Adapting to Peak Oil

John Michael Greer suggests that composted gardens and small farms provide a fallback plan for the industrial farms that are very dependent on petroleum for energy and fertilizer. Do not read this if you think that we can continue to consume energy like we have in the past. Excerpts below.

Link: The Archdruid Report: The Little Steps That Matter.

What makes these (ethanol and nuclear energy) and similar projects as destructive as they are futile is precisely that they are meant to allow us to continue living our lives in something like their present form. That fantasy, it seems to me, is the single largest obstacle in the path of a reasoned response to the predicament of peak oil. The hard reality we have to face is the fact that the extravagant, energy-wasting lifestyles of the recent past cannot be sustained by any amount of bargaining or any number of grand projects. Accept that reality, on the other hand, and redefine the situation in terms of managing a controlled descent from the giddy heights of the late industrial age, and the range of technological options widens out dramatically.

Is compost a replacement for fossil fuel-based fertilizers? In the straightforward sense of this question, of course not.

Instead, it’s a bridge – or part of a bridge – that reaches beyond the end of the industrial age. The industrial model of agriculture, for reasons rooted primarily in current economic and political arrangements, has established a stranglehold on food production in the developed world. Barring drastic political intervention – a new Homestead Act, say, meant to repopulate the abandoned farm country of the Great Plains – that situation is unlikely to change suddenly or soon.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that the industrial model of agriculture will actually work well in a postpeak world. Far more likely is a situation in which soaring fossil fuel prices cascade down the food chain, turning industrial farms and their far-flung distribution networks into economic basket cases propped up by government subsidies, sky-high food prices, and trade barriers that keep other options out of the existing marketplace. In such a context, local microfarms and market gardens, and the cooperatives, farmers markets, and community-supported agriculture schemes that give them a market outside the existing system, are guaranteed steady and dramatic growth.

The First Square Mile and Rural America

Rural areas need broadband so that people like me can buy some land, build a home, protect the land from being subdivided or monocultured, and put some money into the local economy.

Information workers can stop the extinction of the small farm — if we have broadband connections to do our work and stay connected with our friends and families.

Bob Frankston is a technology expert who has a mission: the First Square Mile.

Link: FSM – The First Square Mile, Our Neighborhood

Telecom is about services delivered over the last mile. Our connected neighborhood gives us the opportunity to discover the unanticipated. Instead of waiting at the end of the last mile we should look within our first square mile and see the possibilities, not just the choices offered.

Today’s underserved rural communities may provide the test beds we need. They may not have "broadband" but they do have phone service and those copper wires have a high carrying capacity if you use the right electronics. Today those wires are not available because the FCC Universal Service Fund (USF) collects billions by adding a fee for legacy phone service and then uses the money to assure that the wires are used for phone service. I should say wasted since that can leave each wire running at one millionth of its potential capacity. If the community had real ownership and honest and transparent funding it could use those wires to jumpstart neighborhood connectivity. While traditional DSL service is fairly slow we can use back to back DSL units to extend the reach and new technologies to run each wire at 100mbps or more.

The state regulators and commissioners have an opportunity to play a leadership role recognizing that their mission has changed. They can and must serve their community rather than presuming that anything good for the service providers is good for the community. It isn’t true because the telecom model serves the mythical average and not any of us. With analog signaling we may have had to subsume our individual needs to the restrictions of the technology but digital technology frees us from having to have a special wire for each purpose. Bits are just bits.

As long as we think of networking in terms of being at the last mile of a service delivery pipe we will have to settle for what happens to arrive. If we look at the first square mile around us — our neighborhood we will get the opportunity to be participants who can meeting their own needs while also contributing to the common good.