Off the keyboard of Harry J Lerwill
Published on the Doomstead Diner May 24, 2013
Discuss this article at the Age of Limits Table inside the Diner
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Forgive any typos or autocorrect fun, I’m writing on an iPad in the middle of a forest…
We took a long drive from Pittsburgh to the age of limits conference in Pennsylvania, down winding roads and through verdant green forests, a stark contrast to the dry, arid California weather we left behind. The humidity is a surprise after the dry air of home, not the best foreshadowing of restful evenings, particularly for those camping for the first time – like my wife, Barbra.
To be fair I have been ambiguous when she’s asked about our destination. Her idea of camping is anything short of a three-star hotel. I would have been traveling alone, had I uttered any of the hot-button words, such as “humanure”, “camping” or “off the grid”.
We stopped at a store to pick up an air mattress, pump and bedding, items too bulky to transport as carry-on from home. I find it crazy that it cost us less to buy the items new, then donate them when we leave, than to bring our own with us. The occasional glance from the drivers seat made me think that the game might soon be up.
A brace of ducks welcomes us to the sustainable community we will be staying at these next four days, relaxing outside the door to the main farm building. I approached cautiously, not wanting to startle them but they seemed very comfortable with them. I was still deciding to go left or right around when a lady came out of the building and welcomed us.
We left with directions to the camping site and a “car camping” pass on the windscreen and gently grove the minivan to the designated spot. As I inflated the air mattress and placed it in the back, the wife called out daughter back in California. Snippets of her side of the conversation were carried on the breeze.
“I don’t know where we are, somewhere in the woods in Pennsylvania,” she told a laughing teenager back in warm and sunny California. We’d taken her on a very different road trip the weekend before, four days in Las Vegas, experiencing the excesses that we are here to escape.
The sleeping arrangements completed, we wandered down to the “starvin’ artist” – the catering for the event, situated in a beautiful pavilion built from local materials by the members of the community. A hot meal was just what we needed and we sat down with a number of other earlier arrivals, although it was soon interrupted by the arrival of a thunderstorm, the driving rain coming in almost horizontally; a flurry of activity ensured as water was swept off the end of the deck multiple times, an Herculean task the two lads threw themselves into with enthusiasm.
The only speaker present at the meal was Guy McPherson, my first chance to meet the gentleman. One interesting anecdote, Guy did not coin the term “NTE” and is not that fond of acronyms. If he had to give it a label, he’d have called it “near term human extinction”, a phrase he sees as having less hubris.
After a brief pause to write, we head back down for the meet and greet. On the way I ran into the founder, and arranged to interview him over his experiences setting up four quarters, the challenges he’s faced, and the long journey to where they find themselves today.
Harry J. Lerwill was raised in a poor mining village in the South Wales Valleys, where family values, the joys of home-grown and home-cooked meals, and a deep community spirit far outweighed the bleak prospects of life with collapsed fos-sil fuel industry: coal mining. Three decades later, he is an I.T. Manager in California, choosing to walk, rather than fall, down the far side of Hubbert’s peak, and looking forward to those same benefits as we rediscover the joys of a slower lifestyle. His first short story, “Caravan of Hopes” is published in the anthology, “After Oil: SF Visions Of A Post Petroleum Future”. Harry’s blog is Post Peak Local Search on Blogspot.
Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner May 23, 2013
Discuss this article at the Age of Limits Table inside the Diner
This Memorial Day Weekend, the 2nd year of the Age of Limits Conference will be held again at the 4 Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary in the Appalachian Mountains. A couple of Diners attended last year’s conference, but since the Diner was barely out of the Womb at the time we could not organize to cover it. Not so this year, the Diner has grown Exponentially in the intervening time, and we will have one of our most prolific Diners, Haniel, on site to cover the conference in full Diner Fashion, with Pictures, Videos and Podcast Interviews with the main speakers as well as anyone who seems somewhat interesting to Haniel. Haniel BTW is really Harry J. Lerwill, an IT Manager currently plying his trade in Sunny California, originally from Wales in the U.K. Here’s a short Biography for Haniel (Harry):
Harry J. Lerwill was raised in a poor mining village in the South Wales Valleys, where family values, the joys of home-grown and home-cooked meals, and a deep community spirit far outweighed the bleak prospects of life with collapsed fos-sil fuel industry: coal mining. Three decades later, he is an I.T. Manager in California, choosing to walk, rather than fall, down the far side of Hubbert’s peak, and looking forward to those same benefits as we rediscover the joys of a slower lifestyle. His first short story, “Caravan of Hopes” is published in the anthology, “After Oil: SF Visions Of A Post Petroleum Future”.
You can find Haniel’s Blog at Post Peak Local Search, though these days he is whacking the keyboard a good deal more on the Diner than on his own Blog. LOL. For this reason also his Byline here on the Diner Blog will be Haniel rather than Harry, to match up with his posting inside the Diner.
Several of the Age of Limits presenters this year including Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World, John Michael Greer of The Archdruid Report and Guy McPherson of Nature Bats Last who we Cross Post on the Diner periodically have agreed to do Interviews and Podcasts with Haniel, which we will get up basically as quickly as Haniel can manage to find time at the conference to chat with these folks and he can manage to find a working cell phone signal to upload from that neighborhood, which overall has pretty pathetic coverage as I understand. Because Diners are well spread out across the Globe and we work in different Time Zones, it should be possible for us to get his files and have them prepped and ready for Publication on the Diner within hours of when he uploads them. I am on the Last Great Frontier of Alaska, so the material arrives in my email before my Bedtime. Monsta is in Jolly Old England, so he receives it shortly before he wakes up in the morning, though knowing Monsta as I do he probably will set a wake up call early enough so he sees it close to immediately.
Marvelous Technology the Internet is, and for so long as it lasts you can’t beat it for Spreading the Word as best you can about the Oncoming Collapse of Industrialization. Here on the Diner, the Techies and Geeks involved in this project will use every trick we know to get this information out and present it in a way that is accessible to as many folks as possible, even those who don’t like READING so much as listening to Podcasts or watching Videos. Since we GOT this technology and it still works, might as well put it to good use, right?
This is an experiment for all of us here on the Diner, and hopefully we will get it running with few Tech glitches, but if they do occur I hope you will be patient with it. Assuming we pull it off, next year perhaps we will try to Live Stream the conference. At the worst here, I can transcribe and put to print what comes across in the MP3s, though I hope not to have to do that. As EVERYBODY KNOWS, I keyboard FAST! LOL. (BTW, my FAVORITE video to use with this from Pump Up the Volume has now been BLOCKED by the Copyright Police and I can’t use it anymore.)
So, for all of you Kollapsniks out there who like me for one reason or another could not make it to the Age of Limits Conference 2013, you can keep track of the goings on there here on the Doomstead Diner this Memorial Day weekend. We will present some of the Interviews and Videos on the Blog, others will be presented inside the Diner on a Special Board dedicated to the conference, which I still gotta set up on the SMF software. Should have that ready by the time Haniel’s first missives from the Front Lines of Collapse come through though.
For anyone interested in the Oncoming & Ongoing Collapse of Industrial Civilization, the Doomstead Diner is the PLACE TO BE this Memorial Day Weekend, if you cannot get your ass to the Appalachian Mountains. Join with us here, and present your own Questions, Haniel will receive them and he can put them to the Presenters and Attendees at the conference for you.
This is the POWER of the Internet. For so long as it lasts, let us try to use it for Good Purpose, and not let the Propagandists overwhelm us.
As for me, to date I still remain Anonymous, and still subscribe to the PRINCIPLES of Anonymous.
Off the keyboards of Monsta666 & A. G. Gelbert
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Often I hear argument that if we deploy various renewable energy solutions then our modern industrial society can transition to a sustainable society. While many of these renewable solutions do indeed provide better outcomes than the current fossil fuel paradigm they will not – on their own – make our economy any more sustainable. The reason this is the case is because of the issue of perpetual economic growth that our economy demands which is largely (but not solely) driven by our debt based currency system. Until this fundamental issue of growth is tackled then achieving sustainability becomes an impossible task.
In the dialogue below is an exchange between me and fellow Diner and moderator agelbert who is one of the strongest advocates we have in the Diner in renewable energy solutions. Just to be clear, even though I do not see renewable energy as the ultimate solution to providing a sustainable environment this is NOT an argument against renewable energy. Moreover, I am of the belief that a technological solution is possible in the process of reverse engineering into a sustainable economy provided the technology is deployed in a sensible manner and is managed properly. For this reason I do support agelbert and his endeavours to getting the word out on the renewable story. However what I think is equally significant with the message agelbert projects is one of HOPE.
His zeal, commitment and pleasant nature offers people hope and in a world that faces so many challenges, some of which could well be fatal, hope is a powerful force on society and its effects cannot be neglected. One only needs to look at the incidents in Greece with people succumbing to drugs or crime in Egypt to see what happens when people lose hope. It is our duty as Diners to offer people hope and not go full doom Guy McPherson style. We must fight until the bitter end in offering a better tomorrow for future generations. We cannot save everyone but we must to strive to save as many as we can!
For this reason we must offer hope to people for without hope there is only anger and when people get angry they become worse than unproductive; they become positively destructive. So because of this agelbert offers a good service in a similar vain to Eustace Conway by offering an alternative living arrangement to Business As Usual (BAU). All such efforts must be supported and I encourage Diners to do the same. On this note by hitting the Donate button for the Diner you will be supporting the SUN project which is another attempt in escaping the trap that is BAU.
Anyhow, I am digressing here and to back to the original topic on hand I will post this debate me and agelbert had about how to create a sustainable economy in this planet:
JMG has a better handle on the most probable future in the next 50 years or so but I think he engages in hyperbole by classifying all of us techno-weenies as technology clinging denialists who don’t understand the laws of thermodynamics (I.E. he WRONGLY claims we need too much energy just to build the renewable infrastructure so it just can’t be done, won’t be done, the Archdruid has spoken and us chillen need to cut our losses and flush toilets and get with the program of getting used to having less beer and goodies).
I certainly agree with him that the rationalizations bordering on gymnastic pretzel logic that come from people when their predicted apocalyptic imminent scenarios don’t materialize on schedule is worthy of ridicule. Humans have an awful time letting go of ownership bias, whether it be a thing no longer worth what they thought it was, or an idea or a prediction that didn’t pan out.
Clever fellows like JMG try to sound like they are above it all dispassionately observing the poor slobs tied to faddish ideas, religions, pro-environment mantras, new age predictions or whatever. He’s NOT.
As a matter of fact, he is making the very mistake that he accuses others of. He sees any hybrid approach to solving our energy problem by combining a limited amount of fossil fuels with renewable energy technology during a transition phase as impossible.
I must disagree with this. I can certainly agree that renewable infrastructure does have its benefits and should be more aggressively pursued but I think we must recognise that renewables are not sustainable on a BAU basis. What we have to understand is BAU is based on a debt-based currency system and these currencies can only remain viable under the condition of perpetual growth. Perpetual growth is impossible unless we have infinite resources, infinite energy and bottomless sinks where pollution can be contained. To most people it is pretty self-evident we do not have infinite resources but on the matter of energy we must remember that infinite energy is only possible if the laws of thermodynamics are violated.
It is this requirement of perpetual growth that makes any energy platform (even the illuminatti’s wet dream of fusion energy) unsustainable as you will either reach limits in the amount of resources available, energy or the amount of pollution produced. Growth will end due to one of these stocks becoming a limiting factor. In other words growth is limited under the principle of Liebig’s law of minimum which states that total production is limited by the factor that is in most limited supply in the production process. This may either be resources, energy or pollution and so all these factors must be considered and managed if we wish to maintain a sustainable society. This is a basic fact and we must STRESS that the first law of sustainability is this:
Growth in population and/or growth in the rates of consumption CANNOT BE SUSTAINED!
Until we address the issue of economic growth and the continued rise of consumption then all talk about sustainability is futile. Alternate energy systems such as renewable energy are only viable if they do not operate under the paradigm of constant growth. Now this isn’t an argument against renewable energy and I agree with you they must be pushed but I do think a big part of this sustainability debate must centre on the fact that economic growth must end.
At the end of the day we need to recognise that our economic and environmental crises are – at their core – the result of man’s behaviour on planet Earth. Until we change our behavioural patterns then all technology does is postpone the day of reckoning. I say this because humans have a predisposition to increasing their population and consuming their resources as quickly as possible as they wish to pursue more prosperous lifestyles. This disposition towards population growth coupled with increased consumption of resources results in humans utilising technology and energy as an enabler of resources. As more sophisticated technology is developed; the resource base available to man increases; this increase in available resources allows a rise in living standards. Now if man simply stopped population growth and material standards at a certain level then they could enjoy the increased productivity this new technology would bring. Unfortunately it never works out that way because as living conditions improve human population increases until people live at a subsistence level at this new technological level.
The best example I can offer of this phenomenon at work would be the green revolution. The green revolution caused food production to rise rapidly resulting in food prices declining rapidly. This cheap food enabled human population to grow rapidly, so much so that man has become dependent on this unsustainable food production system at even a subsistence level in many places across the globe. In fact if current populations continue to rise and people move towards a more resource consumptive diet i.e. eating more meat that requires more resources to produce then even this system cannot even sustain future populations at a subsistence level. This creates pressure in developing another “technical solution” such as GM food or some other monstrosity. Even if we assume this technical solution could deliver its promised returns and had no blowback (I know this is never the case but for arguments let us suppose this is the case). What would happen then? Populations and consumption would just rise again until we hit the limits of this new technical solution.
This pressure of population and consumption rises creates the need for technical solutions and because of this nothing really changes if taken on a long-term basis. We are on a constant hamster wheel to hell unless we change the way we behave. Man has a behavioural problem and NOT a technical problem. If we want to develop a manifesto that is truly sustainable we need to include some part that addresses population control and control of consumption. Doesn’t necessarily have to be direct eugenic style of population control nor do we have to set real limits to consumption. You can limit consumption by rewarding society in ways other than increasing material consumption. Some means of population is required and I would be interested in reading how the Japanese maintained their relative steady state economy during the Edo period where population was maintained around 30 million people for hundreds of years. This move towards a steady state economy that recognised the need to preserve the environment never gained traction in the “enlightened” European countries hence the push for empire building and later fossil fuel solutions to keep the hamster wheel spinning faster and faster to support growing populations/consumption patterns. Off course greed and other vices made all these issues worse. And the pigs and parasites have made things immeasurably worse and they must be punished accordingly.
No kidding! When did I say it NEEDED to be sustained? Population growth is going tits up ALL OVER THE PLANET! Check the stats. The top priority is to clean up the environment while getting off fossil fuels. Dealing with population pressures is secondary and, as I just mentioned, is less of a problem in numerical projections every year. If you want to get all flustered about how many humans there are, well go right ahead but SHOW ME SOME FACTS!
Whilst I would agree you never said BAU needed to be sustained; in fact I believe you are actually an advocate of ending BAU like me. However the reason I did mention this point was because I feel you do not stress the fact that business as usual can only work on the basis of continued growth. I feel this point really needs to be HAMMERED home if sustainability is the name of the game. In fact by stressing the madness of BAU with it requirements for constant economic growth and the inevitable end-points this mindless pursuit would entail (such as resource collapse, environmental catastrophe and global bankruptcy) people will become more agreeable to alternate means of living which can include renewable energy systems as you advocate. When promoting a sustainable lifestyle we got to understand that renewables by themselves are not going to deliver a sustainable lifestyle if the growth side of the equation is not tackled. What we need to do is address this aspect but that does not mean renewable energy cannot be part of the package.
But you wanted facts so let me offer you some. The rate of human population growth is indeed declining as you say but that does mean population is declining. It is still increasing but the rate of increase is decreasing. If we are to believe the figures provided by the UN Population Fund then world population will hit 9 billion by 2043. Like you have already alluded to the time to reach each successive billion from here on out will rise with the next rise of 1 billion taking 14 years while the one after that will take 18 years followed by 40 years for the final billion. So according to the UN world population should peak at just over 10 billion souls. I have ENORMOUS doubts this will actually transpire but those are the figures the UN currently projects. In any case though the fact of the matter is human population is still increasing so the problem is getting worse.
Looking at your article you open with the following sentence:
Why the 1% is responsible for more than 80% of humanity’s carbon footprint and why Homo sapiens is doomed unless the 1% lead the way in a sustainable life style.
While this sentence is true this fact does not cover the whole issue here and there are several problems with it. As I mentioned in my previous post there will be several potential limiting factors that will make further economic growth impossible. The example you highlight represents mainly C02 emissions which as we all know is a pollutant. Increasing pollution will wreck the environment and if it is severe enough will cause irreversible damage and will limit economic growth. However we need to remember that consumption of resources is also increasing at an exponential rate and I would figure these consumption rates are not the primary result of what the 1% consume. After all there is only so much a person may eat or drink. Posted below are rates of consumption of food and water. However look up the consumption of fish and other various commodities and all these will exhibit exponential growth and are likely to continue posting exponential if the economy does not collapse.
