Feeding the World: Global, Urban, Individual
Posted: 21 December 2010 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  1567
Joined  2006-09-25


How to Make Your Own Farm Fountain - 10,000 projects in one page:

Permaculture Information Web:

Acres USA’s Reader Toolkit:

Plants for a Future:

Australia’s Permaculture Forum - insanely great. Massive.

Basically, the blueprints for Growing Power: “Our Community Food Center”

Metawiki: “List of Useful Plants”—actually a list of lists.

John Todd’s “Eco Design Mandala”

The Modern Homestead: operational details like whoa

Great contrarian perspective on home gardens from Alternet:

Suppose that half of the land on every one-acre-or-smaller urban/suburban home lot in the entire nation were devoted to food-growing. That would amount to a little over 5 million acres (pdf) sown to food plants, covering most of the space on each lot that’s not already covered by the house, a deck, a patio, or a driveway. (And in many places it couldn’t be done without cutting down shade trees and planting on unsuitably steep slopes).

That theoretical 5 million acres of potential home cropland compares with about 7 million acres of America’s commercial cropland currently in vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and 350 to 400 million acres of total farmland. The urban and suburban area to be brought into production would not approach the number of healthy acres of native grasses and other plants that are slated to be plowed up to make way for yet more corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains under the newly passed federal Farm Bill.

A nationwide grow-your-own wave would send good vibes through society, ripples that could be greatly amplified by community and apartment-block gardening. But front- and backyard food, even if everyone grew it, would not cover the country’s produce needs, much less displace our huge volume of fresh-food imports.

The PDF being mentioned is available here and this is a goldmine:

Can sustainable agriculture feed the world?

Author discusses his findings here:

From our food production estimate based on the 10 food categories and 160 cases in developed countries, we found that organic production could theoretically generate an amount of food equal to 92% of the current caloric availability (or a yield ratio of 0.92). This ratio is close to that found in a 1990 study by Gerald Stanhill of Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization. However, looking at the 133 examples from the developing world, our team estimated food production equivalent to an overall yield ratio of 1.80—that is, 180% of current production in the developing world on a caloric basis.

From these regional results, researchers at the University of Michigan then constructed two models, a “conservative case” and a “realistic case.” The “conservative case” applied the yield ratios of organic production to conventional production from the developed countries to worldwide agricultural production (production in both the developed and developing countries). As the yield ratios in the ten food categories were generally lower in the developed countries, applying them worldwide means that slightly fewer calories would be produced under a fully organic global system: 2,641 kcal/person/day instead of 2,786 kcal. However, this number is still above the suggested intake for healthy adults of 2200 to 2500 kcal/person/day, so even under this conservative estimate there would be sufficient food production for the current population. However, under more realistic assumptions—that a switch to organic agriculture would mean the relatively lower developed world yield ratios would apply to production in the developed world and the relatively higher developing world yield ratios would apply to production in the developing world—the result was an astounding 4,381 kcal/person/day, a caloric availability more than sufficient for today’s population. Indeed, it would be more than enough to support an estimated population peak of around 10-11 billion people by the year 2100.

Having seen a Tilapia farm up close, I came to the terms with the fact I don’t want to eat Tilapia, like, ever.  Not pleasant creatures.  Salmon are beautiful, Tilapia are gila monsters.

That said, I’m still very interested in aquaculture, mostly because:
1. Tilapia will eat anything, to the point of cleaning the tanks they’re in for food
2. Tilapia convert that food into biomass like nobody’s business, and
3. Fish make great fertilizer.

Although I do have vague moral quibbles about raising aquatic animals in tight spaces in order to use their bodies as compost enhancement, I also see the potential for a simple, effective project that would look awesome and provide hours of stoned entertainment. 


Some City Farmer datafeed about Tilapia Farming:

...and I’m still trying to find that magical master list of THE BEST CROPS for high-speed high yields.  I saw Vinay Gupta refer to this as “emergency permaculture,” but he didn’t find the magical master list yet, either.

The book “Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times” is on google books as a limited preview:

I know I’ve got a lot of random notes floating around two of my journals...I guess it’s time to start gathering them up.

Oh, and here’s Plants For A Future on their “best” picks:

Some excellent John Robb material:

“Victory gardens” are smart way to hedge against short term system failure and as a cost cutting measure.  However, a longer term solution for decentralized agriculture needs to be much, much more productive than traditional gardening.  Subscription plots/farming, low cost sensor networks (water, light, PH, etc.), high intensity plot plans, accelerated local composting systems, lawn garden entrepreneurs, tinkering networks, etc. will be needed to flesh out an innovative ecosystem that will drive the productivity curve.  Given these innovations, its possible to see a situation were 80-90% of food consumption is locally derived and sold at a small fraction of current costs and at a much higher level of quality/freshness.  Resilience needs to be productive/affordable to become dominant.

And a comment from Massachutsetts:

We’ve been building an alternative agricultural infrastructure and economic system since the 1970s in this state. It could very easily by maximized using many of the lessons that New Alchemy Institute pioneered during that time.

Gandhi said the heart of satyagraha was swadeshi, local production. Both the spinning of thread and, more famously, the salt march were economic as well as political acts and example of that local production, swadeshi principle. Gandhi’s economics was based upon the revitalization of village (neighborhood) production and markets and its goal was full employment not larger GDP or more consumption.

I’m doing a directed reading on Gandhian economics and my raw notes are at

Posted: 21 December 2010 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  1567
Joined  2006-09-25


“Ninety percent of the world’s food is derived from just 15 plant and 8 animal species.” 2

“Biodiversity - and especially the maintenance of wild relatives of domesticated species - is essential to sustainable agriculture."1

75% of the genetic diversity of crop plants has been lost in the past century. 1



“Over the past 40 years, approximately 30% of the world’s cropland has become unproductive.”

“During the past 40 years nearly one-third of the world’s cropland (1.5 billion hectares) has been abandoned because of soil erosion and degradation.”

“About 2 million hectares of rainfed and irrigated agricultural lands are lost to production every year due to severe land degradation, among other factors.”

“It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25 millimeters (1 inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agricultural production is 150 millimeters. From this perspective, productive fertile soil is a nonrenewable, endangered ecosystem.”