained within the community, possibly using some kind of local currency or barter system……………

story at

 Organic and Local is so 2008

…………… is not simple. To make it, you have to balance myriad variables—soil, water, and nutrients, of course, but also various social, political, and economic realities. But because our consumer culture favors fixes that are fast and easy, our approaches toward food advocacy have been built around one or two dimensions of production, such as reducing energy use or eliminating pesticides, while overlooking factors that are harder to define (and ditto to market), such as worker safety.

Consider our love affair with food miles. In theory, locally grown foods have traveled shorter distances and thus represent less fuel use and lower carbon emissions—their resource footprint is smaller. And yet, for all the benefits of a local diet, eating locally doesn’t always translate into more sustainability. Because the typical farmers market is supplied by dozens of different farms, each transporting its crops in a separate van or truck, a 20-pound shopping basket of locally grown produce might actually represent a larger carbon footprint than the same volume of produce purchased at a chain retailer, which gets its produce en masse, via large trucks.

And for all our focus on the cost of moving food, transportation accounts for barely one-tenth of a food product’s greenhouse gas emissions. Far more significant is how the food was produced—its so-called resource intensity. Certain foods, like meat and cheese, suck up so many resources regardless of where they’re produced (a pound of conventional grain-fed beef requires nearly a gallon of fuel and 5,169 gallons of water) that you can shrink your footprint far more by changing what you eat, rather than where the food came from. According to a 2008 report from Carnegie Mellon University, going meat- and dairyless one day a week is more environmentally beneficial than eating locally every single day………………..

Complete article at

see also

The Environmental Food Crisis

The Environment’s Role in Averting Future Food Crises
A new rapid response assessment report released by UNEP warns that up to 25% of the world’s food production may become lost due to environmental breakdown by 2050 unless action is taken.


  Available as interactive E-Book:

PDF format Poster 1 (4mb)
PDF format Poster 2 (5mb)
PDF format Flyer (6mb)

Press release

The Environment’s Role in Averting Future Food Crises

A new rapid response assessment report released by UNEP warns that up to 25% of the world’s food production may become lost due to environmental breakdown by 2050 unless action is taken. Prepared by the Rapid Response Assessment Team at UNEP/GRID-Arendal and UNEP-WCMC, the report provides the first summary by the UN of how climate change, water stress, invasive pests and land degradation may impact world food security, food prices and life on the planet and how we may be able to feed the world in a more sustainable manner. The report concludes that we need to get smart and more creative about recycling food wastes and fish discards into animal feed. While major efforts have gone into increasing efficiency in the traditional energy sector, food energy efficiency has received too little attention.

The Preface and Summary are available in html format:

PDF format PDF  Download   Download the full report. (15 mb)

Maps and graphics featured in this report are available in the Maps & Graphics Library

The report offers seven major recommendations, including, short, medium and long-term
1) Regulate food prices and provide safety nets for the impoverished;
2) Promote environmentally sustainable higher-generation biofuels that does not compete for cropland and water resources;
3) Reallocate cereals used in animal feed to human consumption by developing alternative feeds based on new technology, waste and discards;
4) Support small-scale farmers by a global fund for micro-finance in developing diversified and resilient ecoagriculture and intercropping systems;
5) Increase trade and market access by improving infrastructure, reducing trade barriers, enhancing government subsidies and safety nets, as well as reducing armed conflict and corruption;
6) Limit global warming; and,
7) Raise awareness of the pressures of increasing population growth and consumption patterns on ecosystems.


 The comment below taken from a longer article, illustrates the need for a more holisic  and systemic approach to the management of businesses and other organisations to continually improve the quality of the products and services delivered,  thereby minimising the risk in their creation, use and disposal.

It is clear from this research that already 75% of producers realise the benefits of doing this.

In the current turmoil we have to enable the change if we are to continually reduce the resource intensity per capita of nourishment and balance the ‘one planet equation’


What are Agricultural Retailers Thinking?

Purdue University has studied the retail segment of the crop input industry longest. Dr. Dave Downy brought new information to Austin pointing out that producers place themselves in one of three broad categories when buying products from retailers:
a.    25% are economic buyers: they value the lowest price.
b.    45% are business buyers: they value an alignment with what a retailer provides in products and services that help ensure the producer reaches measurable financial objectives over the next three to five years.
c.    30% are relationship buyers: they place highest value on familiar relationships.
Just a few years ago the “business buyer” was 30% of the total, surpassed by both economic and relationship buyers. Purdue projects the business buyer category will continue to grow.
Purdue University, School of Agriculture


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