On top of these resource depletion issues the other problem comes from the implicit assumption that if we somehow eliminated the 1% who committed the 80% of the emissions then we would reduce carbon emissions by 80%. This is unlikely to happen as a new 1% (the Orkin Men perhaps?) would takeover. Why would this happen you say? This is because one of the emergent properties of our economic systems is to reward people who can maximise their consumption of resources. If you are clever and can find a means of extracting more resources then you will be given a good paycheck. In addition to this we need to remember money buys you not only POWER but STATUS also. If a person has lots of money they are deemed to be a “successful” member of society and people will look favourably upon you and tend to ignore mistakes, character flaws more easily and may even ignore FATAL defects if you are rich enough. Just ask Corzine for proof of this! You see this all the time with the most powerful and successful getting away with murder. All these factors act as powerful social cues that provide strong positive reinforcement to pursuing a lifestyle that maximises consumption as such behaviour is actively rewarded from a financial, social AND mating standpoint. Considering one of the primary objectives of all animals is to reproduce then this effect cannot really be understated. I feel even in your article you hinted at this point (please correct if I have misinterpreted something here):
The chimps engage in rather brutal wars with other chimp tribes where the victors set about to kill and eat very young chimps of the vanquished tribe. This is clearly a strategy to gain some evolutionary advantage by killing off the offspring of the competition.
I repeat, excessive aggression or same sex sexual activity as a dominance display is a downside to the “strong sex drive” successful evolutionary characteristic.
This “downside”, when combined with a large brain capable of advanced tool making, can cause the destruction of other species through rampant predation and poisoning of life form resources in the biosphere.
I would agree with these points and would also agree with the viewpoint that our increased sized brains have meant we have exploited our environment to an extent no other animal has been capable off and in a way our evolution has lead us into a bit of a dead end. I also agree with the bit you mention how more complex organisms tend to be less resilient as they tend to sacrifice resilience for increased efficiency in a particular environment. If the parameters of the environment were to change sufficiently then the organism’s capability to survive will decline more rapidly than a simpler more resilient life form like the bacteria you describe. This I feel only applies on a species level however as it is possible for there to be complex ecosystems that is highly resilient. This is possible because complex ecosystems can consist of a complex web or interdependent organisms that forms a very resilient network of animals so we must be specific on what level we are talking about when bringing up the efficiency/resilience debate.
Going back to my earlier point though, the big issue we have with the current BAU system is the destructive behavioural patterns that it actively promotes namely excessive consumption. If we wish for people to lower per capita energy consumption more rapidly we need to devise a means where lower capita is rewarded and status can be conferred through means other than greater material consumption. Mating can offer a strong incentive to a certain pattern of behaviour and this picture demonstrates a good example of this:
Why the dimorphism in the pheasants? It takes more energy to maintain a larger body; you become more conspicuous and obvious to predators with those bright colours. On top of that escape will become more difficult from an energy prospective as not only is there more mass to move but it is likely the pheasant will have run that bit further to escape the notice of predators. All these evolutionary costs are acceptable however because the result is more mating. If animals can change their composition by this degree on the basis of increased mating opportunities then imagine what we can do if we rewarded people with status by developing the right habits! Got any ideas how to go about this? I don’t think this point can be understated, BAU rewards destructive behaviours and if we want sustainability we need to tackle this issue otherwise there will always be a 1% to take over the last one.
Look what the biologist in Africa has discovered and PROVED! Desertification can ONLY be prevented by INCREASING THE SIZE OF THE HERDS MASSIVELY! ??? Can you handle that? This is exactly the opposite of what science had always believed!.:icon_scratch: It’s there in my channel. The man is an eminent authority on the environment. You can reject his counterintuitive FACTS but they are still going to be facts. :icon_mrgreen:
Is there a lesson there for human populations? Maybe, maybe not, but it does make you think.
This is the case that the biologist killed the elephants but unfortunately the study was flawed because they missed an even bigger ELEPHANT in the room which was man being the main culprit. Was this due to overpopulation or due to the excessive consumption lifestyles of pigmen wishing to gain more profit? This could be a matter of contention however what cannot be disputed is that man has been creating the larger deserts by either farming the land too extensively or through excessive emissions of various pollutants most likely C02 and other greenhouse gases.
Just to avoid arguments, lets say you are right about the population issue, can you get past that for a moment to consider the viability of a techno-fix? THAT’S my main beef with JMG. I know you want us to “reduce” ourselves because our carbon footprint is “unsustainable”. I’ve already dropped mine considerably for over 20 years! Tell me how many miles YOU drive each year and how many square feet YOUR house has (I drive less than 1,200 miles a YEAR and live in 980 sq, ft.).
First of all, congrats on reducing your C02 emissions! Good work and keep up the good fight! As for me, I don’t personally own a car so my mileage in terms of actual driving is flat out zero. However I do get lifts and the miles travelled in those journeys would probably amount to something like 1,200 miles per year. Reason for not driving is I am not going to spend lots of money financing an automobile. In addition to that I would have to pay around $9 for one gallon of gas not to mention over $3000 dollars a year on insurance for owning the said car. With my limited income this investment makes little sense so I depend on public transport and other good old fashioned walking. My worst C02 emissions likely come from the fact I travel on a plane about 2 or 3 times a year.
Back to your question however: I do think that the human population has to drop considerably especially if we consider the blowback that will come from climate change and the likely other environmental disasters that are to come such as nuclear meltdowns due to a breakdown of JIT supply lines. Because of these unpredictable events it is hard to determine what population will be sustainable exactly. It will not be 7 billion however especially when the rate of fossil fuel extraction declines.
As I said in my previous post; technology enables humans to increase their resource base by increasing productivity. By applying renewable energy systems the carrying capacity of humans can be increased so renewables can help. However it is hard again to say what the carrying capacity will be. You see, in my eyes total consumption rates is a product of population and per capita consumption. If you wish people to have a higher standard of living then the carrying capacity of society must be lower. If you want to increase carrying capacity then you must sacrifice per capita consumption. These sorts of decisions can only really be made on a local and not global level.
If a society wishes to work on a sustainable basis then they must decide what balance they require in terms of optimal population size and per capita consumption. On this note I don’t think it makes sense to maximise population as I feel it is more important to focus on QUALITY and NOT quantity of life (BAU and various religions seem to promote the latter). To me, quality and happiness of the people in the community is the thing we must strive to maximise and to do this we need to insure that nearly all people in society can meet their basic needs comfortably i.e. living comfortably above the subsistence level. It should be noted that on a general historical basis in the absence of rigorous checks on population there will be a tendency for the population to rise until most members can only survive on a subsistence level given the current level of technology deployed. To maximise happiness it is my personal opinion that populations must be kept below this natural limit. I can understand perfectly well if our views on this are matter are different as it is a highly contentious issue. I imagine the final decision made would vary quite markedly for each community.
Saying all that you don’t want population to be too low as that will mean that the amount of per capita consumption will become too great and too high an income will make people more susceptible to greed, other vices not to mention unequal power issues between different local communities which will pose a threat to maintaining a sustainable economy over a larger region. As always there needs to be a balance and what you deem as optimal will vary so I think it is impossible to give an exact figure. I do hope you see where I am coming from in this however. Again though, carbon emissions are only part of the story here as we need to consider resources, pollutants and energy as separate components when considering issues of sustainability. To achieve a truly sustainable economy all these components need to be addressed and we cannot simply put our focus on pollution.
Off the keyboard of John Michael Greer
Published on the Archdruid Report on May 15, 2013
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Fantasies of imminent human extinction are one comforting if futile response to this ugly predicament. If you want a justification for living as though there’s no tomorrow, insisting that in fact, there’s no tomorrow is certainly one option. If I’m right, the pleasures of believing in near-term human extinction are likely to appeal to a very large and well-heeled audience in the years immediately ahead, and those of my readers interested in cashing in on the next 2012-style bonanza should probably take note.
From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 5, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
Given the various vectors of Doom for which we at the diner keep track, and the relative noise made in each one of those vectors, it occured to me to stand up a semi-regular summary called “This Week In Doom,” in which we survey the big breaking issues in the Wide World of Doom. Think of it as “The Wide World of Sports” for doom; certainly not all inclusive, and invested with a particularly Surly point of view.
First on the docket is Fukushima, the gift that keeps on giving. Even Charlie Pierce, Esquire’s redoubtable political blogger, felt obliged to weigh in on the subject.
Remember Fukushima? That was our Environmental Tipping Point two years ago, when a tsunami caused a catastrophic event at a Japanese nuclear power plant, a triple meltdown that resulted in, among other things, all kinds of noxious debris continuing to wash up in Alaska, in Hawaii and, just the other day, in California, Perhaps to celebrate the arrival of this dubious flotsam to the continental 48, we discover that the Fukushima disaster is not yet done poisoning things.
Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools. But even they are not enough to handle the tons of strontium-laced water at the plant – a reflection of the scale of the 2011 disaster and, in critics’ view, ad hoc decision making by the company that runs the plant and the regulators who oversee it. In a sign of the sheer size of the problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on its southern edge to make room for hundreds more tanks, a task that became more urgent when underground pits built to handle the overflow sprang leaks in recent weeks.
Surely in the wake of such an accident, people the world over would clamor for a time out and a fundamental rethink of nuclear 60 year old reactor designs at the very least, let alone the viability of nuclear as a fuel source, yes? That Big Think that we were supposed to have either hasn’t occurred, or has been sotto voce:
WASHINGTON — All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday. Shutting them all down at once is not practical, he said, but he supports phasing them out rather than trying to extend their lives.
The position of the former chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko, is not unusual in that various anti-nuclear groups take the same stance. But it is highly unusual for a former head of the nuclear commission to so bluntly criticize an industry whose safety he was previously in charge of ensuring.
Asked why he did not make these points when he was chairman, Dr. Jaczko said in an interview after his remarks, “I didn’t really come to it until recently.”
Perhaps that was after the checks quit clearing. Charlie Pierce brings the point home:
How anyone, even the most profit-hungry plutocrat on the planet, can look at what is still happening at Fukushima two years later and determine that financial concerns remain in any way relevant to the discussion of what has to be done about a steadily spiraling catastrophe — I mean, chopping down a forest to build more storage tanks is Plan A? Really? Where do they build the next hundred tanks? Downtown Osaka?
Deeply reassuring to know we have our best investigative minds on the subject.
Speaking of our best minds, and closer to home, those in charge of ferreting out answer to the Boston Bombing have extended their investigation to corral three more seriously judgment-impaired college students. Pierce again:
Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are under arrest, suspected of removing items from his dorm room after the April 15 attack, sources said Wednesday. Two of the pals were detained April 20 on immigration charges and a third has now been taken into custody, sources said. They are expected to face obstruction of justice charges, the sources said.
Even by the standards of college buddies, this is remarkably stupid behavior, and my opinion of it will remain that until I see some evidence as to why we should now not expand our list of shorthand references to the people involved in this awful crime from Murderous Dipshits 1 and 2, to Murderous Dipshits 1 and 2 Plus Accessorial Dipshit 3 through 5.
NPR did a pretty spirited report read by Corey Flintoff that purports to investigate the Boston Bombing… in Southern Russia.
The search for the motivations of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers stretches from New England to Central Asia, but a lot of attention has been focused on Dagestan.
The mostly Muslim republic is located in the southernmost part of Russia, and it’s been the battleground in a low-level insurgency that takes lives nearly every day.
One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, traveled to Dagestan twice in recent years, and investigators want to know whether that experience led him toward a radical and violent form of Islam.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s parents and other relatives lived in the republic’s capital, Makhachkala, a city of nearly 600,000 that sprawls along the Caspian Sea. The city backs up against the North Caucasus, the blue-green mountains that have made places like Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya havens for bandits and rebels for centuries…
Which you are free to read at your leisure. My response when listening was that, like CNN, Howard Kurtz, et al, NPR will dutifully keep “catapulting the propaganda” that there is an Islamic connection, the better to help fuel the next neocon cry for the next useless neocon war, as always fought with the blood of the children of the working class. They are working overtime to affix an Islamist motivation to this crime; wherein you probably have Dylan Klebold in a ballcap and without the long coat.
Also rapidly disappearing down the Tsarniev memory hole is the allegation that Tamerlan became sour on the US after the Golden Gloves Changed elegibility rules on him.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, right, lost at the Golden Gloves championships in 2009. A year later, a new citizenship rule blocked him from competing again for a title.
The cocksure fighter, a flamboyant dresser partial to white fur and snakeskin, had been looking forward to redeeming the loss he suffered the previous year in the first round, when the judges awarded his opponent the decision, drawing boos from spectators who considered Mr. Tsarnaev dominant.
From one year to the next, though, the tournament rules had changed, disqualifying legal permanent residents — not only Mr. Tsarnaev, who was Soviet-born of Chechen and Dagestani heritage, but several other New England contenders, too. His aspirations frustrated, he dropped out of boxing competition entirely, and his life veered in a completely different direction.
Mr. Tsarnaev portrayed his quitting as a reflection of the sport’s incompatibility with his growing devotion to Islam. But as dozens of interviews with friends, acquaintances and relatives from Cambridge, Mass., to Dagestan showed, that devotion, and the suspected radicalization that accompanied it, was a path he followed most avidly only after his more secular dreams were dashed in 2010 and he was left adrift.
As it happened, Golden Gloves of America was just then changing its policy. It used to permit legal immigrants to compete in its national tournament three out of every four years, barring them only during Olympic qualifying years, James Beasley, the executive director, said. But it decided in 2010 that the policy was confusing and moved to end all participation by noncitizens in the Tournament of Champions.
So Mr. Tsarnaev, New England heavyweight champion for the second year in a row, was stymied. The immigrant champions in three other weight classes in New England were blocked from advancing, too, Mr. Russo said.
Mr. Tsarnaev was devastated. He was not getting any younger. And he was more than a year away from being even eligible to apply for American citizenship.
Neighbors and some close to the brothers doubt that they were “radicalized” in Dagestan. It could be that Tamerlan, at least, was radicalized by that most American of institutions: a change in the rules of the game.
And closer to home—much closer, for me, we have some archaeological “proof” that Jamestown settlers turned to cannibalism during the difficult “Starving Time” endured by the first wave of Jamestown colonists.
Newly discovered human bones prove the first permanent English settlers in North America turned to cannibalism over the cruel winter of 1609-10, US researchers have said.
Scientists found unusual cuts consistent with butchering for meat on human bones dumped in a rubbish pit.
The four-century-old skull and tibia of a teenage girl in James Fort, Virginia, were excavated from the dump last year.
James Fort, founded in 1607, was the earliest part of the Jamestown colony.
The Starving Time was one of the most horrific periods of early colonial history. The James Fort settlers were under siege from the indigenous Indian population and had insufficient food to last the winter.
First they ate their horses, then dogs, cats, rats, mice and snakes. Some, to satisfy their cruel hunger, ate the leather of their shoes.
Which goes to show nothing so much as what human beings will resort to do when sheer survival is at stake. It is reasonable to assume that the cultural prohibition against consuming human flesh was as strong among 17th century British colonist as it is among us today. Another cautionary tale for those of us who have watched and read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and/or seen the film, when considering the near-term implications of what Full Doom might look like for those of us not ensconced in some Federally constructed and provisioned underground bunker.
In an article posted by JoeP in the forum and reposted on my news channel, biologist Paul Ehrlich
Believe(s) that we are on a straightforward course to a collapse of our civilization.” He cited signs, such as diminishing returns from natural resources, that he said were recognizable from studying the collapse of other civilizations throughout history.
Reasons for that are baked into our DNA, says Ehrlich:
“We’re a small-group animal, both genetically and culturally. We have evolved to relate to groups of somewhere between 50 and 150 people,” he said. “And now suddenly we’re trying to live in a group not of 150 or 100 people, but of seven billion people, somewhat over seven billion people at the moment, and that is presenting us with a whole array of problems.”
Those problems include an inability to recognize gradual, large-scale changes in our environment as dangerous.
“Another thing that’s related to that, that’s presenting us with a whole array of problems, is that most of our evolution going on now is cultural evolution,” Ehrlich went on. “And the problem is cultural evolution has not gone on at the same rate in every area of human endeavor. Where has it gone on most rapidly? It’s gone on most rapidly in the area of technology.”
He cited signs, such as diminishing returns from natural resources, that he said were recognizable from studying the collapse of other civilizations throughout history.
It will come as no surprise to readers of the Diner Blog and forum that technology has outstripped our capacity for judgment and our moral dimension. As discussed elsewhere in the Forum, the nominal group size of a viable community is about 150. Something to consider as we track the various vectors of doom.
Off the keyboard of Roamer
Published on the Doomstead Diner on May 3, 2013
Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner
So I am waiting out the bizarre Midwest snow storm before I engage in corn planting. As someone keen on small scale low tech pasture based farms and desirous of a grain free paleo diet it’s a pretty odd situation I am. In a week or so I’ll sit in a tractor a couple days on end and plant in automated comfort the same land 10’s of family farms used to derive a living from. Its not all that unlike modern warfare, GPS based guidance systems, chemical sprays, high tech cockpits all to launch a chemical blitz on the land in the name of “progress”.
Today I am pondering though the nature of this progress, why have markets come to favor this system of food production, is it really more efficient than what it replaced? What follows are some order of magnitude calculations to put things into perspective on a calorie to calorie basis.
Typical conversion factors for cows to produce milk on grass are most strongly correlated with dry matter, assuming access to necessary minerals and water and healthy living conditions cows should be able to average a conversion of 1.4 lbs of milk per pound of dry matter (DM). Annual dry matter yields per acre are much more variable, in favorable ample moisture midwest ground I am working on DM yields should range between 3- up to 8 tons/acre/year.
Corn Based Gross Caloric Yield
Average corn yields on the same chunk of ground come in around 140 bushels per acre. Straightforward caloric analysis shows that this system produces around 5 times more calories per acre than the best case pasture scenario.Corn gross caloric yield=139,000cal/bushel*140bushels/acre=19,460,000 Cal/acre ~5:1 gross caloric outyield on dairy system So surely that means the Monsanto and all other “green revolution” shills are right, we’d starve if it weren’t for their grain techs and chemicals.
Far from it….
The graph at the right breaks down where the 2011 corn crop went.
