The Eden Gardens Project has an answer.

 

Ben B. Boothe

If trucking were curtailed or some natural or political event stopped the flow of food shipments to your city, how many days could you survive? Please consider this carefully, because this question has multilayered answers and almost innumerable social implications. How many days?

One fact to consider is that if trucking were curtailed or our interstate highway system made ineffective, shipments of petroleum products would cease as well. This would affect rail and other shipping. Without shipments of fuel—oil, gas, diesel, coal the utility system would suffer the same shortfall as your pantry. You would not have fuel for travel or electricity for cooking, air conditioning, hot water, communications or lighting. How many days could your firewood, charcoal or candles provide for you?

If transportation and shipping were disrupted, and the food, water and public utility systems failed, and there was no refrigeration, TV or radiowhat would your life be like? How would you feed your family? How would you make money? How would you get food and medicine? How would you stay warm, dry or cool? How would you care for and protect those you love?

We are dependent upon a supply chain that could collapse. Food production, distributed energy and independent sources of essential elements are a matter of critical national security. The ancient Egyptians, Zoroastrians, Greeks, and on to modern scholars and scientists, reaffirm the three essential elements of survival: Fire (energy), Water, Air, Land and Food Production [I think that’s more than three].

In the Los Angeles area, 400,000 people experience “food insecurity” on a daily basis, according to the LA Dept. of Public Health. This is in “ordinary” times! How many more would be impacted if there were no food, water, electricity, communications or transportation available?

A recent meeting of environmental and social experts concluded that Los Angeles has a food stockpile of two days, after which the grocery shelves would be bare. New York City has three days of food stockpiles; Chicago – three days, Dallas – two days, Phoenix – twp days, St. Louis – three days, Indianapolis – three days, and Oklahoma City – two days. The average household would run out of fresh meat, milk, dairy and vegetables in two days. Canned goods might last four days; rice, dry beans, wheat, cornmeal and oats a little longer. Alternative fuels for cooking would become scarce if the electrical system had no fuel to operate. A typical American household would be thrust backwards 130 years and forced to “camp,” forage and improvise in a daily effort for survival.

Three days is our average food supply around the modernized world; i.e., for cities and their supermarkets. Long-term food stocks have plummeted: Cereal stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years,” reported Worldwatch Institute in its Vital Signs report earlier this year. “This is exacerbated by increasingly weirder weather, compounded by the oil price/supply pressure on food. What can interfere with the three-day situation are truckers on strike (as in Europe), extended/repeated power outages, and the inability of the workforce to commute to work.” – Jan Lundberg in Culture Change (1-12)

Part of the problem is that the world demand for food stocks, water and energy has, in a growing number of places, exceeded the supply. Note the following excerpt from a Worldwatch report:

Grain Harvest Sets Record, But Supplies Still Tight

Following several years of declining harvests, the world’s farmers reaped a record 2.316 billion tons of grain. Despite this jump of 95 million tons, or about 4 percent over the previous year, commodity analysts estimate that voracious global demand will consume all of this increase and prevent governments from replenishing cereal stocks that are at their lowest level in 30 years.” (1-10-12, Article # VST101)

Helen Peck, in her 2006 report on business reliance on the food sector, identified a big gap in the preparedness for business continuity management, as very few companies had adopted a proactive or preventative stance to crisis management and operated mostly in the reactive mode. One of her conclusions is that the drive for efficiency and the “just-in-time” philosophy used by the food industry has progressively reduced stock levels throughout the supply chain—with resulting damage to its resilience when an emergency occurs. Unfortunately, this lack of preparation is widespread in States, municipalities and families.

In 2008 the President of the United States ordered:

The Secretary of Homeland Security will report and enhance detection and characterization of an attack. The Secretary of Homeland Security in coordination with other government agencies shall develop a coordinated agriculture and food specific response plan that will be integrated into the National Response Plan to insure roles of Federal, State, local and private sector partners, to stabilize food production and the food supply.”

Directive of President George W. Bush to Homeland Security (9-9-08)

“…An agrarian society shows the simplistic form of existence where agriculture forms the core of the society and is the prime means of support and sustenance. That, however, no longer remains the foundation of most of today’s developed economies where food chains are increasingly becoming complex and multi-tiered. The chain starts with agriculture and ends ultimately, with household consumption. However, the numbers of entities between these ends encompass geographical, economic, political and social extremes. This compounded over uncertainty occurring from natural disasters, climate changes, epidemics and terrorist threats place the food supply chain in a particularly vulnerable position.”

A. Deep, Business School, Loughborough University, UK (5-4-09)

A disruption in the food chain does not have to be some natural disaster such as a tsunami or earthquake. It can be something as simple as a price increase at the fuel pump. Ralph Vigil, chairman of the New Mexico Acequia Commission, said: “If truckers face a diesel price increase to $5.85 per gallon, this could effectively create a scenario where food cannot be shipped by truck because of cost.”

