Peak oil is not just about running out of petrol for our
cars; far from it. This from The Omnivore’s Dilemma
by Michael Pollan:
Industrial agriculture has supplanted a complete
reliance on the sun for our calories with
something new under the sun: a food chain that
draws much of its energy from fossil fuels
instead… Petroleum is one of the most important
ingredients in the production of modern meat.
In his devastating analysis of the American beef
industry, Pollan stands in a Kansas feedlot—the kind
of place where they fatten cattle on corn, and corn
So this is what commodity corn can do to a cow:
industrialize the miracle of nature that is a
ruminant, taking this sunlight- and prairie grass-
powered organism and turning it into the last
thing we need: another fossil fuel machine.
An economist told Pollan that to raise a typical steer
to slaughterhouse weight takes about a barrel of oil—
and millions of steers are processed that way every
year. You have to factor in the diesel fuel involved in
transportation, the petrochemicals in pesticides and
fertilizers for the corn, the power for the feedlots etc.
We’re not at that level in New Zealand, but there are
feedlots here—from memory, there's a big one down
Ashburton way—and growing pressure for the
equivalent in dairying. At the very moment in history
when we should be de-industrializing the land and the
treatment of the animals on it, the insane capitalist
drive for MORE, BIGGER, FASTER is pushing us in the
other direction. This drive is so reliant on fossil-fuel
energy that it scarcely seems credible that the big
industrializers can’t perceive the folly of carrying on
this way. Even on their own terms, it's a recipe for
disaster. As with the major-party politicians, however,
they are utterly the creatures of the master-myth of
‘progress’—so shackled to it that, to them, it’s ‘freedom’
(hence their fantasies of the ‘free market’). All of us in
countries like New Zealand are prisoners of it too, this
writer as much as anyone. Anyone for an escape bid?
I believe we could yet build a glider in the attic.