Chemical Dependent Agriculture
Extensive, Monocrop Agriculture = ecological disaster!
Our agriculture practices are a disaster to the natural ecology. You can easily verify this information - before our arrival the grasslands of North America had accumulated from 40 to 100 foot depth of topsoil. The natural prairie grassland grew so high that a man would be lost in it and supported an abundance of wildlife as we have seen (in our youth) on the plains of Africa. My grandfather described to me the Peace River country of northern Alberta when he saw it before the arrival of the lumberjacks, sodbusters and ranchers.
In pre-civilization even grasslands were of relatively small extent and the majority of the world was covered by ancient climax forests (that includes the entire Pacific Coast of North America). Most of the large desert areas of the world have been previously forested. Aforestation is the first step on the road to recovery of these lands. Natural deserts are small in scope and exist in valleys and mountain plateaus that are located in the rain shadow of mountain ranges. Modern deserts have been created -and are still expanding - by an accelerating vortex of cause and effect initiated by human settlement and agricultural practices. Here is a great website maintained by the University of Arizona that covers this subject very well: http://ag.arizona.edu/OALS/desertification-info.html
We cannot count on nature any more. We surpassed her limits a few billion persons ago. I believe we are past the point of "no-return" and now we must be fully committed to finding a knowledge-based process by which we can multiply the fishes and loaves. Such a deeper understanding of how we can "do better than nature can do" cannot emerge when we live in a state of denial in regard to our errors. This is a barrier to progress and metal/spiritual growth. We have to acknowledge the effects produced by our actions so that we can devise corrective action and develop an ALTERNATIVE approach.
I wish that more people would be aware of how fragile the web of life is on this planet. It should begin to sink in that we are way past the point of no return. We will now sink or swim. Our very survival in the die-off scenario of "overshoot and collapse" is threatened. Ecological collapse is on the horizon and population collapse would follow. What we want is the alternative future where world population stabilizes and we build a sustainable and successful future for all – one that will not result in a horrendous "die-off" of the poorest of humanity.
Food and Energy from Agriculture
Food and feed crops are already exhausting the land and converting much of it into desert worldwide. For the sake of the economics we no longer use crop rotations. Year after year chemical fertilizers are used to supply the nitrogen that the higher plants cannot make for themselves. Organic mater in the soil is "burned out" and the soil structure is destroyed.
The "natural" limits to growth were exceeded a long time ago when western countries first began to mine and ship quantities of fertilizers from vast deposits of bat dung that were found in the Americas. These resources replaced the normal 4 year crop rotation that is called for by sustainable agriculture. Together with the non-sustainable exploitation of the "new world's" soils we scraped through the first world population explosion that preceded the First World War. Thereafter, we were saved once more by the new Chemical Industry who was able to bring into production massive conversion of petroleum resources into ammonia based fertilizers. This carried us through to the 60's when crop science brought us new varieties of our staple food and feed crops that are especially responsive to fertilizer use. We then converted the world agricultural production to these types of plant varieties (seed crops are grown by the seed industry) and got the rest of the world hooked on petrochemical fertilizer use. Now the soils around the world are burned out and contain little organic mater - resulting in terrible erosion. The agriculture sector receives 300 Billion in direct subsidies worldwide as well as huge indirect energy subsidies to support these non-sustainable practices.
Agriculture is now a petrochemical industry
One can see from the data below that biomass is already the largest renewable solar derived energy source in the USA. All of these potential Biomass Crops compete for land. Some of them are not net energy producers. None of them have the conversion efficiency attained by advanced Mass Algae Culture. None of the existing sources can co-exist with urban expansion (which is unavoidable due to population growth). Only roof level Phytotechnology has the potential to harness the photosynthesis process without land-use limitation. The Sola Roof is a very high producer of net energy/food/water and will result in energy conservation and distributed production and use of these resources. In support of these statements please read below:
In reference to the ability of the natural or cultured forest or agricultural crops to provide net energy you can refer to:
http://www.dieoff.com/page84.htm Titled:"Renewable Energy: Economic and Environmental Issues", by David Pimentel, G. Rodrigues, T. Wane, R. Abrams, K. Goldberg, H. Staecker, E. Ma, L. Brueckner, L. Trovato, C. Chow, U. Govindarajulu, and S. Boerke. (Originally published in Bio Science? -- Vol. 44, No. 8, September 1994)