Yes to Horticulture!

SUBHEAD: A conversation on our food security future comparing industrialized agriculture to horticulture.

By Juan Wilson on 19 July 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: Community cooperative urban food garden. From (

Comments on "No to Agriculture"(

8:48 PM, July 18, 2013

If you notice, the Haber-Bosch process requires hydrogen, not methane. Methane, or natural gas, is currently used as a hydrogen source and as an energy source for compresson and heating. But any hydrogen source and energy source would do, solar, for instance for cracking water for its hydrogen and the for the energy for heating and compression. In fact, Haber initially used electrolysis for hydrogen production.

So, indeed, nitrogen fertilizers can be made without geologic hydrocarbons.

Question: If you do forsake any synthetic nitrogen fixing, where will your permaculture systems get their nitrogen from? With each harvest you'll remove nitrogen from your system where it will then become part of people and part waste (there is always food waste). 


9:19 AM, July 19, 2013

In response to "Hello Again"...

Aloha Mitch,

Glad we can have a thoughtful dialog without retreating into our own dogma.

One thing seems to be continually overlooked by techno=optimists, and that is we should not be burning so much stuff just to make life easier for ourselves.

In many ways we as human are one-trick-ponies. We burn stuff to get things done. Most animals have the good sense to be afraid of fire. We don't.

From a lighting bundle sticks, through burning a gallon of gas, to setting of a nuclear chain reaction - that's our solution to the problem at hand.

The idea of solving our problems by cracking water into hydrogen and oxygen so we can burn water to make fertilizer is about as bad an idea as desalinating the ocean to get water in order to grow wheat in Saudi Arabia.

It's inappropriate and unnecessary.

As far as where to get nitrogen from - how about the nitrogen fixing plants. Here in hanapepe Valley, on Kauai there are two trees in particular that are impossible to exterminate and are fast growing nitrogen fixers - haole koa (Leucaena leucocephala)and opiuma (Pithecellobium dulce).

We push back the opiuma (too weak with too many thorns) but encourage the older haole koa. We use them for climbing vegetables like chayote and yams.

We also use the haole koa as a 50% shade tree for understory plants that need protection from our bright sun, e.g cacao.

When we first moved here to our half acre in paradise our soil had few if any worms. It consisted of a lot of red clay and chunks of lava rock. I put about a ton of organic fertilizer over much of the yard and let whatever could get through occasional mowing survive.

Twelve years later I have soil and worms where ever I dig. I do not replenish the fertilizer.

When we grow from seed we do buy potting soil.  Otherwise to supplement the soil we have dried chicken poop from our flock of 14 free range chickens that we apply to plant starts with kitchen scrap compost. We also started a small worm farm and have a healthy bee box going as well.

We are trying to mix permaculture and food forest techniques that require little attention. We realize this is low on input as well as output.

So our fruit trees, and plants like cassava, ginger, taro, have no outside inputs but sun and water (in summer mostly from solar pump in shallow well).

For high output we have a 16' x 30' raised bed (16" deep) garden. The soil comes from a local nursery that calls the soil "50-50" and its $50 a cubic yard. They mix their own compost with equal amounts of shredded organic material from our local transfer station "slash pile".

The slash pile is made up of yard cuttings that are put through a chopper grinder (fueled by gas).  We bring all our cuttings that are too fibrous to quickly decompose into compost to the slash pile.

Our raised bed is quite productive. With our eggs (an occasional chicken), vegetable garden, food forest and fruit trees we hope to achieve 50% self sufficiency. That's the magic number in permaculture.

With gardening to reach 50% self sufficiency means that you either have too many avocados or none; too many mangos or none. As a result we are participating in a gift economy with some things that are very plentiful like papaya or bartering with things of greater wealth, like eggs.

Yes, there is always food waste. with too much fruit can either be turned to compost or gifted  away or given to the chickens.

We hope to reach a point of balance of inputs and outputs within our little Eden.

Juan Wilson
IB Publisher

9:06 PM, July 18, 2013

Hello yet again;

Points 3 and 4) The barbed wire was only used as a literary device to show that the 4 farms acted independently before joining forces. It could have been stone walls (and very many times they are) or simply landmarkers in real life. But, nonetheless, you eschew efficiency for self sufficiency.

First, you do need a certain bare bottom efficiency just to be self sufficient, which, i take, means feeding themselves. But, then, the farms must feed others. So your efficiency must be great enough so that you feed X + yourselves, and animals, given the land area and the people used to grow that food.

In the criticism of the Green Revolution, it was admitted that said revolution did allow the population to triple. The corollary of that is hungry people got enough food to live their lives and procreate. So, what happens to those extra 4-5 billion people if we undo the Green Agriculture? A, closely related to the former question, implication of that admission in the context of, "The Not So Green Revolution", is that we shouldn't produce more food for hungry people lest they have children. And, that, is simply inhumane.

- Mitch

In response to "Hello Yet Again"...

10:40 AM, July 19, 2013

Aloha Mitch,

As to barbed wire or stone walls… The boundaries of private property was a powerful invention of western industrialism. Draw a map of a place - then draw a boundary on the map that relates to stakes in the ground - then write a title to the land - then kick off the indigenous people, claiming they are trespassing.

It's worked pretty much everywhere it's been tried.  But this disregards the life of the land itself and the commons of human interest. How the man, the family, the tribe, the community live on the land is the real issue. What and how we keep and/or share what we harvest will have to be defined in a new economy.

Unfortunately, either by design or accident, we are facing an upcoming bottleneck through which I feel the majority of humans will not pass through.

By that I mean our numbers will go down.  What is sustainable? Many think it is  less than two billion. A world more like 19th century America than 20th century.

We have known of the problem of overpopulation for decades and have done little or nothing to ease the situation. Needless to say, the longer we delay the more people will suffer through ever more calamitous times.

Our delay is largely due to the "growth is good" model of economics that pervades industrial societies. The Chinese made a serious stab at the issue of population control but only in conjunction with moving people out of rural living arrangements to new big cities to work on assembly lines. As consumerism has pervaded the country they have eased back on the contols.

In short,  growth without end is not good… it is cancerous. Humanity either retreats in numbers or continues on its way with the pedal to the metal. The best we can hope for is that we take our foot odd the accelerator and coast to a stop.

Our fuel on the journey has been reduced to Soylent Yellow (the GMO corn/soybean diet based on a fossil fuel empire). Virtually are the commercial meat we eat is made of GMO cornmeal (pork, beef, poultry). Even our pet dogs and cats are made out of GMO cornmeal (just check ingredients on the kibble bag for yourself).

A large percentage of the average take-out meal comes from gmo high-fructose-corn-syrup. There is HFCS in the hotdog, the bun as well as the ketchup and soda.

The future of Soylent Yellow is loss of topsoil, immunity to pesticides, crop failure and increased global warming. A recipe for population collapse as soon as it is no longer profitable to big ag.

I don't want to decide who lives and who dies, but I want to live in a place that is alive itself. That does not need industrial input to survive. I realize that will be a place where I will have to work directly to feed myself; a place It will be hard and I will have to protect and defend land.

I encourage all to join that effort.

Juan Wilson
IB Publisher

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: No to Agriculture 7/15/13

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