As is evident only ~10% of corn is used for direct consumption in the USA (of dubious nutriative value), 39% is used for ethanol, and 37% used for beef. Assuming a 10% corn to meat conversion efficiency, US human caloric production per acre of corn is 2.63 x10^6 Cal/acre, which is actually right with the lower case gross caloric yield for grass based scenario.
This is to say nothing at all of the terrible nutriatitive quality of corn calories. The high fructose corn syrup may as well be a net negative when long term health problems associated with it are weighed in.
It is also omitting the net inputs that we must put into the corn operation, the nitrogen, the herbicides, the processing ect. It is also omitting the top soil degradation of both organic matter and erosion that occur over time with corn. The loss of biodiversisty, the destruction of aquifiers were also ignored.
In the end corn to me looks like the perfect leverage point for banksters to centralize and mine the land, at the expense of the health of the land and the people. The arguments of superior efficiency and productivity are not sound. Look at the end use of corn, it is really pretty poor as a food, it was NEVER about feeding anybody except the wallets of those vested in maximizing returns at the expense of the agricultural system and the land.
If though pasture based farming can produce equivalent amounts of calories at higher nutritive value, why have we adopted corn? I believe the answer is all about labor maximization through the leverage of fossil fuels. Automation and mechanization has lowered labor costs /bushel. Pasture based agriculture though does not allow for centralization beyond perhaps a herd of a few hundred. Somebody still has to move the cows, bring them in, milk them and care for them, put up hay ect. There is no way for outside benefactors (Cargill, adm, Monsanto, John Deere Ect) to manipulate and squeeze profit out of the system, where grain based systems allow for precisely that. Pasture based has inherent decentralized limits built in by natural protocol, grain based with the adoption of mechanization has no such limits (until peak oil and declining EROEI are seriously upon us).
Pasture based systems also suffer by not being able to consistently access markets, despite the vast superiority of the food the produce. ADM, Cargill and the like all figured corned grain markets, and because of its longer term stability they were able to centralize and in effect control the ag land of the US. People for progress call pasture based aged inability to be centralized a problem, I call it a solution, and a cry to relocate and redistribute people closer to small town America.
You get what you pay for and you are what you eat…..
There is nothing really redeeming to be said of this system of corn agriculture. It is I suspect more at the heart of our societal collapse than many consider. No system in the history of the world has disconnected people from the land and natural cycles of life to the degree of this unholy mass mechanized chemicalized system has. Its largely responsible for our failing health as a nation, our failing rural communities, our deep disconnect with land and our food, topsoil depletion, and aquifer pollution. We fall for it though, we see the linear math and the raw calories and assume its a necessary evil to “feed the world”.
It started I believe when we as a people bought en large the notion that low price food was the end all. This favored labor centralization and grain production. Quality of food and land followed. There is not likely any way we can have sustainable agricultural systems without having a little higher costs to cover the larger degree of labor input that is needed. This does not mean that these systems do not produce enough to feed the world, sustainable system can produce the gross calories needed at far higher qualities, its just that the dollars need to go to empower the labor needed to maintain lower chemical and energy input systems.
Its a bad cycle though we get trapped in, tight margins and we are tempted to skimp on food. Its made all the more worse by the multitude of confusing hippy dippy or corporate “organic” options designed to lure the concerned consumer into feeling good about his/her purchase. It is though something we vote for every trip to the grocery store, and whatever way we vote I think we really need to stay educated on where our food is coming from and its effects on the environment and our bodies. Its likely a bigger deal than any of us might tend to consider.
Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 23, 2013
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
Of all the charts and graphs which can be pulled up off the net to demonstrate that the Peak Oil corner has been turned, none do it more effectively than the Total FSoA Gasoline Sales History chart published by the EIA at the top of this article.
Retail Gasoline sales to J6P essentially fell off a cliff beginning in 2005, actually well before the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and the implosion of the Subprime Mortgage Market, all today seen as watershed moments in the ongoing collapse of Industrial Civilization. Today in 2013, retail gasoline sales are 50%, HALF what they were at the Peak of Happy Motoring in 2005. That is roughly 8 years of time, an average rate of decline of around 6% per year. Assuming no other trend line changes, retail gasoline demand in 2021 would hit ZERO. This all while total population size (if you believe the stats) continues to INCREASE, which can only mean a lower per capita usage of energy through this period.
It may not take that long of course if the Dollar crashes, or it might take longer if some sort of “plateau” effect takes place as portions of the world economy are triaged off the Oil Jones, but there is no evidence to support the idea said demand will ever Rebound, or that if it did rebound that Gasoline could be produced in sufficient quantity at cheap enough price to supply that demand.
Oil production at all the main “Legacy” fields such as the North Slope here in Alaska is in decline, with the persistent Myth promulgated in the MSM that Horizontal Drilling and Fracking will produce enough to replace the lost production from the conventional Oil fields. If that were really true, the Oil companies would have been ramping up this production to keep the demand up and keep the game going, but the fact of the matter is that said companies are shutting down Refineries here and in Europe because the demand isn’t there to justify their existence. The only reason they can still show a “profit” is because the price is so high, and the few people with money/credit left are Bankrupting themselves to keep buying it. Eventually there won’t be enough of them left either to keep 1/2 the number of refineries open, at which point it shrinks again to 1/4. Then 1/8 etc until finally there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in to keep maintaining the roads and bridges, and Open Gas Stations can only be found in a few small Ringfenced local economies. No more Happy Motoring for ANYBODY after that, drive a few miles outside a Major Metro there will be no Open Gas Station around to fill up your Jag or Maserati, even if you are a Filthy Rich Pigman.
The other Myth promulgated is that besides Fracking producing enough liquid fuels to replace the lost production from fields like the North Slope and Ghanwar, Happy Motoring will transition off the ICE and move to EVs, battery powered vehicles running on Electricity. The problems with that idea are abundant, overall the battery technology is itself very dependent on fossil fuels for extraction and refinement of the Rare Earth Metals used in the more durable rechargeables, and the Electric Grid as it stands is decaying and having major issues with Demand Destruction as well. As more McMansions get abandoned because the ex-Suburbanites can’t pay the Mortgage, the revenue stream to the Local Power Company drops off the map. They keep cutting back on Staff, maintenance is deferred, breakdowns and blackouts become more common. What do you DO if you have driven your EV to the next county over to visit Granma and her Lights are OUT, so you can’t charge up the Prius to drive back home? Are you going to wait for the Solar PV Panel on the Roof of said Prius to recharge the batteries? Maybe with REALLY sunny days in a Week or Two the PV panels could generate enough electricity to get you halfway home.
It’s pretty obvious why there is so much Demand Destruction in Gasoline consumption now here in the FSoA, one only has to look at the UE figures and the size of the Employed workforce to see the reason for it. Although the BLS persistently massages the UE figures by dropping people off the stats, the actual number of working age people gainfully employed continues to drop, all while the total population continues to increase. Although we do use copious amounts of gasoline to drive around willy-nilly for no good reason, in REALITY the major use of the automobile is to get J6P to and fro his workplace in the Morning and Evening Rush Hour. The Billions of Gallons of Gas wasted by J6P sitting in Rush Hour Traffic Jams for the last 50 years here in the FSoA is impossible to calculate, but those gallons were a HUGE portion of the demand for Gasoline in the Car based economy developed here in the post-WWII era. Fewer people employed means fewer people driving to work, less gas consumed. Old Retired Boomers & Silents don’t usually consume that much gas, besides a few who cruise their Bugout Machines around the country to visit Grandkids. They mostly sit home these days and get into arguments on Internet Message Boards and Blogs like the Doomstead Diner. LOL. Consumptive still of Electricity, but it doesn’t use much Gas.
The effect is of course synergistic, since so much of the economy is based on people driving around willy-nilly, as fewer people do this, more jobs are lost. Now it’s not just Retired Silents hanging out at home getting into arguments on the Internet, UE GenXers and even Millenials are doing it too! Nobody has REASON to leave the house, they don’t have JOBS to go to! The only reason to leave is to go to Walmart to pick up Food for the Week, or even MONTH if you really wanna conserve on Gas usage. In most cases also, people are not SOOOO far from their local Walmart they can’t ride a bike pulling a trailer to pick up Groceries using their JPMC SNAP cards either. That crew represents near 50M people in the FSoA now, close to 15% of the whole population NOT using any gasoline at all!
Right beneath everyone’s NOSE, the effects of Peak Oil have been ongoing in earnest since 2005. Really of course they began long before that in the late 60s and 70s, evidenced by the Political Turmoil in those years as well as the Oil Embargos by OPEC, not to mention the closing of the Gold Window by Nixon in 1971 and the ever increasing Debt load taken on in the intervening years to mask the effects, at least here in the FSoA.
Now however since the problem has gone GLOBAL rather than LOCAL, the old tricks of Masking resource depletion with Debt Issuance is no longer working too well. There are no “Credit Worthy” customers anywhere on the whole GLOBE left now, and there are no SOLVENT Banks or Sovereigns left who can lend to anybody either! Anybody who thinks the Chinese or Germans are really solvent needs a wake up call, neither of them are. They just have positive account balances measured in debt other Insolvent countries “owe” them. Will the FSoA EVER pay back the $2T in USTs held by the Chinese? With WHAT? They don’t even need J6P as SLAVES, they got 1.3B of their own Slaves to Feed & Clothe here.
So inexorably and in rather RAPID time here we see the economic system collapsing in tandem with the Energy extraction and Distribuition system, which really TOOK OFF in the late 1800s with the development of the Railroads and then Standard Oil under the aegis of John D. Rockefeller. EVERYTHING in the Industrial Economy since that time was based on a seemingly ENDLESS supply of Cheap Energy in 1880, but what in fact was a quite LIMITED supply which enabled a huge Population EXPLOSION of Homo Sapiens, which just ended up CONSUMING said energy all that much faster. I remember reading as a 2nd Grader in Brasil out of a textbook that we had a “500 Year” supply of Oil, which perhaps we did at the population size and per capita consumption of the era, but the Exponential Function took care of that problem in 50 years. It is plain OBVIOUS as a Pimple on your Nose that we are running short on the Cheap Energy necessary to run the Industrial Lifestyle. Every last economy tied to this system is in some stage of Collapse now, barely 8 years since Gasoline demand started to Crater here in the FSoA. All due respect to John Michael Greer, that is NOT a “Slow Catabolic Collapse”, it is a fucking HEAD ON COLLISION with REALITY.
What can you DO about this problem? It is not going away here, and Goobermint cannot really solve the problem, at least on a Global Basis they can’t. Locally it may be solved for a while by the Big Ass Military stealing resources from some places to keep Happy Motoring going here in the FSoA for another day, week, month or year, but that strategy gets ever less effective all the time as the Costs for running such Wars grow ever Greater, while the resources captured are ever less productive. When the War Machine cannot feed ITSELF, it collapses on the Grand Scale and this is still a bit down the line, though perhaps not as far as some people believe.
The best you can do is to find others who understand these problems and who see the Writing on the Wall, and plan together with them a new Life in the Post Industrial Economy, such as it may evolve here in the future. Here on the Diner, this is what we DO on a daily basis as we hash out TEOTWAWKI. Such discussions formed the Genesis of our SUN Project, for Sustaining Universal Needs, and we invite all others to join with us as we plan for a BETTER TOMORROW. Only through Cooperation and Selflessness can anyone make it through the shitstorm coming down the pipe here. NOBODY will survive going it alone, not even up here in the Bush of Alaska, not in the Yukon Territory either. Such strategies only might preserve your life for a bit, they won’t resolve the problem of making the society of Homo Sapiens compatible with the rest of Life on Earth. It is up to us to remake ourselves to be in harmony with the Spaceship Earth, and to do this TOGETHER. That is what it MEANS to be a DINER ON SPACESHIP EARTH.
THIS IS ALL WE HAVE. WE MAKE IT WORK, OR WE GO THE WAY OF THE DINOSAUR.
Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall
Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on April 1, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
- Global liquids (excluding ethanol etc.) plateauing and supply remaining constrained despite growing demand
- Which in turn led to a huge hike in oil prices that has stayed with us
- Thus causing a permanent state of close to zero growth or shrinkage in the major industrialised nations
- And a shortage of food in much of the Middle East, leading to riots and revolutions
- Followed by a desperate scramble for unconventional fossil fuels, such as shale gas, tight oil and deep sea oil
Off the keyboard of Guy McPherson
Published on Nature Bats Last on March 24, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
Allan Savory has been receiving a lot of attention based on his recent TED talk. I hate to dignify his ludicrous ideas with a response, even in this this little-read space, but I can’t seem to help myself. Savory’s general ideas are utter nonsense, as I will illustrate in this brief essay. Further, as you can see in his TED talk, he practices an approach steeped in the command-and-control patriarchal hubris for which civilized humans have become infamous and which led directly to the disaster in which we find ourselves firmly ensconced. Not surprisingly, many of my white male colleagues fail to see the ongoing disasters for what they are.
Admitting he participated in the murder of 40,000 elephants, Savory belatedly discovered the strategy failed to accomplish the stated objective. Rather that admit failure, he proposes an exponential increase in omnicide, specifically by using livestock to destroy the remaining life in the world’s grasslands.
If you’re looking for a more extreme example of command-and-control management underlain by patriarchal hubris, you might be looking a long time.
Savory repeatedly uses the phrase, “mimicking nature” as if speaking the words makes it so. Instead of
mimicking abusing nature with implements of destruction, perhaps we could instead rely upon native species and natural processes (e.g., fire allowed to spread at the scale, frequency, and season coincident with the evolutionary history of organisms in an area). Grazing is not the same as blazing, disturbance advocates aside.
Livestock represent the single most destructive force in the history of western North America, as I explained about 15 months ago. Cattle wreak havoc on soil via several avenues, most notably by compacting soil, removing organic matter, increasing runoff, and decreasing infiltration and percolation of precipitation. The wreaking of havoc is not restricted to soil, but instead extends to other organisms. Exactly
nada zilch none zip bupkiss zero species native to North America evolved in the presence of cattle. Don’t even get me started on the completely irrelevant comparison between bison and cattle, two species with disparate behavior, diet, and morphology.
Next up, Savory offers cattle as a cure for global warming. Never mind that methane generated in the stomachs of Savory’s beloved ruminant animals contributes significantly to climate chaos, perhaps surpassing the damage done by automobiles. If you’re looking for logic, look elsewhere.
In other words, Savory proposes using cattle to heal the land (damaged primarily by cattle) while also reversing global warming (by ratcheting up methane production). And yes, people are taking him seriously. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this is the same old bombing-the-village-to-save-it routine with which we’re all well-acquainted by now.
And, on the topic of logic, what are livestock supposed to do? That’s right, convert plant biomass to animal biomass. Along the way, the animals remove biomass from the land. That’s the whole point of the enterprise, after all: convert biomass into a form suitable for human consumption, and stripping the landbase is collateral damage.
Because this entire notion is nearly too absurd to believe, I insist upon providing a recap. Savory proposes using the single most destructive force in the history of western North America to heal western North America. Were he alive, even George Orwell would be embarrassed. Stunningly, that’s not all. Savory also claims that a primary contributor to climate chaos will be used to reverse climate chaos. And, just to clarify, people are taking seriously Savory and his ideas.
As if logic were not sufficient to put a stop to Savory’s stupidity, we have data. Droves of data. And all those data point in the opposite direction Savory would have
us you believe. Consider, as starting points for debunking Savory’s ideas, the following print publication and the online references linked here, here, and here. Contrary to Savory’s crop-the-photograph approach to presentation of information, these publications are rooted in the process of science.
Briske, D.D., J.D. Derner, J.R. Brown, S.D. Fuhlendorf, W.R. Teague, K.M. Havstad, R.L. Gillen, A.J. Ash, and W.D. Wilms. 2008. Rotational grazing on rangelands: reconciliation of perception and experimental evidence. Rangeland Ecology & Management 61:3–17.
I am not suggesting these papers mention Savory by name, although they point out that his ideas are deleterious to soil productivity and biological diversity of native species. When acting within their profession, most scientists criticize ideas, not people.
Nor am I suggesting science as a panacea. Science as a process and a way of knowing relies upon models, concepts, predictions, and data to generate reliable knowledge. However, science is not capable of addressing some questions, particularly as they apply to the personal lives of individuals. These and a few other caveats notwithstanding, I prefer data-driven science over anecdote-driven marketing for most matters.
Off the keyboard of Monsta666
Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner
When talking about collapse issues one of the most prominent yet most commonly misunderstood areas comes with our basic understanding of what wealth and money really is. Both are seemingly simple matters yet upon closer inspection we find that are many nuances and subtleties in this story that people often miss. This misconception can even be extended to economists or people in finance that are well versed in money matters.
Indeed it is the complexity of money and all the financial products that derive from it with things such as bonds, stocks or other investment vehicles that can make us easily forget what wealth is really about. In fact it is this distraction through complexity that makes us commonly believe that wealth and money are one of the same things. It is useful to really grasp what wealth is lest we fall into a trap that many people, including the iluminati, who base much of their wealth in abstract financial instruments.
