Human wastes and animal manures have lost their place in agriculture, replaced with petrochemical fertilizers. However, our modern fertilizers are just as tied into the limits as those inherent in fossil fuels. It's time we re-think this shit.
Neither a slow or fast collapse of industrial civilization are pre-ordained. However, to implement a slow collapse requires more energy than a fast collapse, a resource whose supply is reaching its limits. How (s)low can you go?
We all poop. Peter Piper pooped, the popes all pooped, heck, even Penelope pooped. But even though poop is an undeniable fact of life – Benjamin Franklin might well have said "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and poop" – does poop occupy its rightful place in the grand pantheon? Not even close.
That this is the case should come as no surprise to those aware of the short shrift that agriculture currently gets in our lives and societies. Although the passage "from the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat until thou return unto the ground" (or something similar) has not been the central tenet of any civilization that I know of, it would nonetheless be tough to describe any peoples so disassociated from the land as ours is. (The modern transformation of that ancient saying? "From the tapping of thy thumb shalt thou photograph thine meal and upload it unto Instagram.")
Similarly, although I'm not aware of any shrine that has ever been erected to the god of feces, never has human waste been so "out of sight, out of mind" that its existence could be conjured away with the flick of a lever.
Why am I putting such emphasis on that putrid stuff, and why am I even writing about this in the first place?
As you may have noticed, last week the media was once again filled with yet another round of collapsing honeybee stories, this time the coverage being about the loss of 42.1 percent of hives in the US over the past year, the second largest die-off on record.
As has been the recurring case though, thanks in part to beekeepers making splits with their hives (creating two hives out of one, in short), hive numbers have actually increased this year in comparison to last year's. This doesn't however mean that the honeybees' health is improving, a quote in the Washington Post giving a bit of the backstory.
What has emerged is a complex set of pressures on managed and wild bee populations that includes disease, a parasite known as the varroa mite, pesticides, extreme weather and poor nutrition tied to a loss of forage plants.
Well, yes and no. While Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is fortunately not being singled out this time as the sensationalist bogeyman, the beating around the bush still goes on, effectively clouding over the overarching issue (their poor nutrition is tied to more than just a loss of forage plants, while the "disease" they must deal with is more than just another checkbox on a list). In short, the core of the problem afflicting the majority of honeybees is that they are confined to living out their lives amongst fields of monocultures in the industrial agricultural system.
Having recently started this From Filmers to Farmers blog, one which quite often brings up the topic of peak oil, I was recently confronted with a question that I had unintentionally been avoiding for some time: Do I envision a fast collapse or a slow collapse?
In case you aren't aware of the context here, the "collapse" being referred to is in regards to the collapse of industrial civilization, that itself being due to declining energy supplies and other resources. "Slow collapse" being in the range of decades or centuries, with "fast collapse" being in the range of decades or even just years.
First off, although I'm not a student of history and my readings on the collapse of previous civilizations are rather meagre, my readings on peak oil are much more thorough and so I'm a bit more familiar with several of the viewpoints and models out there.
I hate to say it, but it looks like I've been degraded to having to write what might be called a filler/fluff piece.
If you haven't already read my first post to this blog, Distraction, Surveillance, Peak Oil and the End of the Internet, then let me quickly point out that I spent five and a half years mostly not using the Internet (you can read about that in the post if you'd like). But since I've gotten back online (about a year and a half ago), my ability to concentrate and work on my manuscript – be it sitting down for several hours to read a book or work with pen and paper – has been decimated and has been getting progressively worse.