Food Security in the West

“It might seem alarmist, even tasteless, to mention food security in the West when we appear to be enjoying the greatest era of abundance in history. Food security is something we tend to associate with the developing world, and considering how many people worldwide face starvation every day, worrying about our own food supply seems almost obscene… On the face of it, the modern food industry seems to have solved the problem of food supply. Far from waiting anxiously at the quayside to see whether our ship will come in, there is now so much food swilling about in Western cities that most of us are more likely to die of obesity than hunger.”

“What could possibly go wrong? The short answer is: just about everything… Supermarkets supply us with 80 per cent of our food in Britain… Contrary to appearances, we live as much on a knife-edge now as did the inhabitants of ancient Rome or Ancien Régime Paris. Cities in the past did their best to keep stocks of grain in reserve in case of sudden attack; yet the efficiencies of modern food distribution mean that we keep very little in reserve. Much of the food you and I will be eating next week hasn’t even arrived in the country yet. Our food is delivered ‘just in time’ from all over the world: hardly the sort of system to withstand a sudden crisis.”

Quoted from: Hungry City: How Food Shapes our Lives. Carolyn Steel, 2013. Image: Packaged food aisles in an Oregonian hypermarket. Lyzadanger/Dilliff (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Making a Cooling Chamber for Tomatoes

When you pick your tomatoes, if you want to keep them longer, you have to find a way of reducing the temperature. As availability of electricity at village level can be a problem, ways have to be found to lower the temperature of this fragile crop. Some farmers at Dambatta in Kano State, Nigeria have used local mud bricks to make a very effective cooling chamber. Watch the video at AccessAgriculture. Via Practical Action.

Off-Grid, Solar-Powered, Zero-Battery Refrigerator

Joey Hess has designed, built and tested an off-grid, solar powered fridge, with no battery bank. Using an inexpensive chest freezer with a few modifications, the fridge retains cold overnight and through rainy periods. The set-up consists of a standard chest freezer, an added thermal mass, an inverter, and computer control. He writes: [Read more…]

Amish Hand-Demolish Building in Tennessee

Who to call when you need your building “hand-demolished”? To the general public, “Amish” often equates to handcrafted – meaning hand-milked cows, handmade quilts, hand-built furniture, and the like (whether that perception is always accurate is another question).

And in that spirit, one Tennessee city found that an Amish hands-on approach was exactly what they needed to remove a historic structure. The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports that an Amish crew of workers has been deconstructing the city’s 140-year-old Hodgson/Dabbs building, brick-by-brick.

Read more: Amish Hand-Demolish Building in Tennessee, Amish America, June 27, 2019. Image by Henry Taylor for the Leaf Chronicle.

“Daylight Drive” DC Solar Power at the Living Energy Farm

Reader Goran Christiansson sends us a link to Living Energy Farm, a research and community project in Virginia, USA. Most notable is their use of “Daylight Drive” DC solar power without batteries for workshop tools — reminiscent of the ideas outlined in How to run the economy on the weather. Also of note is their choice for less efficient but more durable Nickel Iron batteries for lighting. [Read more…]

“Diseconomies of Scale”: High-tech Versus Low-tech Supply of Eggs

Summarized from [paywall]: Trainer, T., A. Malik, and M. Lenzen. “A Comparison Between the Monetary, Resource and Energy Costs of the Conventional Industrial Supply Path and the “Simpler Way” Path for the Supply of Eggs.” Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality 4.3 (2019): 9.

Traditional housing for chickens in Zembe, Mozambique. By Ton Rulkens – Traditional housing 2, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Global sustainability requires large-scale reductions in rich world per capita resource use rates. Globalised, industrialised and commercialised supply paths involve high resource, energy, dollar and other costs. However, “The Simpler Way” involving small-scale integrated localised settlements and economies can enable enormous reductions in these costs. This study uses input–output analysis of one product, eggs, to illustrate how big the difference between the two paths can be. [Read more…]