i heard wes jackson at the ohio prairie conference this weekend. so besides learning how to plant and what to plant at the fields in La Paz, Wes told us about how... well, damn he said a lot. and he synthesized information form so many disciplines...
basically, he went through history and said that humans have gobbled up most of the terrestrial sources of readilly available carbon to fuel technology and civilization's growth. we've gone through all kinds of animals to get at their oil, for instance; we've cut down a lot of forests for burning as well (the middle east used to be a forest). we've taken coal, oil and now gas. it has sepparated us farther and farther from lifeways dependent on the constantly replenished, though less energetic, sources of life's fuels. ya know, food, air, water, etc. he's worried that once we run out of what we're on now, there won't be too much more readily available carbon to burn. so we need to get our act together and redesign our economy, based on permaculture principles.
he and his crew of post grads are domesticating/rewilding some of our principle food crops- wheat, chickpeas, etc- to become perrenial. then we can plant diverse polycultures of these in the North American Great Plains where industrial, annual agriculture is now. with perrenials, you are adding to the soil's hospitality to life EVERY YEAR, instead of using mad carcinogenic nitrogen fertilizers (which may be why tobacco gives so many people cancer these days http://www.cannabisculture.com/news/tobacco/) and plowing the soil, letting the living flesh of the earth melt away in waterways.
it's a lot to get the head around, and i know i left or missed out on a lot of what he was saying. here's his main website: http://www.landinstitute.org/ peace out