One local food meal = one step toward reducing foreign oil dependence

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Community, Conservation, Consumption, Energy, Food and Drink, Local Economy, Locavore, Oklahoma City, Peak Oil, Resiliency, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition OKC | Posted on 14-04-2011

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A couple of weeks ago Transition OKC helped host a Local Food Meet and Greet. The Meet and Greet provided a host of folks passionate about growing a local food system the opportunity to network and get to know each other better. It was enthusiastically and well-attended, with more than 110 people coming on a sunny Saturday afternoon to IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City to nosh on locally produced food, wine and do a little “speed meeting.”

The event was organized by the “Going Locavore Group,” a loosely organized and growing grassroots coalition (or alliance) of several Oklahoma City organizations focused on catalyzing and transitioning our food system to a healthier, more sustainable and resilient one – and one strategy for doing so is to localize it. The team organizing the event was for the most part all-volunteer, and although we were scrambling up until the last minute to put all the details in place – we pulled it off – a total team effort if there ever was one. If you have any interest in networking with this group, or want more info, email us at localfoodokc@gmail.com

As one of the volunteers working on this event, part of my task was to put together a slide show about the reasons for transitioning to eating local food, and to provide a high-level overview of some of the initiatives in other states focused on growing regional and local food systems. As we researched, we discovered coalitions in New York City and Vermont have aggressive strategic plans for regional and localized food sheds and the body of work on this topic is growing exponentially — encouraging.

Above you’ll find one of the slides from the presentation and I’ll be sharing more of these in the coming days. Eventually will put the whole presentation online at ThinkLady and here on Fresh Greens as well Transition OKC’s website so if it is useful in any way to other local food efforts, it’s available for anyone to use and adapt.

In the meantime, given the high price of gas these days, the fact the era of cheap, easy-to-produce oil is over, and the growing production decline in one of the U.S.’s major suppliers of oil – Mexico — thought this slide might be a good one to start with. It illustrates one way we can begin to reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports. Ebullient and grateful hat tip to Barbara Kingsolver and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, for helping us imagine a different way of eating in the world.

Imagine abundant local food. Imagine the jobs it will create and the ways it will strengthen our local economy. Envision the health it will bring to our school kids, our communities, the resilience it will give our communities. Imagine how much we can reduce our country’s oil addiction if we eat not just one, but two local food meals a week, three, five, etc. Imagine. And then try it. I think you’ll like it.

If you’d like info on how to get started eating locally head over to Transition OKC’s website where we have a page full of local food resources.

– post by Shauna Struby, this post originally appeared on ThinkLady 

The myth of efficiency

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Christine Patton, Energy, Farming, Peak Oil, Peak Oil Hausfrau | Posted on 26-05-2009

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by Christine Patton

Along with freedom and progress, efficiency rounds out the triad of the most treasured ideals of our country. We like things to be “efficient,” without really knowing what it means. Americans tend to use the term efficiency as a code word for getting things done cheaply and conveniently. Take agriculture, for example. It certainly is an achievement to churn out food at prices that are far less than historical averages (by percentage of family budget spent on food). That frees up a lot of money for people to spend on other things – clothes, travel, books, furniture, whatever your desire might be.

But what makes efficiency? Is it clever management? The productivity of human resources? Economies of scale? Centralization? Better information and computer systems? The competition of markets?

Business people give credit to these innovations, and all of these attributes may contribute incrementally to the cheapness of our food, but these are just icing on the cake. The real underpinning of what we think of as efficiency is cheap energy – especially cheap oil.

Farms here in America have been consolidating for more than 50 years. The average size of a “farm” is now 459 acres. They are managed with the aid of GPS systems, barns of tractors, and miles of irrigation systems. The farms of today have replaced people, armed with knowledge of local conditions and crop varieties and supported by rainfall and rich topsoil, with machines fueled by gasoline and regular applications of chemicals created from fossil fuels.

Efficiency, in other words, means replacing energy from humans and animals and plants with the incredibly cheap, concentrated energy found in oil. It does not mean less waste (at least when measured in BTUs). Americans pride ourselves on our innovations, but we did not in fact create better, less wasteful farming systems – we just found ways to pour as much of this cheap energy into our farms as possible, without considering how long the resource would remain cheap.

Small farms are actually more productive and efficient than large farms. They produce more per acre.  However, while fuel is inexpensive, small farms cannot achieve the massive economies of scale enabled by the replacement of people with gigantic tractors and chemicals. Since a gallon of oil can replace the energy of hundreds of hours of human labor, at a fraction of the cost, it makes a whole lot of economic sense to use it in place of people.

Replacing man (and horse) with machines may seem efficient, but it is not the efficiency of nature, which uses every particle of matter and energy, including any waste produced. It is the economic efficiency of man, which inevitably generates pollution and destruction because the costs are not borne by the user, but by nature and by the community at large. What we call efficiency is simply the conversion of a fossil fuel inheritance millions of years in the making into cheap fuel and food for a few generations.

