Richard Heinberg: Conclusion and Footnotes

To conclude, let me simply restate what is I hope clear by now: Given the fact that fossil fuels are limited in quantity and that we are already in view of the global oil production peak, we must turn to a food system that is less fuel-reliant, even if the process is problematic in many ways. Of course, the process will take time; it is a journey that will take place over decades. Nevertheless, it must begin soon, and it must begin with a comprehensive plan. The transition to a fossil-fuel-free food system does not constitute a distant utopian proposal. It is an unavoidable, immediate, and immense challenge that will call for unprecedented levels of creativity at all levels of society. A hundred years from now, everyone will be eating what we today would define as organic food, whether or not we act. But what we do now will determine how many will be eating, what state of health will be enjoyed by those future generations, and whether they will live in a ruined cinder of a world, or one that is in the process of being renewed and replenished.

About the Author

Richard Heinberg is one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil (oil depletion) educators and is a Research Fellow of Post Carbon Institute. He is the author of eight books including The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (New Society, 2003, 2005), Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (New Society, 2004), and The Oil Depletion Protocol (New Society, 2006).

Heinberg is a journalist, educator, editor, lecturer, a Core Faculty member of New College of California where he teaches a program on “Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community,” and a Research Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators. His monthly MuseLetter has been included in Utne Magazine’s annual list of Best Alternative Newsletters. Since 2002, he has given over three hundred lectures on oil depletion (“Peak Oil”) to a wide variety of audiences—from insurance executives to peace activists, from local and national elected officials to Jesuit volunteers. Richard is married to horticulturist/herbalist/massage therapist Janet Barocco; they live in a suburban house retrofitted for energy efficiency and food production.


  • 1. See Fernand Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1982)
  • 2. See Vaclav Smil, Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production (Boston: WIT Press, 2004)
  • 3. David Pimentel, “Constraints on the Expansion of Global Food Supply,” Kindell, Henry H. and Pimentel, David. Ambio Vol. 23 No. 3, May 1994. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
  • 4. See also Roger D. Blanchard, The Future of Global Oil Production: Facts, Figures, Trend and Projections (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2005)
  • 5. Longwell, “The future of the oil and gas industry: past approaches, new challenges,” World Energy Vol. 5 #3, 2002
  • 6. Energy Watch Group, “Crude Oil – The Supply Outlook,”
  • 7. “Oil Supplies Face More Pressure,” BBC online, July 9 2007
  • 8. Energy Watch Group, “Coal: Resources and Future Production” (April, 2007).
  • 9. John Vidal, “Global Food Crisis Looms as Climate Change and Fuel Shortages Bite,” The Guardian, Nov. 3, 2007
  • 10. Jacques Diouf quoted in John Vidal, op. cit.
  • 11.
  • 12.
  • 13. Peter Apps, “Cost of Food Aid Soars As Global Need Rises, Reuters, October 16
  • 14. See Jack Santa Barbara, The False Promise of Biofuels (San Francisco: International Forum on Globalization, 2007)
  • 15. Vidal, op. cit.
  • 16. Lester Brown quoted in Vidal, op. cit.
  • 17. “IMF Concerned by Impact of Biofuels of Food Prices,” Industry Week online, October 18, 2007,
  • 18. Ziegler, quoted by George Monbiot
  • 19. Monbiot, op. cit.
  • 20. Vidal, op. cit.
  • 21. Vidal, op. cit.
  • 22. Patrick Déry and Bart Anderson, “Peak Phosphorus,”
  • 23.
  • 24. “Agriculture Consuming World’s Water,” Geotimes online, June 2007
  • 25. “Unsustainable Development ‘Puts Humanity at Risk’,” New Scientist online, October 17 2007,
  • 26. “Between Hungry People and Climate Change, Soils Need Help,” Environmental New Service, August 31, 2007,
  • 27. Celia W. Dugger, “World Bank Puts Agriculture at Center of Anti-Poverty Effort,” New York Times, October 20, 2007,…
  • 28. Stephen Leahy, “Dirt Isn’t So Cheap After All,”
  • 29. Ibid.;
  • 30. See, for example, William M. Muir, “Potential environmental risks and hazards of biotechnology,”
  • 31.
  • 32. (vol 22, p 86) University of Michigan, July 10, 2007
  • 33. “Organic Agriculture,” FAO report, 1999,
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. “Between Hungry People and Climate Change, Soils Need Help,” Environmental New Service, August 31, 2007,
  • 36. FAO, op. cit.
  • 37. F.H. King, Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China, Korea and Japan, (New York: Dover Publications, 1911, ed. 2004)
  • 38. The story of how Cuba responded to its oil famine is described in the film, “The Power of Community,”
  • 39. David Strahan, The Last Oil Shock (London: John Murray, 2007), p. 15
  • 40. James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency (Nerw York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005)
  • 41. Matthew Green, “Oakland Looks toward Greener Pastures,” Edible East Bay, Spring 2007,
  • 42. Peter Goodchild, “Agriculture In A Post-Oil Economy,” 22 September, 2007