By Peter Goodchild on 01 January 2010 in Culture Change -
Image above: Illustration, by Bryan Christie, for CNN article on Detroit urban farming.
[IB Editor's note: This article is a response to the Fortune magazine/CNN.com report on Detroit's urban farming trend "Can farming save Detroit?". The author has provided some basics on crops and human needs.]
The amount of land needed for farming with manual labor would depend on several factors: the type of soil, the climate, and the kinds of crops to be grown. The highest-yielding varieties are not necessarily the most disease-resistant, or the most suitable for the climate or the soil, or the easiest to store. The weather also makes a big difference: too little rain can damage a crop, and too much rain can do the same. Unusually cold weather can damage some crops, and unusually hot weather can damage others. Without irrigation -- relying solely on rain -- the yield is less than if the crops were watered.
But here are some rough figures. Let us use the production of corn (maize) as the basis for our calculations, and for now let us pretend that someone is going to live entirely on maize. “Corn” or “maize” here does not mean the vegetable that is normally eaten as “corn on the cob,” but the types that are mainly used to produce cornmeal; these are sometimes referred to as “grain corn” or “field corn.” Corn is very high-yielding and can be grown easily with hand tools, but it is only practical in areas with long periods of warmth and sunshine; even in most parts of North America it is not easy to grow north of about latitude 45.
A hard-working adult (e.g., a farmer) burns about 5,000 kilocalories (“calories”) per day, or 2 million kilocalories per year. With non-mechanized agriculture, the yield of corn is about 2,000 kg/ha. The resulting food energy is about 7 million kcal/ha. Under such conditions, then, 0.5 ha of corn would support approximately 2 people. (The data can be found in David Pimentel’s many writings on this subject.) Potatoes require about 50 percent less land than “grain-corn,” but they are troublesome in terms of insects and diseases. Wheat, on the other hand, requires approximately 50 percent more land than maize to produce the same amount of kilocalories. Beans require about 100 percent more land than corn.
“Root crops” such as turnips, carrots, or beets have yields at least 10 times greater than corn, but they also have a much higher water content; their actual yield in kilocalories is slightly less than that of corn. To determine whether a country can feed itself with manual labor, we need to look at the ratio of population to arable land. With manual labor, as noted, 0.5 ha of corn-producing land can support only 2 people. Any country with a larger ratio than that would be undergoing famine. The problem might be relieved to some extent by international aid, but without fossil fuels for transportation such international aid would be negligible.
And this ratio is for corn, a high-yield crop; we are also assuming that crops will not be wasted by feeding them to livestock in large amounts. In the early twenty-first century, according to the CIA World Factbook, the world as a whole has a population-to-arable ratio of 438 people per km2 (square kilometers). Conversely, less than half of the world’s 200-odd countries actually pass that test, and many of those are countries that have relatively low population density only because they have been ravaged by war or other forms of political turmoil.
The Arabian Peninsula, most of eastern Asia, and most of the Pacific islands are far too crowded. Even the UK scores badly at 1,069:1. There might be serious conflicts between the haves and the have-nots, and isolationism might be a common response.
Can Farming Save Detroit? 12/29/09 CNN Money -
SUBHEAD: Just four decades ago Yap Island was much like Hawaii in the 18th century.
By Damon Tucker on 13 December 2009 in Damon Tucker Blog -
Image above: A typical Yap house in 1966 is part of Damon Tucker's photo journal.
[Editor's Note: Yap Island is about 15 miles long, 800 miles north of Papua New Guinea and 800 miles east of the Philppines. Please visit links for a delightful, educational, photo essay.]
In 1961, my mother, Su Rowe Tucker, moved to Pahala, on the Big Island where her father and mother (My Grandparents) Dr. P.E. (Ted) Rowe and Elizabeth (Betty) Rowe were the Physician/Surgeon for the private Pahala Hospital run by C. Brewer Corp.
