Main Page CJLY
Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing Our Food System
recent showslisten live
Read a Transcript & Donate to Support our Work:

The following transcript is protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Link to Audio and Episode Info Here

Show Transcript

Deconstructing Dinner

Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY

Nelson, B.C. Canada

 

August 23, 2007

 

Title: The End of Oil, The Start of Tasty Food

 

Producer/Host: Jon Steinman

Transcript: Pat Yama

 

Jon Steinman: And welcome once again to Deconstructing Dinner, produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio, CJLY, in Nelson, British Columbia. I'm Jon Steinman your host for this weekly one-hour examination of our food system, where it's heading, and what we can do about it.

 

Today's broadcast is an interesting one but by no means a new topic. We have on a number of occasions looked at our food system's reliance on oil, and how such a reliance will affect food systems of the future. For those listeners of Deconstructing Dinner who tune in each week, today's topic may seem repetitious, but there is certainly no arguing that our reliance on oil for our survival is of paramount importance and could easily be said to be the most pressing issue of our time.

 

But nevertheless, revisiting with this topic is timely given recent events. Based in Paris, the International Energy Agency, the IEA, is a group acting as an energy policy advisor to 26 member countries, and they were first formed during the oil crisis of 1973 to 1974. Now this is the most important body that has been at the forefront of researching global energy supplies and predicting and suggesting how resources should be allocated. And just this past July, the IEA, for the first time ever, changed their tune with respect to what had been an ongoing state of optimism in terms of global supplies of oil. In a publication titled "Medium-Term Oil Market Report," the IEA addresses the possibility of Peak Oil, a state in which the global supplies reach their peak and then proceed to decline. Now Peak Oil has long been denied by major oil producers, so needless to say, such a report can be seen as monumental.

 

So in light of this report we are going to do two things on today's broadcast. In the second half we are going to revisit with a voice last heard here on the program in November of 2006, and that is that of Julian Darley of the Vancouver-based Post Carbon Institute. Julian was recently visiting here in Nelson following an invitation by The West Kootenay Eco Society. Julian spoke to an audience on the current global supplies of oil, and he shared a number of very innovative projects the Post Carbon Institute is working on including one located in Julian's new home of Sebastapol, California. There, he has created what he refers to as a Local Energy Garden - acting as an example of how local energy sources can be cultivated alongside food. Deconstructing Dinner was on hand to record his presentation, and we will hear segments of that.

 

But launching the broadcast we will do something that was first done back in April of this year here on the program, and that is revisit with some old films created in the 1950's and 1960's on the topic of food, agriculture and in the case of today's broadcast - oil. When attempting to understand how our society has become so dependent on a non-renewable resource, it's of critical importance to look back at some of the major influences that led to such a widespread acceptance of such a reliance. And the segments of audio we will shortly listen to are a great indication of how misguided our society has been in creating a food system so dependent on oil.

 

increase music and fade out

 

Before we jump into today's broadcast I'd like to share with you the title of today's show, and that is "The End of Oil, The Start of Tasty Food." And the reason for such a title does connect with one of the reasons why Deconstructing Dinner was first conceived, and that was a result of my own and personal realization that most of the food now available to Canadians, has no taste. Our fruits, vegetables, baked goods, juices and the list could on, I find hardly have any taste at all. And it was my own exploration into the world of eating locally, eating foods in season, and eating foods created by independent processors and producers that allowed me to realize that food could indeed taste really, really good. Now this year was the first year that I chose to grow strawberries, for example in my backyard here in Nelson. And I only experimented with two plants that yielded a whopping total of maybe eight strawberries, but the flavours that came out of these little red fruits was close to, I would say spiritual. It forced me to close my eyes, disconnect myself from everything else I was doing, and savour every moment that those flavours remained in my mouth. This was a far different experience to those big grocery store strawberries that taste like strawberry-flavoured water.

 

And so as we focus in on the reliance our food system has on oil, forecasting any end to oil, would indeed spark a revolution of flavour, as the alternative to our food system is of course growing food close to home and harvesting it at the peak of ripeness. Maybe then our food can begin to again taste as it should, and that is taste good.

 

So how did this happen, how did I for one get to a point of finally, so much later in life realizing how good food should taste. Well looking back about fifty years tells the story, when we arrive at the very convincing educational films that were created by government and industry associations to present to the public the benefits of the very globalized economy we now embrace today. And looking back on these films is certainly eye-opening in light of what we now know today - that our reliance on fossil fuels is devastating life on this planet and that the very supply of these fuels is said to be at their peak and about to decline. So we've put together some audio segments from two films - one dating back to 1950 titled "Twenty Four Hours of Progress," and the other one produced in 1960 titled "Miracles From Agriculture."

 

This first one, Twenty Four Hours of Progress, was commissioned by the Oil Industry Information Committee in the United States and was produced by Film Counselors Incorporated. And in this first segment from the film, viewers are introduced to the miracle of oil and it then stresses how important oil has been in creating the then modern agricultural system - a system that feeds the majority of people today.

 

This is Deconstructing Dinner.

