[ExI] Paleo diet and sustainability

J. Stanton js_exi at gnolls.org
Mon Apr 11 18:22:37 UTC 2011

Ben Zaiboc said:
> And no, this can never be a diet for the majority, it wouldn't be sustainable.

The same can be said about agriculture, particularly industrial 
agriculture -- which depends on:

-A continual depletion of topsoil and soil nutrients
-A continual influx of fossil fuels via the Haber process (which uses 
3-5% of world natural gas production)
-A continual influx of fossil water via depletion of underground 
aquifers (example: Oglalla aquifer), or a continual influx of irrigation 
water, resulting in soil salinization and abandonment
-The complete destruction of whatever biotic community existed previous 
to agriculture

The sustainable carrying capacity of the Earth has little to do with 
energy: it has to do with soil, in which our food grows, and without 
which we don't have any.  Lierre Keith's "The Vegetarian Myth" happens 
to be written as an argument against vegetarianism -- but it's even more 
important for guilty omnivores, who comprise a much larger segment of 
the population.  Its real subject is how food is grown, and how soil is 
created and destroyed -- a subject on which most of us are completely 
ignorant -- and how animals and animal products are an *absolutely 
necessary* part of that cycle.

The upshot is that agriculture is the equivalent of strip-mining, it's 
even more destructive than pastoralism (as can be seen by the current 
condition of, say, the "Fertile Crescent"), and that seven billion 
people is far, far beyond the sustainable population of the Earth even 
if you posit nearly free energy and force everyone to eat corn and soy. 
  I can't stress this enough.

Most of the Earth can't support agriculture, anyway: it can only support 
ruminants grazing on the grasses and other perennials that grow there. 
For example, only ~19% of the United States is arable, most of that due 
to exploitation of fossil water and gigantic, destructive dams that silt 
up anyway.  (Feeding grains to cattle was uneconomical until our massive 
subsidies for destructive, unsustainable industrial grain production.)

I link quite a few references here:

Here are some more articles of interest:

"Allan Savory won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Prize of 
$100,000 for the Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM) in 
Zimbabwe by demonstrating that by INCREASING the number of livestock on 
barren land by 400% we can convert it from desert back to productive 
(Note that Buckminster Fuller was a high-meat, low-carb dieter, and 
lived to age 88.)

"...taking the farm as a whole, the food output per acre from a well-run 
mixed farm was often higher than today's intensive chemical operation."

Again, I recommend "The Vegetarian Myth" in order to to understand the 
process by which food is grown and consumed sustainably.  It involves 
animals and animal products, which are necessary to return consumed 
nutrients to the soil so that more plants can grow, and which are 
necessary to consume the foliage that naturally grows but we can't eat.


PS: I must point out that the first review on Amazon is a hatchet job 
that makes blatantly false claims about the book: for instance, claiming 
that the fact that ulcers are caused by bacteria counteracts Keith's 
assertion that bacterial digestion does not occur in the human stomach.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list