I attended the recent Soil Association Conference in Cardiff. As ever, it was an interesting mix of people coming together to, on this occasion, hear about ‘Peak Oil’.
The Peak Oil topic is not a new one, but it has risen in importance over the last 12 months. The concept is that we have reached the maximum level of oil extraction that the earth can supply. From this year onwards the amount of oil available for us to extract on a daily basis will slowly decline.
This has consequences for every aspect of society, including farming. Essentially, everyone in the agricultural industry will need to be concious of the amount of energy currently required for food production. Many intensive arable farms use many more kilo-joules of energy to grow the crop than the crop creates as food energy, and this could become a potential problem in years to come.
Luckily, we run a very extensive farming system at Fordhall with very few inputs. With no tractor and only a small quad bike, our oil usage is already minimal. Furthermore, our grassland grazing system sequesters (or absorbs) the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere and holds it in our soils. This increases the fertility of our farmland as well as acting as our small contribution to the fight aganist global warming.
I took a lot of inspiration away from this years conference. Although the ‘Peak Oil’ focus could be seen as a haunting topic, the truth is that humans are in the exciting position of being able to make that all important difference; making small changes today that will create a secure and positive future for our children. Even so much as putting in an energy saving lightbulb, sharing car journeys and using more public transport, are small changes that can make a big difference.
This is the point at which we have a choice. I believe that earth will continue regardless, but will it be a place that we want to live in – we have that choice, now.