In 1965, Dr. Rowe (my grandfather) was hired for two years by the US Federal Government to run the Yap Hospital from 1965 to 1967. In 1966, my mom and my two uncles, Bob and Mike Rowe, went to visit them in Yap. The posts evoke mixed feelings showing an indigenous culture and a Michener-like juxtaposition with the fish-out-of-water westerners. It’s a simple lifestyle that a short 40-plus years ago was apparently reminiscent of Hawai`i in the late 18th and early 19th century and it’s hard not to feel both wistful and angry that neither exists anymore today.
To see more:
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Who
Part III: Moms Tale of Arrival
Part IV: A Yapese Party
Part V: The Homes and Structures of Yap
Part VI: Quotes from the Diary (Part A)
Part VII: Quotest from the Diary (Part B)
Island Breath: Hawaii before the crowds 10/12/07
Image above: Illustration of a last-chance-for-gas station in the American west. From http://eiuenergy.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/summertime-blues
[IB Editor's Note -- It is the editor's belief that oil market prices have been manipulated in 2009 (here's how), a continuation of what happened in mid-2008, as falling demand would have otherwise seen oil prices remain low or fall. It is believed that manipulation up to the $70 to $80 per barrel level is a key level that is sought for both new investment into alternative energy development and for fiscal balance in a number of OPEC nations.]
In a media statement issued after the end of the conference, OPEC member States said that although the asset market prices have rebounded and economic growth has resumed in some parts of the world, it is not yet clear how strong or durable the recovery might be. "With the world still faced by shrinking industrial production, low private consumption and high unemployment, the conference once again decided to maintain current oil production levels unchanged for the time being," the media release said, Nampa quoted as saying.
The OPEC members States, in taking this decision, said that this is proof of their repeated commitment to the individually agreed production allocations, as well as their readiness to rapidly respond to any developments which might place oil market stability and their interests in jeopardy. The Secretariat is to continue closely monitoring the market, keeping member countries abreast of developments as they occur.
The situation will be reviewed at the next Ordinary Meeting of the Conference. In taking the above decision, Heads of Delegation reiterated OPEC's statutory commitment to providing an economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations, whilst stabilizing the market and realizing the organization's objective of maintaining crude oil prices at fair and equitable levels, for the future well-being of the market and the benefit of both producers and consumers. The conference called on the non-OPEC producers and exporters to work closely with it to support oil markets stabilization in the interests of oil market stability.
Environmental concerns were also discussed at the conference, while the oil market outlook for 2010 was also reviewed. OPEC's mission is to co-ordinate and unify the petroleum policies of member countries, and ensure the stabilsation of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital to those investing in the petroleum industry. OPEC is a group of 12 states made up of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Venezuela and Ecuador.
Peak Oil Demand
By Julian Murdoch on 9 December 2009 in Seeking Alpha -
Between recent consumption data and the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2009 report released last month, it's time for some serious questions when it comes to oil demand. Perhaps the biggest is this: Will oil fields be ready to meet existing and future demand, or will low investment in capital projects now cause bigger problems later down the line?
The big news on Monday was that U.S. oil demand keeps falling, according to the EIA, who said that U.S. oil demand in September was 2.74 percent lower than previously thought. September consumption came in at 18.362 million barrels per day—not a good sign for oil bulls who have been looking for any sign of strengthening U.S. oil demand to support higher prices.
Furthermore, yesterday's This Week In Petroleum report (covered extensively by Brad Zigler ) showed that once again, crude oil inventories rose. We now have over 24 days' worth of supply—a full 2 and a half days more than we had this time a year ago.
These numbers jive with the latest World Energy Outlook 2009 report (WEO '09), in which the IEA forecasts 2009's global energy use to actually fall for the first time since 1981. I can't say that forecast surprised anyone: From the oil company bigwigs to the minivan-driving soccer moms, many have predicted a drop in energy consumption due to the economic crisis. In fact, a recent survey by accounting and consulting firm BDO showed that oil executives aren't expecting energy demand to rebound until at least 2011.
