How possible is economic autarky?

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Jub
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Re: How possible is economic autarky?

Post by Jub » 2018-07-31 08:21pm

Broomstick wrote:
2018-07-30 10:20pm
Here's the thing - with traditional agriculture you get the growth substrate for "free" (you may add fertilizers and other soil amendments, but the basic stuff is free, literally just lying out there). You get the water for free in the form of rain. You get the sunlight for free.

With hydroponics of any sort you have to deliver all that yourself.

You have to find a substrate, clean it (because fungal infestations will kill your plants), and load it into some sort of container. You will continually battle against fungus and algae infestations because there is nothing like a natural ecosystem with its check and balances. Everything else wants the free buffet your setting out for your food plants. This crap not only attacks your plants, it can clog up the tubing and pipes that make the rest of the set up work.
Yeah, this will be an issue but it's a known issue and one that current hydroponic farms are already dealing with. Scaling up will increase some of the challenges but, at least in this case, they won't be unexpected problems.
With interior plants you have an additional problem - plants have evolved to experience stress. If their stems are not flexed they fail to gain strength. One easy trick is to set up an oscillating fan to imitate wind. A traditional bonsai technique is to manual flex the plants' stems. If you don't do that - and sometimes even if you do - your plants' stems and stalks may not be strong enough to support them or their fruits/vegetables, resulting in breakage and failure to produce a crop. You might need little lattice cages to help the plants support themselves and someone it going to have to build and maintain those, and get the plants situated in them. So... either electric fans, or human labor again.
I think you could, at least somewhat, mitigate this issue with building design. You could try to design in air currents that would create a breeze. This might occur as a byproduct of lighting/heating changes throughout the day or be manufactured by opening/closing vents.
Then there is the problem of light - the roof/top floor can get adequate natural light, and maybe the sides (if other nearby structures don't shade them) but what about the interior core? You'll need artificial lights. How do you power them?
Where do you get them? Does your hypothetical nation have the means to make them? What sort of power generation do you have?
First off, you'd have to be a well-off, densely packed nation to both need and be able to pull off large-scale vertical farming. I'd assume the nation going for this would have already transitioned or been planning to transition to more internal manufacturing using only resources found within their borders, or if not going for true autarky, within a select circle of close allies. It would be a doomed autarky if they couldn't manufacture something as simple as grow lights internally.

As for power that depends on the nation. Solar would be huge, but tidal generation, wnd farms, geothermal, or even nuclear could all be options.
Hydroponics require more than water - every nutrient your plants require must be delivered by the fluids you use, and that means YOU must figure out what's needed, acquire it, and put it into solution. Well, OK, what the hell, ditch hydroponics - use dirt like in a green house, and engage in composting farm and kitchen waste. You'll still have to move water around, but you won't have the same issues with fungus and algae (although you'll still have to watch out for them), clogged plumbing, and chemistry. You'll still need growlights.
There's no reason your vertical farms have to be 100% hydroponics or that 100% of your nations food output would need to be gown in vertical farms. You'd have a mix with vertical farming being required only for a nation like the UK where they don't have the arable land to otherwise be food neutral. Canada would obviously just keep on farming as we have been doing with a greater nod towards efficiency and crop varriety.
If you have sufficient power for refrigerator why not just use that power to directly power pumps to move the water around?
I'd assume to prevent spoilage and save on unneeded transport of goods you'd want on-site refrigeration as well as warehousing and possible even a distribution center combined with your vertical farm. If the waste output of one can be used to aid the other that's a net benefit for the entire system.

You're not going to be a very successful autarky if you don't spend a little extra pretransition to ensure efficiency once you go solo.
Are cacti native to your autarky? (They're native only to the Americas, actually) Does your autarky have sufficient academic resources to develop a technology like gene modding?
Nothing is stopping you from importing things before you cut ties to the rest of the world.