 

Twenty Fours of Progress

The only way I know of finding it, is to drill.

 

Right now in Scurry County Texas the producing company is getting ready to do just that. Drill a well. They're moving their rig to do a territory where they know oil has already been found. But that's no guarantee that this particular well will come in. They still have to gamble equipment, supplies, men and time, just on the chance of striking oil. Today as men drill deeper and deeper to find the porous oil-filled rock, a single well can cost up to a million dollars. In the oil fields, some wells flow by themselves; others have to be pumped. In many oil-producing States, each well produces under a field quota called an allowable which is set by State authorities. Such scientific conservation methods mean progress and nobody knows it better than the State conservation man who works with the oil companies.

 

That's right, you know, in the old days, sometimes as much as two-thirds of the crude they might have gotten was left underground. Taking out oil as fast as possible is inefficient and wasteful. Around here you'll find wells 20 and 30 years old being reworked and oil being recovered. But in some places the stuff's lost forever. Measuring and checking as I do every day, you don't find such waste going on now.

 

In many modern fields, recycling plants process a lot of the natural gas that use to be wasted. These days the gas goes through all this fancy equipment and out of it comes chemicals which are used in making cloth and paint and plastics and I don't know what all. If that's not progress, what is? Well, time to eat.

 

(sounds of airplane)

It's meal time in the air too. The airline passengers settling lunch trays in their laps look down on the very farms that feed them. Farming has changed more in the last 50 years than it did in the previous thousand. A farmer today can work five times the land his father worked and still have time for leisure that his father never knew. The petroleum that runs these modern hired hands has not confined progress and farming to the fields. Life is easier for the farm wife too. For one thing a wood pile is the thing of the past. To do her cooking and heating today she can have liquefied petroleum gas delivered to the house by a local dealer.

 

Petroleum does still other jobs that farmers would once have thought were miracles. Petroleum derivatives kill insects and plant diseases, speed the ripening of fruit and preserve it on the way to market. Today a farmer can fight the odds of nature instead of giving in to them.

 

Jon Steinman: "Today the farmer can fight the odds of nature instead of giving in to them." Quite a powerful sentence. If you are just tuning in, that was a segment from a 1950 educational film titled "Twenty Four Hours of Progress." This last sentence could be said to be one of those very quotes that humanity will one day look back on and either laugh or cringe at, we'll laugh at how blind we were to think nature could be fought. But why wait, I think we can look at this sentence right now and see how misguided those that shaped our food system were, where it's now clear that fighting nature is essentially fighting ourselves.

 

We're going to listen to one more clip from this film and then move on to yet another production that can allow us to look back on the origins of our food system. And in this clip the producers identify how oil-thirsty we indeed are, and that humankinds' ability to harness fossil fuels is a sign of progress, a word we continue to be bombarded with daily.

 

Twenty Fours of Progress

Each hour of the day our oil thirsty nation demands over 10 million gallons of petroleum products. Between these and the raw material from which they come there has to be a factory. The refinery is that factory.

 

Just a few decades ago a refinery was a primitive still making only kerosene. Today, some of these great plants employ thousands of people. To many an American community their established growth has meant new economic life. Listen.

 

"My job is painting. Even the outside of all these pipes and columns are in good shape."

 

And at the same time in the port of New York, the SS America is taking out over 800 thousand gallons of bunker fuel. Since petroleum provides the power for both our ships at peace and for our ships at war, oil power means sea power for our nation. Power for the sea is also power for the land. More than any other country in the world, America is a nation on wheels. The automobile and the power behind it have been major factors in the growth of our country. We can drive anywhere when we want to, at any time, for any reason, including fun. Out of the city into the country. Down to the sea or inland. To the mountains if we live on the coast. To meet the demands of our over 36 million cars, oil canning plants also work around the clock. Altogether we drive our cars a billion miles a day. It seems no other people in the world want so much just to get going and have a little time. Maybe it's just that no other people can get going so easily.

 

Every hour of the day finds oil men trying to make petroleum do more for us. The oil scientists in research laboratories are pacesetters in the race of progress, working with products still unnamed and some that are still unthought of. With each new development of our inventive age, be it peaceful or otherwise, the petroleum industry is faced with a host of new problems. Our thousands of competing oil companies invest over a 100 million dollars every year in research. Each companies objective is the same - discover a new product, perfect it, and put it in production before the others do. They start with competition but they create this progress.

 

With a switch to another brand of gasoline or with a purchase of a new detergent made from an oil byproduct, a company has lost a customer. Another company has gained a customer. It's as simple as that. What it comes down to is that the oil industry has to please Mrs. Martin and millions just like her. Already today she's used some 87 petroleum products including the plastic bacon wrapper and the wax of the milk carton. She'll top a hundred before the day is over. Mrs. Martin is the customer and the customer is the boss of the oil industry.

 

The air travellers from the West have crossed a whole continent since morning. Not for one hour or mile were they out of hearing of the men and women in the petroleum industry. Oil and the people who bring it to us are so much a part of our lives that they're everywhere.