What was surprising, however, was the WEO '09 long-term perspective on oil demand.
The Incredible Shrinking OECD Oil Demand
Between now and 2030, says the IEA, global oil demand will grow just 1 percent per year, with demand reaching 105 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2030, or a 24 percent increase from 2008's demand of 85 mb/d. The IEA has been singing this tune for awhile; as The Oil Drum noted, the IEA has consistently dropped its 2030 demand numbers ever since its 2004 forecast of 121 mb/d. That 16 mb/d difference is a rather huge change of heart over the global financial crisis.
But what's most interesting is the specificity underpinning the demand numbers. Although demand is still forecast to increase, the real shocker here is the IEA's prediction that oil demand will actually drop for the next 20 years in OECD countries. Instead, the demand growth will come primarily from China, India and the Middle East:
Regardless of the specific reason, the economic implications of this base scenario are somewhat staggering. If oil consumption is a sign of economic activity, then the implication here is that the U.S. is heading into an energy recession of epic proportions.
By Juan Wilson on 22 February 2004 in Island Breath - (http://www.islandbreath.org/2004Year/09-science/science03population.html)
Looking at where the taro might grow
Image above: HI DBED map of modern Kauai agricultural productivity. Darkest color is most productive. White areas are considered urban and not agricultural.
Kauai Carrying Capacity
The map above was created by a GIS system for the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism to identify the areas of highest agricultural productivity. They are Land Study Bureau maps and are available for the entire state at the DBEDT website http://www.ehawaiigov.org/dbedt/op/html/gismain.html. Note that the darker areas are the most productive. The maps were developed with the assumption that water is diverted from the valleys to reach some highland plains and that the water table of the Mana Plain is pumped to a low enough level for agriculture. Moreover, the areas that are developed as "urban", including such anomalies as the runways at the PMRF are excluded from the maps designations of productivity.
None the less, to date this map is the best base map I have found to date to use as a source to quantify the areas populated by pre-European Hawaiian people. I have prepared a map that focuses on lowland valleys and areas where fresh water was readily available. The result is the map below. The brown areas in the map are places where I estimate that there might have been concentrations of Hawaiians. The total area in brown is 34,703 acres.
Most sources agree that taro is a staple with a very high calorie yield per acre; higher than corn or rice. An acre of taro can yield a year round supply of food to support about 8 people. My estimate of pre-contact population is based on the assumption that the Hawaiians lived and farmed on the same land. This would mean that...
A) as much as half the arable land would be occupied by non agricultural uses.
B) in addition, at least half the land farmed would be 50% less productive in calories per acre than a lowland valley taro field.
Item A) reduces the highest productive agricultural land to 17,185 acres.
Item B) would support 8,593 acres with 8 people per acre, that would be 68,740 people. The remaining acres would be 50% less productive and therefore support 34,370 people. This would mean a total maximum Kauai population of about 100,000 people.
If my estimate of maximum population is correct, that would mean that there would be about 1,500 people maximum in Kalalau Valley and 3,600 people in Waimea Valley when Cook landed there. Cook made a nose of those Hawaiians he could see onj landing. It came to about 500 people. Was only one in seven Waimeans seen by Cook? I doubt it so my sense is that the 100,000 population number for the island is high. However, I think it is not impossible that 100,000 people could be live on subsistence farming for some period of time prior to Cook's landing.
In part because of its age, Kauai has been eroded into many flattened valleys. Due to a number of factors it is also blessed with an abundance of rain when compared with other Hawaiian islands. I am going to apply the same productivity analysis to the other islands. My guesstimate is that Kauai will prove to be higher than average in population density and therefore the total population of the chain will be closer to a half million than the one million that UH Professor David Stannard postulates (see article below).