To understand wealth first we must realise that money only acts as a medium of exchange and by itself is not wealth. In addition to being a medium of exchange, money also acts as a means of measuring the relative value between various goods and services. This means of relative valuation while somewhat abstract is essential in any economy as the means of measuring relative values between goods/services becomes too complex without the use of money (for more information on this topic please refer to the Energy-Money Equilibrium series). These issues of valuation only become more prominent in international trade. Despite these obvious advantages all forms of money from fiat to even gold based currencies do not hold any intrinsic value by themselves. In other words we only place value in money because we can exchange items of value for it. In essence the value of money comes largely from the trust and faith that we have placed in it. This is even truer for fiat based currencies that cannot be redeemed for gold. If money cannot be exchanged for goods or services then any notional value money they have will disappear. For example if one was placed with a $1,000,000 and 1000 gold bars in a desert those forms of money would be of little use. You could not eat, drink or keep cool with this money and so without trade money would be utterly worthless perhaps even a burden and liability due to its weight and the danger it would pose against thieves by simply possessing them. From this simple example we can see that money has no value by itself and therefore cannot be counted as actual wealth. While this example may seem a bit silly the mechanics of money becoming worthless through hyperinflation work in the same dynamics.
However as noted money derives its value by the fact it can be exchanged for items of value so what we can say about money is that it is a claim on wealth. If we extend this claim concept a little bit further we can say that since debt is a claim on future income (money) then what debt really is a claim to a claim to wealth. That maybe a bit of convoluted way of expressing debt but if we wish to distil this last expression we can simply say that debt and money are both claims on the underlying wealth of an economy.
This all sounds nice and rather straightforward but it begs the question of what wealth actually is? Wealth can simply be expressed as the actual assets that a person owns for example a house, SUV, iPhone or other tangible items are all forms of wealth. As a side-note wealth is a measure of stock while money or income is measure of flow. This point while seemingly innocuous now will be an important concept to grasp as we progress further in this topic. As you see these tangible items – the items that society values – is the true wealth of an economy and the only role that money plays (which intrinsically has no value by itself) is it allows and facilitates the transfer of wealth between various agents in an economic system.
The other role money does play is it acts as a store of wealth so if we wish to store money then the money should be able to be exchanged at a later date for the same amount of wealth as if traded that day. At least this is what “sound money” should do. As we know due to the effects of inflation this proves not to be the case. However it is this issue of money acting as a store of wealth which leads to the first source of confusion between money and wealth. The means of wealth storage via money results in wealth being measured in monetary terms. The issue of measuring wealth through monetary values then leads to the point of determining how things are valued in the first place.
In modern economics the value or utility of any given item comes from the exchange value it has in a market. In other words the wealth of any item is only determined or realised once it has a value in the market which it can be sold for. While this may not seem like an issue, at least on first glance, this issue of exchange value does pose a problem. This is because there is a difference between exchange value (the value an item gets in the market) and use value (the value an item has to an individual or society). To illustrate the difference and problems posed by these differences of worth it is best to consider the age old concept of the diamond and water paradox. While water is a requirement for life and therefore has a high use value to people its exchange value is very low while a diamond; which is not needed at all for life and therefore has no or little use value has a high exchange value.
This is a curious development that comes from how our economic system places value on items. So what accounts for the difference? The reasons are actually quite easy to explain: water while highly useful has generally been abundant and easy to extract so even though its use value is high its exchange value has been low due to its abundance and easy extraction. Since the opposite is true for diamonds (it is rare and harder to extract) its exchange value has been high even though its actual use value is considerably lower.
The large discrepancy between use and exchange values generally occurs for many vital commodities such as food, air and most significantly energy resources. These differences in values have become more pronounced in recent years due to the abundances of energy in the last 200 years of the industrial revolution that have made not only energy cheap (from an exchange value standpoint) but have also made other resources such as food and water cheap as energy acts as an enabler of all other resources. For this reason energy can be regarded as the master resource. As a result of this phenomena it is likely we have grossly underestimated the wealth we have accumulated or perhaps in other cases (such as in fossil fuel depletion) we have grossly underestimated the wealth we have liquidated by only focussing on the exchange value of items and not their use value.
While this point may still seem to be of only academic interest it should be noted these very issues do tend to crop up in times of deprivation and economic dislocation when items in high demand are not bought as people do not have the means to pay the exchange or “going” rates. As a result while the use value of items such as food are still high; perhaps even higher in desperate times (people are more malnourished during these times) since people do not have the means to pay for the goods the exchange value will tend to be lower than in normal times. This leads to the paradoxical situation where the farmer produces a “surplus” of food even though there are millions of people malnourished or even starving. As a result of this “surplus” less food is produced (to cut losses from “overproduction”) which only further exacerbates the situation as there is even less food to go around. These issues can be extended to modern day equivalents when many lands in Africa maybe very fertile yet the amount of wealth is not as high as one would first believe as the exchange value or income ultimately determines the value and wealth of the land. It does not matter how much the people want food, the only thing that matters economically is what people are able to pay for the said food. On the other hand due to the flaws of this exchange value mechanism it can observed that an overweight person from a developed country will gain more utility (in a pure economic sense) from this food than a starving person because they can pay the exchange value and so wealth will transfer to this person as it delivers the greatest amount of utility from an economic standpoint even though the use value is obviously less. This issue is clearly not the best outcome from a social or moral standpoint and this example is a chief reminder of the flaws of the value system used in modern economics.
On this topic of land, the other important point can be made about wealth. That is fundamentally all wealth that we see in the planet comes from either the ecosystem of the Earth or the energy from the sun. Normally from a purely economic perspective we consider wealth as items such as factories, cars, roads or other items that have economic value. While such statements are indeed valid and can be correctly deemed as forms of wealth it is important to note that all these sources of wealth ultimately come from the Earth as they all require resource inputs such as oil, metals etc. to be formed. Therefore from this we can say the economic system that we live in today is actually part of the larger ecosystem and all the wealth we accumulate in the economy derives from the underlying ecosystem we live in.
As a result of this we can easily deduce that for the overall wealth of the human economy to grow it must come at the expense of the natural ecosystems wealth. Since all wealth comes from the Earth or the products from the sun’s energy (which is applicable to many forms of agriculture) it is not technically correct to say man creates wealth rather he merely extracts it from existing resources in the ecosystem.
This relationship between resource extraction and wealth extraction is quite obvious to see in the primary economy when resources are extracted directly from the ecosystems to provide goods of economic value but it can seem even with this wealth extraction concept recognised one may still envision the possibility of wealth creation through the transformation of a resource. To offer an example of this possible wealth creation let us consider the information sector which at its base claims to create wealth by using cheap resource inputs from metals and transforms these input into high value products such as computers and smart phones. While this process does appear to create extra wealth – at least on first glance – it should be noted that the process of manufacturing these products is highly energy intensive. First to build a typical computer or smart phone requires the resources that are scattered across the globe and as result requires large energy inputs to make these long supply lines viable as the video below clearly suggests:
Furthermore the energy use in manufacturing the product in the factory is also very energy intensive and requires very precise conditions (such as dust free rooms) to be maintained. In fact on a weight to weight basis computer manufacturing is around 10 times more energy intensive than the manufacturing or a car.This high energy consumption all stems from the second law of thermodynamics (to read more information on this topic please refer to the Energy: Part II article). In addition to these facts another general pattern can be observed; that is the more complex any given technology becomes the larger the amount of supporting infrastructure is required to build and maintain the technology. This support infrastructure does not just come from physical items such as longer supplier chains or more sophisticated factories but also in the form of higher education and training required for the workers to operate in these environments. These embodied energy costs while not directly related to the construction of the item itself are considerable and will pose a larger energy cost to society in general. This will be an even bigger issue in a declining net energy environment which is likely to be the case in the coming decades.
As noted earlier the exchange value of vital resources such as energy do not capture the true use value of this resource. To understand why this is the case for energy we need to consider how much energy is embodied in the various forms of fossil fuel energy. For example the energy extracted from one barrel of oil is equivalent to around 7 years of labourwhile the burning of one short ton of coal delivers around three times the amount of energy as a barrel of oil all at a lower cost.While the exchange value in these cases is around $108.50 for the barrel and around $64.96 for coal (at the time of writing) the amount of use value in terms economic output far exceeds their exchange value It is this arbitrage between exchange and use value that has been main reason for the explosive amount of economic growth we have seen in the last two centuries during the industrial age.
If the true use value of these fossil fuels plus the associated external costs (due to pollution) were accounted for then it is likely the amount of wealth created through this process would be considerably less. Furthermore as noted earlier all this wealth creation comes at the expense of fossil fuel depletion which is really the destruction of stocks of wealth. If we subtract the true losses of wealth from fossil fuel depletion coupled with the smaller addition of wealth created by capturing the true costs then it is likely no wealth has actually been created in this process. It is also important to note that once these resources are burned they are gone so it really a onetime deal and these stocks act like an endowment from nature.
As a result of this it is actually not appropriate to count the burning of fossil fuels as a form of income because really the burning of fossil fuels is a liquidation of stocks of wealth which is a one time deal. To give an analogy it would be like selling your home and then counting the proceeds as part of your yearly income. Such a thought sounds silly but if we consider how many nations count the burning/selling of this resource as part of their GDP (which is a measure of income) it becomes apparent how flawed our accounting system for measuring income and wealth is.
In any case what we can say with a good degree of confidence is that any wealth generated from this endeavour will come at the expense of a reduction in wealth in the natural ecosystem. For wealth to be created in the economy either resources or energy inputs must be consumed from the ecosystem. Now this is not to say this wealth extraction process is always unsustainable because in many instances, at least theoretically, it can be sustainable. This sustainability can arise because our ecosystem is not a completely closed system as it receives energy from the sun. As a result of this solar energy land can regenerate and create new wealth in the ecosystem. Indeed for much of human history wealth primarily came from the solar energy of the sun and wealth was obtained into the economy on a “pay-as-you-go” basis from wealth created from photosynthesis. It is only in the last 250 years that significant sources of energy came from the drawdown of fossil fuels and it is this drawdown that was responsible for the large amount of economic growth in the industrial age.
While it is possible in some circumstances for the human economy to grow for a time it should be noted that growth is only really sustainable if the resources extracted from the ecosystem do not exceed the capacity of the Earth to regenerate new resources and empty various sinks of pollution. Unfortunately in the world we live in today our current rates of consumption of resources exceed the world’s regenerative capacity and as a result many vital resources such as topsoil, water tables, fish stocks and animals are all experiencing declines.In addition the amount of pollution emitted exceeds the capacity of the Earth’s sinks to absorb these waste products and as result the pH in oceans are altering which has an adverse effect on various ocean fauna.In addition oceans accumulate increasing concentrations of pollutants and the atmosphere grows warmer due to C02 emissions. And this is all occurring at current rates of consumption; if we wish to pursue more economic growth and increase the wealth of the human economy even further then it must come at the cost of further degradation of the environment. If continued then it is likely these set of actions will lead to resource collapse (ecosystem bankruptcy?) and uncontrolled climate change.
Another important aspect to consider in this wealth story is that of profit. The normal definition for profit is that the supplier of a good or service must sell at a higher price than they took to produce the good/service. If we consider this from a wealth prospective then this means the cost of procuring the resource must be less than what the transformed resource will sell at the market. In other words the costs of the good/service should be less than the exchange value that it will sell for. However since we are only dealing with the exchange value and do not account for the use value then it is likely the actual profit from wealth standpoint is less than what we would get from an exchange or monetary standpoint. What’s more if all external costs such as pollution and environmental degradation (environmental costs should include the costs for removal of fossil fuels) are fully accounted for then it is likely that there would be no profit at all in various economic transactions (in certain cases it could be even a negative profit). In fact to obtain a real profit it is likely that a combination of three things must happen. Either the external costs are omitted or resources and/or labour must be exploited. By exploitation the price paid to procure these resources or labour must be below their true use value for wealth to accumulate. It is my personal belief that it is a combination of exploitation and unaccounted costs that allows nearly all economic transactions to produce a profit on paper.
Wealth and money are two fundamentally different concepts and the confusion between the two terms mainly arises from the fact we use money as a store of wealth. As a result of this all wealth is measured in monetary terms. However as money has no actual intrinsic value by itself then its value only comes from the fact it can be exchanged for items of value. It is this fact that means all items of wealth is only measured by their exchange value and not their use value. As a result of this money cannot capture the true value of wealth as not all values are accounted for.
As a result we cannot accurately account for the loss of wealth due to depletion of various resources and this issue is only compounded by the fact all external costs are rarely accounted for. If all these factors were factored in then it is likely the amount of profit or actual real wealth accumulated through our economy is a lot less than we imagined and could even be negative considering the declining quality of resources that we are now extracting.
Finally it should be noted that since money is only a claim on wealth and is not a source of wealth by itself then it follows that if the money supply increases faster than the underlying wealth in the economy then the result will be inflation (if the opposite occurs then we get deflation). It is this dynamic of changing money supply relative to overall wealth that will be explored in the next part of this money and wealth primer.
 = The monster footprint of digital technology (Low-tech Magazine)
 = What is a Human Being Worth (in Terms of Energy)? (The Oil Drum: Europe)
 = What is the average heat (Btu) content of U.S. coal? (EIA)
 = BBC News Market Data: Commodities (BBC)
 = Coal News and Markets (EIA)
 = What If the World’s Soil Runs Out? (TIME Magazine)
 = Chapter 3: Emerging Water Shortages: Falling Water Tables (Earth Policy Institute)
 = World fish stocks declining faster than feared (Financial Times: google title name for link)
 = THE EXTINCTION CRISIS (Biological Diversity)
 = How will ocean acidification affect marine life? (Ocean Acidification)
Off the keyboard of Guy McPherson
Published on Nature Bats Last on February 24, 2013
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I’m pretty sure you know the drill. You pose the scenario and ask the hypothetical questions: There’s an asteroid headed for Earth. We know exactly when it will strike, and it will kill all humans. Do you want to know it will strike? Do you want to know when?
I know of no poll results, but I’ve asked the question a few times. Some people want to know everything. Others don’t want to know anything.
People who want to know when the asteroid will strike cannot fathom that people don’t want to know. People who don’t want to know the asteroid is headed our way cannot fathom why anybody would want to know. Obviously, I’m in the former camp, spreading the news like Nutella on a croissant as if people not only care about knowledge, but want to lap it up.
In fact, it’s inconceivable to me that people don’t want to know. I want to stare, unblinking, when the asteroid strikes. I want to peer into the abyss of my mortality, eyes wide open, knowing the exact moment I will depart this mortal coil. Not in the name of courage, but curiosity.
I have an idea. I could use the scenario and attendant hypothetical questions to introduce future presentations. (As an aside, the potential for speaking tours comes up quite frequently for me. Then, as prospective hosts fully understand the messages I’ll be transmitting, they fade away, often with no explanation and no response to my repeated messages. If you’re interested in jumping over the incredibly low bar necessary to host me, click this link for information.) Back to the point: If I used the hypothetical questions in my introduction, it would allow participants an opportunity to leave the premises before they hear the worst of it. They’d be out a few minutes of time, but they’d save some time and they’d depart relatively free of angst. Ignorance is bliss, especially with respect to challenging social issues, and who am I to rob people of their bliss?
Like the ninth person to arrive at a party for eight, I missed “fitting in” only by a smidgen. If I’m angry because I’m late to the party, you get to bear the brunt of my anger by reading about it here. My only defense is the line that’s become a bumper-sticker cliche: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
For me, not knowing is unbearable. But knowing is a great burden, too. And while I’m expecting an asteroid oddly shaped like climate chaos, we’ll probably get hit by a meteor.
If I did not know about the horrors of empire, I would still be teaching at a university. I would still be drawing a large paycheck doing the work I love and interacting with idealistic young people. I would have the respect and admiration of civilized people, including the members of my immediate family.
If I did not know about the horrors of climate change, I would be content with my path in life. I would be living large, sleeping well, and enjoying the contentment of a life well lived. Rarely would I attract animus from across the sociopolitical spectrum. Angst would lie in abeyance, along with threats on my life.
What a boring existence that would be. For better and worse, I’m stuck with the current adventure: the adventure of a lifetime until the adventure ends, along with the life.
There are no second chances, no opportunities to undo what’s been done. At the level of individuals, we refer to poor choices as stupidity (when others are making the choices) or tragedy (when it’s us). At the level of our ill-fated species, we refer to the myriad poor choices as progress. As nearly as I can distinguish, when faced with the proverbial fork in the road, we’ve taken the wrong turn at each and every opportunity. There are no second chances for our species, no opportunities to undo what’s been done. And yet we keep plugging along, claiming we’re sapient progressives. A few among us claim to be conservatives, but we’re conserving only this omnicidal way of life. Until we can’t.
We’ve committed suicide at the level of our entire species, and too many other species to correctly tally. All that’s left is more excuses in an endless string of excuses from the architects and marketers of industrial civilization. I won’t hold my breath for their long-overdue apologies.
I’m not suggesting all the
bliss ignorance is inexplicable. The corporate governments of the world have been following the playbook of William Casey, U.S. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, since long before he uttered these words in 1981: “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” It’s working great, as indicated by the one-third of Americans who would accept cavity searches in exchange for the privilege of flying commercial airlines, among many other such anecdotes.
An empire in decline requires obedience at home, and it helps if the populace remains purposefully ignorant. At a weekly White House meeting dubbed “Terror Tuesdays,” the drone-bomber-in-chief decides who will die without a whiff of due process, transparency, or oversight (and he has plenty of video-game operators forgoing their consciences to pull the trigger). In the video clip embedded in this article, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz claims she has never heard of Obama’s infamous “kill list,” thus branding herself a
national-level politician liar or stunningly ignorant (if she’s lying, she has plenty of company in the Obama administration).
Obama has given himself power over all communication systems in the country, and he can wiretap, indefinitely detain, and kill any of us on a whim, thereby indicating how meaningless is the Bill of Rights. In addition, he’s constantly seeking more power (including pre-emptive prosecution, in case he believes you’re thinking about committing a crime). Obama’s brand of evil, which includes dictatorial assassinations and ongoing destruction of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is exceeded only by the audacity and willful ignorance of his supporters.
My monthly essay for Transition Voice is scheduled to appear tomorrow. Look for it here.
My latest cyber-conversation with Sherry Ackerman was posted at Transition Voice last week. It’s here.
From my Facebook page: Support the 99er documentary film, featuring Guy McPherson (“Walking Away From Empire”), Bill Moyer (Backbone Campaign), Keef Ward, Vincent Scotti Eirene, Jim Rehberg, Dana Light, Samsarah Morgan, Lazarus Long, Darrel Willis and other everyday people wholeheartedly involved in making another world possible. To pitch in, click here. Two trailers are embedded below.
Off the keyboard of Toby Hemenway
Published originally on Pattern Literacy
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Permaculture is notoriously hard to define. A recent survey shows that people simultaneously believe it is a design approach, a philosophy, a movement, and a set of practices. This broad and contradiction-laden brush doesn’t just make permaculture hard to describe. It can be off-putting, too. Let’s say you first encounter permaculture as a potent method of food production and are just starting to grasp that it is more than that, when someone tells you that it also includes goddess spirituality, and anti-GMO activism, and barefoot living. What would you make of that? And how many people think they’ve finally got the politics of permaculturists all figured out, and assume that we would logically also be vegetarians, only to find militant meat-eaters in the ranks? What kind of philosophy could possibly umbrella all those divergent views? Or is it a philosophy at all? I’m going to argue here that the most accurate and least muddled way to think of permaculture is as a design approach, and that we are often misdirected by the fact that it fits into a larger philosophy and movement which it supports. But it is not that philosophy or movement. It is a design approach for realizing a new paradigm. And we’ll find that this way of defining it is also a balm to those in other ecological design fields and technologies who get annoyed, understandably, when permaculturists tell them, “Oh, yes, your work is part of permaculture, too.”
Humans are a problem-solving species. We uncover challenges—How do we get food? How do we make shelter? How do we stay healthy?—and then we develop tools to solve those problems. Permaculture is one of those tools. For the last 10,000 years, agriculture and the civilization it built have been the way humans attacked the problems of meeting basic needs. Because we live on a planet that for millennia was large compared to the human population and its needs and impact, our species could focus on expanding and improving agriculture’s immense power to convert wild ecosystems into food and habitat for people, and we could ignore ecosystem health. But our industrial civilization of seven billion is chewing up ecosystems relentlessly. We are learning that without healthy ecosystems, humans—and everything else—suffer. So we cannot focus solely on the problem, “How do we meet human needs?” but must now add the words, “while preserving ecosystem health.” Rafter Ferguson has offered that question as a definition of permaculture. He’s onto something, though I think that “meeting human needs while preserving and increasing ecosystem health” is the goal of permaculture, and not its definition. But it gives some clues toward defining it, and helps untangle the knots wrapped around “What is permaculture?” It names and clarifies the problem that permaculture is trying to solve.
Thomas Kuhn, in his masterwork, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, uses the word “paradigm” to mean the viewpoint that defines the problems to be solved in a particular field. Kuhn explains that the proper framing of a paradigm reduces the number of blind alleys that researchers go down by re-stating a problem in clearer terms. New paradigms usually require—and spur the development of—new tools to solve the now-reframed problem.
“Paradigm” has been trivialized through overuse and I’m sure that Kuhn is spinning in his grave. But I don’t think it’s abusing the term to view the change in humanity’s principal goal from “meeting human needs” to “meeting human needs while preserving ecosystem health” as a paradigm shift. It changes the tools that we use, and the mindset required to develop and use new, appropriate tools. It restores a relationship between people and nature that agriculture, by treating nature like a mere resource to be subjugated and consumed, had severed. Suddenly, agriculture and industrial society look like scourges and technologies of destruction, rather than the saviors of humanity that we’ve regarded them. That’s quite a shift.
Permaculture and other ecological approaches are attempts to articulate this new paradigm, by framing the problem and offering tools and strategies to pursue its solution. When the larger problem is framed so that it reveals the interdependent relationship between human needs and ecosystem health, we can more clearly see the steps to the solution. Now we can ask, what are human needs, and how can each of them be met while retaining, restoring, and improving ecosystem health? We know how to articulate human needs, and we have metrics to gauge ecosystem health. Our problem now is to reach this twinned goal, and permaculture offers us hope.
So, why, then, is permaculture so confusing to define? I think it is because in the early days of any new paradigm, the boundary between the new paradigm and the tools—mental and physical—needed to articulate and solve it is blurry. We’re confusing the mindset required to do permaculture effectively with the work of doing it. Let me give a historical example to show what I mean.
In the 18th Century, combustion was explained by something called phlogiston. Matter was thought to be composed of elements plus principles, and phlogiston was the principle of combustibility. When an element burned, it released phlogiston, and burning stopped when all was released. The residue contained the principle of calx, the true elemental substance. The theory was backed by the fact that many things, such as wood and other fuels, lose weight when they burn.
In the 1770s, cracks began to appear in phlogiston theory. Antoine Lavoisier, using careful experiments and new, accurate balances, found that many substances gained—not lost—weight when they burned. In 1771, Carl Scheele, and later Joseph Priestley and others, produced samples of a gas (the yet-unnamed oxygen) that made flames burn more brightly and longer. They called this “dephlogistonated air,” since, to fit into the theory, it had to be able to accept more phlogiston from burning substances than air could. This sort of stop-gap, convoluted reasoning is one of the first signs that a theory is failing. By 1777, Lavoisier was sure this gas was a pure element that combined with others to support burning, and began to reject phlogiston theory. Priestley and others objected; the were simply not able to recognize oxygen for what it was. They knew that elements contained principles, like phlogiston and calx, and these principles combined with elements, were hidden or revealed through processes such as burning, and were emitted, unchanged. The idea that a substance could chemically bond with another and be transformed did not fit their paradigm of matter. It was, literally, inconceivable. But phlogiston theory was doomed by the piling up of inconvenient facts, and by 1800, what is now called the chemical revolution had swept it away.
The rejection of phlogiston and the acceptance of the chemical revolution was logically simple—the oxygen theory of combustion snuffed out the contradictions of phlogiston—but it was cognitively difficult because of the mental barrier created by phlogiston thinking. It took a revolution in thought to see oxygen.
Many of the pioneers of this revolution called themselves natural philosophers, and they led an enormous shift in worldview that required and prompted a new way of thinking about nearly every natural phenomena and event. From the 1500s to the early 1800s, the new astronomers, chemists, and physicists were seen as radicals and a threat to the social order. They often were: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and other revolutionaries were promoters of this new scientific approach based on measurement and experiment. The philosophy that guided their work was, at that time, hard to distinguish from their work itself. Nowadays we view chemistry and the other sciences bred during this tumultuous era as settled disciplines that are neatly split from politics and philosophy, but in those days, to practice chemistry or astronomy was part of a radically new worldview, and the boundaries between the scientists’ radical philosophy, the problems that it set for them to work on, and their experimental approach to those problems were not distinct.
Permaculture, like phlogiston-cramped chemistry, can’t be understood well under the old paradigm, and I think this is why it is often regarded as a movement and philosophy as well as a problem-solving approach. To grasp permaculture fully, we need to have made the shift to the new paradigm.
New tools and new paradigms mutually reinforce and strengthen one another, and permaculture is one of many examples of this. Lavoisier’s improved balances exposed inconsistencies that toppled phlogiston theory from its perch, and demanded a new way of thinking about gases and matter. In a similar vein, permaculture’s design methods such as zones, sectors, and needs-and-yields, by emphasizing relationships and consequences, reveal the weaknesses of thinking in terms of isolated events and static objects. The flaws in old-paradigm concepts like infinite growth, waste, and “externalities” become glaringly obvious under a whole-systems view. The tools encourage the new thinking, and the new paradigm helps create the appropriate tools.
Many people come to permaculture knowing that there is something wrong with the old worldview, but they don’t yet have a new paradigm to replace it. They are attracted to permaculture as better gardening or as a means of social change, and gradually adopt the new worldview as they see it overcoming the flaws and damage of the old. Others come to permaculture after shifting to this holistic paradigm because permaculture supports it and offers an approach to working within it. In both cases, it takes time to fully grasp the depth of permaculture in part because nearly all of us were raised in the old paradigm. After twenty years of practicing permaculture design, I still have trouble defining it.
Permaculture, then, is not a philosophy or worldview, and it is not a single tool, either. But to use permaculture well requires adopting a new worldview and new tools. Like the early chemists who called themselves philosophers, right now the boundary between the tools, the approach to using them, and the worldview that makes their effective use possible are blurry.
In some ways permaculture is in a class similar to the problem-solving approach called the scientific method, the experimentalist view developed by Lavoisier, Boyle, and their peers. It is not the paradigm, it is not the tools. It is the approach for using the tools—a way of working that is guided by the paradigm. So of course this is confusing. People have been arguing over what “the scientific method” is for centuries: is it deductive or inductive, does the hypothesis or the data come first? Most scientists can’t tell you. They learn the scientific method by using it, and it’s devilishly hard to explain what it is. Sound familiar?
With all this in mind, I think the definition of permaculture that must rise to the top is that it is a design approach to arrive at solutions, just as the scientific method is an experimental approach. In more concrete terms, permaculture tells how to choose from a dauntingly large toolkit—all the human technologies and strategies for living—to solve the new problem of sustainability. It is an instruction manual for solving the challenges laid out by the new paradigm of meeting human needs while enhancing ecosystem health. The relationship explicitly spelled out in that view, which connects humans to the larger, dynamic environment, forces us to think in relational terms, which is a key element of permaculture. The two sides of the relationship are explicitly named in two permaculture ethics: care for the Earth, and care for people. And knowing we need both sides of that relationship is immensely helpful in identifying the problems we need to solve. First, what are human needs? The version of the permaculture flower that I work with names some important ones: food, shelter, water, waste recycling, energy, community, health, spiritual fulfillment, justice, and livelihood. The task set out by permaculture, in the new paradigm, is to meet those needs while preserving ecosystem health, and we have metrics for assessing the latter. The way those needs are met will vary by place and culture, but the metrics of ecosystem health can be applied fairly universally.
This clarifies the task set by permaculture, and I think it also distinguishes permaculture from the philosophy—the paradigm—required to use it effectively and helps us understand why permaculture is often called a movement. Permaculturists make common cause with all the other millions of people who are shifting to the new paradigm, and it is that shift—not the design approach of permaculture that supports it—that is worthy of being called a movement. Permaculture is one approach used by this movement to solve the problems identified by the new paradigm. To do this, it operates on the level of strategies rather than techniques, but that is a subject for another essay. Because we are, in a way, still in the phlogiston era of our ecological awareness, we don’t know how to categorize permaculture, and we can confuse it with the paradigm that it helps us explore. Permaculture is not the movement of sustainability and it is not the philosophy behind it; it is the problem-solving approach the movement and the philosophy can use to meet their goals and design a world in which human needs are met while enhancing the health of this miraculous planet that supports us.
The Permaculture Flower, modified from Holmgren. The petals represent the basic human needs, and we work to meet them sustainably on the personal, local, and regional levels.
Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg
Published on Our Finite World on February 22, 2013
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Globalization seems to be looked on as an unmitigated “good” by economists. Unfortunately, economists seem to be guided by their badly flawed models; they miss real-world problems. In particular, they miss the point that the world is finite. We don’t have infinite resources, or unlimited ability to handle excess pollution. So we are setting up a “solution” that is at best temporary.
Economists also tend to look at results too narrowly–from the point of view of a business that can expand, or a worker who has plenty of money, even though these users are not typical. In real life, the business are facing increased competition, and the worker may be laid off because of greater competition.
The following is a list of reasons why globalization is not living up to what was promised, and is, in fact, a very major problem.
1. Globalization uses up finite resources more quickly. As an example, China joined the world trade organization in December 2001. In 2002, its coal use began rising rapidly (Figure 1, below).
In fact, there is also a huge increase in world coal consumption (Figure 2, below). India’s consumption is increasing as well, but from a smaller base.
2. Globalization increases world carbon dioxide emissions. If the world burns its coal more quickly, and does not cut back on other fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions increase. Figure 3 shows how carbon dioxide emissions have increased, relative to what might have been expected, based on the trend line for the years prior to when the Kyoto protocol was adopted in 1997.
3. Globalization makes it virtually impossible for regulators in one country to foresee the worldwide implications of their actions. Actions which would seem to reduce emissions for an individual country may indirectly encourage world trade, ramp up manufacturing in coal-producing areas, and increase emissions over all. See my post Climate Change: Why Standard Fixes Don’t Work.
4. Globalization acts to increase world oil prices.
The world has undergone two sets of oil price spikes. The first one, in the 1973 to 1983 period, occurred after US oil supply began to decline in 1970 (Figure 4, above and Figure 5 below).
After 1983, it was possible to bring oil prices back to the $30 to $40 barrel range (in 2012$), compared to the $20 barrel price (in 2012$) available prior to 1970. This was partly done partly by ramping up oil production in the North Sea, Alaska and Mexico (sources which were already known), and partly by reducing consumption. The reduction in consumption was accomplished by cutting back oil use for electricity, and by encouraging the use of more fuel-efficient cars.
Now, since 2005, we have high oil prices back, but we have a much worse problem. The reason the problem is worse now is partly because oil supply is not growing very much, due to limits we are reaching, and partly because demand is exploding due to globalization.
If we look at world oil supply, it is virtually flat. The United States and Canada together provide the slight increase in world oil supply that has occurred since 2005. Otherwise, supply has been flat since 2005 (Figure 6, below). What looks like a huge increase in US oil production in 2012 in Figure 5 looks much less impressive, when viewed in the context of world oil production in Figure 6.
Part of our problem now is that with globalization, world oil demand is rising very rapidly. Chinese buyers purchased more cars in 2012 than did European buyers. Rapidly rising world demand, together with oil supply which is barely rising, pushes world prices upward. This time, there also is no possibility of a dip in world oil demand of the type that occurred in the early 1980s. Even if the West drops its oil consumption greatly, the East has sufficient pent-up demand that it will make use of any oil that is made available to the market.
Adding to our problem is the fact that we have already extracted most of the inexpensive to extract oil because the “easy” (and cheap) to extract oil was extracted first. Because of this, oil prices cannot decrease very much, without world supply dropping off. Instead, because of diminishing returns, needed price keeps ratcheting upward. The new “tight” oil that is acting to increase US supply is an example of expensive to produce oil–it can’t bring needed price relief.
5. Globalization transfers consumption of limited oil supply from developed countries to developing countries. If world oil supply isn’t growing by very much, and demand is growing rapidly in developing countries, oil to meet this rising demand must come from somewhere. The way this transfer takes place is through the mechanism of high oil prices. High oil prices are particularly a problem for major oil importing countries, such as the United States, many European countries, and Japan. Because oil is used in growing food and for commuting, a rise in oil price tends to lead to a cutback in discretionary spending, recession, and lower oil use in these countries. See my academic article, “Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis,” available here or here.
Developing countries are better able to use higher-priced oil than developed countries. In some cases (particularly in oil-producing countries) subsidies play a role. In addition, the shift of manufacturing to less developed countries increases the number of workers who can afford a motorcycle or car. Job loss plays a role in the loss of oil consumption from developed countries–see my post, Why is US Oil Consumption Lower? Better Gasoline Mileage? The real issue isn’t better mileage; one major issue is loss of jobs.
6. Globalization transfers jobs from developed countries to less developed countries. Globalization levels the playing field, in a way that makes it hard for developed countries to compete. A country with a lower cost structure (lower wages and benefits for workers, more inexpensive coal in its energy mix, and more lenient rules on pollution) is able to out-compete a typical OECD country. In the United States, the percentage of US citizen with jobs started dropping about the time China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
7. Globalization transfers investment spending from developed countries to less developed countries. If an investor has a chance to choose between a country with a competitive advantage and a country with a competitive disadvantage, which will the investor choose? A shift in investment shouldn’t be too surprising.
In the US, domestic investment was fairly steady as a percentage of National Income until the mid-1980s (Figure 9). In recent years, it has dropped off and is now close to consumption of assets (similar to depreciation, but includes other removal from service). The assets in question include all types of capital assets, including government-owned assets (schools, roads), business owned assets (factories, stores), and individual homes. A similar pattern applies to business investment viewed separately.
Part of the shift in the balance between investment and consumption of assets is rising consumption of assets. This would include early retirement of factories, among other things.
Even very low interest rates in recent years have not brought US investment back to earlier levels.
8. With the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, globalization leads to huge US balance of trade deficits and other imbalances.
With increased globalization and the rising price of oil since 2002, the US trade deficit has soared (Figure 10). Adding together amounts from Figure 10, the cumulative US deficit for the period 1980 through 2011 is $8.6 trillion. By the end of 2012, the cumulative deficit since 1980 is probably a little over 9 trillion.
A major reason for the large US trade deficit is the fact that the US dollar is the world’s “reserve currency.” While the mechanism is too complicated to explain here, the result is that the US can run deficits year after year, and the rest of the world will take their surpluses, and use it to buy US debt. With this arrangement, the rest of the world funds the United States’ continued overspending. It is fairly clear the system was not put together with the thought that it would work in a fully globalized world–it simply leads to too great an advantage for the United States relative to other countries. Erik Townsend recently wrote an article called Why Peak Oil Threatens the International Monetary System, in which he talks about the possibility of high oil prices bringing an end to the current arrangement.
At this point, high oil prices together with globalization have led to huge US deficit spending since 2008. This has occurred partly because a smaller portion of the population is working (and thus paying taxes), and partly because US spending for unemployment benefits and stimulus has risen. The result is a mismatch between government income and spending (Figure 11, below).
