and we can skin a buck; and we can run a trot line.
and a country boy can survive
country folks can survive.

Hank Williams, Jr./ Country Boy Can Survive

This is a well known lyric from a country song held dear by many a good old boy. It embodied the philosophy that should the world go to hell in a hand basket country folks can survive. I believe this to be a dangerous position upon which to pin one's hopes.

This isn't the US of past generations. The US was at one time an agrarian society with many families living on the land they farmed. They knew how to raise grain, livestock, forage for edible foodstuff in the fields and forests. That America is a fading memory, one that has more reality in memory and the media than in actuality.

America is no longer closely allied to the land. The farm family has been replaced by the suburban family, or even worse an urban assemblage of various individuals bound together by a variety of forces. These urban dwellers often live day to day from fast food restaurants or their finer relatives where there are wait staff, chefs, etc. Should they not buy their food relatively hot at a restaurant they may buy prepackaged food requiring not much more than a quick trip through the friendly microwave oven. The selection of food, preparation and cooking of same seems to be a dying art. The popularity of the Food Network which instructs people about food and ways to cook it displays the need for that instruction.

Given that preparing food is a challenge to many, imagine the difficulty presented by growing or finding those foods should there be a significant interruption in the food supply system. How many people know how to prepare the soil, plant a garden, then harvest and preserve the produce from it? How many people even have land available for this endeavor? A typical city dweller is totally without options should this become necessary.

The food production and distribution system is a finely tuned instrument. On one end foods are obtained from either storage or fresh sources. Then they are quickly distributed through truck, train, plane, or ship to another distribution point. There the food is broken down into orders by the end purchaser, whether store, restaurant, or wholesaler. Only then can the consumer enjoy it. If anything should happen to disrupt any link in that distribution chain, store shelves will quickly become bare.

Many of you are familiar with how quickly the shelves empty when the weatherman forecasts a blizzard or hurricane. The public apparently feels that milk, eggs, and bread will ward off whatever bad karma is blowing on the wind.

The day following the interruption finds the delivery trucks rolling again, refilling the shelves and no one's life is inconvenienced to a major degree.

What happens if the interruption lasts more than 2 days? What if it lasts 2 weeks? What if it lasts 2 months? How would you and your significant others fare?

The US federal government regularly runs public service advertising aimed at encouraging people to have basic supplies of food, water, and other goods on hand for at least 3 days in the case of an emergency situation. If the water system in your city went down due to contamination or destruction of the infrastructure, what would you be drinking 3 days from now? What would be for dinner? How would you go about cooking it if the electrical grid was down?

According to Hank Williams, Jr., the answer is to live off the land. Go out and shoot a buck, skin him and have fresh venison. That works for a couple days. What if there are 300 million people forced to that solution? The deer population is stable in most areas, and it is stable because hunting is only allowed for a short period each year. Hunting is done by a minority of the population during that regulated period. What if hunting season was every day, and everyone became a hunter? In a few weeks there would be no deer, elk, antelope, bison, any of a number of species considered game. The land would soon be scoured clean of wildlife, disappearing into the hungry maw of a needy populace. The same applies to fish and other aquatic foods. Hunger would drive people to consume whatever they could get, regardless of whether it harmed the species or not.

My interest is not to be an alarmist or doom sayer. It is to open the eyes of people, help them to realize just how precarious our position is on this planet. Climate change, whether man made or normally cyclical, always affects people and their ability to feed themselves. The period we are currently in with large areas open to agriculture may be an aberration in the long view. It seems the history of Earth is long ice ages interrupted by warm periods such as we are enjoying at present. There is no reason to surmise that the last ice age was the final one.

The current dependency on fossil fuels has been in effect for just over a century. The time will come when the supplies are depleted and when that occurs, we need to have answers to enable our civilization to continue. Following the Arab Oil Embargo during the 70s our federal government created a Department of Energy. That department was created with the mandate to find solutions to our energy needs. The Department of Energy produces a nice pamphlet advising us to cut off lights in unoccupied rooms.

As long as there are large sums of money to be made from the discovery, distribution, and sale of a finite commodity (oil) there will be pressure to keep the status quo intact. Last week when a Class 5 hurricane ripped through the Caribbean toward impact on the Yucatan Peninsula and then continental Mexico a regional petroleum supplier in the Midwest (Speedway) jacked up prices 30 cents per gallon. The reason given was in anticipation of interruptions to supply, though no US rigs were forced to suspend operations. The result was a windfall profit for this supplier. Why, you ask, did they do this? The answer is, of course, because they CAN. Every time there is a price surge in the petroleum markets there are calls for investigations into price gouging, Congress leaps into the fray, and regularly does absolutely nothing. It's all window dressing for the masses, quieting the cries for investigations. Congress gets to look like it's doing something, and the petroleum giants keep on contributing to those campaign chests.

During WW II the US was faced with the most severe threat it had ever encountered. Once we entered the war, it was win or suffer defeat. To the end of achieving victory America instituted the Manhattan Project which resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. The Pacific war was ended when the US used that dreadful weapon. Without trying to color that act as either a moral or immoral decision, the bottom line was a breakthrough came about due to a concentrated effort by the government. The US needs an energy Manhattan Project. Funding for energy research of all types needs to become a national priority. We have had our eggs in one basket for far too long.

On a planet of over 6 billion humans, the stress on the environment is staggering. Consider if each person consumes just 1.5 lbs of food per day, the planet must provide 9 billion pounds of foodstuff before the first bird eats a seed, before the first animal dines. While many species consume things we aren't consuming ourselves, we do compete with others for certain foods. The planet has a finite ability to support its animal populations. We as humans are able to tweak that output to a degree, but that too has its limits. The future forcasts more population growth, not less. That would seem to foretell of an inevitable crash.

If and when that crash occurs under hundreds of billions of pounds of human flesh, a country boy can't survive. No one can.

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