Famine

My question concerns your thesis regarding food production and population growth. If you are right, and I rather think you are, then a human community should not grow beyond its ability to subsist on locally produced food sources.

My question is this: how do we define local? I would like to define local ecologically in terms of “bioregions.”

For example, my bioregion, northern Canada, produces no bananas, oranges, grapes, etc. But it does produce very good raspberries. So my fruit diet should consist of raspberries. And if I recover a bit of old wisdom I could learn how to preserve a variety of rasberry products for use over the winter. This makes perfect sense to me, although in an era of global trade it does limit my food choices. Still, ecologically this makes sense to me.

So the second question is this: Do you think the ideas of global trade and competitive advantage (not to mention cheap oil) have led us to an artificial understanding of things like food production? Is this one more source of our disconnectedness with natural processes?

If I am understanding you correctly then the modern “supermarket” is a disturbing place, but the local “farmers market” is to be supported and encouraged. I would be interested in your response.

I have been reading the book My Ishmael and was wondering if/when we save the world, after a while people might forget about this culture and start locking up their food again, starting a whole new “Mother Culture.” This whole saving the world will be essentially pointless if some one messes it up again. Would we have anything to keep us from doing that again?

The basic idea is that when our human population grows large enough, we will run out of resources, most important of which is food. Have you considered though, that as our population grows, humans themselves will become a food source to other humans?

Of course, our population may be growing too fast for our beliefs about the “sanctity of human life” to change enough to tolerate cannibalism. But what do you think about the possibility? Might we simply become a cannibalistic society and continue on our normal course?

Are the food race and totalitarian agriculture the same thing? Even if we stop increasing food production to respond to population growth, I still think that people will insist on keeping the food locked up and making people work for it.

Whenever I suggest the idea that food should be as free as oxygen or sunlight, people look at me funny. What do you think is an approach for changing minds to end the “locking up” of food, rather than the food race?

In your books you say that a simple way to determine the difference between Takers and Leavers is to examine how they get their food. This makes perfect sense to me.

Do you think burial practices could also be an indication of a people being Taker or Leaver? It just seems to me that Taker culture is the only culture that is so preoccupied with preservation that it fills up bodies with toxic fluids and locks them away from nature in airtight boxes so they can’t become food for other forms of life.

A central and repeatedly stated assertion of the two Quinn books I read is that at some time humans lived in a stable equilibrium. That is not a worldview, that is an assertion of fact. A particular fact that is problematic in proving, yet Quinn claims to know it is true. He actually waters it down at one point and says that human population did grow steadily before some arbitrary level of agricultural innovation, but that it was slower than in recent times. My question is: Why should I believe that modern humans ever existed in a stable equilibrium? I believe that the growth rate has not been constant, yet how could I know that the early history of humans is fundamentally different from exponential growth in which growth is relatively slow for a long time early on?

Even if we live tribally (in the sense you use the word in Beyond Civilization), aren’t we still going to crash just as fast as if we work for a hierarchical corporation? We’re still dependent on agriculture. What is to stop the new tribalism from damaging the planet just as much as civilization, provided that we’re still dependent on growing all of our own food?