Thanks to the mismatch described in the last paragraph, the federal deficit in recent years has been far greater than the balance of payment deficit. As a result, some other source of funding for the additional US debt has been needed, in addition to what is provided by the reserve currency arrangement. The Federal Reserve has been using Quantitative Easing to buy up federal debt since late 2008. This has provided a buyer for additional debt and also keeps US interest rates low (hoping to attract some investment back to the US, and keeping US debt payments affordable). The current situation is unsustainable, however. Continued overspending and printing money to pay debt is not a long-term solution to huge imbalances among countries and lack of cheap oil–situations that do not “go away” by themselves.
9. Globalization tends to move taxation away from corporations, and onto individual citizens. Corporations have the ability to move to locations where the tax rate is lowest. Individual citizens have much less ability to make such a change. Also, with today’s lack of jobs, each community competes with other communities with respect to how many tax breaks it can give to prospective employers. When we look at the breakdown of US tax receipts (federal, state, and local combined) this is what we find:
The only portion that is entirely from corporations is corporate income taxes, shown in red. This has clearly shrunk by more than half. Part of the green layer (excise, sales, and property tax) is also from corporations, since truckers also pay excise tax on fuel they purchase, and businesses usually pay property taxes. It is clear, though, that the portion of revenue coming from personal income taxes and Social Security and Medicare funding (blue) has been rising.
I showed that high oil prices seem to lead to depressed US wages in my post, The Connection of Depressed Wages to High Oil Prices and Limits to Growth. If wages are low at the same time that wage-earners are being asked to shoulder an increasing share of rising government costs, this creates a mismatch that wage-earners are not really able to handle.
10. Globalization sets up a currency “race to the bottom,” with each country trying to get an export advantage by dropping the value of its currency.
Because of the competitive nature of the world economy, each country needs to sell its goods and services at as low a price as possible. This can be done in various ways–pay its workers lower wages; allow more pollution; use cheaper more polluting fuels; or debase the currency by Quantitative Easing (also known as “printing money,”) in the hope that this will produce inflation and lower the value of the currency relative to other currencies.
There is no way this race to the bottom can end well. Prices of imports become very high in a debased currency–this becomes a problem. In addition, the supply of money is increasingly out of balance with real goods and services. This produces asset bubbles, such as artificially high stock market prices, and artificially high bond prices (because the interest rates on bonds are so low). These assets bubbles lead to investment crashes. Also, if the printing ever stops (and perhaps even if it doesn’t), interest rates will rise, greatly raising cost to governments, corporations, and individual citizens.
11. Globalization encourages dependence on other countries for essential goods and services. With globalization, goods can often be obtained cheaply from elsewhere. A country may come to believe that there is no point in producing its own food or clothing. It becomes easy to depend on imports and specialize in something like financial services or high-priced medical care–services that are not as oil-dependent.
As long as the system stays together, this arrangement works, more or less. However, if the built-in instabilities in the system become too great, and the system stops working, there is suddenly a very large problem. Even if the dependence is not on food, but is instead on computers and replacement parts for machinery, there can still be a big problem if imports are interrupted.
12. Globalization ties countries together, so that if one country collapses, the collapse is likely to ripple through the system, pulling many other countries with it.
History includes many examples of civilizations that started from a small base, gradually grew to over-utilize their resource base, and then collapsed. We are now dealing with a world situation which is not too different. The big difference this time is that a large number of countries is involved, and these countries are increasingly interdependent. In my post 2013: Beginning of Long-Term Recession, I showed that there are significant parallels between financial dislocations now happening in the United States and the types of changes which happened in other societies, prior to collapse. My analysis was based on the model of collapse developed in the book Secular Cycles by Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov.
It is not just the United States that is in perilous financial condition. Many European countries and Japan are in similarly poor condition. The failure of one country has the potential to pull many others down, and with it much of the system. The only countries that remain safe are the ones that have not grown to depend on globalization–which is probably not many today–perhaps landlocked countries of Africa.
In the past, when one area collapsed, there was less interdependence. When one area collapsed, it was possible to let cropland “rest” and deforested areas regrow. With regeneration, and perhaps new technology, it was possible for a new civilization to grow in the same area later. If we are dealing with a world-wide collapse, it will be much more difficult to follow this model.
From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published in Doomstead Diner
February 20, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner forum.
Contrary and I were proud to part of a large contingent of people form our area of Virginia to travel to the National Mall in DC for the Forward on Climate rally on Sunday. It was a long and extraordinary day.
The Forward on Climate rally, as it was billed by environmental groups Sierra Club and 350.org, called for President Obama to take immediate action on climate change, including blocking further construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Dozens of buses discharged rallyers from all across the country. The assembly massed on the National Mall, where speakers and musicians addressed the crowd. As they gathered for the march, participants listed to a variety of talks from luminaries, including 350.org President Bill McKibben, who tweeted, “Today was one of the best days of my life, because I saw the movement come together finally, big and diverse and gorgeous.”
“I waited a quarter century since I wrote the first book about all this stuff to see if we were going to fight,” McKibben told the crowd. “And today, I know we are going to fight. The most fateful battle in human history is finally joined, and we will fight it together.”
Van Jones was also on the dais. He urged the crowd to put pressure on the President: “This President has the power to achieve the single biggest carbon reduction ever, by holding our biggest carbon polluters – dirty power plants – accountable for what they dump into the air, Cleaning up this pollution and using more clean energy will provide jobs to thousands of Americans, save families real money when it comes to electricity bills and, most important, will make a real difference in our health and the health of our children.”
Other speakers included:
- The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO
- Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director
- Van Jones, NRDC Trustee and President Rebuild the Dream
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic Senator from Rhode Island
- Rosario Dawson
- Chief Jacqueline Thomas, native peoples chief and co-founder Yinka Dene Alliance
A chill and biting win gusted on the participants, who stood in the frozen mud of the Mall to brave the elements. Even huddling together like penguins didn’t make it any more bearable. Those in attendance later marched through the streets bearing placards, signs and musical instruments.
In an interesting turn, earlier that week Michael Bruce, President of the Sierra Club, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and others handcuffed themselves to the White House gates in an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to these interrelated issues. This marks the first time in the Sierra Club’s history that it has engaged in acts of civil disobedience.
During his turn at the microphone, Brune addressed the crowd: “Twenty years from now on President’s Day, people will want to know what the president did in the face of rising sea levels, record droughts and furious storms brought on by climate disruption . . .” “President Obama holds in his hand a pen and the power to deliver on his promise of hope for our children. Today, we are asking him to use that pen to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and ensure that this dirty, dangerous, export pipeline will never be built.”
Many in the crowd expressed by voice and sign that the pipeline would be stopped “by any means necessary.”
There was also much opposition to fracking, and much support for clean, alternative fuels. Neither Charles nor David Koch was spotted in the crowd. It was also a pleasure to meet Captain Ray Lewis, a true Occupy hero. I was able to thank him for his work.
It remains to be seen what will come of this effort. Stay tuned.
All images Surlyfoto.
HOW TWO GOOGLE CACHE RECORDS WITH PUBLISHED DATES PREDATING THE EVENTS AT SANDY HOOK SCHOOL CAME INTO BEING.
I will refer to 3 images in this document that show the anomalies in the Google cache records of The Arlington School’s News Items.
Document 1 is an image of a google cache record showing a published Date of Dec 10, 2012 which states Google recorded it on Dec 18, 2012.
The url below used to access the page imaged below – it now returns a 404 page error. Anyone that has copies of the image please keep it safe.
it could also be accessed from
by selecting to view the page.
It now returns….
Your search – inurl:http://www.arlingtonlocalschools.com/news/2012/12/10/talking-with-your-child-about … – did not match any documents. Reset search tools
DOCUMENT 2 below is an image of a google cache record showing a published Date of Dec 13, 2012 which states Google recorded it on Jan 12, 2013.
As of this writing, January 25, 6:21pm PT it is still available at the url below.
DOCUMENT 3 is an image of a google search return to a document Published Date of December 13, 2013 the same as in Document 2.
The link to this page has been disappeared by google as of today.
I am going to explain to you in this article how those document came to appear on the internet on the Published Dates shown, December 10, 2012 and December 13, 2012. I will also explain how the search return came into being.
In order to do this I am going to ask you to suspend disbelief so you can follow the timeline explaining the documents.
Events like 9/11 have demonstrated that news items about them appear almost instantly after such events. Many are complex documents that would be impossible to create in that short a period of time. If someone is preparing a false flag the most effective period to introduce your desired interpretation of the event is immediately after the event while people are still in shock. In order to meet a tight deadline there are many trusted people working in the background preparing documents and then sitting and waiting to pull the trigger and make them public the moment the event is planned to occur. These people are scattered all over and working off their own script with a time to make their information public.
CMI (Crisis Management Inc) which had author permissions on The Arlington School Website as a contractor to upload Their material to the website as needed. They could upload, create links to their material, and publish news announcements all from their own offices without anyone from the School being involved.
The School shootings that took place in sandy Hook on December 14, 2012, were originally planned to happen on December 10, 2012.
If you check on a calendar you will see Dec 10 was a Monday and a school day so the event could have been planned for that date.
DECEMBER 10, 2012
Everyone involved with media media material had the material prepared referring to the Date Dec 10, 2012.
On December 10, 2012 someone at CMI was waiting to pull the trigger and publish the news item (Document 1) and related documents such as the pdf the news item announces.
For some reason the event was called off at the last moment.
Everyone planned to submit material was frantically called to NOT submit their material.
The message for some reason didn’t get through to CMI in time and they submitted the pdf, created the link to it, and published the news item shown in Document 1 .
The other anomalous documents predating Dec 14, 2012 that appeared all over the internet originated the same way.
Because of a technicality (RSS Feed) that is explained by the developer of the program that manages the Arlington Schools site a record of the document immediately left the site and was submitted to people hooked up to the feed as well as to google which published the item for availability in their search engine. (see document 3)
Google took the opportunity while going to the site to capture the thumbnail of the page seen on the right of document 2 to also put it into their cache database.
In the Technical Discuss Thread at http://fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/sandy-hook-phony-documents-open-thread/#comment-164225
Jeremy the developer of the software SpireCMS which the School uses to manage their website stated
“JEREMY… When a news item is created in our system, it is pushed out via an RSS feed and, Google has it indexed usually under 24 hours.”
The above means the article could be found on the google search engine on that date and also in their cache shown in Document 1.
The search record was scrubbed by google for this Dec 10, 2012 item, but events that took place on Dec 13, 2012 caused an identical entry to be made only with a published date of December 13th. I’m not sure why it wasn’t scrubbed by Google before today. It is shown in (document 3)
DECEMBER 13, 2012
The Sandy Hook Shooting event was rescheduled to this date and was again scrubbed. It Was a Thursday, also a viable date.
It was again scrubbed for some reason.
CMI again did not get the word to not publish in time.
They published the news item again but this time with a published Date of Dec 13, 2012 causing another RSS submission creating (document 3) and also a second cache record (document 2)
Jeremy stated above “Google has it indexed usually under 24 hours” which means (document 1) would originally have shown either “as it appeared on 10 Dec 2012 or possibly 11 Dec 2012.”
The December 13, 2012 (document 2) would originally have shown either “as it appeared on 13 Dec 2012 or possibly 14 Dec 2012.”
No one in the loop realized there was an RSS feed on the news items at Arlington School and that the 2 pages (document 1 &2) where recorded in the google cache.
AFTER DECEMBER 14
Some bright internet users discovered the cache records predating the actual events and all hell broke loose.
The people behind the false flag frantically tried to cover up these incriminating cache records and the search return.
For technical reasons too complex to explain here it was impossible to erase the records.
Publicly removing the cache document after they were found would also be suspicious.
As a temporary fix someone authorized by google edited the records as below.
(Document 1) which first read “as it appeared on 10 Dec 2012 or possibly 11 Dec 2012 was changed to read 18 Dec 2012.”, a date after the events of December 14th. This document was still suspicious but at least is showed it was recorded after the event it announced.
(Document 2) which first read “as it appeared on 13 Dec 2012 was changed to read “as it appeared on 12 Jan 2013.”, a date after the events of December 14th. This document was still suspicious but at least is showed it was recorded after the event it announced.
To make these changes at google would take no more than about two minutes. All that needed to be done is to select the records in the database and edit the field that holds the date google recorded the record.
JANUARY 25 2013
Today google decided that the evidence implicating them in these events very getting to dangerous to leave available and removed them from public view even though that looks very suspicious.
This happened because I stated publicly that it is impossible for a document published with an RSS feed request to google could take 30 days as shown in (Document 2) and 8 days as shown in (Document 1) after the developer publicly stated at http://fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/sandy-hook-phony-documents-open-thread/#comment-164225
“JEREMY… When a news item is created in our system, it is pushed out via an RSS feed and, Google has it indexed usually under 24 hours.”
There is an enormous amount of corroborating evidence that I described before at Fellowship of the Minds.
If you find the information above compelling enough to look further, and if I survive to tell about it, this discussion will be continued.
That google is currently scrubbing the evidence does not bode well for those publicly explaining it. Although google can hide the incriminating evidence from the public, they cannot remove the internal traces from their servers. We who made screencaptures and didn’t clear our browser histories have evidence they existed to the last date we accessed it. Guard that information well.
I am going to stop here to let you consider what I said.
Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia
Published on Economic Undertow on January 14, 2013
How Hwee Young, EPA-Al Jazeera, what the end of the World looks like: midday pollution in Beijing … the Chinese accept this as an integral component of ‘progress’.
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
On Sunday, the monitoring center released data showing particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5), had reached more than 600 micrograms per square meter at some monitoring stations in Beijing and was as high as 900 on Saturday. According to the World Health Organisation, the recommended daily level for PM 2.5 is 20, and the high levels in Beijing has been identified as a major cause of asthma and respiratory diseases.Air quality in Beijing showed airborne particles with a diameter small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs at a reading of 456 micrograms per cubic meter, the warning center said.The quality is considered good when the figure stands at less than 100, but a reading shown on the website of the US embassy in the city was above 800.
Beijing only measures up to a maximum value of 500, with the US embassy tweeting that their own readings were “beyond index” (“Crazy bad!”).
Beijing is located within the Chinese rust belt. The districts surrounding the city are filled with coal-burning heavy industries … Citizens are placated by the infinitesimal likelihood that they themselves might become tycoons. To tend the tiny flame of possibility the citizens endure every abuse. A number the Chinese need to keep in mind is 12,000 … Londoners who perished as a result of a similar coal-driven smog event that occurred in the UK from December 4th onward, in 1952 (pdf alert).
No telling how bad Chinese pollution will become as managers frantically aim to increase output and boost precious GDP. As usual, nothing will be done until there are dogs gnawing corpses in the streets …
No telling the effect of more Chinese pollution on the world’s climate … the prospect of more pollution is not something to look forward to. It is likely the Chinese will endure more extreme weather … more GDP … more pollution … more floods and blizzards … more dogs, in a vicious cycle.
The Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice (PHP) and the Committee on Population (CPOP) has issued a lengthy report on the comparative fatality rates for different countries broken down by cause. Wolf Richter has filtered the report so as to bring forth information. From ‘Part One’ of his analysis:
How Americans Stack Up In Dying From Violence, War, Suicide, And Accidents … the first thing I did was check out the category “deaths from intentional injuries” and its three subcategories, “self-inflicted injuries,” “war,” and “violence.” Grisly statistics, all of them.As expected, the US has the most violence among the 17 “peer” countries in the study with 6.5 deaths per 100,000. Almost three times the rate of Finland, the next most violent country in the group with 2.2 deaths per 100,000 people, and over 15 times the rate of Japan with 0.43 deaths per 100,000 people. The third most violent country, Canada (1.6), is practically a bastion of safety for those Americans who make it across the border.The apparently permanent element of US foreign policy, “war,” killed 0.44 Americans per 100,000 in 2008. It killed a lot fewer people in the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and France, and none in the remaining peer countries.
Deaths from self-inflicted injuries are an immense cultural tragedy in Japan—and its literature is replete with it. But the Japanese rate of 19.8 suicides per 100,000 people is not that much worse than that of the Finns (17.7). Americans are in the middle of the pack (10.3). The least suicidal are the Italians (4.5).
Combine the deaths from all intentional injuries—violence, war, and suicide—and the leader of the pack is … drumroll … Japan! With 20.2 deaths per 100,000 it is a hair deadlier than Finland (19.9), somewhat deadlier than the US in third place (17.3), but 3.6 times deadlier than the country of the Mafia, Italy, where people are least likely to die of intentional injuries (5.6).
Humans are violent, machines make violence more efficient while denaturing it at the same time. Denature means altering fundamental characteristics, ordinarily to render unpalatable. Industry denatures violence into an anodyne ‘process’ that runs quietly in the background, outside of control. By this process violence becomes unremarkable, ordinary. Industry and its fetishes alter the style or ‘fashion’ of violence, giving it respectability then promoting its usefulness.
Managers strive to increase efficiencies … to inform company narratives so as to gain- or maintain credit flows … there are unintended consequences. Non-natural death can be considered a form of industrial pollution … Alternatively: accidents, disease, war and other forms of violence are all waste products of the industrial system. Violence-waste is a component of an efficiency-limiting negative feedback loop, a kind of cost. Waste increases along with efficiencies until the system modifies itself or is overwhelmed.
The managers demand others absorb the waste … or ‘adjust themselves’ to it. This is what happened after Chernobyl, is happening post-Fukushima, is happening now in Beijing, what has taken place after millions of car crashes and fatalities … what will happen after Newtown. The costs are agonizing … but not yet high enough to cause the system to modify itself or blow up.
