We have evidence that we are at our planet’s ecological tipping point. Our consumer-based society has largely led us to this crisis. The fossil fuel consumption that powers our consumer-based, mono-culture dominated, Monsanto-bullied agricultural system is clearly unsustainable, and each day we are becoming more uncertain as to how long we will have cheap fuel. If environmental costs aren’t enough to change our ways, what about human costs? Do we participate in a system that engages in foreign conflict based on a desire to secure that country’s energy resources?
What would a modern society that used much, much less fossil fuels look like? Of course, it would be based on a local agricultural system. We would end our reliance on our large-scale food system where our food travels, on average 1500 miles before it reaches us by way of refrigerated trucks. We would return to subsisting off of the goods that can be produced in our local region. To take this concept further, we would move away from our current unsustainable modes of food preservation.
Some may have given up hope on the establishment of a more sustainable way of life that can prevent the ecological collapse that looms around us. But others, out of passion for sustainable-living principles, or out of a propensity toward survival, will be interested in learning the techniques that are necessary for not only short-term survival without fossil fuels, but methods of food cultivation and preservation that adequately nourish and sustain the body over time–a way of living and eating that provides for healthy peoples over generations.
What would a food system look like that persists despite the decline of the fossil fuel supply?
It may not include the household refrigerator and freezer. Energy intensive canning that drastically reduces the vitamin content of foods may be replaced by drying food in low-tech solar dehydrators, or preservation by lactic-acid fermentation, a process where food is transformed by the action of beneficial microorganisms. This is not new technology, but ancient technology used by all of the cultures of humanity that maintained healthy populations over many generations. Milk is preserved by transforming it to more stable products such as kefir, yogurt, cheese, and butter. Meat from large animals is preserved by drying into jerky, allowing to age by hanging, or curing by way of sausage in its various forms. Each home or small community would have small animals such as chickens, quail, or guinea fowl that would be harvested as needed. Food would be fresh, systems would be small, and each person in society would have some food specialty to contribute to the household, or offer foods for sale or barter.
All cultures that have stood the test of time have had a way of preserving food that harnessed the ability of lactic acid bacteria to ferment food. For Germans it was sauerkraut – sour greens or sauerruben – sour roots. Koreans have kimchi. Italians have prosciutto and salami, preserved meats with the help of lactic acid bacteria.
Not only do these preservation methods preserve food, but they provide increased nutrition, enzymes, beneficial bacteria, easier digestion, and enhanced flavor.