 

Our Tuesday is ending and the country goes to bed. But everyone is not asleep. The pump does not know when midnight comes. Days are the same to it. It pumps from Tuesday to Wednesday without a halt. Each day, every day, it brings us another 24 hours of progress. Building our nation, guarding its security, assuring the future of America.

 

Jon Steinman: And this is Deconstructing Dinner and that was the second clip from the 1950 film Twenty Four Hours of Progress produced by the Oil Industry Information Committee. And that last sentence predicted that oil would assure the future of America, and today as the United States sets its eyes on countries like Iran and Venezuela - very rich oil-producing nations, we can now see how true this statement was when it was first made back in 1950.

 

As we continue on with our look back in time to the origins of our food system and its dependence on a resource that is said to be at or nearly arriving at its peak of global supply, we arrive at another film titled "Miracles From Agriculture," produced in 1960 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

In this first clip we hear of the blindness that accompanied the origin of a food distribution system which is said, as you are about to hear, to be functional despite distance and season. The narrator stresses that agriculture is going far beyond nature, and that this is, as he states, a miracle, lending a religious quality to such innovations as oil.

 

Miracles From Agriculture

Supermarket. Symbol of the highest standard of living in this country today. These products come from farms and ranches despite distance and season. They are the result of a miraculous agriculture. Tremendous advances on the farm and in the marketing system have created this miracle. The miracle whereby American agriculture has advanced more in the space of a single lifetime than world agriculture had in more than 7,000 years.

 

Today, agriculture is going far beyond nature to produce new miracles for even better, more abundant life. The work of the men behind the scenes is done on the farm, in the laboratory, and in the marketplace. On the farm today, wherever you look you see the handy work of scientists - improved crops; more productive soils; more useful, more efficient machinery. Not only has agriculture miraculously increased yields, feed more people. Take this combine - it harvests 400 per hour. Scientists working to improve plant quality through breeding have given potatoes shallow eyes so they are easier to peel. And they have also improved storage methods. This is just one of 200 perishable products which move to market when and where needed, thanks to an intricate market information system. Great new harvesting systems and distribution methods had to be developed to bring these crops from far away farms, fresh to our tables. And so, a rolling factory gathers together the goodness of nature and does it economically.

 

Through imagination and hard won knowledge, through science and technology, agriculture works newer and newer miracles.

 

Jon Steinman: In this next segment, the Miracles From Agriculture extend to that of industrial meat production, which as was much more apparent in 1960 when this film was first produced, made up a segment of food production never before seen in the history of humankind, and all of it because, of oil.

 

Miracles From Agriculture

Behind the miracle of our abundant meat supply are better breeds of livestock and improved feeds. Cattle and other meat animals are carefully inspected for safety and wholesomeness. Meat products are better today than they were a generation ago and more plentiful. This feedlot uses a train to help finish cattle for high grade meat. Meat - the most important item in the American food budget. Turkeys which use to be a holiday feast have been bred in smaller sizes with more white meat to please you and your family.

 

One of the most remarkable food miracles is the story of chicken - a triumph of research on the farm and in the marketing system. Once something special for Sunday dinner, chicken inspected and graded is now thrifty every day. Yes in one generation people of this country have doubled their consumption of poultry.

 

Farm research has led to the control of disease, improvement of breeds, advancement of production. Marketing research has developed low-cost methods of mass distribution in processing, storing, handling and packing. And these boxes join the never-ending parade of food. Food on the move, crisscrossing the country. Boxes are loaded on trains and trucks. These huge refrigerators on wheels bring farm products to assembly points and connects central markets with retail stores. Transportation and terminal markets are being developed to serve the growing America to bring products from farm to city in the most economical way possible. And so agriculture advances. Other scientists have fixed the glutens in flour so that industry cooks can make your favourite bake and serve products. In this case, a mechanical cook fries chickens and then combines them with pre-cooked vegetables to be frozen on individual serving trays. Now anyone can heat and serve can cook a meal. Thus agricultural research in colleges, industry and government goes forward. Result - new products, new businesses, more jobs, greater buying power for the products of both farm and industry. Each advance in agricultural knowledge helps everyone whether you farm or not.

 

Eventually all the good things reach the retail stores. Yes, the corner grocery has really grown up. Shoppers enter the supermarket on one side. Along the other a steady stream of products is delivered on a tight schedule. It is here that the miracles of research and services are tied together for the consumer. Every day from American farms and ranches, from distant parts of the world, from packing sheds and processing plants across the nation comes a great variety of foods Americans demand. The supermarket, created by research and industry is the showplace of today's agriculture. Help yourself to a miracle. Yes, here's where the shopper benefits from the work of the scientists and the farmer, the processer and the marketer. Now in one shopping trip the average family can buy a full week's supply of groceries.

 

History teaches that a nation grows according to its agriculture, the very basis of life. And so Americans of all ages, in cities, suburbs and rural areas will remain in the best fed, best clothed, best housed people in the world, thanks to more and more miracles from agriculture.

