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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Efficiency Wins The Future

In his book Anasazi America, David E. Stuart illustrates the point that energy efficiency in a society trumps power and growth, when it comes to surviving for the long term. The implications for our current addiction to overproduction are ominous.

I don't mean to subtract from the importance of this idea for our future, but I think a few thoughts from the Hen House might be interesting to consider. 1) Chickens are very efficient nibblers. They can spend all day roaming around the yard, pecking at this and that--it's hard to tell what--and coming home to roost perfectly satisfied, leaving their dish of high-tech lay pellets untouched. 2) On the other hand, I wonder how geese persisted in the evolutionary race for so long. They pump grass and lay pellets through their innards, leaving it largely untouched by nature's digestive tricks--a highly inefficient process. In spite of this, Lucy is not lacking any fat these days. 3) My daughter's parrots, however, manage to shred the nastiest nut or piece of fruit and waste half of it, dropping it on the catch tray beneath their perch, dismissing it as so much non-food.

Makes me think of all the food-trimming that goes on in grocery stores or the food overproduced and rotting in unsold heaps or the food uneaten on our plates collecting in garbage dumps. A friend once collected all the energy bars that were being tossed away after a bike race somewhere. It's time to be more efficient than that. The lesson from complex systems is clear--things self-organize around the operating principle. Inefficient things don't last long in geological time.

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