Thursday, December 14, 2017

Avoiding famine and creating energy independence

Image stolen from Diana Rodgers at the Sustainable Dish
Consider this part 4 of my 3 part movement and energy rant series. If you're new to this series, check out part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Quick quiz: what has released more carbon into the atmosphere than all of the fossil fuels we have burnt since the industrial revolution?


Particularly the monoculture industrial farms. The great plains of the US had many many feet of carbon-rich top soil that is now just a few inches thick. When you till and plant and harvest in an endless cycle, you lose your soil. That carbon goes somewhere.

The way the grasslands used to work was that cattle (or really bison in the US) would intensively graze a patch of land, eating just about everything while leaving behind fertilizer. The pressure from predators would keep them in a tight group that forced the intensive grazing and also kept them moving so that they would rotate the pasture land.

The pasture would regrow and by using the free energy from the sun, it would capture carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into sugars which become the organic compounds stored in the soil.

I think I've told that story before so it may sound familiar to you. But I learned something new this week: in addition to the nitrogen fixing cycle (pictured above) that is free when you mix plants and animals on the same land (as opposed to factory monocrops and separate CAFO feed lots), there's a really clever method of getting the other minerals that plants need.

If you're a gardener, you know that you need NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium). Nitrogen comes from the poop, but where does the phosphorus come from? You can run down to McGuckins and buy a bag of it. If you're a massive factory farm, you truck it in. No matter what, phosphorous, being a mineral, needs to be mined (takes energy), transported (takes energy), and distributed onto the field (takes energy). So there's a HUGE energy footprint in simply fertilizing our crops.

But surely, the great plains thrived before we trucked in minerals. How did that work? Well, when the grass turns the sunlight into sugar (pulling carbon from the air), it uses that sugar to feed bacteria that live on its roots. Those bacteria then feed the fungus that lives in the soil a layer below - and here's where it gets really cool - that fungus network is huge and reaches way down into the earth and actually transports minerals up! The sun is powering a natural deep-earth mining operation.

Why do am I so concerned about this? Remember, my day job is in the tech industry, and I see so much craziness that is going to not only bankrupt us, but drive us to mass famine.  I won't talk about any work that I do directly because of NDA stuff, but there is other stuff in the news like vertical farming and lab-grown meats. Those are huge, energy intensive operations that are making nutrient-poor food. The silliest one is a vertical farm inside a building that has solar panels on the roof to power artificial light. Ever heard of windows?

We get 1000 watts of solar energy per square yard of land at high noon (thanks DJN for making me remember that one) - we should be using what we get for free.

Anyway, if you care about a reliable food system and energy independence you need to take a good hard look at the centralized food system we have now. You need to understand thermodynamics (or at least listen to those of us who do). What we are doing now is unsustainable - and that's the reason I care. We started this gym because we saw a culture of unsustainable fitness that was leading to injury and burn-out (rhymes with schmoss fit), and now I'm seeing an unsustainable food system - and I'm sure you've seen my rants about the unsustainable health care system.

But you don't need to take my word for it. A member of the paleo community that I know of (but don't know personally), is working on a film that's the counterpoint to the nonsense like What the Health that just came out. She's looking for some help getting this produced. If you want to help her crowdfunding, check this out - she says all of what I said above much better than me. I bet she won't turn down any help you can give - even expertise (cousin Tarek are you reading?)


row 500 / run 400
crawling lunge
10 KB swings or snatches
double KB overhead lunge
10 TGUs or windmills
10 goblet squats
5 pull-ups or push-ups or dips


snatch 8-5-3x5


2 windmills between strength sets

Group Workout

5L, 5R kettlebell snatch 
20 bodyweight lunges


4 rounds, as quickly as possible:
10 box jump burpees, step down only
10 weighted elevator sit up


2 minute plank hold


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