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dialog diatribe

Steve Divers article on permaculture or appropriate technology was not, I
think, intended to solve our worlds problems in one fell swoop. The ideas were
starting points, and his citing of Amory Lovins shows that he is conscious of
the fact that logical analysis is necessary to truly successful long-term
implementation of any idea. Lovins and Odum have both done amazing analytical
work on the energy-in:energy-out bases of our material culture and our necessary
material needs. Study of their work is a real eye-opener, showing at the same
time that solutions to most of our problems involve applying what amount to very
elegantly-simple solutions to problems whose complexity is difficult to fathom
completely -- such as energy use efficiency of different technologies applied at
different scales. Our present accounting systems have ignored almost every cost
of doing business on our planet, to our detriment and even peril.

Concerning  generation of pollution and centrally managed resources vs
locally managed resources, the pollution generated by different technologies
applied at different scales is in no wise constant per-person and does in fact
vary greatly. Further, does the admittedly clean exhaust [low (point-source)
pollution/energy produced] at the local lignite plant where I live take into
account high rates of release of radon to the atmosphere, or the also-local,
very-large areas currently being strip-mined for the lignite 80 - 500 feet below
the surface? If we take these other facets of that energys production into
account, is it still clean? What is local must certainly be carefully
defined for maximum efficiency of scale, but this maximum efficiency probably
rarely occurs at the megalithic scale. For instance, of the massive amount of
energy consumed by our food-production systems, usually blamed wholesale on
agriculture, over 2/3 is actually used for packaging and transportation (the
average bite of food a US citizen eats has traveled 1,200 miles - Harpers). How
much local inefficiency does it take to out-waste that 2/3? If I use a
rototiller (which I do not), will I burn as much gasoline as the semis which
would otherwise have carried my food to me across half a continent? 

In referring to on-site energy production, Steve does not specify the number
of homes which constitute a site; certainly economics of scale has BOTH upper
and lower limits. Energy analysis by Odum has shown that photovoltaics at any
scale do not return the energy put into them by our petrochemical industrial
production technologies. Is this a problem with photovoltaics, or with our
current (no pun...) production techniques and bases? We in fact make almost
absolutely nothing which returns the energy we pour into making it (likely the
word almost in this sentence is superfluous).

Functional duplication of services must take a phenomenally-wide range of
realities and options into account. Functional duplication of the fossil-fuel
energy used to heat my home, using instead passive solar heating and a little
wood, can do more than increase efficiency of fossil fuel use -- it can
eliminate it. Carbon contained in wood was taken from the atmosphere in this
century (if not, dont cut that tree), fossil fuels carbon was taken from the
air when the CO2 content of that air was double what it is now (though were
doing our best to restore it). Is the wood dirtier than the entire fossil fuel
infrastructure? Hard to say in the country -- though the wood is surely not a
solution for Houston or other large cities. Has anybody gotten out their slide
rule and figured this stuff out? [Read Odums book]

As regards logical rigor, a commodity I have very rarely actually seen
evidence of the existence of (read Odums book!), I am moved to paraphrase
Robert Heilbroners comment on mathematics and economics to say [logic] has
given [imagination] rigor, but alas, also mortis. The brainstorming stage is
not the logical point for logic to enter into the creative process, and
certainly we are in need now of every form of thought process rigorously
applied. This includes logic, imagination, and introspection (WHY the hell do we
want all this stuff, anyway?).

What is the difference between sustainable agriculture and a sustainable food
system? Doesnt this unnecessarily limit the definition of agriculture to a
now-obviously-outmoded paradigm? Is this meaningful, or semantic quibbling? Why
would anything that any of us says limit anybody else in any way, even
ourselves? (unless we are wont to treat our own words or those of Mollison as
gospel). Negating ideas is surely far more limiting than simply offering them.

A positive dialog which ADDS TO previous dialogs is more useful and synergistic
than one which takes away, and a lot more difficult to contribute. Let us
attempt to elaborate upon, as opposed to detracting from, each of the ideas put
forth. All our ideas are going to be necessary, and all starting points and
levels of application for those ideas need to be carefully looked at. We all
need to look very closely at all our activities at every scale and apply the
real information given by Lovins, Watt, Odum, et al to each of those activities,