Finance is subject to the same dynamic. Corruption and theft are the waste products of debt-money and finance speculation. The waste is denatured … in order to permit greater efficiencies and ‘finance innovation’. For the system to behave otherwise … to corral corrupt managers and reform the system … is more threatening than breakdown.
In this way, all of our human problems are larger or smaller versions of the same problem. As with fractals, our waste-cost dilemma scales. What this means is contriving strategies to cope with problems at one level would also produce workable strategies at other levels at the same time. This is something to think about when analysts insist that ‘this or that problem cannot be solved’ (except to give bankers more of the citizens’ money). Our problems aren’t irremediable predicaments. Rather, solutions are unpleasant to business tycoons who would be required to sacrifice for others than themselves.
Even if you’re white, insured, educated, or in upper-income groups and live a healthy lifestyle, you’re still getting the short end of the stick … Americans under fifty are paying the price. We don’t know exactly why. Even the panel of experts that authored the massive report, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, admits that it can’t entirely pinpoint the reasons. But we do know how Americans under fifty, particularly males, are paying the price: with their lives.The US health disadvantage, as the report calls it, is more prevalent among “socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.” But even if you’re “white, insured, college-educated, or in upper-income groups” and live a healthy lifestyle, you’re less likely to make it to 50 than your counterparts in the other 16 wealthy “peer” countries of the study …The report, based on mortality studies for the years through 2008, carves out three categories, “Deaths from Noncommunicable Diseases,” “Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions,” and “Deaths from Injuries.”
“Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions” is divided into dozens of categories and subcategories, and every country has its own nightmare. In Portugal for example, 7.4 people per 100,000 die of HIV/AIDS, more than double the rate of the country next in line, the US (3.4), and 246 times the rate of Japan (0.03).
“Something fundamental is going wrong,” lamented Dr. Steven Woolf, who chaired the panel. “This is not the product of a particular administration or political party. Something at the core is causing the U.S. to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it’s getting worse.”
The panel tried to nail down the culprits: a health-care system that leaves millions of people uninsured, the highest rate of poverty, education, eating habits, socioeconomic and behavioral differences, cities built for cars not pedestrians…. But it determined that these reasons cannot adequately explain the differences—because even wealthy, educated, insured whites with healthy lifestyles are getting the short end of the stick.
Numbers lie, so do reporting agencies, particularly if the numbers make bureaucrats look bad. Malnutrition will not appear in statistics from Greece, Spain and Portugal. The 1,000,000+ radiation deaths over the next 20 years are not going to show up in Japanese databases … If spent fuel pool in Fukushima Daiichi reactor number four collapses a large part of the country will receive lethal doses of radiation … any deaths that result will not be tallied. Keep in mind there are only 128 million Japanese so there is an upper limit to the body count.
Americans die like rats because we live like rats: the infernal car business has turned what was once a nice country into an ironic, Beelzebub-ish hell hole. To live in the US of A is to camp out in a cardboard McBox under a freeway overpass. To cope, a large segment of the population continually self-medicates: peeps abuse prescription drugs, over-consume alcohol, refine/manufacture street drugs like crack, crank, PCP and meth, import cocaine and heroin. Shifting to pot puts the medicant into prison. All this is ‘Life-enhancing’ … right?
Add to this is ordinary stress … the constant fear-mongering which has become the thump-and-drag of US advertising- and political business, the effects of pollution and radiation, the toxic chemicals in food and water, pharmaceutical misdeeds and medical incompetence … the breakdown of families and supportive communities … isolation and withdrawal into ‘self’ and entertainments. Humans are not adapted to this, modernity is ‘too new’ … there hasn’t been enough time for evolutionary process to work nor is there likely to be.
The Council report does not list ‘death by ignorance and greed’ … the two categories are all-inclusive.Our incredible consumer economy with all its various cogs … drives people insane. We’ve gained a lot of worthless diversions that have big costs that are shoved off onto those least able to bear them. Consumption is layered over with a fetishist obsession with images associated with militarism … not militarism itself. We’re cowards addicted to death porn.
We aren’t in the hands of evil men … we are the evil men and we cum all over ourselves in our ‘righteousness’ and ‘progress’.
The unraveling is underway, the proposed solutions are cosmetic, (Center for American Progress):
Preventing Gun Violence in Our Nation Neera Tanden, Winnie Stachelberg, Arkadi Gerney, and Danielle BaussanAfter last month’s senseless shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut—in which 20 children and 6 adults were shot and killed—we need to immediately address the gaps in our current law that enable mass shootings, as well as the everyday shootings that on average claim the lives of 33 Americans each day.In this issue brief we recommend 13 legislative proposals and executive actions to prevent gun violence in our nation. These actions are targeted in the following three key areas:
– Better background checks
– Taking military-grade weapons off the streets and out of criminals’ hands
– Better data, better coordination, and better enforcement …
It’s most likely that the ‘modernized date (gathering) systems’ … would be used to snoop on Occupy Wall Street- and anti-nuclear activists, persecute organic farmers, harass and infiltrate climate groups … that is what ‘modernize’ means in the 21st century. Controlling firearm violence will be difficult and costly. There are no easy ‘user pays’ solutions. Keep in mind, firearm manufacturing is Big Business. The imperative is to sell products, it is the same for all industries at all levels. Selling firearms is a cycle: the first round of sales justifies successive sales of ‘better quality’ materiel so that the buyers can maintain a (illusory) qualitative advantage. This requires additional rounds of sales. The enterprise is self-perpetuating as long as it can be fed money. For example, sales of military goods are a way to direct funds sent to oil producers back to the United States.
Military sales are another ‘nothing for something’ trade. If the material is not used it is useless in a practical sense. If it is used it is likely damaged or destroyed and must be replaced.
The way to sell firearms is to sell fear first. The way to ‘un-sell’ firearms is to stifle the fear and make firearms unfashionable:
– End the war on drugs and de-fund crime organizations thereby. Prosecute high-level criminals such as Jon Corzine. The issue is lawlessness and the perceived (real) breakdown in the social order. Lawlessness starts at the top. Prominent figures in and out of government and business need to be held to account!
– Treat gun violence as a public health issue. Expand the concept to include all forms of mental illness and suicide prevention. If the current healthcare infrastructure cannot manage the task (it can’t (it is hopelessly corrupt) a parallel provider system needs to be installed …even if it is hated ‘single payer’.
If the government or lobbyists aren’t willing to extend themselves in this way they should simply shut up.
– Increase employment by creating non-industrial jobs … ! A 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps would cost little, employ many and money spent would flow into the economy rather than to banks’ reserve accounts or to offshore tax havens. Employment would reduce poverty and the incentive to commit crimes. Conservation is capital husbandry, an exotic concept that needs to be revisited in a period of runaway insolvency.
– Improve veteran mental health services including in-service care. How the govt treats its veterans is a national disgrace. Lurking in the background are the endless, pointless wars-for-profit. There is a connection between the wars and turmoil across the country: one is the cause of the other.
– Close Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and shift investigative services to FBI. End the ‘terror war’. Paranoia feeds violence, we are consumed by it.
– Crack down on private armies of all kinds: contractors, paramilitaries, ‘patriot’ and other neo-nazi & similar hate groups.
– Hold firearm manufacturers liable for damages.
– Further down the road, with less fear and more confidence steps can be taken such as to nationalize the entire defense industry complex and repeal the 2d Amendment … the same way the US repealed the 18th Amendment. By doing so the baleful consequences of these industries’ influence would be reduced.
Figure 1: How little time in one chart (click on for big), Brent crude amalgamated futures contracts (from TFC Charts). The top line represents the high price of crude oil beyond which the economy contracts. The bottom line represents the price required by the so-called ‘producer’ to bring each barrel of crude oil to the marketplace. This price relentlessly increases because crude oil becomes more difficult to extract with each day … and every 90 million barrels removed then wasted.
By the end of the year the price that triggers deflation will decline to less than $120 per barrel while the price that drillers will need to stay in business will exceed $100 per barrel. The endgame is when the price of crude cannot be met by wasting the fuel or borrowing against the wasting process. We’re almost there …
Off the keyboard of Toby Hemenway
Published originally on Pattern Literacy
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
Jared Diamond calls it “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.”(1) Bill Mollison says that it can “destroy whole landscapes.”(2) Are they describing nuclear energy? Suburbia? Coal mining? No. They are talking about agriculture. The problem is not simply that farming in its current industrial manifestation is destroying topsoil and biodiversity. Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable. At its doorstep can also be laid the basis of our culture’s split between humans and nature, much disease and poor health, and the origins of dominator hierarchies and the police state. Those are big claims, so let’s explore them.
Permaculture, although it encompasses many disciplines, orbits most fundamentally around food. Anthropologists, too, agree that food defines culture more than our two other physical needs of shelter and reproduction. A single home-building stint provides a place to live for decades. A brief sexual encounter can result in children. But food must be gotten every day, usually several times a day. Until very recently, all human beings spent much of their time obtaining food, and the different ways of doing that drove cultures down very divergent paths.
Anthropologist Yehudi Cohen (3) and many subsequent scholars break human cultures into five categories based on how they get food. These five are foragers (or hunter-gatherers), horticulturists, agriculturists, pastoralists, and industrial cultures. Knowing which category a people falls into allows you to predict many attributes of that group. For example, foragers tend to be animist/pantheist, living in a world rich with spirit and in which all beings and many objects are ascribed a status equal to their own in value and meaning. Foragers live in small bands and tribes. Some foragers may be better than others at certain skills, like tool making or medicine, but almost none have exclusive specialties and everyone helps gather food. Though there may be chiefs and shamans, hierarchies are nearly flat and all members have access to the leaders. A skirmish causing two or three deaths is a major war. Most of a forager’s calories come from meat or fish, supplemented with fruit, nuts, and some wild grain and tubers.(4) It’s rare that a forager will overexploit his environment, as the linkage is so tight that destruction of a resource one season means starvation the next. Populations tend to peak at low numbers and stabilize.
The First Growth Economy
Agriculturists, in contrast, worship gods whose message usually is that humans are chosen beings holding dominion, or at least stewardship, over creation. This human/nature divide makes ecological degradation not only inevitable but a sign of progress.
While the forager mainstays of meat and wild food rot quickly, domesticated grain, a hallmark innovation of agriculture, allows storage, hoarding, and surplus. Food growing also evens out the seasonal shortages that keep forager populations low.
Having fields to tend and surpluses to store encouraged early farming peoples to stay in one place. Grain also needs processing, and as equipment for threshing and winnowing grew complex and large, the trend toward sedentism accelerated.(5)
Grains provide more calories, or energy, per weight than lean meat. Meat protein is easily transformed into body structure—one reason why foragers tend to be taller than farmers—but turning protein into energy exacts a high metabolic cost and is inefficient.(6) Starches and sugars, the main components of plants, are much more easily converted into calories than protein, and calories are the main limiting factor in reproduction. A shift from meat-based to carbohydrate-based calories means that given equal amounts of protein, a group getting its calories mostly from plants will reproduce much faster than one getting its calories from meat. It’s one reason farming cultures have higher birth rates than foragers.
Also, farming loosens the linkage between ecological damage and food supply. If foragers decimate the local antelope herd, it means starvation and a low birth rate for the hunters. If the hunters move or die off, the antelope herd will rebound quickly. But when a forest is cleared for crops, the loss of biodiversity translates into more food for people. Soil begins to deplete immediately but that won’t be noticed for many years. When the soil is finally ruined, which is the fate of nearly all agricultural soils, it will stunt ecological recovery for decades. But while the soil is steadily eroding, crops will support a growing village.
All these factors—storable food, surplus, calories from carbohydrates, and slow feedback from degrading ecosystems—lead inevitably to rising populations in farming cultures. It’s no coincidence, then, that farmers are also conquerors. A growing population needs more land. Depleted farmland forces a population to take over virgin soil. In comparison, forager cultures are usually very site specific: they know the habits of particular species and have a culture built around a certain place. They rarely conquer new lands, as new terrain and its different species would alter the culture’s knowledge, stories, and traditions. But expansion is built into agricultural societies. Wheat and other grains can grow almost anywhere, so farming, compared to foraging, requires less of a sense of place.
Even if we note these structural problems with agriculture, the shift from foraging at first glance seems worth it because—so we are taught—agriculture allows us the leisure to develop art, scholarship, and all the other luxuries of a sophisticated culture. This myth still persists even though for 40 years anthropologists have compiled clear evidence to the contrary. A skilled gatherer can amass enough wild maize in three and a half hours to feed herself for ten days. One hour of labor can yield a kilogram of wild einkorn wheat.(7) Foragers have plenty of leisure for non-survival pleasures. The art in the caves at Altamira and Lascaux, and other early examples are proof that agriculture is not necessary for a complex culture to develop. In fact, forager cultures are far more diverse in their arts, religions, and technologies than agrarian cultures, which tend to be fairly similar.(3) And as we know, industrial society allows the least diversity of all, not tolerating any but a single global culture.
A Life of Leisure
We’re also taught that foragers’ lives are “nasty, brutish, and short,” in Hobbes’s famous characterization. But burial sites at Dickson Mounds, an archaeological site in Illinois that spans a shift from foraging to maize farming, show that farmers there had 50% more tooth problems typical of malnutrition, four times the anemia, and an increase in spine degeneration indicative of a life of hard labor, compared to their forager forebears at the site.(8) Lifespan decreased from an average of 26 years at birth for foragers to 19 for farmers. In prehistoric Turkey and Greece, heights of foragers averaged 5′-9″ in men and 5′-5″ in women, and plummeted five inches after the shift to agriculture (1). The Turkish foragers’ stature is not yet equaled by their descendants. In virtually all known examples, foragers had better teeth and less disease than subsequent farming cultures at the same site. Thus the easy calories of agriculture were gained at the cost of good nutrition and health.
We think of hunter-gatherers as grimly weathering frequent famine, but agriculturists fare worse there, too. Foragers, with lower population densities, a much more diverse food supply, and greater mobility, can find some food in nearly any conditions. But even affluent farmers regularly experience famine. The great historian Fernand Braudel (9) shows that even comparatively wealthy and cultured France suffered country-wide famines 10 times in the tenth century, 26 in the eleventh, 2 in the twelfth, 4 in the fourteenth, 7 in the fifteenth, 13 in the sixteenth, 11 in the seventeenth, and 16 in the eighteenth century. This does not include the countless local famines that occurred in addition to the widespread ones. Agriculture did not become a reliable source of food until fossil fuels gave us the massive energy subsidies needed to avoid shortfalls. When farming can no longer be subsidized by petrochemicals, famine will once again be a regular visitor.
Agriculture needs more and more fuel to supply the population growth it causes. Foragers can reap as many as 40 calories of food energy for every calorie they expend in gathering. They don’t need to collect and spread fertilizer, irrigate, terrace, or drain fields, all of which count against the energy gotten from food. But ever since crops were domesticated, the amount of energy needed to grow food has steadily increased. A simple iron plow requires that millions of calories be burned for digging, moving, and smelting ore. Before oil, one plow’s forging meant that a dozen trees or more were cut, hauled, and converted to charcoal for the smithy. Though the leverage that a plow yields over its life may earn back those calories as human food, all that energy is robbed from the ecosystem and spent by humans.
Farming before oil also depended on animal labor, demanding additional acreage for feed and pasture and compounding the conversion of ecosystem into people. Agriculture’s caloric yield dipped into the negative centuries ago, and the return on energy has continued to degrade until we now use an average of 4 to 10 calories for each calorie of food energy.
So agriculture doesn’t just require cropland. It needs inputs from vast additional acreages for fertilizer, animal feed, fuel and ore for smelting tools, and so on. Farming must always drain energy and diversity from the land surrounding cultivation, degrading more and more wilderness.
Wilderness is a nuisance for agriculturists, a source of pest animals and insects, as well as land that’s just “going to waste.” It will constantly be destroyed. Combine this with farming’s surplus of calories and its need for large families for labor, and the birth rate will rise geometrically. Under this brutal calculus of population growth and land hunger, Earth’s ecosystems will increasingly and inexorably be converted into human food and food-producing tools.
Forager cultures have a built-in check on population, since the plants and animals they depend on cannot be over-harvested without immediate harm. But agriculture has no similar structural constraint on over-exploitation of resources. Quite the opposite is true. If one farmer leaves land fallow, the first neighbor to farm it gains an advantage. Agriculture leads to both a food race and population explosion. (I cannot help but wonder if eating high on the food chain via meat, since it will reduce population, is ultimately a more responsible act than eating low on the food chain with grains, which will promote larger populations. At some point humans need to get the message to slow their breeding.)
We can pass laws to stop some of the harm agriculture does, but these rules will reduce harvests. As soon as food gets tight, the laws will be repealed. There are no structural constraints on agriculture’s ecologically damaging tendencies.
All this means that agriculture is fundamentally unsustainable.
The damage done by agriculture is social and political as well. A surplus, rare and ephemeral for foragers, is a principal goal of agriculture. A surplus must be stored, which requires technology and materials to build storage, people to guard it, and a hierarchical organization to centralize the storage and decide how it will be distributed. It also offers a target for local power struggles and theft by neighboring groups, increasing the scale of wars. With agriculture, power thus begins its concentration into fewer and fewer hands. He who controls the surplus controls the group. Personal freedom erodes naturally under agriculture.
The endpoint of Cohen’s cultural continuum is industrial society. Industrialism is really a gloss on agriculture, since industry is dependent on farming to provide low-cost raw materials that can be “value-added,” a place to externalize pollution and other costs, and a source of cheap labor. Industrial cultures have enormous ecological footprints, low birth rates, and high labor costs, the result of lavishing huge quantities of resources—education, complex infrastructure, layers of government and legal structures, and so on—upon each person. This level of complexity cannot be maintained from within itself. The energy and resources for it must be siphoned from outlying agricultural regions. Out there lie the simpler cultures, high birth rates, and resulting low labor costs that must subsidize the complexity of industry.
An industrial culture must also externalize costs upon rural places via pollution and export of wastes. Cities ship their waste to rural areas. Industrial cultures subsidize and back tyrannical regimes to keep resource prices and labor costs low. These tendencies explain why, now that the US has shifted from an agrarian base to an industrial one, Americans can no longer afford to consume products made at home and must turn to agrarian countries, such as China and Mexico, or despotic regimes, such as Saudi Arabia’s, for low-cost inputs. The Third World is where the First World externalizes the overwhelming burden of maintaining the complexity of industrialism. But at some point there will be no place left to externalize to.
Horticulture to the Rescue
As I mentioned, Cohen locates another form of culture between foraging and agriculture. These are the horticulturists, who use simple methods to raise useful plants and animals. Horticulture in this sense is difficult to define precisely, because most foragers tend plants to some degree, most horticulturists gather wild food, and at some point between digging stick and plow a people must be called agriculturists. Many anthropologists agree that horticulture usually involves a fallow period, while agriculture overcomes this need through crop rotation, external fertilizers, or other techniques. Agriculture is also on a larger scale. Simply put, horticulturists are gardeners rather than farmers.
Horticulturists rarely organize above the tribe or small village level. Although they are sometimes influenced by the monotheism, sky gods, and messianic messages of their agricultural neighbors, horticulturists usually retain a belief in earth spirits and regard the Earth as a living being. Most horticultural societies are far more egalitarian than agriculturists, lacking despots, armies, and centralized control hierarchies.
Horticulture is the most efficient method known for obtaining food, measured by return on energy invested. Agriculture can be thought of as an intensification of horticulture, using more labor, land, capital, and technology. This means that agriculture, as noted, usually consumes more calories of work and resources than can be produced in food, and so is on the wrong side of the point of diminishing returns. That’s a good definition of unsustainability, while horticulture is probably on the positive side of the curve. Godesky (10) believes this is how horticulture can be distinguished from agriculture. It may take several millennia, as we are learning, but agriculture will eventually deplete planetary ecosystems, and horticulture might not.
Horticulturists use polycultures, tree crops, perennials, and limited tillage, and have an intimate relationship with diverse species of plants and animals. This sounds like permaculture, doesn’t it? Permaculture, in its promotion of horticultural ideals over those of agriculture, may offer a road back to sustainability. Horticulture has structural constraints against large population, hoarding of surplus, and centralized command and control structures. Agriculture inevitably leads to all of those.
A Steep Price
We gave up inherently good health as well as immense personal freedoms when we embraced agriculture. I once thought of achievements such as the Hammurabic Code, Magna Carta, and Bill of Rights as mileposts on humanity’s road to a just and free society. But I’m beginning to view them as ever larger and more desperate dams to hold back the swelling flood of abuses of human rights and the centralization of power that are inherent in agricultural and industrial societies. Agriculture results, always, in concentration of power by the elite. That is the inevitable result of the large storable surplus that is at the heart of agriculture.
It is no accident that permaculture’s third ethic wrestles with the problem of surplus. Many permaculturists have come to understand that Mollison’s simple injunction to share the surplus barely scratches the surface of the difficulty. This is why his early formulation has often been modified into a slightly less problematic “return the surplus” or “reinvest the surplus,” but the fact that these versions have not yet stabilized into a commonly held phrasing as have the other two ethics, “Care for the Earth” and “Care for People,” tells me that permaculturists have not truly come to grips with the problem of surplus.
The issue may not be to figure out how to deal with surplus. We may need to create a culture in which surplus, and the fear and greed that make it desirable, are no longer the structural results of our cultural practices. Jared Diamond may be right, and agriculture and the abuses it fosters may turn out to be a ten-millennium-long misstep on the path to a mature humanity. Permaculture may be more than just a tool for sustainability. The horticultural way of life that it embraces may offer the road to human freedom, health, and a just society.
I am deeply indebted to Jason Godesky and the Anthropik Tribe for first making me aware of the connection between permaculture and horticultural societies, and for formulating several of the other ideas expressed in this article.
- Diamond, Jared. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Discover, May 1987.
- Mollison, Bill. (1988). Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. Tagari.
- Cohen, Yehudi. (1971). Man in Adaptation: The Institutional Framework. De Gruyter.
- Lee, R. and I. Devore (eds.) 1968. Man the Hunter. Aldine.
- Harris, David R. An Evolutionary Continuum of People-Plant Interactions. In Foraging and Farming: The Evolution of Plant Exploitation. Harris, D. R. and G.C. Hillman (eds.) 1989.
- Milton, K. 1984. Protein and Carbohydrate Resources of the Maku Indians of Northwestern Amazonia. American Anthropologist86, 7-27.
- Harlan, Jack R. Wild-Grass Seed Harvesting in the Sahara and Sub-Sahara of Africa. In Foraging and Farming: The Evolution of Plant Exploitation. Harris, D. R. and G.C. Hillman (eds.) 1989.
- Goodman, Alan H., John Lallo, George J. Armelagos and Jerome C. Rose. (1984) Health Changes at Dickson Mounds (A.D. 950–1300). In Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture, M. Cohen and G. Armelagos, eds. Academic.
- Braudel, Fernand (1979). Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century: The Structures of Everyday Life. Harper and Row.
- Godesky, Jason (2005). Human Societies are Defined by Their Food. http://rewild.info/anthropik/2005/10/thesis-8-human-societies-are-defined-by-their-food/index.html
Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder
Published on Economic Collapse on December 23, 2012
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
Agenda 21 Is Being Rammed Down The Throats Of Local Communities All Over America
Have you ever heard of Agenda 21? If not, don’t feel bad, because most Americans haven’t. It is essentially a blueprint for a “sustainable world” that was introduced at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Since then, it has been adopted by more than 200 counties and it has been modified and updated at other UN environmental summits. The philosophy behind Agenda 21 is that our environmental problems are the number one problem that we are facing, and that those problems are being caused by human activity. Therefore, according to Agenda 21 human activity needs to be tightly monitored, regulated and controlled for the greater good. Individual liberties and freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of the planet. If you are thinking that this sounds like it is exactly the opposite of what our founding fathers intended when they established this nation, you would be on the right track. Those that promote the philosophy underlying Agenda 21 believe that human activity must be “managed” and that letting people make their own decisions is “destructive” and “dangerous”. Sadly, the principles behind Agenda 21 are being rammed down the throats of local communities all over America, and most of the people living in those communities don’t even realize it.
So how is this being done? Well, after Agenda 21 was adopted, an international organization known as the “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives” (ICLEI) was established to help implement the goals of Agenda 21 in local communities. One thing that they learned very quickly was that the “Agenda 21″ label was a red flag for a lot of people. It tended to create quite a bit of opposition on the local level.
As they try to implement their goals, they very rarely use the term “Agenda 21″ anymore. Instead, they use much more harmless sounding labels such as “smart growth”, “comprehensive land use planning” and especially “sustainable development”.
So just because something does not carry the Agenda 21 label does not mean that it is not promoting the goals of Agenda 21.
The goals of Agenda 21 are not only being implemented in the United States. This is a massive worldwide effort that is being coordinated by the United Nations. An article that was posted on RedState.com discussed some of the history of Agenda 21…
In simplified terms, Agenda 21 is a master blueprint, or guidelines, for constructing “sustainable” communities. Agenda 21 was put forth by the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development, and was adopted by over 200 countries (signed into “soft law” by George Bush Sr.) at the United Nations Rio Conference in 1992. In 1994 the President’s Council for Sustainable Development was created via Executive Order by Bill Clinton to begin coordinating efforts at the Federal level to make the US Agenda 21 compliant.
The same year that Bill Clinton established the President’s Council for Sustainable Development, the International Code Council was also created.
The International Code Council has developed a large number of “international codes” which are intended to replace existing building codes all over the United States. The following is a list of these codes from Wikipedia…
- International Building Code
- International Residential Code
- International Fire Code
- International Plumbing Code
- International Mechanical Code
- International Fuel Gas Code
- International Energy Conservation Code
- ICC Performance Code
- International Wildland Urban Interface Code
- International Existing Building Code
- International Property Maintenance Code
- International Private Sewage Disposal Code
- International Zoning Code
- International Green Construction Code
These codes are very long and exceedingly boring, and those that write them know that hardly anyone will ever read them.
And for the most part, they contain a lot of things that are contained in existing building codes or that are common sense.
But a lot of poison has also been inserted into these codes. If you read them carefully, the influence of Agenda 21 is painfully obvious.
Unfortunately, even most of the local politicians that are adopting these codes don’t take the time to read them. Most of them just assume that they are “updating” their existing building codes.
So what often happens is that there will be fights in local communities between citizens that are concerned about the encroachment of Agenda 21 and local politicians who regard such talk as nonsense. The following is an example of what is happening all over the nation…
Summit Hill Borough Council last night unanimously adopted the “2012 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code,” but not before some audience members expressed vehement opposition to it.
An overflow crowd of 34 people attended the meeting, with some there to specifically voice their displeasure.
Sandy Dellicker, a borough resident, said she was against using an “international” maintenance code, arguing that it falls under the plan of Agenda 21 of the United Nations; an agenda for the 21st Century.
She said, “UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is the action plan to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all information, all energy, and all human beings in the world.”
“This is not a conspiracy theory,” she told the council. “This is for real.”
She said the International Property Maintenance Code had been adopted in Montgomery County, but the county “has already gotten rid of it” because of its dictatorial direction.
“This is not what Summit Hill and the United States is about,” she said.
Council members pooh-poohed her assessment. “In my opinion, the International Property Maintenance Code is to protect citizens,” said Council President Michael Kokinda.
It would be great if these codes were just about public safety. But that is simply not the case. Sadly, these codes are often used to fine or even imprison homeowners that haven’t done anything wrong. Sometimes “code violations” are even used as justification to legally steal property from law-abiding homeowners. A post on the Freedom Reigns Radio blog detailed some of the things that are often done in the name of “code enforcement”…
1) The ‘Code Official’ – anybody the jurisdiction calls – a ‘Code Official’ – is the sole interpreter – no due process – Gestapo!
2) Every day an offense occurs is a separate mandatory misdemeanor – $555/day and/or a month in jail in Charleston, W.Va. They can fine you out of your home and jail you at their whim!
3) Anything the ‘Code Official’ says is not in good working condition – sticky window, dented or plugged gutter, torn window screen – whatever he says is not in good working order – hundreds of dollars of fines per day and/or jail time – usually a month – for every day the offense occurs.
4) Any unsanitary condition – whatever the ‘Code Official’ says is an ‘unsanitary condition’ – empty pop cans – puddles – dog droppings on your property – same deal – same fines and/or jail time – every day.
5) Any plant that the ‘Code Official’ says is a ‘noxious weed’ – same deal – same fines and/or jail time – every day. He can steal raw land.
6) He can fine you out of your home and jail you with no due process. Any court proceedings are window dressing as there is no remedy associated with this ‘code.’
7) It can be ‘adopted’ – just by an ‘administrative decree.’
WITHOUT COURT ACTION OR NOTICE THE CODE OFFICIAL CAN:
1) Enter your house whenever he – the sole interpreter – deems reasonable.
2) Prevent you from entering your house.
3) Tear your house down with your stuff in it.
4) Bill you for the demolition.
5) Place a lien on it for fines and/or demolition charges – steal it.
6) And ‘best’ of all, no insurance I know of will cover your losses.
You’re left w/a house and your ‘stuff’ in a landfill – and any remaining unpaid mortgage, any remaining fines, any remaining taxes, and any remaining demolition charges after they steal your property
These codes restrict what homeowners can do with their own properties in thousands of different ways. If you rebel against one of the codes, the penalties can be extremely harsh.
And there is often “selective enforcement” of these codes. That means that they will leave most people alone but they will come down really hard on people that they do not like. You could even end up with a SWAT team on your doorstep.
Just ask some of the people who have been through this kind of thing.
Even if you have your mortgage completely paid off, that doesn’t mean that you really “own” your property. If you don’t pay your taxes and obey the “codes”, you could lose your property very rapidly.
The philosophy behind all of this is the same philosophy behind Agenda 21. The elite believe that you cannot be trusted to do the “right thing” with your own property and that your activity must be “managed” for the greater good. They believe that by controlling you and restricting your liberties that they are “saving the planet”.
Unfortunately, you can probably expect this to get a whole lot worse in the years ahead. Our society is shifting from one that cherishes individual liberties and freedoms to one that is fully embracing collectivism. So our politicians will likely be making even more of our decisions for us as the years move forward.
Do any of you out there have any “code violation horror stories” to share? If so, please share them with us by posting a comment below…
Off the Keyboard of Gail Tverberg
Published on December 12, 2012 on Our Finite World
Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner
Most of us have heard that Thomas Malthus made a forecast in 1798 that the world would run short of food, and that great famine would result. But most of us don’t understand why he was wrong. This issue is relevant today, as we grapple with the issues of world hunger and of oil consumption that is not growing as rapidly as consumers would like–certainly it is not keeping oil prices down to historic levels.
What Malthus Didn’t Anticipate
Malthus was writing immediately before fossil fuel use started to ramp up.
The availability of coal allowed more and better metal products (such as metal plows, barbed wire fences, and trains for long distance transport). These and other inventions allowed the number of farmers to decrease at the same time the amount of food produced (per farmer and in total) rose. On a per capita basis, energy consumption rose (Figure 2) allowing farmers and others more efficient ways of growing crops and manufacturing goods.
If it hadn’t been for the fossil fuel ramp up, starting first with coal, Malthus might in fact have been right. As it was, population was able to ramp up quickly after the addition of fossil fuels.
A person can see that there was a particularly steep rise in population, right after World War II, in the 1950s and 1960s (Figure 3). This is when oil consumption mushroomed (Figure 2, above), and when oil enabled better transport of crops to market, use of tractors and other farm equipment, and medical advances such as antibiotics.
It is likely that increased consumer and business debt following World War II (Figure 4) also played a role in the post-World War II ramp up.
The reason I say that debt likely played a role in this ramp is because at the end of World War II, people were, on average, pretty poor. The United States had recently been through the Depression. Many were soldiers coming back from war, without jobs. Without a ramp up in factory work and related employment, many would be unemployed. A ramp up in debt fixed several problems at once:
- Allowed low-paid workers funds to buy new products, such as cars, that used oil
- Allowed entrepreneurs funds to set up factories
- Allowed pipelines to be built, and other support for ramped up oil extraction
- Provided jobs for many coming home from the war effort
The debt ramp up, and the resulting increase in oil production, raised living standards. Figure 2 shows that the increase in per capita energy consumption was far greater in the 1950 to 1970 period when oil production was ramped up than in the coal ramp-up between 1840 and 1920. The long coal ramp-up period does not appear to have been accompanied by such a big ramp-up in debt.
A tentative conclusion might be that as long as we can keep ramping up availability of energy products and debt, Malthus’s views are not very relevant.
Of course, things aren’t looking as benign today. World oil production has been close to flat since about 2005 (Figure 5).
The world has been able to increase production of other fuels to compensate so far. Unfortunately, the big increase is in coal (Figures 1 and 2). This mostly relates to growth in the economies of Asian countries, which are large users of coal.
The cost of oil has more than tripled in the last ten years. The higher cost of oil is a problem, because it leads to recession, unemployment, and governmental debt problems in oil-importing countries. See my posts High-Priced Fuel Syndrome, Understanding Our Oil-Related Fiscal Cliff, and The Close Tie Between Energy Consumption, Employment, and Recession.
Continued increase in debt now seems to be running into limits. Federal government debt is in the news every day, and non-government debt seems to be contracting relative to GDP, based on Figure 4.
I am not sure that we can conclude that we are headed for catastrophe the day after tomorrow, but the graphs give a person reason to pause to think about the situation.
The reason I write posts is to try to pull together the big picture. If we only look at the latest new item forecasting huge increases in tight oil production or talking about 200 years of natural gas, it is easy to reach the conclusion that all of our problems are past. If we look at the big picture, they clearly are not.
Debt problems are closely related to high oil prices in recent years. Debt problems are today’s issue, and they are not being considered in the huge oil and gas forecasts we see everywhere. The new tight oil and the new shale gas resources likely will need to be financed by increasing amounts of debt, so there is a direct connection with debt. There is also an indirect connection, through governmental debt problems, higher taxes, and the likely resulting recession (leading to lower oil prices, perhaps too low to sustain the high cost of extraction).
Also, it is interesting that the supposedly huge increases in US oil supply don’t really translate to any discernible bump in world oil supply in Figure 5.
We know that the world is finite, and that in some way, at some point in the future, easily extractable supplies of many types of resources will run short. We also know that pollution (at least the way humans define pollution) can be expected to become an increasing problem, as an increasing number of humans inhabit the earth, and as we pull increasingly “dilute” resources from the ground.
Based on earth’s long-term history, and on the experience of other finite systems, it is clear that at some point, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years from now, the earth will cycle to a new state–a new climate with different dominant species. It may turn out that these new species are plants, rather than animals. The new dominant species will likely ones that can benefit from our waste. Humans would of course like to push this possibility back as long as we can.
At this point, my goal is to pull together a view of the big picture, in a way that other analysts usually miss. The picture may not be pretty, but we at least need to understand what the issues are. Is the shift in the cycle very close at hand? If so, what should our response be?