Comment 41542

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2010 at 13:25:53

I read a short book a while back ("End of oil" or something like that) with a chapter on Communist states which was very interesting. It contrasted Cuba with North Korea. And while Cubans, with their fantastically cheap post-secondary education and the resulting educaiton rates in their population (unlike North Korea), saw it coming. Years before the collapse of the USSR, Cubans were already working on "organaponics" and other means of high-productivity decentralized urban agriculture. North Korea, on the other hand, lagged. It's tractors rotted and rusted in the fields, its fertilizer plants sat idle for want of natural gas, and it went through nearly a decade of levels of starvation which compared with Sub-Saharan Africa. I suspect great portions of the first world will be stuck with the latter, unless we really loosen up on people's rights to grow plants or raise animals at home in cities.

The problem with holding up citizens of New York as ecological examples to be emulated is that it ignores that vast rural infrastructure needed to support it. And as anyone who's read much about the rise of civilization knows, devastating rural land uses like logging, mining and intensive agriculture tend to follow (as well as feed) urban development. Most farmers I know grow enough food to feed themselves, families and farmhands as an afterthought, usually in tiny plots, with little effort. And the thousand acres of corn behind that is not destined for Sioux Lookout. And the same could be said of most pulp mills, strip mines or tar sands developments. Rural populations use enormous amounts of resources, but mostly to make goods for urban populations. Show me 8 million people SUSTAINING themselves over a long term on 800 km2 of land, and then I'll be impressed.

P.S.One more interesting New York fact: Calgary is about the same size, geographically, but with only one seventeenth of the population.

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