What we call efficiency is actually the height of inefficiency. The foundation of modern agriculture is mostly just the addition of more energy to the system, and any fool can do that. Our current food systems are only made possible by incredible wastefulness, ruination of natural systems, and unbridled use of our inheritance of fossil fuels. These are the costs that our economic accounting does not take into account.

How efficient will it be to manage a 1,000 acre farm when production of oil begins to decline? How efficient will it be to ship lettuce 1,500 miles when gas costs $6 a gallon? How efficient will it be to use 20 calories of fossil fuels to create one calorie of food? What will we be left with when the Age of Oil begins to wane? Eroded topsoil, depleted aquifers, and the loss of the valuable farming knowledge of entire generations of Americans.

Here in Oklahoma, we are lucky to have small farmers still holding on to their farms and activists dedicated to reviving our local, sustainable and organic foodsheds. We have the Oklahoma Food Co-operative, an Extension Service supportive of sustainable agriculture, Community Supported Agriculture shares, and several local farmer’s markets. Many of the people living here have memories of farms, of growing gardens and raising animals, and many continue to grow fruits and vegetables regardless of whether they live in the country or city. Here we are not far away from our food.  

As the price of fuel rises, the myth of efficiency will be exposed. We can choose to recognize that our ideal was an illusion, and rebuild our local food systems and economies now, or we can choose to be a deer in the headlights as the price of food rockets along with the price of fuel. We can use real design innovations, like permaculture and integrated pest management, which rely on careful observation and knowledge of the ecology, instead of the application of chemicals.  We don’t know when high gas prices will return, but oil has already demonstrated an ample capacity for volatility. Let’s prepare now, so that we won’t have to pay later.

Bob Waldrop Elected Mayor Of OKC

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Energy, Local Government, Local News, Oklahoma City, Peak Oil, Peak Oil Hausfrau, Politics, Transition Town | Posted on 16-02-2009

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by Peak Oil Hausfrau

Featured here is the first post of the Envision 2020 blog,
which imagines the events in Oklahoma City as we transition from the
present, a time of abundant and cheap energy, to the future, a time
of declining and expensive energy…

(OKLAHOMA CITY) Mar. 7, 2014 — Bob Waldrop, local social justice
activist and founder of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, was elected
mayor of Oklahoma City in a landslide election yesterday evening.

"I
am proud my fellow citizens have embraced my platform of 'Local Food,
Energy and Economy,'" Mayor-elect Waldrop told Peak Oil Hausfrau today.
"It shows that our city is ready to tackle the enormous challenges
facing us and take responsibility for our future. When we are willing
to work together, we can create great things as a community."

Opponents
tried to paint Waldrop as a radical, calling him a "sad old Hobbit
hippie," "permaculturist" and "local foodie fanatic." These attacks did
not resonate with a population weary of years of recession and the
lingering effects of the financial crash of 2009. Local groups banded
together in a swell of grassroots support to knock on over 54,000 doors
in a massive volunteer campaign.

First on Waldrop's agenda: Restoring
granaries within city limits. Mayor-elect Waldrop explained, "This step
will provide local food security in the face of another oil shock like
the one of 2011. We will have grain and beans on hand to provide a
two-week basic minimum diet for our most vulnerable citizens. But I
encourage everyone to have three months of their own food storage if at
all possible."

The oil crisis of 2011 laid the foundations for
Mr. Waldrop's campaign of "Local Food, Energy and Economy." While not
entirely unprepared due to the efforts of local group Transition Town OKC,
Oklahoma City nonetheless endured great stress from the effects of the
oil supply crisis. Without constant deliveries of food, grocery shelves
were emptied within three days of the Ras Tanura refinery bombing in
Saudi Arabia on June 14, 2011. Highways and roads became deserted, and
basic city services stopped. Luckily, the crisis lasted only two weeks
before the federal government began rationing gasoline and released oil
from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ensure coal and food
deliveries. Still, the economy was at a standstill, and without regular
paychecks, many people could not even afford to buy the food that was
available.

Leading
citizens, business and spiritual leaders from all walks and parties
endorsed Waldrop, including many that had opposed him in the past.

"After
the Crisis of '11, the Federation of Churches realized that we needed a
city that would prepare for the future of oil depletion, not be stuck
in the past of oil dependence. We decided to mobilize and make sure
that the city had a plan. Our church was very excited to support Bob's
campaign, which had a great, innovative focus on preparedness,
resilience, and localization," said John Franks, minister, Faith and
Hope Community Church.

Mayor-elect Waldrop will celebrate his election with a
"Local Food Extravaganza," and invites all citizens to an open-air
potluck festival downtown to be held directly after his inauguration.
"We look forward to bringing all our citizens back into the democratic
process," he remarked. "My administration will be one of inclusiveness
and responsibility and will offer a new vision for the future–one of
energy efficiency, local food and economy, shared transport and
renewable energy. Our hope is that everyone will participate."