Culture, Economy, Ecology and Climate

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Sumps

Now, let’s return to our February chapter, Here’s Why I’m so at Odds with Many of my Green Friends https://convivialeconomy.com/2020/02/26/heres-why-im-so-at-odds-with-many-of-my-green-friends/ … And let’s consider carbon sumps.
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These are some sumps – true sumps, which it would be dangerous to unlock – coal, oil, gas, heartwood of trees, strata of layered peat (sequestered beneath the living bog), frost from the permafrost…
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Of course, all have been unlocked – mostly by combustion – some by the resultant green house and some by farmers and gardeners. In consequence we are all in extreme danger.
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It is a moral tale – sumps should not leak. There we have it, that must be a simple and primal law of the commons. Commons define good and bad behaviour.
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Now IPCC consider sumps to be but one part of sequestration, whereas I do not. For me, sumps and true sequestration are synonyms. IPCC consider soil life and plant and animal life to be a sequestered mass of carbon. I do not. I consider it to have mass, plus energy and velocity. It is by no means sequestered. It creates and maintains the atmosphere. It cannot be thought of as sequestered and apart from that atmosphere.
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Along with coal and etc, these things are also truly sequestered – bones, limestones, phosphate rock…
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Bio mass – living mass – must be considered quite differently. In the first place, it is not “carbon” – that is a static mass. In addition to mass, life has acceleration (vitality) and velocity (time, seasons, fast-growing, slow growing). Carbon cycles cannot exist without vitality – life cycles can.
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Remove energy and velocity and yes, we’d have a carbon sump, but we’d also (after a mass explosion of fermentation gases, created by the last throws of fungi and bacteria) have a dead planet.
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Let’s return to where I think the error might have first germinated – to James Lovelock. He is rightly revered, but his blinkered physicist’s view of “carbon” was catastrophically wrong.
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He saw that the sumps, which I have described, must be urgently locked-up again. But then he took another step – why not do some geo-engineering and harvest vast amounts of biomass (which he thought of as carbon) and bury it deep beneath the continuing cycles of life – removing “carbon” from the Gaia system by increasing the size of the sump. I haven’t a clue why he thought that would diminish the green-house effect. I suppose he thought, undisturbed-sump – good, increased-sump – better.
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Meanwhile, removing life, removes the mass, acceleration and velocity of life. It moves us closer to a lifeless planet and further from a living one. As we know, the complexity of inter-connections can lead to species cascade and still further loss of mass, energy and velocity. Remove life into a sump, or by burning it, and we diminish the power of photosynthesis to “draw down” atmospheric carbon dioxide and so we also cause the green-house to expand, as life-cycles weaken…
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Ah well, whoever thought the Phoenix (living mass) could emerge from her own flames? All I can see are gas, ashes and energetic heat.
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Lost in Dreams of Arthur and Gawain

Yes. Our industrial journey has been interrupted by oblivion. That is simple truth. Deny it, or accept it. Of course, every government of every developed economy denies it. So, we in those economies, must quietly embark at the next station, or otherwise grab our driver; pilot; politician by the lapels and force her to stop the train. Strangely, most people prefer to stay on the train and inside their accustomed route, others would also stay on the train (most academics), but attempt to slow it down. Slightly less would stay on the train, but force it to stop, they think, by the force of powerful argument – that is the rest of academics.
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Those last would remain on the stopped train but deny the human consequence of universally stopped trains – total collapse of the rail system – of wages, tax revenues, both hard and social infrastructures…
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Only a very few would alight at the next station – abandoning the train for quite another sort of journey.
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Those of us who alight at the next station can build a settlement without a train track to the future – to oblivion. We can live, at last in the present – like all life on Earth – responding and adapting to be one small part of the greater whole.