 

Jon Steinman: And that was a segment from the 1960 U.S. Department of Agriculture production titled "Miracles From Agriculture." There will be links to these videos in their full length and visual format off of the Deconstructing Dinner website at cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.

 

And this is Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly one-hour program produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. Today's broadcast titled "The End of Oil, The Start of Tasty Food" is exploring a topic that we often feature here on the program, and that is our food system's dependence on a resource that is not only harming life on this planet, but is becoming more and more accepted to be at or nearing its peak of global supply. In just a moment we will hear more about the current global supplies of oil and some recent changes of opinion by the International Energy Agency. But to first conclude the historical look back to the beginning of our food system when oil was seen as a miracle for life as we know it today, it's important to pinpoint one word that was used very frequently in both the films we just heard segments from. And that word is "progress." Language is certainly a powerful tool to help form public perception, and in the era when these films were produced and that is post World War II, growth was indeed taking place at a rate never before seen in human history. As change can often be feared by many, the use of the word "progress" no doubt had a profound impact on how the public viewed the innovations that accompanied the creation of the food system we now live among today. But while many would argue that the age of such propaganda as we just heard has come and gone, the complete opposite could also be said to be true, as one of the most common faces making their way onto the mainstream media is U.S. President George W. Bush. And what is one his favourite words to describe the war in Iraq? Progress.

 

Airing on weekdays on The Comedy Network, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart is always quick to point out the hypocrisy and contradictory nature of both American politics and the media system that it feeds or should I more correctly say, that is fed by the media. The Daily Show did run a segment highlighting the ongoing use of the word "progress" by George W. Bush, and in the segment they highlight his use of this word in a reverse chronological order. In doing this, the segment illustrates how powerful such language can be in shaping public perception. The segment begins with a clip in 2006 and ends with one from 2003. Take a listen.

 

The Daily Show

Jon Stewart: Bush had come mainly to discuss the war spending bill. Recently passed by the Democratic Congress which gives the President all the funding he desires for the troop surge but ties the funding to a definite date for withdrawal of the troops. And you won't believe what the President thinks of that idea.

 

President Bush: Pushing legislation that would undercut our troops just as we are getting to make progress in Baghdad.

 

Jon Stewart: Oh, we're just beginning to make ... NO! They just pulled the rug... NO... it's just happening now! You know I seem to remember - we've been making progress for quite some time.

 

President Bush: It's progress and it's important progress. It's an important part of our strategy to win in Iraq. Iraq has made incredible political progress. Iraqis are making inspiring progress. Iraq has made incredible political progress. I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq. We're making progress. We're making steady progress. We're making progress. It's slowly but surely making progress. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

 

(audience laughing)

Jon Stewart: Wait a minute! Wait a minute I've figured this out. I know it's wrong with what we've done in Iraq. We've been following time as it goes forward. What a classic mistake. Linear time is so pre-9/11.

 

Jon Steinman: And this is Deconstructing Dinner. In the remainder of today's broadcast on the topic of oil and our food system's dependence on it, we will listen in on segments from a lecture we recorded here in Nelson back in July of 2007. And that last segment featuring a clip from The Daily Show, which broadcasts every weekday on the Comedy Network, nicely introduces this next speaker. As Host Jon Stewart jokingly commented that America had made the mistake of following time as it goes forward. Now in the case of what The Post Carbon Institute's Julian Darley spoke about during his presentation here in Nelson, in a way he suggests the very same thing, that as a society we need to begin looking backwards to where we have come from in order to determine what direction we should now be heading in.

 

Julian Darley was first heard here on Deconstructing Dinner back in November 2006 when we featured segments of a presentation he gave in Vancouver in February of that year. But we were fortunate enough here in Nelson to have Julian visit this past July as part of an event hosted by the West Kootenay EcoSociety - a not-for-profit environmental organization based here in Nelson.

 

Julian Darley's Post Carbon Institute is based in Vancouver but he did recently move to Sebastapol, California to launch a project we will learn about just shortly. The aim of the institute is to assist communities to relocalize and adapt to an energy constrained world. Julian spoke about the current global supplies of oil and what communities can begin to do to respond to this. But he first introduces what Post Carbon means and why he thinks limits are so important.

 

Nelson Presentation

{audience clapping)

Julian Darley: The first thing I'm going to do is say a little word about what Post Carbon means. It's a little preamble as any good play requires a little sort of quiet beginning and then we really sort of get going.

 

Post Carbon means beyond non-renewable hydrocarbons. Fossil fuels, now that's a bit of a mouthful so that's why we prefer to say Post Carbon. It also means beyond anthropogenic greenhouse gases which includes carbon dioxide but also methane and the noxes as they are so-called; they're oxides of nitrogen. And sort of prefigure what we're going to talking about tonight, our tagline is "reduce consumption, produce locally." And this economy is based on a huge energy profit, an energy payback which is sometimes called energy return on energy invested. And that's going to become very important to us in this 21st Century because we'll notice this and previously we sort of haven't noticed this because we've had a seemingly unlimited supply of growing energy. And that's one of the reasons why we're in the room tonight to discuss this change.

