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 Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model

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PostSubject: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:43 pm

This is a great piece by the hugely popular blogger Dmitry Orlov of 'Cluborlov' fame. It's the transcript of a talk he gave two days ago in the US in which he explains why he thinks Russian society is/was better equipped to survive economic collapse than the US. If you haven't come across him before his blog is great reading - very dry sense of humour too.

http://culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=325&Itemid=1

Quote :
Fast food outfits such as McDonalds have more ways to cut costs, and so may prove a bit more resilient in the face of economic collapse than supermarket chains, but they are no substitute for food security, because they too depend on industrial agribusiness. Their food inputs, such as high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified potatoes, various soy-based fillers, factory-farmed beef, pork and chicken, and so forth, are derived from oil, two-thirds of which is imported, as well as fertilizer made from natural gas. They may be able to stay in business longer, supplying food-that-isn’t-really-food, but eventually they will run out of inputs along with the rest of the supply chain. Before they do, they may for a time sell burgers that aren’t really burgers, like the bread that wasn’t really bread that the Soviet government distributed in Leningrad during the Nazi blockade. It was mostly sawdust, with a bit of rye flour added for flavor.
Can we think of any ways to avoid this dismal scenario? The Russian example may give us a clue. Many Russian families could gauge how fast the economy was crashing, and, based on that, decide how many rows of potatoes to plant. Could we perhaps do something similar? There is already a healthy gardening movement in the United States; can it be scaled up? The trick is to make small patches of farmland available for non-mechanical cultivation by individuals and families, in increments as small as 1000 square feet. The ideal spots would be fertile bits of land with access to rivers and streams for irrigation. Provisions would have to be made for campsites and for transportation, allowing people to undertake seasonal migrations out to the land to grow food during the growing season, and haul the produce back to the population centers after taking in the harvest.

Orlov's blog: http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/


Last edited by Aragon on Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:37 am

Just read the first half. Interesting speech so far.

As regard examples another one is Cuba and how it survived it's own peak oil crises after the end of the Soviet era.
I did a search for Cuba in the article and he mentions it.

Quote :
....An even simpler approach has been successfully used in Cuba: converting urban parking lots and other empty bits of land to raised-bed agriculture. Instead of continually trucking in vegetables and other food, it is much easier to truck in soil, compost, and mulch just once a season. Raised highways can be closed to traffic (since there is unlikely to be much traffic in any case) and used to catch rainwater for irrigation. Rooftops and balconies can be used for hothouses, henhouses, and a variety of other agricultural uses.

How difficult would this be to organize? Well, Cubans were actually helped by their government, but the Russians managed to do it in more or less in spite of the Soviet bureaucrats, and so we might be able to do it in spite of the American ones. The government could theoretically head up such an effort, purely hypothetically speaking, of course, because I see no evidence that such an effort is being considered. For our fearless national leaders, such initiatives are too low-level: if they stimulate the economy and get the banks lending again, the potatoes will simply grow themselves. All they need to do is print some more money, right?....

The Cubans used a mixture of urban community agriculture run by workers' collectives, used organic alternatives instead of fossil fuel fertilisers (they became experts in worm cultivation and composting).

As mentioned above in Havana people even built raised garden beds on parking lots and planted vegetable gardens on their patios and rooftops.

Cubans increased mass-transit public transport and built up large and small scale renewable generation. All with minimal resources. For instance they converted trucks into sturdy buses and coaches.

During this time of economic crisis, Cubans refrained from cutting back their healthcare system.

Instead they decided to preserve their publicly-provided health care system whose preventive, locally-based approach to medicine conserved scarce resources.

All of this contributes to the fact that, Cuba is the only nation which reaches the sustainability sweet spot of 1 planet's resources usage and a 1 on the 0-1 UN Human Development Index.


there's an interesting US documentary about it which you can see on youtube, googlevideo or download

http://www.powerofcommunity.org/cm/index.php

http://globalpublicmedia.com/articles/657

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-66172489666918336
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:53 pm

The local authorities are best placed to organise this in Ireland. There are allotment movements starting up across the country, trying to get councils to release fallow land.

Could the Minister send round a Directive telling them to get on with it, and to let the land out at peppercorn rent, particularly to people who are unemployed?
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:01 am

cactus flower wrote:
The local authorities are best placed to organise this in Ireland. There are allotment movements starting up across the country, trying to get councils to release fallow land.

Could the Minister send round a Directive telling them to get on with it, and to let the land out at peppercorn rent, particularly to people who are unemployed?

We've been wondering about finding an allotment. How does a person go about applying for one, assuming there are any to be had? Is there any legal entitlement to pieces of land that are not being used (small green areas or whatever)?
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:18 am

Aragon wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
The local authorities are best placed to organise this in Ireland. There are allotment movements starting up across the country, trying to get councils to release fallow land.

