Famine Author at LAMMA

February 5, 2010 · Filed Under Peak Food in the News · Comment 

John Gossop, author of Famine in the West and www.peakfood.co.uk attended LAMMA recently as the guest of Nationwide Diamond Concrete.  During the first day of the show he spoke to many farmers about peakfood and the future threats to food production.  Copies of his book were sold at a special show price of £5.99 .

TOTAL Oil Boss gives Peak Oil Warning

January 19, 2010 · Filed Under climate change · 2 Comments 

In the last few years there have been a series of remarkable u-turns from the world’s top oil companies. Not long ago they were saying that man-made climate change was a myth and funding scientists who were prepared to agree with that. Now, however, they all say that climate change is taking place and that greenhouse gas emissions are at least partly responsible. Indeed, they are all spending millions to prove their green credentials by starting projects that will reduce emissions to some extent.

Peak Oil and Peak Food

Peak Oil and Peak Food

 

Peak Oil is another matter. Until now the message coming from the oil companies is that Peak Oil – the time when a peak in production is reached, followed by a decline in production in the face of increasing demand, causing severe shortages – is many decades in to the future. Recently though there are indications that at least one company has changed its mind.

In this week’s Time magazine, Christophe de Boisseson, CEO of the French oil giant Total, speaks openly about the nightmare scenario oil shortages that most energy firms prefer to avoid or deny. De Margerie says the possible effects on the world economy of dwindling oil supplies are so great that, “I am not prepared to shut my mouth.” Shortly after taking over at Total he jolted executives at a London conference by stating that the industry would be unlikely to produce more than 100 million barrels a day, far below the 120 million or so the International Energy Agency estimates the world could produce by 2030, and which will be needed for Asia’s galloping growth. De Margerie now says 90 million barrel a day is “optimistic.”

This is worrying for the health of the world economy, but for the future of food production it is devastating. Western agriculture is totally dependent on oil and the rest of the world is rapidly becoming so.  It is expected that food production will need to double in the next 40 years as the population continues to rise and as more people demand a better diet. To increase food production using modern methods requires a corresponding increase in fossil energy inputs. A serious shortage would cause the farming industry to collapse.

The truth about our situation is so unpalatable that most people will prefer to not believe it, but it must be said. The carrying capacity of the Earth has been temporarily increased by the massive use of finite resources. When these resources become depleted, the Earth’s carrying capacity and therefore its population will be reduced – in other words mass starvation and we in the West are the most vulnerable.

Peak Food – who cares?

June 11, 2009 · Filed Under news · 1 Comment 

We at Peak Food have been warning for several years that we have an unsustainable food production system that will be unable to sustain the 8 billion people expected by 2025. Modern farming is dependent on finite fossil fuels for it’s power needs, for nitrogen fertilizer and for pesticides. The world is losing about 25 million acres of land each year to desertification, salination and urban growth. Climate change will bring disruptive weather in the form of droughts in some places and floods in others. Shortages of water for irrigation due to falling aquifer levels and lower river flows because of competition from cities will also limit yields.

We have not just warned of food supply failing to keep up with rising population. There is also the possibility of a sudden and disastrous failure of the food supply system in the event of geo-political events causing severe fuel shortages. Farming operations such as seeding and harvesting need to be done at the correct time and without diesel in the tank, farms would grind to a halt.

We have had lots of people who agree that Peak Food may already be here and that from now on the amount of food that can be produced for each person in the world will decline as the population increases, but in general, because we are just ordinary people, our message is ignored.

So when Professor John Beddington, no less a person than the chief scientific advisor to the U.K. government, made a speech earlier this year predicting that a “perfect storm” of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources, all operating on the same time frame, threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst affected regions, we expected big things to happen.

This should have been headline news in newspapers and on television. There should have been demands that the government make this a top priority and start to develop a sustainable food supply system. Considering the consequences for our children, this should have been the subject everyone was talking about.

But what happened? Pretty much nothing. The media was full of big brother celebrities and other trivia. So far as we know, the government has not started any new major programmes, and the general public missed it completely.

Peak Food – does nobody care?

Peak Food Author John Gossop in Yorkshire Post

February 28, 2009 · Filed Under Peak Food in the News · 2 Comments 

Today the Yorkshire Post printed the article below about Peak Food author, John Gossop.

Peak Food Author John Gossop in the Yorkshire Post
Modernisation is the key to sustainability in farming
Published Date: 28 February 2009

FARMERS must modernise their methods to contend with the twin threats of climate change and depleted fossil fuel supplies, a leading Yorkshire campaigner has warned.
In more than 40 years as a farmer in the East Riding, John Gossop has seen the industry respond to a wide range of difficult challenges.

But he considers global warming and farming’s reliance on non-renewable energy to be the greatest problems yet, and has written a book and several articles to illustrate how severe their combined impact may be.

Farmers and academics have turned to Mr Gossop’s book Famine in the West and Peakfood website for his views on how the industry will look in the future.

Now his theories are likely to reach an even wider audience after he was nominated for the Climate Change category in the inaugural Yorkshire Post Environment Awards.

The award category recognises those who show innovative, imaginative and strategic thinking in tackling or adapting to climate change.

Mr Gossop, of Swinefleet, near Goole, said: “With climate change, one of the worries is it is going to make production less reliable.

“The other thing is farming itself and the food production system is dependent on the fuels that are causing the greenhouse gas problem. We are going to have to come up with a better way of using solar energy.”

Mr Gossop believes the industry could help protect the environment by embracing changes to the conventional system of farming.

Current farming practices for these crops involve using a combine harvester to separate the seed from the stem in the field.

The seed is dried using fossil energy so that it can be stored safely in bulk, while the straw is either chopped and incorporated into the soil or baled and transported for animal bedding.

Mr Gossop said: “The present system has revolved around cheap fossil fuels but, some time in the future, if fuel becomes more expensive and scarce then food itself will become more expensive and scarce.

“We need to have a farming system that makes use of the whole crop in a sustainable way. We are so wasteful in everything that we do. If we are going to continue to support a world population using so much fossil fuels, the system must change.

“I would take the crop to a biorefinery or a processing plant which extracts all the energy from the food.

“There is as much energy in the straw as there is in the seed; by collecting the straw as well and possibly turning that into cellulosic ethanol, we would be producing enough energy to ensure the farming is self-sufficient.

“In the past we have not had to worry that we are wasting so much energy, but the system that we are proposing is about trying to get around that.

“We want to fuel farming from its own resources – as it always was.”

For more information about the Yorkshire Post Environment Awards see www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/environmentawards

Peak Food in Wrights Register

June 5, 2008 · Filed Under Peak Food in the News, climate change · Comment 

WRIGHTS REGISTER ARTICLE FARMING IN THE GREENHOUSE JUNE 08

This month Wrights Register have printed an article by Peak Food entitled, Farming in the Greenhouse on their climate change page (p16):

Peak Food author John Gossop writes in Wright's Register

It isn’t surprising that so many people are still skeptical of climate change in spite of overwhelming evidence that proves warming is happening. Denial is after all a well-understood psychiatric term meaning defence mechanism against painful thoughts, and this is exactly what makes people discount all evidence to the contrary, however compelling.

Some of us choose to believe that serious climate change is not happening because the consequences are just too appalling to contemplate. Tackling it would lower our standard of living in the short-term, and who wants to give up their 4 x 4 and holidays abroad?

Many people though can recall a specific television report or newspaper article that changed their thinking. My own moment of acceptance came when I realised that the natural greenhouse effect (which has been understood and accepted for many years) has made the world warmer, and that without the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, life as we know it would not be possible. Greenhouse gases trap heat energy, reducing the amount that is radiated from the earth back into space, acting as a partial blanket and causing a difference of about 21C between the average temperature that we would have and the actual average of the earth surface temperature. By increasing the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere we are enhancing the greenhouse effect. The earth is responding just as we should expect it to by warming up.

So, what will global warming mean to farmers like you and me? Well, weather patterns changing relatively quickly will be very difficult for us to deal with. Except where reliable irrigation is available, the biggest constraint on crop yield is lack of soil moisture at critical times. Farmers plant the type of crops that suit their soil and normal weather, but if the rain does not fall at the right time or is insufficient, the yield can be slashed. Of course to some extend lower yields will be offset by rises in food prices, but this shouldn’t make us complacent.

At the same time as our climate is changing we will be affected by a host of worldwide problems including a rapidly increasing population, a greater demand in Asia for the diet and lifestyle we take for granted, and competition for land from biofuels and the building of new cities and roads.

On top of this there will be oil and gas shortages to deal with. And again, before you dismiss this as far into the future, remember that both oil and gas are finite resources and many analysts believe production has already peaked. It is only a matter of time before fertilisers and diesel become more expensive.

With world carry-over grain stocks at dangerous levels, we badly need a series of good harvests to avoid the panic, hoarding and speculation that would happen if we have a series of bad ones caused by changes in weather patterns. Governments seem to have no idea of what is on the horizon, or they would be making food production and the rebuilding of grain stocks the priority it should be.

Our thanks go to Janet Richardson for printing it. What do you think?