More than 90 percent of all the food grown in the U.S. is reliant on synthetic fertilizer made from petrochemicals. Without it there would be no food for most of us.
The soils of America’s industrial agriculture system are dead, compacted and depleted due to decades of abuse, so without petrochemical fertilizer, there’s just not enough nutrients for the crops to grow, and without plowing there is nothing to aerate the soil.
Even organic farms are dependent on oil to produce, process and ship their crops.
The fact is, we use ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every single (that’s right, just one!) calorie of food we produce. This way of life is fundamentally unsustainable and simply cannot continue.
Given that the days of cheap, easy oil are over, and we’re well past 350 ppm in atmospheric carbon, we simply cannot depend on fossil fuels to supply our food in the coming decades.
So, how can we live without them?
The answers are in nature. As Charles Darwin pointed out, earthworms have been plowing and aerating the soil for millions of years. And as for fertilizers, just look at how a forest flourishes by using the natural fertility created by billions of living microbes, fungi, plants and animals.
What is Permaculture?
Non-destructive, low-energy methods that mimic nature are elements of a wider system known as Permaculture, which challenges all the normal approaches to farming. Permaculture means “permanent agriculture,” and one of its central principles is that you work with the land, rather than against it.
According to PermaculturePlanet.com:
“Permaculture is an interdisciplinary earth science which encompasses many kinds of appropriate technologies and sustainable design methodologies, such as; renewable energy, water conservation, organic food production, ecological building techniques, micro-economics and more.
In a world of rapid ecological change & seemingly insurmountable social & environmental problems, Permaculture offers practical solutions using design principles drawn from the observation of natural systems. From individual homes to entire bio-regions, Permaculture has the potential to repair damaged landscapes, build capacity in communities and replace apathy with self empowerment.”
Permaculture techniques have brought forth food and fertility from barren deserts in Jordan, Israel, and India, and saved villages in Africa and Cambodia from starvation and dependence on foreign food aid.
I use Permaculture methods in my own garden to produce lots of food without machinery, outside inputs, or even a lot of work.
Permaculture practices are something everyone can learn.
The technology we need to thrive in a future without petroleum is not waiting to be discovered in some laboratory somewhere, it is right here working in communities around the world.
For a glimpse of the beautiful, sustainable farms for the future, watch the video above.
Learn More about Permaculture
- You Can Fix All the World’s Problems in a Garden
- How Much Land Do You Need to Be Self-Sufficient?
- Can Organic Farming Feed the World?
- 13 Ways to Create a Sustainable Food System
Books About Permaculture
- Gaia’s Garden – A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
- Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening
- Introduction to Permaculture