If this estimate is about right, that means that if you include the tourists and visitor population with the residents living here now, there are about as many people on Kauai today as there were when Cook landed over 225 years ago.
So, if you take exception with my estimate, have more information, or another way of looking at pre-contact Hawaiian population, please email me. I think this is an important subject because it relates to not only what happened in the past on Kauai, but what the potential is in the future. It should impact our planning goals.
History of population on Kauai By Juan Wilson on 30 January 2004 - Detail of "The Battle at Nu`Uanu Pau", on Oahu in 1795, by artist and scholar Herb Kawainui Kane
After cruising the internet for information about pre-contact Native Hawaiian population estimates I came across what might be the source of the recent higher estimates for population of Hawaiians prior to Cook's Landing at Waimea, Kauai in 1775. The source is from a computer website at the University of Hawaii Kapiolani Community College Microbiology Department created by John Berestecky. The source file is an interview with David Stannard, UH American Studies Professor. The subject of the interview is a book Stannard wrote, published in 1989 by UH Social Science Research Institute, and titled "Before the Horror: The Population of Hawaii on the Eve of Western Contact".
The book postulates that eye witness Hawaiian population estimates (principally Captain Cook's and King's) were vastly smaller than the actual population. Cook's journals indicate that his estimate of Kauai population at 30,000 and King's island chain wide estimate 400,000 people.
Subsequent scholars has thought King's numbers too high and using varying techniques have driven that number downward to a widely accepted range of 100,000 to 300,000. Stannard's book citizens King's and subsequent scholars work and concludes that there were 1,000,000 people in the Hawaiian chain in1775.
There may be weaknesses to some scholars effort. Fortunately there are some records of how previous estimates were taken. Cook seems to have counted numbers at Waimea when he landed. Estimated numbers of communities of substantial size observed and extrapolated his results across all the island.
King, on the other hand, adjusted his number to 400,000 with an estimate that 25% of the islands shore and mauka were uninhabited.
Stannard's are as weak as any I have read about. Stannard took the contemporary population of Honolulu and spreads it over the largely rural central and northern shore areas and was able to maintain the population density of the settled areas of the north shore of Oahu. He argues that since you could fit them in they were their. I have not yet read "Before the Horror", but the interview seems to indicate that this technique (and we hope others) were extrapolated to arrive at Stannard's one million Hawaiian population estimate.
Stannard refers to documentation that indicates that only 50,000 Hawaiians were left by 1875 after the epidemics introduced by contact with westerners wiped out large numbers of people. THis contrast of 1,000,000 people reduced to 50,000 by the indifference and cruelty of westerners tells us the true horror of the results. Yes there was indifference and cruelty; I would add there was selfishness and greed too. The higher the contrast in these numbers, the greater the crime.
The Black Plague and other epidemics in Europe were due to contact with eastern micro-organisms. Stannard agrees with conventional wisdom that between the years 1350 and 1450 the bubonic plague reduced the population of Europe by half . If syphilis, mumps and other diseases destroyed half the Hawaiians by 1875; then the conventional wisdom lower estimate of 100,000 people in the islands would be reasonable. If 80% of Hawaiians were destroyed by European diseases then King's number of 400,000 Hawaiians would be reasonable. That's a lot of devastation without having to pave north Oahu suburbia over 1775 Hawaiian Islands.
What Population is Right for Kauai? By Juan Wilson on 4 January 2004 - A conversation with a friend about ancient Hawaiian society had me doubting what I will call an "Island Legend". Island Legends, like the urban variety, pass from person to person without much question. Their mobility rests on their ability to thrill and amaze the listener with the tale. I suspect another reason these legends persist is that they fulfill an agenda or represent a world view in some way.
By Helen Altonn 21 December 2009 in the Star Bulletin -
Image above: Wetland taro growing in Hanalei Valley on Kauai, Hawaii. From http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo448684.htm
Combining technology and traditional archaeology, scientists have identified thousands of acres of land farmed by early Hawaiians.