Peak Phosphorous: Worse than Peak Oil?

Whether in a farm pond like this, or the Gulf of Mexico, algae blooms stimulated by wasted fertilizer are deadly to marine life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we're running out of fertilizer.

Here’s the bottom line, obvious to all but the most arithmetically challenged: when you base an entire civilization on the rapid consumption of a limited resource, you guarantee the collapse of that civilization on the day the resource is exhausted. But the ride to that final day is not a smooth one; you also guarantee that chaos will ensue from the time that there is not enough left of the depleted resource to meet all demands. Running completely out of water is a shared disaster, but when there’s enough water for some but not all, choosing the “some” gets ugly, real fast. It has gradually dawned on a growing number of people that this is the bottom line for oil, but it is not yet widely accepted that the same bottom line, with the same potential for destruction, exists for a number of other substances, especially phosphorous. Continue reading

Forecast: Hard Rain Gonna Fall

Food rioters face police in Algeria. This is a weather-related event.

“What are you so worried about?” goes the old comedy routine. “My future.” “What makes you so worried about your future?” “My past.” On this basis alone — what has happened in our world in the past few months — we should be very worried about our future. It does not matter if you are one of the 37 people remaining on the planet who do not “believe” in climate change, evolution or gravity (if you are in that select group, by the way, congratulations on your new Congressional committee chairmanship). If artillery shells are exploding in rapid succession, ever closer, you might want to take cover; we can discuss later whether you believe in high explosives. Continue reading

Lousy Fish, Dead Lobsters

One of the world's most noxious enterprises: raising fish in cages. (Photo by Ian Walsh/Flickr)

Give a man a fish and he will have food for a day; teach a man industrial fish production and you can bring famine to his whole world. The latest illustration of that (relatively new) proverb comes from Maine, where raising salmon is threatening everything else.

Industrial salmon production, like all other industrial processes, achieves economy of scale and immediate profit by concentrating and delaying risk. Continue reading

Food Crisis in Germany: a POP is the Weasel

Chicken feed? Diesel fuel? At Harles und Jentzsch we make them in the same tank. Have a little dioxin with your bacon and eggs?

Another major food scare in another part of the world demonstrates anew the boundless greed and clueless lethality of industrial agriculture. Nearly 5,000 farms in Germany were ordered closed late last week because animal feeds for pigs and chickens had been contaminated with dioxin, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical. As always in such cases, the moment the crisis erupted it became apparent that 1) it had been going on for a very long time, perhaps since last March; and 2) that criminal activity may well have been involved. Yet two vital considerations are absent from the media coverage thus far. Continue reading

Chinese Self-Destruction II

Typical Chinese farm

Small, diverse, productive, successful: these are the farms China is replacing, and the results are not good.

While the world watches with a mixture of envy and awe, China rises. Its political, economic and military power grows at dizzying speed, its leaders seem unfettered by any restraints. Yet it is the very restraints that bedevil other countries’ leaders — political opposition, free investigative journalism, special-interest activism, and public, protracted, messy debate — that slow industry’s rush to self-destruction. China started its industrialization well after the West, and may well crash and burn long before the West because the only lesson it has taken from our experience is how to commit suicide faster.

As we have reported here before, China is running chronically short of coal, oil, and electricity. And soon, according to a United Nations investigator, it will be running short of food. Continue reading

Peak Fish: We’re Running Out of Them, Too

Fish

Industry reports of steadily increasing fish catches over 40 years, it turns out, left something out.(Photo by ezioman/Flickr)

A new study of industrial fishing practices has found that the world’s fish catch peaked 20 years ago and has been declining since. Worse, it finds that the steady increases in the catch prior to the 1980s were achieved not because there were lots of fish, but because the industry constantly moved to new fisheries, leaving behind depleted ones. Now, they have run out of places to go. Continue reading

Food Fights Coming Soon

National Guard riot training

US National Guard troops train for riot control duty. Several new reports on the world's food supply indicate their services will be needed. (US Army Photo)

Crop failures and food-price shocks, often leading to food riots, are eroding world food security — which is to say they are threatening the existence of a growing number of countries — according to a number of new reports. Climate change is implicated in the most catastrophic of the crop failures this year, but scientists blame industrial agriculture for some of the gravest threats to our food supply that lie just ahead. Continue reading

Heading for the Last Roundup

Dumping chemicals on genetically mutilated plants, once the leading edge of industrial agriculture, may soon be its last ditch..

Of all the destructive scams perpetrated by industrial agriculture. none has been more profitable, or more destructive, than the massive Roundup round-robin perpetrated by Monsanto for 40 years. Now the scam appears to be falling apart. This is a story with the global reach of the housing bubble, all the inventive greed of the sub-prime mortgage stampede, and the tender mercies toward fellow humans of a Bernie Madoff, that now appears to be heading toward a Wall-Street-style meltdown. Continue reading

Threats to the World’s Food Supply Proliferate


The future for those who rely on industrial agriculture is not pretty.

The relentless assault on the food supplies of the world by industrial agriculture and its consequences continues unabated, and largely ignored. Recent developments involving principal staple crops include:

Bananas. Banana wilt disease continues to decimate the staple crop of East Africa, ravaging the plant relied upon by large populations in Uganda, Rwanda, western Kenya and Bukoba in north-western Tanzania. The disease, which is on a rampage because of the global industry’s insistence on using a single strain of banana (the Cavendish), is adding its threat to food security in a region where severe drought has reduced the production of maize, beans and milk. Continue reading

Genetic Defects Increasingly Apparent

I have taken a certain amount of flack for presuming to argue, in Brace for Impact, that genetic engineering has not been a success, that it indeed cannot be a success, and presents terrifying dangers to the web of life and to human well- being. So it is gratifying to have the New York Times confirm many of my arguments.

In the book I argued that the mis-named practice of genetic “engineering” has nothing to do with precise manipulation of genes, but is in fact a crap shoot in which scientists create new viruses and loose them on cells to see what happens. Once in a while, in the manner of a roomful of monkeys at keyboards, something meaningful results, such as a tomato with a fish gene that allows it to tolerate cold. For this we risk the escape into the world of a mutant organism of unknown capabilities.

Millions of dollars in advertising, bought by corporations that enjoy billions in revenues and research grants because of their genetic ambitions and pretenses, convince us that someone, somewhere, sometime soon, is or will be enjoying the fruits of this ultra-modern technology. Yet there is no objective evidence that this is so. Continue reading