No Sustainability Since Agriculture

July 22, 2007 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Al Bartlett for forwarding the message below from author Peter Salonius, as well as Peter’s article below.


Hello to all,

I have been reading Albert Bartlett’s paper entitled ‘REFLECTIONS ON SUSTAINABILITY, POPULATION GROWTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT —-2006, published IN ‘ The Future of Sustainability’ (Marco Keiner, Ed.), pages 17-37. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 257 p. 2006.

Bartlett’s Sixteenth Law of Sustainability reads “Humans will always be dependent on agriculture” and he says that “The central task in SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE is to preserve agricultural land – from urbanization and development, erosion, and poisoning by chemicals.”

I and many others have come to understand that we humans have continued to eat and reproduce ourselves into a ‘cull-de-sac’ as each increase in our ability to produce food has been swallowed up by the propensity of human reproduction excesses to go above and beyond even the enormous (but temporary) increases in carrying capacity offered by fossil fuel driven technological and cultural improvements in agricultural production.

Meanwhile my short paper – attached as FORCHRON07final (151 KB) – suggests that there is a basic flaw in our food production culture.

The paper starkly suggests that AGRICULTURE IS UNSUSTAINABLE in the long term because it opens up and simplifies virgin, nutrient conservative ecosystems and allows massive leaching of fertilizer elements to the sea so that over time the productive capacity of these lands decreases irreversibly in the absence of inputs of exogenous nutrient supplements.

NOTE: The Amerindian practice of using fish (reversing to flow of nutrients to the sea) to fertilize, beans, corn and squash — in temporary clearings in the forest (before the soil carbon had been burnt off by microbial activity) may have worked for a very long time to support a STABLE and SMALL population of shifting agriculturalists.

Peter Salonius

Research Scientist, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre

Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service
P. O. Box 4000, 1350 Regent Street South,
Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5P7, Canada
Tel.:(506) 452-3548, Fax: (506) 452-3525

Peter Salonius Article (PDF, 152 KB)

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit