rkm replies to P Isaac, re “useful action for difficult times”


Richard Moore

Dear Paul,

You quoted:

    Scientific American, July 1997, Global Population and the
    Nitrogen Cycle.

    "Currently at least two billion people are alive because the
    proteins in their bodies are built with nitrogen that came - via
    plant and animal foods - from a factory using his process".

    The process involved is the Haber process for the creation of
    ammonia that is used to supply the nitrogen that is used as
    fertilizer that allows plant biomass in excess of the natural limits
    of nitrogen availability to be grown.

    Bluntly, two billion people will starve if the fossil fuel driven
    industrial fixation of nitrogen stops. Global food requirements
    have gone far beyond the production capabilities of any
    conceivable form of organic agriculture.

If humanity indeed needs energy-intensive agriculture, and if energy
resources are disappearing, then the conclusion would be inescapable that
mass starvation must occur, even if some lucky few were able to achieve
self-sufficiency, and were able to avoid being raided by those less lucky
(or by confiscating governments).  This is ineed a discomforting

But what assumptions was the Scientific American article based on?  Does it
assume that prime land in the Third World continue to be pre-empted by
agribusiness operators to grow coffee and beef for export?  Does it assume
that agricultural policy decisions continue to be made on the basis of
maximum profit, in preference to feeding people?

The statement...
        "Global food requirements have gone far beyond the
         production capabilities of any conceivable form of
         organic agriculture"

...is presented as a _scientific conclusion, implying that "all conceivable
forms" of organic agriculture policy have been surveyed.  I suspect they
limit themselves to the current regime of economic decision making, as
defined by large agribusiness operators.  I'd like to see the figures based
on a broader range of scenarios, including changes in land-use policies.


No matter where we look, at food supplies, at pollution levels, or at
increasing poverty, the current system just can't go on as it is.  For self
preservation, people can be expected to seek out some kind of survival
niche for themselves and their friends or neighbors, to find some kind of
lifeboat on the sinking Titanic.

But let's face it, the Titanic isn't sinking because of diminishing oil
supplies, its sinking because of a political system, a system that is based
on promoting the maximum exploitation-for-profit of the Earth's resources.

Such a system _must run into the limits eventually, just as a balloon must
finally burst if you inflate it long enough.  There's no mystery there, no
rocket science.

Is our only strategy as citizens to plan for the bubble burst, the lost
Titanic?  And to hope for the rise of sensible societies out of the chaos,
while bemoan the fate of the millions who had no lifeboats?

Such a strategy, I suggest, is not a very promising one, even if you think
you'd be `one of the few'.  The contingency plans in the US, for example,
as demonstrated by a whole series of executive orders, are to impose
marital law and to take control of food supplies in the event of any kind
of major collapse.  National governments can be expected to give priority
to security, that is their own survival, and to assign themselves whatever
emergency powers they deem necessary.  Certainly, for example, you won't be
hearing dissenting opinions on the airwaves.

In such a scenario, accompanied by general disruption and food scarcity, I
suggest that the prospects of building an enlightened and sustainable
society would seem even more utopian than in our current circumstances.

In other words, _now is the time to try to change the system, our options
only get worse from here on out.



                  Create a sane and livable world
                  in vibrant democratic societies.
             Bring global corporate power under control.
        To keep join the discussion on bringing about a
        movement for a democratic renaissance, send any message to:
        To subscribe to the the cj list, which is a larger list
        and a more general political discussion, send any message to:
        To review renaissance-network archives, send any message to: