Peak Oil threat to British Columbia's food supply, says report

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Climate Change and rising oil prices are a threat to ability of British Columbia to feed itself in the future, say scientists and planners.

Farmers in this Canadian province produce only 48 per cent of the meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables that are being consumed there, according to a report prepared by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

The report, titled “B.C.'s Food Self-Reliance”, says that the area of farmland with access to irrigation in the province would have to increase by nearly 50 per cent by 2025 to provide a healthy diet for all British Columbians. You can download the report for yourself from here.

Maintaining the province's current level of food self-reliance in 2025 would require a 30-per-cent increase in agricultural production, according to the report.

The total amount of land being farmed in B.C. has gone up by less than one per cent since 1986, according to census data. In the Greater Vancouver Regional District, only 223 hectares of farmland came under irrigation between 1996 and 2001, for a total of 6,375 hectares.

The agricultural industry's reliance on fossil fuels for irrigation, processing, harvesting, refrigeration, transport and the production of fertilizer, and the fertilizers themselves being, predominately oil-based, means that as the world's oil supply wanes and fuel prices spike, we should not expect to be eating Chilean grapes and Mexican lettuce in a few years time, according to Vancouver architect and planner Rick Balfour.

Balfour, who obtained the ministry report through Freedom of Information legislation, envisions a near-future in which virtually everything we eat will have to be produced locally.

Rick Balfour, who served as chairman of the Vancouver Planning Commission until last week, has organized "war games" sessions for planning and futurist conferences in which people try to work out how societies and economies reorganize as a result of oil price shock. The "re-ruralization" of the suburbs – tearing up low-density neighborhoods to grow crops – is a typical scenario, according to him. And I must say that from what I have come to understand I can but agree with Mr. Balfour.

"This report speaks to that very issue and it was being buried by the government," so said Mr. Balfour. "It took six months to get a 20-page report that asks the question, 'When we can't afford to ship our food from Chile and California, what are we going to do?'"

Within seven to 10 years fuel prices are going to spike dramatically, Balfour said. Peak oil theory predicts a massive rise in oil prices as oil production reaches maximum outputs and production begins to fall. Scientists and planners predict that a painful reorganization of the global economy will follow the peak and subsequent decline in oil production.

While Rick Balfour reckons that it will take seven to 10 years for the fuel prices to spike dramatically I, and many others, reckon this time to be much nearer by now. The British “Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES) – members of which include, amongst others Richard Branson, of the Virgin Group of companies – seem to think that 2013 may be the year when the impact will hit us already hard, and say as much in their report of February 2010 (which also ended up buried a little until July 2010) called “Crunch Oil”.

We must make our changes and transition now to a world with less oil or even virtually no oil.

Can we handle $10/gallon gasoline? Of course not. It will throw the economy into chaos, if not ruin. What we will have seen so far will look like a picnic and a gentle stroll in a park.

The problem is that the governments are not prepared to tell the people and the people also do not appear to be ready for this message.

The British Columbia government buried the report that they themselves commissioned and produced, no doubt out of fear as to how the people would react should they ever find out.

Now it is in the public domain and I just wonder what backlash might come out of this and as to whether people will finally realize where we are headed. Will they act and prepare or will they continue, in the main, act like ostriches and bury their heads in the sand pretending it is not happening?

When the likes of Richard Branson and other captains of industry get seriously concerned about Peak Oil and its impact we better sit up and take note. Those people generally do not scare easily. Methinks when they scare we are in trouble. Time to act and that time is now.

Get ready to move into a no-oil world and learn all you can about the issue and how to live and thrive in the new world after oil.

© 2010

To learn more about Peak Oil, how it could affect you and what a society post Oil Age might look like get and read the book “The End of Oil”. You can obtain the book via