Thursday, May 1, 2008

Fear of the Future

Kim started a discussion about dealing with the future and the fear it is generating on Bioneers Community site. I was getting ready to respond in the comments section and changed my mind. It is an issue that is relevant to what we are doing here and to micro-farming and home gardening in general. So, I’m posting my thoughts here.

People are starting to really feel the pinch as fuel prices go up and everything gets more expensive. The news is full of doom and gloom about the recession or worse. People are worried. Couple this with news of global warming and other scary environmental threats and fear kicks in. The truth is there are some real things to be concerned with. While scientist can debate global warming and its long term effects and the news can scare us with the latest dire predictions about the looming global destruction, we face a very real potential food crisis that doesn’t get a lot of press. Most places have a 72 hour food supply or less. We are one short step from disaster. All it would take is an oil embargo, a truckers strike, the collapse of a few more airlines and shipping companies or something like that to leave millions of people stranded without food.

We all think that there is lots of food out in the country. Most places, if you drive out a ways, are surrounded by farms. If a food crisis arose we could just make the long drive and get what we need. It might not come pre-prepared, but we could eat it. In reality, most of the farms in the country don’t produce anything you can eat. Some of what they produce can be made into food you could eat, but it isn’t a process you would want to undertake at home. There are also large chunks of time when there isn’t anything edible. A corn farmer, for example, may grow 1000 acres of corn. At harvest time, or just before or after, you could find corn at the farm that you could eat. It probably wouldn’t be exactly what you were expecting, but you could eat it. That’s about a month out of the year. After that the corn is shipped to the elevator and on to the processing facilities where it is made into whatever. The rest of the year there is nothing edible in those fields. I live in a very rural area, and I thought it would be fairly easy to live only on locally produced food. It has so far proven to be impossible. I come close, but that is because I produce a lot of what we need myself. That has taken me several years to develop.

My fear is that we will sit on our butts waiting for the government to do something, and when the system crashes the local infrastructure won’t be there to get us through. But, I’m not filling my basement with food and guns, I’m putting my time and energy into building local food systems in my community. If you are worried about the future you should do the same. Learn to garden. Support your local producers by buying their products. Etc. If you are not worried then I’ll see you when the whole thing collapses. Bring your work glove, because your money won’t be worth anything.


Heather said...

Woo-hoo! Do It Yourself, or get to know who does it. Feels great and is kinda like insurance.

Alan said...

As you can see, I've been spending too much time cooking and not enough time out in the dirt.

As for insurance, it is the only kind worth having. Makes a pretty good retirement fund too.

dND said...

It depresses me Alan as the big profit making companies who push the consumerism won't go peacefully and as such I see the crisis scenarios as the most likely. I just hope and pray I'm wrong mainly for the sake of my children.

The looming recession though might be a godsend in making people think about the cost of their purchases and how far they are willing to travel to get them.

I am amazed by the number of people like us though who are looking at building a sustainable culture so maybe there is hope; there is a lot of knowledge being saved for the future too - the how it used to be done before insecticides, pesticides mechanisation or the widespread use of fossil fuel or electricity. A wonderful knowledge data bank but the irony is it will all be on computers and we may not have the power to be able to access it :-D

Alan said...

I'm not confident of the recession and the fear it generates being a good motivator. It hasn't worked in the past. Of course, cultural collapse hasn't worked either. My hope is that enough of us can stop cooperating and live differently that the current system can just dwindle. I know it's a bit of a pipe dream, but... one must hope.

The computer networks as the repository of so much valuable info and community is a very scary thought I hadn't even touched on. Now I have another reason not to sleep.

Robert said...

My wife and I recently moved to a farm from Chicago. I also find it elusive to be completly self sufficient in food. We also will come close but it will take a lot of trial and error.

Barbee' said...

Alan, this is a good post. Thanks for putting into words what many of us are feeling - deep concern.

Alan said...

Robert, good luck with your adventure. Start a blog if you have time. It's amazing to me how much help is out there and how quickly you can connect with others working on the same things.

Barbee, Thanks. Hope they don't put me on the Homeland Security List. All this talk of systems crashing and the governments inability to do anything about it probably makes me a bad element at lease.

Gritty Pretty said...

Thanks for this post.

I think there's a misperception that farmers can take care of our food needs in a pinch; I'm finding out that is NOT the case. I run a Farmers Market and the hardest part of the job is recruiting local growers to diversify their crops. We mostly grow alfalfa in our area and are getting a high price for it so farmers have little incentive to produce anything else.

Our few local CSAs are maxed out and so I'm hoping there is a shift if for no other reason than an economic opportunity (although I'd rather buy food from growers that farm because they LOVE it.)

Alan said...

Gritty Pretty,

Glad you found us. The cards are pretty stacked against small farms and local food. By the time those in power recognize the importance it will be too late. Wish there was a eco-farm mentor program and some kind of land share options for young people interested in this kind of life. Most folks I know cant really break into it because of land costs and lack of real training. It's hard to make the mortgage payment while you learn how to farm. It's even harder to learn to farm while you work full time trying to pay the mortgage.


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