Monday, April 02, 2007

A Tree Farming Paradox

The paradox is that a system design can’t improve efficiency without reducing current effectiveness. There must be a trade off between effectiveness (gross output to time ratio) and efficiency (the output to input ratio)

Since the industrial revolution, horticulture & agriculture has tended towards short cycles, I.e. annuals. This is understandable. With cheap plentiful energy, the name of the game has been effectiveness. Growing as much food & fibre as you can from the land whist trying to reduce expensive capital and labour with energy being the driving input.

With the availability of cheap energy in question. The game starts to swing back to efficiency. I.e. perennials. You improve efficiency by increasing the amount of growing time per planting-harvest effort, by replacing bulk energy with smart compact energy (I.e. labour) and injecting capital instead of energy.

In the industrial age systems, the outputs were food & fibre. In a carbon constrained world, we start to consided energy as a valued output as well.

Here is the paradox. Generally, the higher the efficiency, the longer the production cycle. This mean reduced effectiveness, less food, fibre and energy out per annum.

So what is better, using hemp or timber for paper production?


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