Preparing for Peak Oil, Intervening against Hunger: Expanding Local and Regional Food Systems

Local market, fresh vegetables

The global food system has become largely dependent on a finite supply of oil. Rates of crude extraction are projected to decline in the immediate future, accompanied by a rise in oil prices. Judging from recent oil price hikes, higher food prices are likely to follow closely behind. As a result, populations afflicted by hunger may face a particularly sobering transition to a food system divorced, at least in part, from what has become an almost inextricable bond with oil.

In every potential crisis lies opportunity. In our efforts to prepare for a post-peak oil food system, what measures can be taken to uplift and protect the world’s most vulnerable? Among several other key recommendations, expanding the capacity of local and regional food systems may build resiliency against rising food prices, more expensive agricultural inputs and other shocks related to oil scarcity. By providing greater economic opportunities to the most affected populations, building support around local farmers in developing regions may also help to alleviate hunger. Read More >

Now Can We Talk About Peak Oil?

It’s possible that we may all be ready to talk about peak oil now—especially if we frame it in terms of public health.

A recently published study on the public’s perception of peak oil has turned up some very interesting data about how Americans view the impact of high oil prices on public health. What’s so fascinating about the data is this: it’s not just those on the left who are worried. In fact, those most concerned about the health consequences of rising oil prices seem to be, in equal numbers, those on both the far right and far left of the political spectrum. Read More >

Peak Oil, Food Systems, Irene, Debt and Deadlines

Last month I watched in amazement as a small but inflammatory political faction forced its agenda on the American people—and got results.  The debt-ceiling advocates bullied the issue into Congress using two powerful tools—threats and a deadline.

Our food system depends on petroleum

Standing in line at the Giant last Friday, I reflected on our collective ability to mobilize for deadlines.  “This is not a storm to be taken lightly,” said Governor O’Malley to Marylanders, and we didn’t. We loaded up coolers of ice and refrigerators full of food, double-staked the tomatoes, charged the electronics, filled bathtubs with water, even put away patio furniture in case it might fly into the air and smash our windows. “I just scored the last eight D batteries in Baltimore!,” crowed a friend on Facebook. Read More >

Preparing for Peak Oil

Peak oil will challenge oil-dependent agriculture.

Peak oil is inevitable. At some point, global oil supplies will peak and then decline (it may be happening already), driving up the cost of oil and petroleum products.But what happens to our food systems, which rely heavily on oil, when oil becomes scarce? We can anticipate higher food prices, undernourishment, and hunger—unless we start preparing now.

Today the American Journal of Public Health has published online ahead of print “Peak Petroleum and Public Health,” as part of a special AJPH supplement, to be published in September, that will examine peak oil health threats.This paper, co-authored by CLF faculty Roni Neff, PhD, Robert Lawrence, MD, and colleagues, makes the case for pre-emptive changes that can help public health adapt—ahead of the curve—to the inevitable.“Certain social and policy changes could smooth adaptation. Public health has an essential role in promoting a proactive, smart, and equitable transition that increases resilience and enables adequate food for all,” write the authors. Read More >