Does Sustainability Mean Survival?

We had better find a better say to sustain ourselves because we can't last long as a society if we continue to depend on oil from the Middle East or big box store items from China.

The key for survival is developing a sustainable economy that uses food we grow for ourselves, materials provided locally and energy from renewable resources like the sun.

Bill McKibben

via A question of survival | Blue Ridge Muse

Is Sustainability Foolish?

I believe that modern post-industrial societies will run out of the natural resources that they depend on – especially fossil fuels – unless some drastic changes are made. In short, I feel that we are on an unsustainable trajectory.

Apparently I'm in a minority in the United States, where many of my friends feel that we can find a way (e.g., technology, invasions, government intervention, self-medication) to overcome the shortfalls caused our ever-growing consumption. Of course, many folks are oblivious to such concerns and are content as long as cheap fast food and cheap gasoline can be purchased close to home. I have some foolish beliefs is the eyes of these people.

John Micheal Greer communicates his views in essays that combine an understanding of ecology and a knowledge of history.  His grasp of the rise and fall of civilizations provides an objectivity and humility rarely found in the debates in the media today. His blog that has become essential reading for me when I want some insight into the cloudy future that is rapidly unfolding before us. Below is an excerpt from an essay on his blog addressing sustainability.

As a student of ecology, I’ve learned that environmental limits play a dominant role in shaping the destiny of every species, ours included; as a student of history, I’ve reviewed the fate of any number of civilizations that believed themselves to be destiny’s darlings, and proceeded to pave the road to collapse with their own ecological mistakes. From my perspective, the insistence that limits don’t apply to us is as good a case study as one might wish of that useful Greek word hubris, otherwise defined as the overweening pride of the doomed. Still, the fact that these things seem so self-evident to me makes it all the more intriguing that they are anything but self-evident to most people in the industrial world today.(John Michael Greer: A Struggle of Paradigms)

If Mr. Greer had been my history teacher, I would have learned a lot more in school!

The Future of Industrial Agriculture

Thinker and writer John Michael Greer describes why organic farming is the next step in the evolution in agriculture that is unfolding in the United States. Excerpts below.

Link: The Archdruid Report: Agriculture: Closing the Circle

It’s extremely common for people to assume that today’s industrial agriculture is by definition more advanced, and thus better, than any of the alternatives. It’s certainly true that the industrial approach to agriculture – using fossil fuel-powered machines to replace human and animal labor, and fossil fuel-derived chemicals to replace natural nutrient cycles that rely on organic matter – outcompeted its rivals in the market economies of the twentieth century, when fossil fuels were so cheap that it made economic sense to use them in place of everything else. That age is ending, however, and the new economics of energy bid fair to drive a revolution in agriculture as sweeping as any we face.

Industrial farming follows an extreme case of the extractive model; the nutrients needed by crops come from fertilizers manufactured from natural gas, rock phosphate, and other nonrenewable resources, and the crops themselves are shipped off to distant markets, taking the nutrients with them. This one-way process maximizes profits in the short term, but it damages the soil, pollutes local ecosystems, and poisons water resources. In a world of accelerating resource depletion, such extravagant use of irreplaceable fossil fuels is also a recipe for failure.

…organic farming moves decisively toward the recycling model by using organic matter and other renewable resources to replace chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and the like. In terms of the modern mythology of progress, this is a step backward, since it abandons chemicals and machines for compost, green manures, and biological pest controls; in terms of succession, it is a step forward, and the beginning of recovery from the great leap backward of industrial agriculture.