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Meanwhile, every green NGO paces the coach corridors, raising subscriptions and persuading people to lobby their MPs to green the locomotive’s energy supply and also to slow it down – sometimes they do mention that oblivion lies ahead. Yet fast, or slow, in time the train will arrive at Oblivion Station and then disappear – its insubstantial pageant faded…
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Those who alight from the train are rather like the out-landers of Huxley’s Brave New World, or E M Forster’s, The Machine Stops. But they have a long literary and pre-literary tradition, depicted by Morris, Thoreau, Ruskin, Smith, Clare, Coleridge, Blake, Gray, Goldsmith – by the Diggers and Levellers – by Marvel, Herrick, by Milton (sort of), Shakespeare, Jonson, Sydney, Raleigh (and co), then we jump to Virgil and several others and then again to legends of the green wood and of pre-enclosure days going back deep into the Bronze Age – running counter to Tales of warrior heroes – Arthur, Cuchulainn, Hector, Achilles…
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Of course, most of the above remained on the train, dreaming of stepping off. You may be surprised to learn that I think the tracks were first laid in the late Bronze Age (about 1,500 BC), when “land pressures” first sprung ideas of property (enclosure) and the necessity for warrior elites to defend it.
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The counter tales were of The Garden; of green-wood gods; of sacred sites – mountains, springs – the deities of the common and of ancestors.
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Warrior elites are stupid – they use power, not senses. The train track is stupid. It uses power, not the senses.
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In the late Bronze Age, we lost the battle with stupidity and we have lost it ever since.
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Today, we will lose the battle again. Fighting is pointless. As many of those writers have suggested, we leave the battlefield – turn our backs, cross the tracks and walk away – didn’t our mothers always tell us that? We all know the train will run out of track and will hang, for just a moment, on empty air…
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As David Jones said of his rifle – Leave it, leave it under the oak. Leave it for Jerry and the salvage bloke… Though he was lost in dreams of Arthur and Gawain…
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A Beautiful Adventure

It should be a beautiful adventure – living in community again – supplying each-others’ needs. Learning the skills for that will prove to be another beautiful thing. As a tool touches its materials, so the human imagination touches the Earth. Earth reverberates at the impact. How far? Imagine all those near infinite influences touching others and creating still more sparks – some for the worse perhaps. Then, we imagine the better, like Edward Thomas paused (in his express train) at Addlestrop station – and for that minute a blackbird sang – and round him, mistier, further and further – all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire… Would you embark from the train into that other world?
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Imagine travelling again, along valleys, up gradients, crossing rivers, meeting people, sitting on a pub bench as dusk arrives and as bats replace the last swallows – both feasting on the same day’s hatch – an insect feast – and all connected as the traveller is to her destination and as the intricate complexity of every species is – vibrating in both time and space from a pub bench through Oxfordshire to Gloucestershire.
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Imagine the end of the internet, aviation and the family car – the end of travelling without travel and the end of google. Imagine the primary source of learning to be our senses – the sight, touch, scent and sound of the world and then also the senses (the enticing news) of others. We’d test that on our own experience, or adventure to seek it out. Thus, the tale-telling is born, which eventually become stories of ancestors – commons – common mythology.
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Listen – the internet, aviation, family car, suburbia… must all end anyway. They can only be powered by a consumed Earth.
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It’s very strange, but most people seem to want to consume the Earth, thinking the future will somehow replenish the present. They stand in a fiction – often a science fiction. Certainly, every government of every developed economy believes in that cargo cult – of future salvation landing from future shores on the beaches of the present – of the Gods of Cargo. We stand on the shingle and chant, Progress! Enlightenment! Modernity! The present is backward. The future’s the thing.
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Come away, my friend, have a cup of tea and then, shall we walk a little, on the Earth?
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Let’s digress –
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Now, the main criticism which most green thinking aims at our ancestor, Adam Smith is his notion of the efficiencies gained by division of labour. We find it difficult to argue against it with regards to efficiency, but we say, But Adam, what about the human soul? But I think if we read Adam’s thoughts as a single complex whole, he’d have the last laugh. At the very centre of his vision is his understanding of the evils of profit. It’s true, that in all “developed” economies, efficiencies of economies of scale have led to increased profit, diminished wages, and diminished leisure time. He would regard that as the deepest of cultural tragedies, which have led to today’s poverty, shrunken skill, slave labour and hoarded wealth. If he could see us today, he would immediately note that the invisible hand was a withered, shrunken anachronism, dangling in useless ugliness at our sides.
