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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Pessimistic Optimist

I'm starting this blog because I'm a “pessimistic optimist,” someone who believes that we'll eventually have a sane, just and Green civilization, but in the meantime things are going to get very rough. I want to say things that need to be said but haven't been said nearly enough. We can only deal with our predicament by facing squarely the things that are really happening. It's not the End Of The World, but it IS the end of a certain way of running our civilization.

Remember the old Stages of Grief list? When people are facing a tragedy they tend to first deny it or get angry, then try to bargain or blame, but most eventually accept what's happening and can work through it. That's where we are with Climate Change and Peak Petroleum. Plenty of voices are loudly and angrily denying that anything's wrong- Sorry guys, the evidence is in; It is. Others are bargaining that energy conservation or ethanol or wind power will see us through the transition to pretty much the same habits but in a new style- Folks, I hate to tell you; The physics and agronomy just don't work. The thing is, we CAN work through this situation once we accept it. I'm serious. We can build a new kind of world- a very different one, but a better one.

In a recent group conversation with an African American activist friend, someone said, “You know, these two gorillas in the room are going to devour everything we've accomplished in the last fifty years.” Maybe it won't be quite that bad, but the concept is valid. ANY planning for the future, from ANY philosophy, faith or political party, has got to include the fact that “business as usual” for the last couple of centuries is OVER. Done. Finis. Kaput. “Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.”

What has this got to do with Local Foods? Simple- people have to eat, and we have to start preparing somewhere. The average pound of industrial food eaten by a North American travels thousands of miles, and consumes upward of five gallons of petroleum and similar amounts of water. That just isn't going to work with the southern ag states getting blizzards and hard freezes, or with gas prices expected to top $5 per gallon by late 2011. In about 2005, when gas was over $4/gallon, the grocery store in our little town ran out of many items because the supply trucks couldn't afford to stop there. At the fuel prices they're talking about in the next few years, there'll be stores in mid-sized towns and core urban neighborhoods running dry. That's bad enough even if there is industrial food being grown through the crazy weather- and it might not be.

My wife and I grow and sell fresh vegetables through the Minnesota winter, on the prairie where it's seventeen below Fahrenheit today, not counting the wind chill. We do it using very little energy. You can too. Other people have more great ideas like ours. We can do this. We have to roll up our sleeves, put on our thinking caps, and work together as communities.

That's what this blog is about. I'll get picky about some things, tell some stories, whine and cry a bit, pass on some news and sound some alarms. Not every posting will be obviously about Local Foods, but will be about the ideas behind what we need to do. We can do more than we think we can. I know. I have.

---Garden Goddess News: 01/22/11---
The first printing of our book, The Northlands Winter Greenhouse Manual, is sold out. We're now offering emailed PDFs of the Manual for $10, or deluxe CDs of the Manual, my novel Phoenix, Minnesota, and an archive of construction photos for $15. If you're interested, contact us at

On Friday February 4th, 2011 Chuck and Carol will be presenting at the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag conference in Fargo, ND (
On Saturday, February 12, 2011 Chuck will be presenting at the Avon Hills Conference at St. John's University (

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