The desire to find a way for everyone to live along with our world personally does not come from a fear of a cataclysm which abruptly besets us. I am by no means a doomsayer. Rather it comes from wanting to find a way for us to all live together as our population continues to rise in a world of finite resources. Every moment more of the present population find themselves rising into the middle class across the globe as is their inalienable right. These two facts combine into a realization from which there is no escape; that in our present mindset of material consumption and material need it cannot be maintained on a global scale. An energy crisis is merely one facet of the problems we may face, there will be water and food shortages as food production becomes more of a corporate enterprise and people move away from producing at least some portion of it themselves.
There are costs we face when we choose to have others take control over production of the products we use, the food we consume. This area is the one which we actually have the most control over in deciding the impact we make upon ourselves, others, and the world as a whole. The decisions we make every day in our purchases are reflections on the direction we wish to take ourselves, and the world we intend on leaving for future generations. The amount of food wasted in the United States alone for the year 2011 has been considered to be approximately one point four billion dollars. I state this to have consideration given to several reasons as to its importance. The most obvious reason is the monetary one. Let’s look at the importance of this from the bottom up, starting with the standpoint of us the consumers.
As a consumer, what could be done with the money you save by preparing only what you will actually consume? If you end up not consuming what you have prepared, what do you do with it? Is this food tossed into the garbage to go to a landfill to take up space as it decomposes or does that landfill capture the methane gas emitted to be used? Do you instead set it aside to be used as compost to be used in growing your own food or traded with someone who does grow food or utilizes it in flower beds? Do you donate the food by sharing with a less fortunate person in your neighborhood? The next layer of impact this waste has is in the fuel required to produce and transport our food.
Food grown locally either by you, someone in your neighborhood, or local small family farms reduces the amount of hydrocarbons emitted into the atmosphere by decreasing the required distance to bring that same food dozens to thousands of miles to our tables. The further the distance goods are shipped from the more of an impact is placed on its actual long-term sustainability. The weights of these vehicles are considered in three different ways; net, tare, and gross. The net weight is the empty vehicle weight, the unloaded weight; the tare weight is the weight of the cargo loaded onto the vehicle; leaving the gross the combined net and tare weight – the overall weight of truck and cargo as it travels the roads, tracks, waterways of our transit systems. Let me give you a quick break down on the capacity abilities of different types of transport. Those of us in rural environments have had exposure to seeing farm trucks moving crops from the field to storage points/buying stations. Typically three of these trucks are required to fill a long distance truck equipped with a hopper bottom trailer. Fuel consumption by the long distance trucks used to transport this food is massive. The average long distance truck on our highways has an estimated mileage of four to five miles to the gallon. Three of these trailers fill a rail car.
The larger farm grown foods have huge environmental and fiscal impacts on everyone. As time has moved forward the nature of farming has changed. We see the small farmer who worked the land handed down to him through generations of his family disappearing as the larger more subsidized farmers move in and seek to ever increase their profit margins. We also see the rise of brokerage firm owned partnerships, members of upper management in companies who choose to invest in every step of the production of area related goods – seeking to achieve a profit in every process of food production and attempting to monopolize industries. These farms see producing their food as any other corporate business: cutting costs to achieve a more profitable bottom line by any means necessary. This can include undercutting other farmers by stepping in and offering larger land rent prices, practicing less than scrupulous methods such as placing their grains in the shipping container so that when inspected the inferior quality material can’t be accessed, working with their insurance agents to work the reported yields on particular farms to get undeserved payments, even up to utilizing multiple names upon delivery in other to sidestep repayment on loans are liens. We also face less dependability on the standards to which it was grown; we have faced the outbreak of diseases due to the lack of sanitation of field workers and cannery companies alike. The types and amounts of herbicides and insecticides used are reflected by the number of bans placed upon these chemicals due to their health and environmental impacts. There are also doubts upon whether the food supplied is of the heritage heirloom type or genetically modified (GMO) by corporations. The effects of long term exposure from GMO foods upon our health have become questionable. Laboratory research has been done in mice which generations have been allowed to intake such modified foods and have shown associated higher health risks. Many nations have banned the production and importation of GMO foods and seeds.
The increasing amount of water usage required to produce these crops cannot be overlooked. Crop irrigation is becoming more widespread as changing weather patterns place more of a stress upon crops which don’t receive enough precipitation to achieve satisfactory yields. Water tables are becoming lower and lower, the effect felt by homeowners who have relied on private wells on their land for personal survival as they dry up and become unavailable requiring connection to a rural water company. The water may have been pumped by a waterwheel, windmill, hand pump, even solar powered water pump. Even if the water pump was powered by grid provided electricity, does the cost balance out between not using that electricity compared to the amount paid for the water supplied? The water that was once presumed to be paid for and available as a resource now has to be bought and paid for.
Focusing on the problems we face should only be done so to be aware of the areas which we are lacking preparation and should not be unduly dwelled on. Rather once recognized these problems should be released and our concentration be given how to resolve them. Food, shelter, water, first aid, clothing, tools and implements, these are the mainstays of living requirements throughout history each with their own issue. Today’s life also presents us with the additional concern of energy demands. I find these areas to be vital and intend for them to be discussed here on Swamp Fox Green.