Water is also becoming one of the most urgent issues for this nation and around the world. Water depletion, pollution and mineralization, like deforestation, leads to desertification. A number of towns and cities, such as Las Vegas, NM are in the midst of a climate change-induced crisis. Ninety-eight percent of the water in the USA is non-potable and largely brackish. In Texas and New Mexico, only 2 percent of the total available water is potable; the rest is mineralized.

Learning from Japan’s Crisis

Consider the disaster that occurred in Japan after last year’s ocean floor earthquake. Power was lost. Food quickly disappeared. Water supplies either were polluted or had major line ruptures. Transportation of food and supplies literally stopped overnight, and the people there were thrust into primitive survival mode—in Japan, arguably the world’s most organized and systematic cultural system.

With the hundreds of billions of dollars Japan has spent trying to deal with this tragic disaster, or the billions it spent to develop central nuclear utility systems, Japan could have put solar panels, neighborhood wind turbines and solar water heating systems on every home, every commercial building, every hospital, every prison and every retail building in the country. A distributed, disbursed power system would have “saved” Japan the losses of this disaster. In addition, thousands of food production campuses near urban centers would have provided food locally without the need for “food chain transportation systems—and, of course, without the nuclear radiation pollution which occurred.

The questions posed above illuminate the fact that our modern society has separated the vast majority of people, especially city dwellers, from the production of their potable water, energy and food.

Solutions

Experts from around the world have made suggestions, most of which have been ignored. I am among those who advocate the creation of local food and energy production systems. This approach is the best and most effective homeland security system for defense and survival that has been proposed. We need these food production units near every urban center in the USA.

Some of the most relevant solutions involve a broad, national effort to expand and implement the following:

Near-urban food production using networks of greenhouses and cold frames (enclosed plant beds). A greenhouse can produce two to three crops per year on one-half to one-third the land area of “traditional” farming. Drip irrigation uses one-tenth of the water.

Food production not dependent upon public utilities

Food production not dependent upon mass agribusiness farming production and giant food distribution systems

Food production that can continue through hot and cold seasons

Alternative, disbursed, local/urban water production, including the use of desalination, where appropriate, powered by renewable energy

Alternative and widely disbursed renewable energy, including solar panels, wind turbines and solar water heating to provide energy for food production

The Eden Gardens Project

These and other features have been incorporated into the “Eden Gardens Project,” an integrated system designed for generating sustainable food, water and energy supplies that can be adapted to meet the needs of many locales. The overall concept was developed by Saneh Boothe, owner of the Cornucopia Project, which wholly owns the Eden Gardens Project. Alfonz Viszolay, a Santa Fe-based engineer from Hungary, generously shared his expertise and enthusiasm for his Eco-Farm, a similar concept that stresses algae and recycling.

The Eden Gardens campus is designed to produce high-nutrition organic foods and farm products. A typical 50×500-ft. “high tunnel” can produce $175,000-$250,000 of fresh organic food per year. A 100×100-ft. algae pond can produce over $200,000 per year in fish or shrimp products. An algae pond with tanks and proper engineering can produce $189,000 per year in food by-products, oil and organic fertilizer.

Distributed power generation at the 15-50 acre campuses will utilize wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV) solar systems. There is solar water heating for subsoil heating and underground waterlines. Desalination is viable because the average city in the US spends about $4.70 per 1,000 gallons to pump, filter, treat and sell water from lakes or wells. Existing desalination plants are now producing fresh water from brackish wells for $2.50 per 1,000 gallons.

The cost of a “campus” depends upon its configuration. In a high-wind area there may be more wind turbines and fewer solar panels. If it is situated near a salt or brackish water supply, substantial funds will be spent on a desalination plant. If a professional canning operation is feasible for county growers, that will be added. If a community has substantial garbage to deal with, more will be spent on composting equipment. If the needs for the area are more for food than energy, the matrix will shift to more greenhouses and less renewable energy generation. The smallest (15 acre) campus’ budget, without desalination and composting facilities, is about $2.5 million. The same 15 acres with desalination and composting will run about $3.8 million.

Eden Gardens is able to provide the labor, contracting and equipment. In association with www.wind-inc.com, www.environment-solutions.com and www.cornucopia-enterprise.com, Eden Gardens has franchise or distribution agreements in place with experienced suppliers of each component. Last month Eden Gardens built an aquaponics facility in Texas, complete with a solar- and wind-powered greenhouse, fish tanks, and hydroponic, drip-irrigated growing beds.

If an Eden Gardens Project facility is to be owned by a city, municipality, county or prison, those entities, their taxpayers and communities will reap the financial benefits, and Eden Gardens will receive a fee for contracting and using their expertise to make the facility work. In those cases it will be a non-profit public enterprise. There are also investors who want to do this as a for-profit private enterprise.

Agreements to build several Eden Garden Projects in this country and abroad are currently being finalized. For more information, call 800.379.8048, ext. 103, or email sanehboothe@gmail.com.

Ben B. Boothe is an international economic and environmental author, speaker and consultant. He publishes Global Perspectives (www.boothglobalperspectives.com). His company website is www.benboothe.com.

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