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The greatest wealth of nations is seen in economies with high wages and low profits and the least, in economies with low wages and high profits.
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To Adam, division of labour leads either to increased leisure time, or to increased wages. Of course, a lovely combination might be a smaller increase in wages knit with a smaller increase of leisure time. How much money do we think we need? How much leisure time do we think we need? For myself, I’d probably choose the leisure to engage in wider economic activity – community projects and pleasures and even occasionally, a monkish cell, or by the peripatetic thought-stimulus of a walk by the sea-shore – to improve the writing of this book.
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Let’s now consider mechanisation –
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As our community settles back into its terrain, can we come together inside a factory, so that its efficiencies generate more leisure time? Need the fat mill-owner (Josiah Bounderby) grow fatter on the labours of his thinning slaves? Need slavery (education) be taught at a very young age, by Mr Gradgrind?
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Of course, we cannot have Coke-town – that is the model for what we have today – – belching unused wastes and fire-born CO.2. But we can have mills and manufactories which use the power of gravity, which, in turn, powers looms, forges, grain mills and timber working. The sluice and the water wheel are thousands of years old and can be both built and used in community. They increase leisure time, because they create goods (not necessarily for sale) in a short passage of time. People can come together there. They can sing and gossip as they work. They can weave their own designs – both practically and spiritually – function and elegance combined (Ruskin).
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Profit would destroy the purpose of the mill and also increase the costs of building it. It would remove the pleasure of building it. As children, we loved to play at such designs – channelling water over, or under, or around, or into dammed pools. We’d sail stick boats and sometimes perhaps, design a water wheel. Without the need for profit and with increased leisure-time, adults can play too – inevitably leading to far simpler and better designs than our modern engineer, working within the restraints of his “brief”. Remember, a resilient economy must be largely composed of money-less activity. Money is a useful tool, but no more.
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I think it probable that direct traction from gravity, through water, to machinery will prove a step more efficient than gravity, through water, through turbine, through electricity to machinery.
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Why not stick a very small turbine, in the sluice, for electric light, to illuminate our work in dark days?
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We could do without the factory and sit in happy solitude at our cottage looms, but convivial company and more leisure time may change our minds. Remember though, profit, rent, usury and the amoral trading of the mills original source of finance – that is of tradeable shares and bonds will make the proposition irrelevant. We must abandon such monetised mills – abandon the enclosure and settle the common. Always, always, always return to the cottage and then build a community of friends. Then by common ingenuity, and on the common – build the factory. However, I think that non-tradeable shares could be issued within a community for the beginnings of such adventures.
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When Edward Thomas listened from his stationary express train window to those more and more distant blackbirds singing, he listened, by the chance of an interrupted journey, to an enchanting land. Let’s be similarly enchanted, because our industrial journey has been well and truly interrupted – by oblivion.
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Let’s be Tragi-comic

I propose that what most prevents us from evacuating both our crazy infinite-growth model and our equally crazy destruction of the natural world (which houses, clothes and feeds us) is our inability to embrace and choose the tragedies through which we must first pass to settle within Earthly means.
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All roads back to Earth, must first pass through total economic collapse. We must face that, but we don’t.
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We create fantasies, such as net emissions, or models to slow economies, which conveniently ignore the collapse, which would ensue by their application – that is, for all growth-driven modernity.
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I include ideas of green technological progress; of man-centric enlightenment; of cures for all diseases; of modernity as replacement for errors of the past; of future-created tools, which will solve current predicaments; of education as synonym for enlightenment…
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The truth is, that we can only effectively apply the doughnut, or circular, or steady-state economies after collapse. Developed “economies” are now levitated so high above their terrains, that little more than a pin-prick will bring them down about our real and trembling human forms. As we wait for that collapse, we should all be busily building inter-connected homes inside the terrains, which must feed, house and clothe us. Only there, can we think of “the circular economy” and only there can we consider the common bonds that may bind communities, instead of prevalent pictures of fear, hate and bunkers. That economy must accept the rubble and ashes – the pain, unemployment, cold and hunger, which will be a part of collapse. The tragedy will come and we should embrace it now, just as we should embrace any truth. Because of that – doughnut, circular and steady-state models, begin with a lie. They refuse to evacuate the bad and to settle the good.