 

Now one of the exciting things that I have to tell you about this evening for those of you that don't already know is that this Century will be interestingly different from the last Century and perhaps much more similar to some other preceding Centuries which is not what we've been told for the last 50 odd years. And the reason for this is that we are going to expect this exciting discovery that the chaps and the lady who wrote "The Limits to Growth" in 1972 turn out to have been right in spades. That there are indeed limits to the atmosphere, to its ability to absorb carbon dioxide and methane and other gases of this sort. There are limits to the soil which we are busily strip mining as fast as we can. There are limits to water which we are busily taking over as fast as we can and even as we conspire to melt the glaciers and reduce the amount of potable water, available to us and the rest of nature.

 

Jon Steinman: As is the focus of our broadcast today, oil, Julian Darley introduces the limits to oil, the foundation of our food supply.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: There are also, what we are discovering, limits to oil, natural gas. Apparently according to new reports on coal there seem to be much tighter limits on the availability of coal unto which I say "hurrah." There appears to be less uranium than we thought and large hydro is becoming limited in great part because of climate change, which is shrinking the sources of water, which fill up these great dams. And, all of this means and there are limits to growth itself. And our colleague, Richard Heinberg's new book coming out later on this year is called "Peak Everything" which kind of gives you the idea. It's a wonderful title, you don't really need to say anything more.

 

So I'm portraying this as you can hear in an excited fashion, of course this is all very good news. That might sound a bit bizarre but certainly from the planet's point of view this is good news because I think there are signs that poor old planet Earth is getting a bit fed up with us and in fact limits are good. And I mean that quite seriously as well as slightly tongue in cheek. After all if you think about the organism or the life that has unrestrained growth as it's ideology we call that cancer. And there's plenty of that about and I don't think any of us really likes it. Nature of course is absolutely full of limits. And limits will provide for us and for those of us who can perceive these limits as being opportunities. They will indeed be fantastic possibilities here. And for those of us that want to see the return of the local economy at the growth of the local economy and the shrinking of the other, which begins with "g," these limits will in fact be the wonderful break that we've been waiting for.

 

Jon Steinman: Jumping back to the old educational film segments that we listened in on at the beginning of today's show, one segment that stands out is the ending of the 1960 film titled "Miracles From Agriculture." That film ends with an image of a baby being fed by his mother, while the narrator says this, "with today's food, tomorrow's citizens can grow healthy" and he concludes, "thanks to more and more miracles from agriculture." Now this rhetoric continues today. We see it in the pesticide and biotechnology industries, we see it coming from the world's major agricultural and food producers. But in this next segment featuring The Post Carbon Institute's Julian Darley, we are not providing a future for children such as that suggested in the film, but are instead creating a much more difficult future for them. And here Julian introduces a recent shift in the global energy outlook by the influential Paris-based International Energy Agency, the IEA, a body set up to advise the major Oil producing nations on energy supply and security.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: We're also taking the environment as we said from the past but also from the future, borrowing it from our grandchildren and our great grandchildren without their permission, not as far as I can see with any intention of returning it with interest which could be a good thing in this sense. And we're also taking it from other species. And so the grand challenge to us as human beings now especially industrialized ones but all of us is, can we imagine sustained ways of living, ways of provisioning ourselves, that's really what the economy is about, that actually lives within our means?

 

Now let's look at one of the limiting factors which some of you may already be very familiar with, perhaps even all of you, but forgive me if I just mention again just to remind us because there are a few new bits to the oil situation even in the last couple of days. This discovery of oil peaked in 1930 and even the most hard-lined economists can surely be persuaded of the idea that before you extract oil, produce it as it's called in the industry, before you can extract it you really ought to try to find it. So what's so important about this is you can see that the pattern of discovery makes this kind of mountain shape or a bell curve shape if you like here. And it's interesting how the pattern of extraction or discovery so closely follows this. This projection from Colin Campbell for the Association of Study of Peak Oil and Gas, this projection suggests that we will peak in all liquids by about 2010. But I think that there is increasing evidence to suggest that we're peaking around about now. And why do I say that? None other than the International Energy Agency, based in Paris representing the twenty-six OECD countries and typed and set up as sort of a energy watchdog hasn't been doing a frightfully good job lately but they've just sort of started changing their tune even in the last 24/48 hours. And a couple of graphs will show why they're so worried. This is the historical oil supply up to and including the first quarter of this year. And you can see under that sort of circle there that production to any pair of eyes surely is in a platter now and it's actually declined from that peak there in 2006. So I think we can see very clearly that unless something dramatic happens the production's in a plateau.

 

Now look very carefully at the following chart on the same organization which predicts a demand for the rest of this year. That plateau by the way is plateauing at about just over 85 million barrels a day. Now look at this. That is a projection for the last three-quarters of this year. And you'll notice a staggering increase in demand rising through 86 million barrels a day so that by the end of this year we are looking at an oil demand of just over 88 million barrels a day. Now you've just seen that oil production has plateaued at 85.5 million barrels a day. Where's it all going to come from? And just in the last couple of days the International Energy Agency announced quietly, that they don't know. They just say in a little paragraph that anyone can go and visit on the web, they just say in a little paragraph that there is going to be a shortfall in production for this year and that they're going to be calling on the middle eastern countries to bring into play their spare capacity and in the next sentence they say but the trouble is we don't really don't think that spare capacity is there anymore for various reasons. So there, in a little paragraph just tucked away is the prediction that before the end of this year, Peak Oil will explode onto the screens of just about everybody in the world, most likely in the form of dramatically higher prices.

