Energy-intensive food

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We hope you’re not already bored by media coverage of global warming, because it’s a topic that is going to be with us for awhile–as in “geologic time”. Energy, environment, population, food, individually and together, will be on the front burner from now on.

We wrote, recently, that buying locally grown food would reduce your carbon footprint. Below, from an interview with Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, some discussion of just how energy-intensive agriculture has become.

McNally: Our current way of feeding ourselves in America is unsustainable. Everything on our plates travels an average of 1,300 miles to get there. We’ve rigged all of our economic systems and our agricultural systems as if energy would never run out.

Homer-Dixon: Here’s a statistic that I came across in writing this book that really astonished me. We’ve quadrupled the human population in the last century, from 1.5 billion to 6.3 billion, in part because we’ve had a lot of cheap energy. In particular, that cheap energy has allowed us to increase the amount of energy in our food production systems by 80 fold.

McNally: So it takes 80 times more energy to feed four times more people.

Homer-Dixon: Exactly. We’ve created a food system, a water system, and cities that are fundamentally dependent upon a resource that is not indefinitely available.

So buy local. Better yet, grow some backyard carrots or participate in Pringle Creek’s community gardens.