Twee artikelen over landbouw en peak olie

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Lid geworden op: 10 jan 2012, 17:30

Twee artikelen over landbouw en peak olie

Bericht door OBL-Rien » 01 dec 2012, 09:09

Twee interessante artikelen waarvan ik denk dat ze beide gerelateerd zijn aan de titel van dit draadje, de eerste vrij direct, de tweede meer indirect.

A sizeable faction of the people who think peak oil is important, and happening soon enough to care about, think it has big implications for agriculture. And most of them agree on what those implications are: as a society, we are going to have to give up the big combine harvesters, the thunderous power of 275 horsepower tractors, and instead we will have to return to small-scale, hand-labor organic production. Rather than having 2-5% of the working population involved in agriculture, as in most western societies at present, most people will need to be involved in growing food. This is part of the agenda of the relocalization movement, which itself is a recent reincarnation of a long-standing movement for localism.

This argument has never really made sense to me, but my recent explorations of food prices and biofuels have sharpened up my conviction that the thinking behind this position is mistaken. In this piece, I'm going to first document that some influential peak-oilers do in fact believe this, then try to discuss what I think the reasoning is -- it's not usually made very explicit but it depends on something I'm calling the Fallacy of Reversibility. Finally, I'm going to lay out why I don't think things are going to go the way the proponents of relocalization expect, at least not any time soon.
Here are some examples of irreversible processes. If you let grape juice ferment into wine, there's no way to get grape juice back. If you bake a cake in the oven, there's no way to turn it back into cake dough. If you ice and decorate the cake, but then accidentally drop it on the floor, there's no way to pick it up and have anything approaching the same cake as if you hadn't dropped it.

So when you industrialize a society, is that a reversible process? Can you take it on a backward path to a deindustrialized society that looks in the important ways like the society you had before the industrialization? As far as I can see, the "second wave" peak oil writers treat it as fairly obvious that this is both possible and desirable. It appears to me that it is neither possible or desirable, but at a minimum, someone arguing for it should seriously address the question. And it is this failure that I am calling the Fallacy of Reversibility.
If it's the case that agriculture is going to revert to a manual low-energy process in the face of peak oil, then that should show up in the profitability data. Here are some natural predictions we might make:
Industrial farming is less profitable at high oil prices than at low oil prices.
Now that we are at, or close to, peak oil, industrial agriculture is beginning to show signs of strain, indicating it may break down in the future, allowing alternative approaches to take over.
Industrial farmers use more labor in the face of high oil prices.
Farms are starting to get smaller now that peak oil is nigh.
In developing countries, where the farmers never unlocalized in the first place, the dynamics are changing to favor small subsistence farmers over larger mechanized operations.
As we shall see, the evidence doesn't provide any support for any of these propositions, and in fact it tends to provide at least some evidence for the opposite view: the industrial agricultural system appears to be strengthened by peak oil, and is likely to get stronger still in the near future. Rather than industrial farms losing money, land prices dropping, and desperate farmers loooking to throw in the towel and sell out to the hordes of neo-peasant reversalists, we find farm incomes rising, average farm sizes increasing, and no sign of greater use of labor in the production of the core arable crops in the US. ... gness.html

To sum up, the modern economy is primarily composed of things and services available for money, ratcheting to allow fewer and fewer non-monetary costs. When things are available for money, anyone can acquire them; this dilutes the information about the self that can be contained in the ownership. Similarly, a major trend in the labor market is toward fungible skills that anyone can supply, reducing opportunities for virtuosity and positive information about the self through work. Everything is increasingly available for money, except, I will argue, a major thing we all want to buy that gives us the feeling of meaning: our own value and specialness.
In the environments in which humans adapted, everyone would have spent a hundred thousand hours doing something demanding that added value to the self in the eyes of the tribe. Everyone would have realized the pleasure of virtuosity. ... How many options for virtuosity in work are actually available in the modern economy? And, more ominously, how many will be available in the future, given present trends? Given that this kind of demanded virtuosity is actively pleasurable, it seems likely that these skills will increasingly turn into costly hobbies, rather than the kind of work one can expect to be paid to do.
there has been a trend since the industrial revolution toward less investment in the specialized skills of workers - fewer butchers and artisans per capita, more factory workers and, later, Starbucks baristas. The trend has been for workers to become as fungible and empty of non-monetary investment as the goods they often sell.

The fungibility of work, the reduction of demand for long-developed special skills, the impossibility of virtuosity in one's limited job, has made work less and less a source of reliable, positive information about the increasing value of the self - because it has ceased to truly improve people.
Humans evolved to form pair bonds - a kind of ultimate non-fungibility. Mating for life is hard; co-evolved biological and cultural adaptations help make it possible to maintain this kind of demanding, rewarding relationship. The aspiration toward a lifetime pair bond is still present; it is not, however, matched by social institutions that might enable it. Marriage has become an aspirational good.

Perhaps even friendship and neighborliness have been rendered essentially fungible by increased mobility. To the extent that they have, they have probably also become less rewarding.
Laatst gewijzigd door Pietje op 03 dec 2012, 00:07, 1 keer totaal gewijzigd.
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Re: Twee artikelen over landbouw en peak olie

Bericht door Pietje » 03 dec 2012, 00:13

Leuke artikelen, zeker!

Ik heb de post even afgesplitst van de oorspronkelijke draad, omdat deze invalshoek meer dan de moeite waard is nader te onderzoeken en niet helemaal bij het onderwerp hoort...

Met het duurder worden van olie, zal enerzijds de agrarische industrie het lastig krijgen (minder rendabel). Nu moet er gegeven worden, dus zullen de boeren hun prijzen verhogen, wat door de markt geaccepteerd gaat worden. Want er moet nu eenmaal gegeten worden. Dit gaat dus voornamelijk af van de koopkracht. De condumptie-economie gaat krimpen, waardoor er vele mensen meteen in problemen komen: vaste lasten (met name leningen) blijven constant of worden duurder (olie afhankelijke produkten), terwijl de inkomsten gelijkblijven of dalen (ontslag, minder omzet).

En zo als iedereen een andere voorspelling geven van wat er ons te wachten staat... ;-)
-- We hebben de aarde niet geërfd van onze voorgangers, maar te leen van onze nakomelingen --

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