Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oil and acorns

The previous post about acorn oil got me thinking about the "black gold" kind of oil, and the relationship between the two types.

When J Russell Smith wrote his classic, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture he was primarily concerned about the loss of our precious soil as a result of producing annual grain crops. In the wake of the recent oil spill in the Gulf, he might have just as easily been talking about the loss of wetlands, estuaries, sea life, etc. as a result of our love affair with annual grain crops.

What's the connection? Producing corn and soybeans requires an immense input of fossil fuels (that's why ethanol as a gasoline alternative is so wrong-headed; it takes more energy to produce ethanol than is contained in the ethanol).

On the other hand, permanent woody crops such as acorns, chestnut and hazelnuts require a very low fossil fuel input - actually a very low input of "work" in general, which explains the popularity of bocce ball in the acorn- and chestnut-eating parts of the world.

So, to review what we know so far...
1. Acorn eating cultures have historically been affluent, peaceful... and well fed
2. Nut eating (and livestock foddering) cultures work less and relax more
3. An acorn based diet is incredibly nutritious
4. Switching from the annual battle with our topsoil known as grain production to a permanent woody agriculture would conserve soil and fossil fuels - reducing our depency on foreign sources (and the ethical conundrums that come along with that dependency) and reduce the risk of environmental disasters like the one we are seeing in the Gulf

Yes, it certainly is easy to see why we got away from balanoculture - eating acorns - isn't it?
I'm not sure whether to spend more time trying to understand how/why we ever stopped eating acorns, or trying to encourage people to return to it.
So I'll keep doing both.

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