I was looking at crowds of people in the park, making the best of a colder than ideal sunday, and couldn’t help but think about how ephemeral and dependent this whole situation was on fossil fuels. Rightly so, most people were being in the moment, but many of the preceding moments (decades and centuries) contained lots of “ungrounded” activities focused on combing the earth for more and more stores of natural resources, the current rage being fossil fuels, most especially oil.
Oil is how we drive, but because of the amount of oil being used to grow our food and in some cases heat our homes, it is how we walk. The oil can be traced in our bodies and blood, and is energizing (or enervating) our motion. As far as oil in food, we have “cleaner” petroleum free options, and for meat we too have organic as well as grass fed, but what is the grass fed itself? In so many industrial and residential practices, grass is fed petrol chemicals as if its been thirsty for millions of years when nature sans humans wasn’t providing it. What percentage of all of our bodies is petroleum byproduct? I have taken on a fairly strict paleo-ketogenic (bulletproof-esque) diet for the past few months, but I don’t delude myself into thinking that I am close to petrol free.
In contrast to a paleo diet, I’d like to mention the staple (funny, staples keep things stuck) crop of wheat, which because of its inefficient nutrient density and nutrient uptake, is very dependent on direct and indirect petroleum inputs for maintenance to keep the fields in a constant state of imbalance, relative to nature’s corrective yearnings. Wheat is destructive to the human species, more so now because of the partially petroleum laced chemical, glyphosate, now sprayed on the wheat before harvesting. But even before these additional petrol perils, western culture has survived despite eating wheat, not because of eating wheat (sorry Kropotkin, you didn’t know, but maybe we should change this title… or maybe its appropriate in the negative sense of bread). Whether you have problems with gluten or not, its best to separate yourself from both the wheat and the chaff.
So, back to the picture above, we can say that the people themselves wouldn’t be the same if petroleum wasn’t a part of our world. Certainly the dress would be different, more earthly perhaps (definitely no nylon), and they would on average be substantially healthier, despite whatever petroleum dependent medical advances might have to offer.
Would there be less people, in this colder climate, if fossil fuels weren’t there to support their needs? There would certainly be fewer people if there was a reversion to agriculture as it was practiced in the pre-industrial revolution era, with its obviously poor understanding of how to produce the lushest high quantity and quality yield on a given piece of land… permaculture excels at considering the needs of the land to be the most versatile and productive. If these permaculture principles were the mainstay of our agricultural practices (and we were “oil sans”, opposed to Canada), the densely populated state of New Jersey could be as populated or even moreso, with a lot more (meaningful) employment, and less commuting across the Hudson River to the hollow “shelled out” city of New York.