 

Jon Steinman: And this is Deconstructing Dinner. The report that Julian Darley refers to released in July 2007 by the IEA will be linked to from the Deconstructing Dinner website, and so you can check it out there. But another interesting point that came out of this report is their reference to biofuels as an alternative to the oil supply crunch that is predicted for the end of this year. As has already been seen, the new surge of biofuel production has raised food prices significantly and are not as environmentally friendly as they're being marketed to be. Large tracts of forests are being razed for plantations and increasing supplies of water are required to irrigate these new crops.

 

And so this is where The Post Carbon Institute's often referred to concept of relocalization comes in. Such an idea is both ecological and economical. On the economic side of things, many local economies have suffered and continue to suffer when outside sources invest into these economies and extract the wealth that is being created within the community itself. Relocalizing introduces a whole new economic system that is more in line with location rather than extraction.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: I'd like to spend the rest of the time here, about 20 minutes or so, talking about in more detail about relocalization and some of the programs and ideas that we've developed to help us all relocalize. That is to say, getting our daily needs from within the locale as much as we possibly can.

 

Relocalization or global relocalization which means doing it on a wide scale means working to rebuild and retrofit our communities based on the local production of food, energy and other necessities. The shortening of supply chains, this is absolutely vital. The closing of loops on our vital needs which means trying to keep good things within the community as much as possible. And for instance, particularly not letting money flow out into the greater global system where you don't tend to see it again. It will mean over a period of time, moving from a fuel to a foot economy. Before petroleum came along we all basically ran on muscles. They may have been horses or oxen or our own but that's mainly what we had. We Brits brought in some coal and some steam and so forth and began this whole industrializing process off but that way of life as I said is going to go away during this century. And one of the ideas that I want to promote is what was the case before 1850 is that communities were based on five minute walking distance. That's about a quarter of a mile. The thing to aim for is getting your daily necessities from within a quarter of a mile radius. That can be done; it is done. It's done in Europe and I lived it for five years. It's definitely possible but it's a bit unusual in North America but that's where we should be aiming.

 

Jon Steinman: Where energy is going to come from in a Post Carbon economy is the focus of Julian Darley's work. He, like others who share the same global outlooks, stress that it won't be possible to just give up our dependence on energy in order to manage our daily needs. His solution, growing local energy while at the same time growing local food. But he does stress, that his ideas are in no way the same as that of the widespread global shift towards biofuels.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: The relocalization of energy. The first big key to energy as to everything else is to reduce consumption. And that is going to mean taking part in a planned contraction of our dependence on the global economy because I believe it is true to say that the global economy is going to go into a prolonged contraction anyway. So we will all be doing ourselves a vast favour if we reduce our dependence on it anyway. Although it's going to be a little dramatic I suspect in the beginning and we, as I've said, we may even find out as soon as the end of this year what that's going to start looking like. We must start producing locally including local, reliable, renewable energy. And I know you in Nelson have got some hydro here and you're very lucky. Most places don't have access to so much renewable energy.

 

One of the other newish programs that we developed in the last year and a half which I hope people here will find it exciting is the Energy Farms Network. It has become obvious to us with the decline particularly in liquid fuels which is coming, that we will need to extend food farming into fuel, feedstock, fibre, and fertilizer and where you've got it as you have here, into control of your forests as well. We call this local energy, local energy farms, to stress that this is the antithesis, the very opposite of industrial biofuels which are already wrecking the planet. They're taking out rainforests anew to plant palm trees which are very high bearing oil - they bear a lot of oil which is being sent to Europe to turn into biodiesel. And this is just a little short of criminal. In fact it probably is criminal. It's a staggeringly bad idea. But we cannot just transition off liquid energy fuels. I hope no one dreams that we can overnight and therefore we're going to need some substitutes. And if, like me you incredibly dislike the idea of corn ethanol which is another piece of near-insanity for different reasons and you dislike the idea of tearing out yet more rain forests to plant these palm oil trees, then reduce consumption of liquid fuels and start thinking about how to produce some locally. I mean really locally. And I'll say a word about how you can produce some in your gardens as we've started doing but also on your farms. And there are many of you I think in the room or in the locale are farmers. And we have to start thinking about producing fuel, feedstock, and fibre even as we increase the amount of food we're producing. And I believe this is actually possible. But it will need more people on the land taking very great care of the land. In fact square foot by square foot and in doing that way you can rejuvenate the soil and you can increase yields but it's a lot of work. I don't try to minimize that.

