Thursday, August 7, 2014

PODA weapons devolution 4



Nitrates are gunpowder and they are also fertilizer.  Therein lies the issue.  You can rarely have a surplus of both.  If you have an overseas colony like India and Chile, you have ready made centuries old piles of bat crap to mine and can have lots of land artillery and waterborne ship cannon.  You can have massed armies firing muskets shotgun style.  Without such tropical surplus supplies of fertilizer ( nitrates are much more easily formed in the tropics.  Which begs the question why China wasn’t an early gunpowder military.  While the “small European states battling for survival light a fire under innovation’s ass” argument makes some sense, given the early Chinese discovery of powder which should have given them a few centuries lead time I’m wondering if it doesn’t make more sense that ALL fertilizer made its way into cropland because of the constant overpopulation of the area, hence a nitrate to powder shortage ) you are going to be competing with food for your nitrates.  Human fertilizer was of course always used for a nitrate supply, but yet another way to gain a slight advantage is to minimize the number of horses needed in warfare.  Horses aren’t necessarily an evil, mouths supported by fields of crops otherwise belonging to humans since they do supply fertilizer to crops.  But on a strategic level they do consume far more than the infantry food wise.  Less in horseflesh is more in human rations as far less of a supply train is needed.  The nitrates used in gunpowder could be less than the nitrates used for feeding horses or mules and oxen. 


Traditionally, another method of the nitrate supply problem was to slowly starve the soil of fertility, in effect mining nutrients and then not replacing them.  You placed less fertilizer in the soil, then began skipping rotation cycles.  There isn’t a great deal of history insofar as gunpowder and nitrate uses, both because Europe colonized the tropics in part to secure shipping lanes and in part to secure nitrates, and because the Germans perfected the manufacture of artificial fertilizers from coal and natural gas a hundred years ago.  I would surmise that the safest course of action-given the dearth of historical president- will be to slowly ride a salvage economy down towards the inevitable need to overpopulate.  To keep a lid on population growth, probably with draconian measures.  After all mechanical means of food production are worn away, you are going to be forced to overpopulate to survive.  Until then, you go on an all-out war footing to secure all surrounding areas that are food producing to the point that you have pushed any adversaries away to a safe distance.  In the end of course, you will strip all your resources away and your empire will fall, as is the historical norm.  Until that time, enjoy mixing and matching nitrate prioritization.  It is a suckers game but the only one in town.

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1 comment:

  1. I'll check it. Doesn't have to pertain to the article. Just has to be interesting.