Thank you so much for stopping by and answering my questions, Toby! I plan on sharing your work with as many people as possible! I especially appreciate your post "Is Food the Last Thing to Worry About?" Since I only recently had my peak oil "moment" and have been kind of obsessed about this type of issue, it really put my mind at ease. I am looking forward to reading all of your archived blog posts.
I did want to reply to a statement in one of your blog posts relating to population, since there are no comments allowed there. You said, "I cannot help but wonder if eating high on the food chain via meat, since it will reduce population, is ultimately a more responsible act than eating low on the food chain with grains, which will promote larger populations. At some point humans need to get the message to slow their breeding."
Since I just this morning read a great article about population linked to by another person on this forum (sorry I can't remember who!) I couldn't help but pause here. Here's the article: http://www.ishmael.org/Education/Writings/kentstate.cfm
My thought is, based on what Mr Quinn wrote, is that I would have to argue that the act of eating meat would not per se reduce the population. He notes that as we create more food via fossil fuel usage, this creates more people of all kind (rich/poor, well-fed/hungry, etc), but never does the increase in production go to those existing starving folks---it always just increases the population.
A few points that come to my mind: To produce much of the meat the way we do in current society, those animals are fed on mostly grains, produced in the same agriculture manner you describe as so harmful.
With the amount of food easily and cheaply available today, most people in developed countries can still access sufficient meat calories affordably to the point where they can have large or overlarge families. Those who can't (ie third world countries) are probably already very poor and are seeing their own children starving/dying or are having more miscarriages, stillbirths, etc. (A fascinating read on how calorie intake influences women's fertility, and thus reproductive capacity over their lifetime is "Mother Nature" by Sara Hrdy.) This is a different context than over hunting in a foraging context.
Finally, it has been consistently shown that increased education, opportunities and equality within a society for women will tend to lower birth rates. Access to meat is already tilted toward rich countries having more and poor having less because meat costs more. So those better-off meat-eating folks already tend to have smaller families by virtue of being in countries where that is the case. (Of course, omitting folks having large families for religious or other reasons).
Full disclosure, I am a lifelong vegetarian, so I am completely biased. But, when I found out about permaculture, it really seemed to completely mesh with my vegetarian ideals. Even for people who will continue to choose meat in the future of less oil, surely, they will have to be surviving on a more varied diet that includes more fruits & veggies, (replacing both meat and a lot of breads, pastas, etc) since I hardly see us having much success without a permaculture solution. Even without cheap oil, and done maybe within a permaculture context, I believe it will still take a good bit more calories to create each calorie of meat, which would naturally push meat in the diet to a lower percentage overall.
Thanks again for all your work!