 

Jon Steinman: To better share the research and ideas that Julian Darley has in this field of local energy farming, he did recently move from Vancouver to Sebastapol, California where he now operates an experimental demonstration garden that comprises the Post Carbon Institute's Energy Farms Network. And he introduces this project.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: One of the ideas of this research demonstration is that we want to show that we can grow food and fuel locally at a small scale. And the idea is we want to spread this energy gardens idea as fast as we can and it's caught remarkable interest at the local level. It's exciting. But even if you have a small patch we've got some little boxes, 4' x 4' to encourage people even with the tiniest garden or even a balcony, that you too can start planting and growing something and learning about soil and compost and these vital activities. And we are growing oil seeds for biodiesel. We're growing sugar crops like sugar beet and sorghum for the production of ethanol and also biomass. And we're collecting some manure including chicken manure to put in our biogas digestives to research the making of biogas in a temperate zone.

 

Now what are we going to do with these crops? Well the first important thing is they have stacked functions. They will do various things. Flax for instance produces a wonderful oil for human beings. The fibre can be turned into linen. For hundreds of years, linen was a staple for fabric for making clothes and sheets and other things. And we're going to need to rediscover the marvelous properties of flax. You can mostly use it for composting. Other crops - almost all the crops we grow which are possible fuel crops are also possible food crops with the idea that if we say to ourselves - well we're short on food, we can't afford to make these, these sorghum or these Jerusalem artichokes into ethanol for instance, we can eat them. That's our decision but in this case we can't have our sorghum and eat it as it were. You can't do both although you can compost it. There's a lot of things that you can do at the same time. But it will be our decision. This is very important. If you are growing your own local biofuels which are also possible foods as well, you can decide. But you will be deciding in the full knowledge that if I eat my biofuel, I can't also put it in my gas tank. So, that will be our decision and that surely, wouldn't you rather it was our decision than the decision of Archer Daniels Midland, because they don't care about us very much at all.

 

Jon Steinman: If you're just tuning in, this is Deconstructing Dinner and today's show titled "The End of Oil, The Start of Tasty Food." We are listening to segments of a presentation we recorded here in Nelson back in July of this year. Julian Darley of the Post Carbon Institute was invited to speak at an event hosted by the West Kootenay EcoSociety.

 

I will quickly note that you can learn more about the Institute's Energy Farms Network by visiting their website at energyfarms.net.

 

Now as is part of the relocalization of energy, the relocalization of food is also of paramount importance. Julian Darley highlights the absurdity of our current food system whereby apples from one region are essentially traded with apples from another, which while maybe making economic sense, makes very little environmental sense. Here's a quick clip from the 1960 film Miracles From Agriculture which we heard from just earlier.

 

Miracles From Agriculture

And these boxes join the never-ending parade of food. Food on the move, crisscrossing the country.

 

Jon Steinman: And here's Julian Darley speaking on the relocalization of food.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: Now in terms of the relocalization of food, we must reduce or in some cases eliminate our use of oil and gas feed stocks. I hope we can all agree on this though it will give us problems of a large scale and we don't shy away from this. We must reduce the use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides. It's toxified the whole planet. The use of genetically modified organisms I believe to be a scandal and scourge and totally unnecessary. And also this pointless, destructive trading of similar foods you get in places in two regions that both produce apples and then they trade with them. And economists can prove to you that it actually makes the economy go faster and the awful thing is that it's true but it also takes a lot of energy and this is kind of one of the pointless practices we're going to have to stop engaging in. But beware it could have economic effects.

 

We are going to need to eat more vegetables. We need to try to reduce to the extent that we can our dependence on heavily flesh-based diet. There are even medical studies, which suggest that eating three, giant portions of meat a day isn't very good for us, and it's certainly not good for the planet. Of course we should be producing local organic food and eating as seasonally as we possibly can. There will be benefits in terms of community and personal health, in terms of food security and of course it will be a great benefit to local farmers and local gardeners too and it will help replenish the soil.

 

One of the tricky areas which is less obvious and I think is going to be something those of us that can or interested must turn our minds to is the relocalization of manufacturing. One suggestion we have is community-supported manufacturing is just one. The problem is there was so much of our vital stuff and goods being made in the Far East, it's economically non-viable to go back to local production at the moment and we know that. So special things are going to have to be done to help bring back local manufacturing. Some of the things that we're going to have to look at once again - food, the preserving of, the drying, the pickling of. Fibre for making clothing, fabric, paper, rope, fire, I thought it somewhat whimsically. We need high temperatures for pottery and for glass and of course also in foundries and for forging of metals. We are so dependent on metals. Metals are incredibly important to our lives and I know there are some people in the community that know how to work metals. We must value our metal workers a great deal more and I encourage people to learn about metals.

 

And one of the other things which some of you in this room must have already thought about and perhaps already do is, we must learn once again to fix and repair things. By the way, fixing and repairing many of the things which are made now in our daily lives is not very easy. I mean even to fix this microphone if it went wrong wouldn't be easy and to fix this computer would be nearly impossible and virtually every other object that you can imagine that's got a high level of technical design and production in it. And that's one of the things about relocalizing production. We need to encourage people to design things and make things locally. When you design something and made it yourself or in collaboration with your colleagues you've got a much higher chance of knowing how to fix it. And this is going to become really vital in the future.