Could the Minister send round a Directive telling them to get on with it, and to let the land out at peppercorn rent, particularly to people who are unemployed?

We've been wondering about finding an allotment. How does a person go about applying for one, assuming there are any to be had? Is there any legal entitlement to pieces of land that are not being used (small green areas or whatever)?

I don't know the answer to that, but I'm sure someone here will. Its a very interesting question.

There is a Criminal Trespass Act, quite recent, that brought in very stringent prohibition on entering land and has excluded Travellers from places they have stopped in for generations. There are also I think "squatters rights" if you occupy land for a certain length of time.

Some Councils have allotments and you put your name on a waiting list. In some other areas there are Councillors trying to bring in allotment schemes and/or local groups lobbying for them. I don't know if National Government has done anything yet. Schools are involved in different food growing schemes too - I heard something about a limited grant scheme for schools. I know a farmer who is trying to launch a private scheme - I'll keep you posted whether it works out or not.

Things you could do -
-ask your Council
-If the Council doesn't help ask your Councillor
-Get a group together and find a good piece of unused public land
-Work with a local school that has land

If you're looking for land, you could use the aerial photography on most local council planning seatch websites, or google earth, to find hidden away unused green patches.

Get started wherever you can - gro-bags, window boxes and pots, dig up the lawn and plant spuds and carrots.


Last edited by cactus flower on Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:50 am

I found out recently that mormons stockpile tinned foood for emergancies and even have further community food dumps. I have no idea why this is or which mormon sects do this. Sorry, probably not related to the thread but interesting all the same.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 6:02 am

The US and Australia both recommend that each household keeps several weeks food supply for emergencies - Bird Flu being one reason given.

The Food Lifeboat is an Australian site that gives a recommended list of foods

http://www.foodlifeboat.com.au/

Auditor#9 posted a youtube video a while back made by a sacked Wall Street worker who was happy to have this supply to fall back on.

At a national level, countries used to keep substantial food stocks but now it is down to a few weeks. In Iceland when they experienced their financial collapse there was a stage in which stocks were running out and supermarket shelves looking pretty empty.

For Ireland a billion spent on increasing food stocks would have been a better buy than a billion on recapitalisation imo.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:14 pm

I don't know, I grew lots of potatoes in my back garden last summer and it cost me as much as buying them in aldi. Farmers can grow food more cheaply then us estate dwellers due to economies of scale. It would be useful for townies to grow some food if there were going to be actual shortages, but Ireland is a net exporter of food.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:54 pm

Art wrote:
I don't know, I grew lots of potatoes in my back garden last summer and it cost me as much as buying them in aldi. Farmers can grow food more cheaply then us estate dwellers due to economies of scale. It would be useful for townies to grow some food if there were going to be actual shortages, but Ireland is a net exporter of food.

You are very right about that. Prices of seed can be outrageous and when you set up and have to buy tools it is anything but cheap. Its a long haul thing and a hedge against shortages.

What is important is to have species from which you can collect seed for use the next year. I don't know much about how ot go about that, so any information would be appreciated.

Do you have a link to data on Ireland's food self sufficiency? At the moment we produce and export a lot of meat, and as far as I know import a lot of vegetables.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:17 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Art wrote:
I don't know, I grew lots of potatoes in my back garden last summer and it cost me as much as buying them in aldi. Farmers can grow food more cheaply then us estate dwellers due to economies of scale. It would be useful for townies to grow some food if there were going to be actual shortages, but Ireland is a net exporter of food.

You are very right about that. Prices of seed can be outrageous and when you set up and have to buy tools it is anything but cheap. Its a long haul thing and a hedge against shortages.

What is important is to have species from which you can collect seed for use the next year. I don't know much about how ot go about that, so any information would be appreciated.

Do you have a link to data on Ireland's food self sufficiency? At the moment we produce and export a lot of meat, and as far as I know import a lot of vegetables.

Based on Bond Bias figures, horticulture uses 0.5% of Ireland's agricultural land and produces 6.7% of our agricultural output in monetary terms. In a way its a much more productive use of Ireland's land but its much more capital and labour intensive (but I am sure not all parts of ireland would be suitable). One of the things I admire about our European neighbours is how much more they grow on their land. When you get off the boat in France (roscoff) you are surrounded by fields of different types of vegetables.

Regarding buying seeds and vegetables, I recommend you make a trip to the Johnstown garden center on the N7 at Naas, they have a huge seed and vegetable section. I bought my bags of seed potatoes there last week, there is a huge selection, and am trying to get them to sprout at the moment. The potato bags were very expensive so I am planning to use empty heavy duty agricultural bags and just pokes holes in the bottom.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:25 pm

Art wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Art wrote:
I don't know, I grew lots of potatoes in my back garden last summer and it cost me as much as buying them in aldi. Farmers can grow food more cheaply then us estate dwellers due to economies of scale. It would be useful for townies to grow some food if there were going to be actual shortages, but Ireland is a net exporter of food.

