Friday, May 30, 2008


There was about a week there with no posts; sorry about that. I was busy, and there was Memorial Day weekend, and it took a few days to get myself back together.

This article, in two short pages, manage to cram in a lot of interesting information about colonialism, the pre-petroleum world, sustainable fishing, sea bird conservation, organic farming, and other topics.

Peru Guards its Guano as Demand Soars Again.

Guano is bird droppings; colonial birds such as the cormorants and boobies mentioned in this article produce a lot of it every year. Before humans figured out a way to make synthetic fertilizer (leading to corn that is grown with petroleum, which doesn't really help us when you make it into ethanol), guano was the richest soil amendment you could buy.

What I'm not too clear on is why seabird guano is so particularly sought after. We have millions of captive chickens, turkeys and ducks; can't we use some of their droppings in a similar way? If anyone has a good explanation about this (is it something about the level of fish in the diet?) I would love to hear it.

Anyway, it's an interesting article. It gives a little more insight into just how this massive food chain we've created works. Fish that would go to seabirds are instead going to chickens (which don't normally eat fish); declining seabird numbers means less guano for organic farmers to use on vegetables. The price of petroleum goes up to the point that "conventional" petroleum-based farming is too expensive, so farmers of all stripes are looking for alternative fertilizers.

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