An Obvious Solution
By William Kotke
For thousands of years empires
have fought wars of conquest to capture fertile soils. North Africa, for example was
the “breadbasket” of both the Greek and Roman empires. North Africa was once a thriving
semi-arid ecosystem with forests in the higher mountains. It is now ecologically destroyed.
Some of the North African ports that were used to ship wheat and other “surpluses” to Rome are
now ten to fifteen miles from the water, all of that distance now filled in by erosion material
sluiced off the land by the destructive farming and overgrazing. In the U.S., the “sod busters”
fell upon the Great Plains and now soil scientists say that half that topsoil is gone.
Soil is the biological basis of human society. Even forager-hunters benefit from fertile soils. In the eight thousand years of empire, aka, “civilization,” soils in many areas of the world were exploited and exhausted. Though we are now at the limits of arable soils on the planet, the industrial society has pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Artificial fertilizer is now a trade-off for the fertility of the topsoil. Now, over half the world’s people eat because of the added production caused by the injection of artificial fertilizer into exhausted soils and the fossil fuel from which this fertilizer is made is running out. To compound this problem, we are at the same time at the limit of food production in relation to the explosive growth of population.
The conclusion is apparent. A planet stripped of its life and hungry people wandering aimlessly searching for food. As we awaken from the imperial dream of unlimited growth we see that the basis of our lives, the soil community, is dying. We see whole ecosystems obliterated. We depend on ecosystems that generate those fertile soils to feed us. To a mature and sober human, the solution is obvious. We need make a covenant with the living planet to re-vegetate and restore the planet’s ecology. If we do not do this, the lives of our great-grandchildren will be pure hell.
Transitioning out of the culture of empire will not be difficult, it is now crashing around our heads. The struggle for wealth and power will cease when there is no more wealth to fund the power. This is the time to transition to community cooperation, to begin a qualitatively new human culture. We can achieve community food security if we are cooperative. We have the encouraging example already of the community re-localization groups functioning in many countries.
In the U.S., we now have homeless people even in smaller towns. To the ruling elite, the homeless and unemployed are discards. They have nothing to exploit. But if we frame the picture larger than the limited propaganda picture of the elite, we find we have resources.
Our resources are those discards of the failing system, which we are all destined to become.
We have the example of Cuba, that in ten years emerged from food collapse after the Soviet Union and its fuel shipments fell. They recovered by cooperation and organic farming and gardening. Now Havana produces over half of its food within the city, on vacant lots and any other spaces where food can be grown. In the rural areas food production using organic methods has increased to give the country food security. Cuban society has shown what can be done with cooperative effort.
We have resources. We have community food banks, we have homeless shelters and in some areas re-localization groups have already formed.
As people are dumped out of their homes and jobs by the present system our local communities organize and begin focusing on community food security. As the world situation continues to become more dire, the community food security idea will spread from the original core activists to the rest of the population. When the still employed of the community organizes to give support to the discards to begin this transition, the increasing number of discards become a valuable community resource. Vacant lots, unused fields, backyards, front yards and reclaimed parking lots can all be used for intensive food growing as well as using the surrounding area to establish Permaculture which can grow more food per acre than the industrial system while rebuilding soil and holding water. Outside the zone of Permaculture, in the ecological restoration area, we begin reforestation and re-vegetation. From this restoration we gain soil and aquifer- water holding capacity to deal with the increasing problem of the dearth of potable drinking water. From a healthy ecosystem we gain a moderation of the local climate. With re-vegetation and its carbon capture, we begin to deal with Global Warming. With this new focus of cooperative community food security, we do the honorable act of insuring a future for our great grandchildren.
We all have been subconsciously conditioned from birth by the culture of civilization. We have been conditioned by the idea of material progress which has no end. We have the feeling that those in charge will be able to fix any problem. This shopping mall movie of human history is a lie! We need our intellects to confront this subconscious conditioning. We ARE at the end. We are running out of fuel, food, fiber, water, fertile soil, forests, metal resources, fish stocks, money and time.
We still have the resource of our creativity. Let’s go down to the farmer’s market and post a sign inviting people to a community food security meeting. We can approach people who have vacant lots to donate. Let’s create a Green Cross corps to help people transition from lawns to food. Let’s support the idea of transition from private real estate back to the idea of community commons.
We need water, food and shelter for our survival. We see around us the growing number of homeless and we see the “lesser developed” societies on the periphery of the empire collapsing. The present system, even now, cannot provide for us and our community food security. With the food items on the shelf having been shipped an average of 1,500 miles and the fuel prices headed to infinity - the elites have no answer for us. Now we have awakened from the shopping mall dream and understand that the elites have never controlled these societies for our benefit, only theirs - since Babylon.
Our cooperation and creativity can provide our community food security and begin the basis for the transition to a completely different kind of human society.
[Wm. H. Kötke is author of the newly reprinted underground classic, “The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future,” which can be viewed at The Final Empire Book. Note: Follow the live link to Chapter 1, then follow the link at the bottom of each page for the next chapter.]