I have been interested in Permaculture for just over a year now, and through this have developed an interest in the environment and sustainability.
Today in work a rather heated debate took place over environmental issues in general and food growing in particular. The most vocal was a staunch advocate of industrialised farming who insisted there is little if any room for organic methods if we want to feed the world. Sadly I realised that my reading so far had not equipped me to debate at a political and economic level on these subjects.
Any advice on some good reading to remedy this would be much appreciated.
1st define what are the "advantages" of industrial farming and thus see if there is a permie way to deal with those.
Fertilizer.....We can use n-fixers/biomass/nutrient accumulator plants
Irrigation....We can use 3ft dakion radishes and earthwoork for infiltration
Pest....If we plant more than one cultivar, increase biodiversity, plant repellent, make home for predators, etc.
Economies of scale.
It only takes 4,000 sq ft to provide enoughcalories fo a vegan human.
Thats 1/2 for a family of 4 that eats fish and chicken.
Thats a city size lot we wouldn't have to all move to the mountains.
Also consider that india has over 1/7 the world population and its around the size of Texas.
Thats more than everyone in USA times 4 stuffed into TX.
India also has desert and swamps and the Himalayan mountain chain (mt Everest), so it is not all fertile land.
How do they do it, by being mostly organic/permaculture.
I think it is difficult to convince people of much, and feel it is a waste of time in most instances regardless of topic.
With that said. . .
Real-life examples help with this, but aren't as wide spread right now to make viewing easy in many instances
But . . . if you want to read up on the topic:
Mark Shepard lays out an excellent (seemingly, as thorough as possible) calorific comparison of industrial ag and restorative ag using his own farm as an example and using fairly conservative yield estimates where "hard" data is lacking/limited/developing.
His book is Restoration Agriculture: Real world permaculture for farmers I have heard Mark Shephard and also Patrick Whitefield ( I am sure others too) turn that question on it's head and ask: Can industrial ag feed the world?
Lots of starving people across the globe, and where bountiful harvests occur, much of it is low quality dent corn, gmo soybeans etc. -- so not really food and/or needs heaps of processing to become edible.
Degradation is prolific b/c of poor ag pracices (see dustbowl and up until today).
While I'm not trying to drive traffic away from this site.
PRI Australia just the other day put out a bunch of links and a video addressing this topic http://permaculturenews.org/2013/01/07/food-mythbusters-do-we-really-need-industrial-agriculture-to-feed-the-world/ The video addresses the topic well, but rather simplistically imo.
Restoration Agriculture: Real world permaculture for farmers would be a good book you might both read and have discussions about.
I highly recommend it as a good read for anyone interested in this type of stuff, I even wrote a goofy review of it here on this site.
acresusa sells it.
A lot of things come out of nowhere, so look everywhere.
A great place to start although not really specifically permaculture oriented is pretty much any Wendell Berry, I would start with "The Unsettling of America". A great book with lots of political, ecological, and emotional wisdom.
If you're looking for attack points on industrial ag, Joel Salatin's books are spot on for that, though not specifically permaculture either.
I also have to recommend Aldo Leopold "A Sand County Almanac". A great book.
Like Tom I have found arguing to be pretty much futile. There are very few whose point of view can be changed by words alone. But I could never downplay the importance of knowledge and understanding of agriculture of any kind. Although it may take more than words, I think more and more people are following what they feel to be right, rather than what they have been told. The more people who soak up whatever knowledge they can the more we can change our practices as a whole.
I should have mentioned my reasons for wanting to tackle this guy. He is the only one of us who was raised on a farm, plus he went to agricultural college too. The rest of us are all city born and bred so his words carry some weight with most of the people in our group. I really want to set the record straight and as we are all together only during our rather short breaks my responses need to be brief, factual and punchy so as to stand any chance of getting something across.
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