Sunday, June 14, 2009
Ignore the cement -- fossil fuel carbon emissions are a perfect correlate to consumption (depletion). Image via Wikipedia
The Talk is in essence a constantly updated survey of the state of the planet through a hydrocarbon geologist's eyes. It plows methodically through reams of energy-geek data. World Conventional Oil and Oil Sands Reserves, 1980–2007. Energy Profit Ratio for Liquid Hydrocarbons. Canadian Gas Deliverability Scenarios from All Sources. The small-font notes at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide enumerate sources that read like a general anaesthetic in print form: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, EIA International Energy Outlook. Pie charts and bar graphs with several rainbows' worth of colour and an overabundance of italicized and all-capped words: "The absolute first priority," that kind of thing. (By the way, it should be "to reduce energy consumption as soon as possible.")The Talk is all kinds of policy-wonky. Your eyes could glaze over. You could even miss the two slides Dave always says are the only ones you must remember. The first is a single-line graph depicting "World Per Capita Annual Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel 1850–2007," which climbs by 761 percent over its 157-year timeline and flips from 82 percent renewable biomass (mostly wood) at the 1850 end to 89 percent non-renewables (almost entirely fossil fuels) at the 2007 end. The second critical slide has three line graphs in horizontal sequence, all tracking curves that begin in 1850, around the time humanity started drilling for oil in a serious way, and then spiking impossibly high at the right-hand, 2007 termini of their X axes. Global population today: 5.3 times global population in 1850. Per capita energy consumption today: 8.6 times that of 1850. Total energy consumption today: 45 times 1850's.You could also miss the way these figures resonate with The Talk's voluminous data on oil and natural gas and coal reserves. You could miss how our current trajectory obliges us to rely on hydrocarbons for 86 percent of our projected primary energy needs in 2030, and how that fits with the strong case Hughes makes that the global hydrocarbon peak (the point at which global energy supply will begin an irrevocable decline, making the energy price shocks of the past couple of years start to look like the good old days) is estimated to occur nine years before that date.
Here’s the upshot: if you plan to drive a car or heat a house or light a room in 2030, The Talk is telling you your options will be limited, to say the least. Even if you’re convinced climate change is UN-sponsored hysteria or every last puff of greenhouse gas will soon be buried forever a mile underground or ducks look their best choking on tar sands tailings, Dave Hughes is saying your way of life is over. Not because of the clouds of smoke, you understand, but because we’re running out of what makes them.
The question should not be how many acres of farmland can we afford to trade for cash today at the expense of people tomorrow. The question is how many acres of asphalt can we rip up and turn back into Willamette Valley farmland, and how fast. Image via WikipediaSmarter people recall the most important thing about good farmland:
The fundamentals remain in place for a long-term boom in the prices of everything ag-related. The simplest metric to consider is the amount of farmland per person worldwide: In 1960 there were 1.1 acres of arable farmland per capita globally, according to data from the United Nations. By 2000 that had fallen to 0.6 acre (see chart above, "Precious Acres"). And over the next 40 years the population of the world is projected to grow from 6 billion to 9 billion.
"Land is scarce and will become scarcer as the world has to double food output to satisfy increased demand by 2050," says Joachim von Braun, director general at the International Food Policy Research Institute. "With limited land and water resources, this will automatically lead to increased valuations of productive land. And it goes hand in hand with water. Water scarcity will probably increase even more than land."
UPDATE -- A kind reader sends: There's a similar site called "Salem, Oregon Daily Photo Diary." It started as a challenge to prove to the photographer's out-of-town family that there's something interesting to do in Salem every single day: http://salemphotodiary.blogspot.com
By Scott Bassett
People often have a very weird notion about agriculture in the US, believing that the country is pretty much all farmland (where it's not cities, forests, mountains or deserts).
But, when you look at these two maps, you see that few areas of the country grow orchards, and there are even fewer acres used to grow vegetables. What the maps don't show is that millions of acres of prime farmland have been put under suburban sprawl, much of it devoted to the use, care, or feeding of automobiles. That's land that will almost certainly never grow food again.
So there are very few places in the country are suitable to grow fruit, nuts or vegetables.
Salem is smack in the middle of some of the best, most productive farmland in the country. And Minto Brown Park includes about 25 acres of hazelnut trees and 35 acres of fruit trees that have been abandoned. The orchards could be replanted with disease resistant trees and put back into production. (The City reported in April of 2009 that there were 30.4 acres of fruit trees and 18 acres of Hazelnuts. I have documentation from the 1973 Minto-Brown Island Park Development Study that the area of the orchards were larger, but I can't put a precise number on the area.)
In addition, 240 acres have been in vegetable production most years since the City took over ownership in the 1970s. The land in Minto Brown Park is so productive that it can be double-cropped in one growing season. This spring and summer, green beans will be planted and harvested twice.
On June 22, the Salem City Council will consider accepting federal funding for a conservation easement that will prevent most of the vegetable farming and prohibit replanting the orchards.
If you would like to see this prime farmland continue to be available for growing fresh local fruits and vegetables, please contact the Mayor and City Council, and attend the June 22 City Council meeting.
Source: The maps are from a New York Times article published May 3, 2009 (The Hot Spots for Organic Food by Hannah Fairfield) and the acreage count is from production in 2007.