 

Jon Steinman: One comment made earlier in Julian Darley's presentation was in reference to the impact relocalizing can have on local economies. In an age where fossil fuels dominate the functioning of the global economy any investment into communities that is either dependent on this unsustainable system or has profited from this system, is essentially spreading the risk of unsustainability around the world. And this is where the idea of local currencies come in, which as Julian suggests can be far more reflective of the local economy and of the solar income that an area maintains.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: there will be more time with family and with friends and community as there was in the past. There is bound to be because sharing and working together makes that happen.

 

One of the other difficult subjects, which has a sketchy or patchy past is that of local money and local currency. I've looked at this quite a lot over the last few years and been involved with some of the pioneers of it and I remain convinced that we must take local currencies seriously. And we in California are doing some experiments with some renewable energy backed currency actually starting with some things called carbon coupons. And we're actually asking people to give us their kitchen food scraps and in return for them, we will give them carbon coupons. Because in each kilogram of food scraps there may be as much as four megajoules of energy. And if you think that in a gallon of gasoline there's about 130 megajoules of energy, that shows you that there's quite a lot of energy even in just a pound or two, a kilogram or so of humble food scraps. And we think this is a very exciting idea because everybody has food scraps. And we can take those food scraps and feed them to our compost heaps and our biogas digestives and our chickens and then we can sell them back using the same payment method as these carbon coupons as eggs or soil and is eventually some kind of energy. Biogas is not so easy to bottle but it's all part of the system. So this is very interesting and we'll be reporting on how this goes. We think this has a chance of establishing a local currency because we can start really, really small. So often local currencies need to start big and I'm not against that idea if only it can work. I'm very interested in planting small seeds. Start with what you've got. Start from where you are and build on that.

 

One of the intriguing things about renewable energy backed to currency is it will help you to tune your economy to what your solar income actually is. And that's something that we really are going to need a lot more help to do because our economies are in tune to fossil fuels and you can see where that's got us.

 

Jon Steinman: As we near the end of today's broadcast, I'll leave you with two more areas that Julian Darley suggests should be relocalized. And the first is education.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: A very tricky area at least on a large scale to relocalize is education because we don't have much control, at least most of us over our education, at least our formal education. I believe that the spread of misinformation and downright indoctrination has reached epidemic proportions in so many parts of the world including here. There's been this not surprising but horribly erroneous focus on growth and of course there's been a corporatization of the education system and in all parts including at the university and even in the high schools and junior schools. What we need to produce are curricula based on different aspects of relocalization of what the locale needs. We need to produce people who have the skills in designing and making and repairing vital things. And the benefits would be in informed citizens prepared for a relocalized post carbon world. And also prepared to do a much better form of democracy as well which doesn't work very well with uninformed citizens. And we need to increase the awareness all through our system through education of community resource use and needs.

 

Jon Steinman: The second half of today's broadcast has featured segments from a presentation we recorded in July of this year given by Julian Darley of the Post Carbon Institute. And you can learn more about the Institute and their many ongoing projects by visiting their website at postcarbon.org. And in closing out the broadcast, I'll leave you with this last segment in which Darley suggests one more area that needs to be localized, and that is the media. He introduces the Institute's Global Public Media project, which Deconstructing Dinner became a proud partner with in 2006.

 

Nelson Presentation

Julian Darley: The relocalization of media is a very important and sometimes a tricky issue. You do have good local radio here and that's wonderful. It would be so much more help to us if the national media were much more on side and were more understanding of these problems. That may come slowly but in the meantime I believe that those of us that are skilled in the internet can use the internet to spread media through that medium. And we have a Global Public Media as some of you know which has been going for about six years now. Global Public Media offers free internet broadcasting that streams long format, audio and video, interviews covering complex issues, complex scientific and complex issues of production and includes indepth analysis with world experts. We talk about such things as Peak Oil, climate change, population, geopolitical conflicts, environment and more. Serious stuff. But I think we're moving into a serious age although ironically, in this serious age I think we are going to tell far more and better stories, many of which will be far funnier than in my opinion, than the dribble we see on television. And I speak as one who once worked in Hollywood working on some of that dribble. And I'm glad I don't do that any more even though it was fun at the time, I have to admit. The thing about Global Public Media is it will be deliberately designed for serious content.

 

ending theme

 

Jon Steinman: And that was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded at Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op Radio. I've been your host Jon Steinman. I thank my technical assistant John Ryan.

 

The theme music for Deconstructing Dinner is courtesy of Nelson-area resident Adham Shaikh.

 

This radio program is provided free of charge to campus/community radio stations across the country, and relies on the financial support from you the listener.

 

Support for the program can be donated through our website at cjly.net/deconstructingdinner or by dialing 250-352-9600.

 

Till next week.


HOME | DONATE | ABOUT | PAST EPISODES/TRANSCRIPTS | SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS | LEARN | CONTACT

deconstructingdinner@cjly.net


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.