“Soil is not a renewable resource.” — so quoth Wes Jackson. The statement is not strictly true, but the rate at which soil can be renewed, is so much smaller than the rate at which it is currently destroyed that it is effectively non-renewable. And a second take-away from yesterday mornings plenary with Wes Jackson is that, “Soil is more important than oil.” All the fossil fuels that not only exist, but that can be conjured up in the human imagination, will not save you if the base of your food production has been wiped out. However, Wes Jackson has a plan — actually, he has had one for some 40+ years now — and it is coming to fruition some 10 — 60 years sooner than he’d originally projected. The core of our current soil dilemma comes from our agricultural practices. Our food production of grains, legumes, and sunflower based products all center around annuals, plants that live a single year and then die. This requires that the soil used for food production be constantly plowed, replanted, and then plowed under, in order to maintain ongoing food production. That constant and repetitive set of actions is extremely destructive of the soil. So what if you could avoid it altogether? Perennials are hardy, they require no plowing, and can be extremely productive. Their root systems are deep — upwards of twelve feet — and they not only fix, they slowly rebuild the soil. There are complicated (and largely speculative) reasons why perennials were never used by our ancestors for primary food production. Among those reasons was a lack of knowledge about genetics, and powerful computer systems. Wes Jackson founded his “Land Institute” with a vision that, in some 50 — 100 years, they might create viable perennial crops that could be moved into large scale food production, and in so doing end the suicidal destruction of the agricultural soils we need for basic survival. The plan is ahead of schedule. Jackson delivered bags of perennial flour to several of the conference’s organizers, and discussed some of the fields that have now moved into production mode. (Their priorities are also in the right place: Jackson mentioned that those production fields are currently used primarily for making beer and whiskey. Large scale food production is in the offing.) Other aspects of the conference were also good. The final sessions developed a number of ideas; contacts were made with new friends, while old friends were caught up with. The next phase begins today, with (in my case) several ideas for book projects being floated by various people For the time being, I’m just going to spend a few days decompressing.