Cacti were also just a top of head example of looking for creative foods that you may look into growing.
There are, at most, 4 nations on the planet that on their own could potentially launch orbital mirrors. That would be the US, India, China, and maybe Russia - while the USSR could to it on its own the successor to the Soviet space program is a joint effort between separate nations now. If your autarky can't run a space program on its own it won't have orbital mirrors beaming power down to the surface.
You would certainly have to start a space program if you wanted or needed to look at orbital power seriously. You might be able to get by with launching some items on another nation's flights pretransition but then you'd need to fly your own missions for maintenence and growth/replacement.
Again - if most of your people are trying to grow food in those vertical farms who is going to have time to develop these new technologies?
Why are you assuming that you'd just cut ties suddenly and start transitioning with only what your nation currently has? I even said that it would take 50 to 100 years for any nation to make this kind of transition yet you're acting like this is an overnight change with zero trade leading up to it.

Also, space mirrors are hardly new tech, Russia launched a former USSR project in 1993 that proved the idea of a space mirror to light the Earth was possible, a second test had a deployment failure, and then funding was cut because 90's Russia wasn't exactly doing well economically. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-ne ... 180957894/

Solar panels in space that beam back power are more out there, but it's cost keeping them down more so than technology at this point. For a nation that has no other option, I think you'd find the idea could come together within a decade if not sooner.

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Re: How possible is economic autarky?

Post by MKSheppard » 2018-08-13 07:41pm

North Korea says hi?
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Re: How possible is economic autarky?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-08-13 07:51pm

MKSheppard wrote:
2018-08-13 07:41pm
North Korea says hi?
A country that has been heavily reliant on outside aid to survive says hi? sure.
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

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Re: How possible is economic autarky?

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-08-13 09:28pm

So, changing tacks a bit, how possible is self-sufficiency, and not total autarky as a goal for nations, both big and small? Vatican City and Luxembourg will of course never really have that possibility, but countries that are relatively big, say, Mexico, South Africa, or France?

Or the big countries, the US, China, India, or Russia?

Can they achieve it, or is it a fool's errand to be economically self sufficient in a possibly globally unstable world?
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Re: How possible is economic autarky?

Post by Gandalf » 2018-08-18 08:58pm

FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-08-13 09:28pm
So, changing tacks a bit, how possible is self-sufficiency, and not total autarky as a goal for nations, both big and small? Vatican City and Luxembourg will of course never really have that possibility, but countries that are relatively big, say, Mexico, South Africa, or France?

Or the big countries, the US, China, India, or Russia?

Can they achieve it, or is it a fool's errand to be economically self sufficient in a possibly globally unstable world?
For some countries, it's certainly possible. Australia could easily be self sufficient if it went to a centrally controlled system for production and distribution, with control over agriculture, resources and labour. Australia has a lot of farmland, natural resources, and a decent education system.

It would also require a massive restructure of Australian society, and approximately nobody would be cool with it. I did my base math on a diet with little or no meat. People will eat well, but it's a lot of plant based deliciousness. Pretty much no more cars, and no more suburbia, because Australia has very little oil. More communal living, in smaller cities powered by nukes, with solar for smaller places.
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Re: How possible is economic autarky?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-21 05:37pm

FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-08-13 09:28pm
So, changing tacks a bit, how possible is self-sufficiency, and not total autarky as a goal for nations, both big and small? Vatican City and Luxembourg will of course never really have that possibility, but countries that are relatively big, say, Mexico, South Africa, or France?

Or the big countries, the US, China, India, or Russia?

Can they achieve it, or is it a fool's errand to be economically self sufficient in a possibly globally unstable world?
For any country which has enough agricultural land to feed its own populace, ready access to a variety of metals/minerals, lots of timber and a good source of energy, it ought to be possible. US or Canada certainly ought to be able to do it, for example. But as Gandalf noted, it would mean massive restructuring of society. In some countries more than others, but it would cause economic upheaval, and probably a lot of unpopular legislation/side effects, which would likely render it infeasible in a democratic country. Its certainly not something that could happen quickly or without negative side effects.

Edit: That said, I do think that at least having the capacity to be self-sufficient on essentials in a crisis is a worthy goal for a country to work towards. I pity the Brits if anything sufficiently bad happens to cut off cross-Channel commerce, for example (like a major war). I do feel more confident living in a country where people don't have to starve if we lose our trade partners.
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