You are very right about that. Prices of seed can be outrageous and when you set up and have to buy tools it is anything but cheap. Its a long haul thing and a hedge against shortages.

What is important is to have species from which you can collect seed for use the next year. I don't know much about how ot go about that, so any information would be appreciated.

Do you have a link to data on Ireland's food self sufficiency? At the moment we produce and export a lot of meat, and as far as I know import a lot of vegetables.

Based on Bond Bias figures, horticulture uses 0.5% of Ireland's agricultural land and produces 6.7% of our agricultural output in monetary terms. In a way its a much more productive use of Ireland's land but its much more capital and labour intensive (but I am sure not all parts of ireland would be suitable). One of the things I admire about our European neighbours is how much more they grow on their land. When you get off the boat in France (roscoff) you are surrounded by fields of different types of vegetables.

Regarding buying seeds and vegetables, I recommend you make a trip to the Johnstown garden center on the N7 at Naas, they have a huge seed and vegetable section. I bought my bags of seed potatoes there last week, there is a huge selection, and am trying to get them to sprout at the moment. The potato bags were very expensive so I am planning to use empty heavy duty agricultural bags and just pokes holes in the bottom.

What are Bond Bias figures?

Kate P would say a lot of our land is only fit for grazing, but there is plenty of land good enough for vegetables. There are thousands of back gardens not being used. If everyone got one or two things grown and swapped stuff with neighbours, we'd be eating better and feeling fitter.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:52 pm

Sorry I meant Board Bia.

I agree that everyone should try to grow something, its usually easy and tastes better. Everything grew well for me last year apart from cabbage, summer squash and strawberries. But then i didnt use sprays on anything.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:05 am

All my cabbages were eaten by bugs. No
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:06 am

Cactus, what are your crops and what is your yield on each?
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:29 am

johnfás wrote:
Cactus, what are your crops and what is your yield on each?

What is "yield" ?
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:29 am

Well like how many carrotts are you getting, or whatever it is you are planting?
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:39 am

cactus flower wrote:
Aragon wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
The local authorities are best placed to organise this in Ireland. There are allotment movements starting up across the country, trying to get councils to release fallow land.

Could the Minister send round a Directive telling them to get on with it, and to let the land out at peppercorn rent, particularly to people who are unemployed?

We've been wondering about finding an allotment. How does a person go about applying for one, assuming there are any to be had? Is there any legal entitlement to pieces of land that are not being used (small green areas or whatever)?

I don't know the answer to that, but I'm sure someone here will. Its a very interesting question.

There is a Criminal Trespass Act, quite recent, that brought in very stringent prohibition on entering land and has excluded Travellers from places they have stopped in for generations. There are also I think "squatters rights" if you occupy land for a certain length of time.

Some Councils have allotments and you put your name on a waiting list. In some other areas there are Councillors trying to bring in allotment schemes and/or local groups lobbying for them. I don't know if National Government has done anything yet. Schools are involved in different food growing schemes too - I heard something about a limited grant scheme for schools. I know a farmer who is trying to launch a private scheme - I'll keep you posted whether it works out or not.

Things you could do -
-ask your Council
-If the Council doesn't help ask your Councillor
-Get a group together and find a good piece of unused public land
-Work with a local school that has land

If you're looking for land, you could use the aerial photography on most local council planning seatch websites, or google earth, to find hidden away unused green patches.

Get started wherever you can - gro-bags, window boxes and pots, dig up the lawn and plant spuds and carrots.

Didn't see this answer until right now - much appreciated suggestions there. There's lot's of stuff along the lines you suggest happening in UK - it would be really great if we got our act together here.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:40 am

johnfás wrote:
Well like how many carrotts are you getting, or whatever it is you are planting?

Last year we had more apples, blackcurrants, plums and white currants than we could eat up to now. Freezer is still half full.
We had plenty of leeks and artichokes and still have brussels sprouts. The new garlic is growing well.
We have loads of herbs and had plenty of rocket and lettuce.
Tomatoes didn't do too well because of not enough sun, so we have built a little greenhouse for this year.

All the cabbages were eaten down to the last inch of green by B u g s. I won't be growing them again.

Ive planted this year hazel nut trees, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

This year we're going to be growing potatotes, carrots and parsips too.

Will be trying grapes in the greenhouse too.
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:44 am

Very good Smile.

Did you build a big snazzy greenhouse or one of those semi permanent jobbies?
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PostSubject: Re: Surviving economic collapse: the Russian model   Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:47 am

We put a glass hat on top of a little courtyard, so we didn't have to build side walls. We got it sent over in a box from the UK, cut to measure: it was very good value. Its not quite finished: I still have to put some of the glass in.
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