View Full Version : Abolitionism, Peak Oil and Climate Change

Jan 29th, 2010, 08:06 PM
(please could this be moved to politics?)

So here's something that I have been thinking about a lot recently and I was wondering what people think about these ideas.

Without the intention of patronising, I'm going to give a brief explanation to people about what 'peak oil' means, as not everybody is aware of the concept.

Peak oil is when the maximum amount of oil has been extracted from the earth, after which the rate of production will decline. Think of a graph which looks like a mountain, or an upwards curve. Peak oil is the top tip of this curve. The production rate of an oil field will grow and grow, then there will be a decline, sometimes quite rapidly.

Activists like Vandana Shiva (whose book I am using for information) are aware of the link between the price of petroleum and the price of food. Peak oil will inevitably be linked to the rise in food prices. This is actually pretty f-ing scary when you think about it on a global scale.

There's a movement called Transition Towns. In a meeting they made us aware of our dependency on oil. If access to oil in the UK was cut off suddenly, we would have four days until shop shelves were empty in London and we should have to find ways to fend for ourselves. We are not only dependent on oil for our transport, but also for food production and then shipping of food...

I don't really want to go down the route so far with regards to issues such as human transportation. I think we're all aware how scary this prospect is... But to focus on food production.

Cue Havana (and other cities, but this is the one I know most of and possibly the highest profile case or urban agriculture). Around 90% of Havana's food is produced within the city.

Between 1960 and 1990 the number of tractors increased in Cuba from 7,000 to 70,000. Tractors need fuel of course, so due to sanctions and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was a bit screwed over in that respect. The country had to revolutionise its food systems because of food security due to shortages in fertiliser, fuel and vehicle parts. Cuba introduced huge breeding programs for oxen to pull ploughs and carts and there was a return to more 'traditional' jobs like blacksmiths and artisans.

Today (or a couple of years ago when the book was written) Cuba has around 385,000 oxen and Havana's own urban organic agriculture is thriving. Given the shift in political leadership, who knows what will happen?

Before I start on a brief note on climate change, I was to make it certain that I am talking about plant based agriculture and understand that the meat and dairy industry is thought to be responsible for around 18% of global emissions affecting climate change. So in essence, the use of non human animals to replace machinery in agriculture, where humans do not possess the physical strength.

And I am sorry I have already written so much!

It is widely thought amongst conservationists, climate change scientists and campaigners that a rise above 2 degrees celsius would be devastating. Amongst rising sea levels, the invasion of species in to other habitats and the effects on biodiversity, including extinction of many species, action really needs to be taken.

I'm don't really wish to go in to depth about the economics, but we need an alternative to oil based transport. Many countries already depend on animals for transport and taking in to account the environmental cost of the oil industry, the transport industry and machinery, it could be argued that it many cases, it is ecologically more sustainable to use where possible, cows, to help plough fields, or run transport.

I was wondering what people thought of this idea... If it is ok to use animals where humans can't be used, on a widespread scale, instead of machinery which may destroy the environment even more?

Would you condone animal breeding programs, provided the animals were not used for meat, if the over all impact on the climate was less?

Given the amount of animals (and human animals) who may die as a reult of climate change?

Or if people have any other ideas linked to agriculture, to still produce food.