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Tragedy is something artists have embraced in every century. If it exists, we must morally-embrace it as necessary. As I say frequently, comedy and tragedy have identical plots – so comedy is useful too. Let’s be tragi-comic to keep “noble” tragedy at bay. Noble tragedy is narcissism – that silhouette on the hill-top against a wild sky – that hubris…
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Pointing out the above has frozen me out from every “green” forum, which used to publish my articles – for some, because of my experience of sequestration and of my refusal to accept models, which include net emissions – for others, for my criticism of “the doughnut without collapse”.
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This web site has a tiny – no, smaller than tiny influence. Traffic is very, very, very small.
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Ah well, that’s rather comic.
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Quickly Dashed-off Summary of the World According to a Nobody

By the act of withdrawing our spending from the enclosures, and replacing it in the common we play our part in the collapse of enclosure and the revival of the common.
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We cannot prevent collapse of the enclosures, but we can create scattered economies durable enough to emerge from the ashes of modernity. At least 70% (guess) of those scattered economies must be made up of money-less activity and because, without enclosure, we shall have no property; no rent; no debt; no casino – the mass and energy of money need be very, very small, relative to today.
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As Adam Smith says, Money can have no purpose, besides purchasing goods, but goods can have many purposes, besides purchasing money. Adam Smith’s thoughts on economy are identical to David Fleming’s (the slack economy). In both, money is a tool, but cannot be “capital”.
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If necessary, (bad harvests, for instance) we can put aside that tool of exchange and instead rely on the exchanged energy of people.
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It seems a long time ago that Richard Douthwaite introduced me to this thought – Money-flow should not exceed energy-flow. Energy-flow is the power of what people do. Recently, the power of what people do, has been magnified by fossil fuels by thirty or fourty times over (another wild guess).
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It is plain that merely removing fossil fuels from our culture will cause monetary collapse and so also inevitably, economic collapse.
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On top of that, enclosed commons of land, status, ideas and money have created these various irresponsible properties (home as castle). I mean land, bank account, doctorate & so on) – all of which charge large rents. When I take my £10 per hour to pay for the solicitor’s £300 per hour, the £290 difference is rent for the property of monopoly status. Interest is rent for the property of money and so on. *
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So, fossil-fuelled money-flow has been vastly increased by enclosure – by rent collection from the probity of the real economy by an irresponsible, libertarian enclosure. Today, very few commons remain. If we like, we can exchange property (to liven things up) in a casino of stocks, bonds, shares and currencies.
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Of course, collapse of an “economy” whose foundation is irresponsibility is inevitable, but the slightest prick to that casino fervour will immediately prick the faith of punters and so the whole “thing” will cascade (pack of cards really is the appropriate metaphor).
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David Fleming’s metaphor is bloke falls off bicycle when forward motion no longer holds him upright.
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But here’s a thing – a moneyless economy survives on the common and it survives everywhere by means of the household – in family values and in rations of both what we can have (toys, food…) and in what we can do (chores and pleasures). That economy extends into groups of friends, clubs, common interest societies, pub sing-songs, churches, meeting houses, mosques, temples, synagogues – in conversation with a stranger, exhilarated at the view from a hill top – in festivals and holidays …
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So, when we abandon the casino and the enclosure, we will be far from landing in a wilderness. If we start from home, we will start from the original – the primal common, which is the only true economy. As I say elsewhere, we live primarily in the household and only expediently under hierarchies. As modernity cascades around us, we need not head for the bunkers, we can reach out to family friends and neighbours. If we had previously diverted our spending from the internet and from super-markets and corporations – if we had diverted it into the shops and workshops of local trades’ people, then the beginnings of a working economy of villages, towns, workshops and farms could emerge as dereliction of ring road and retail park flap like loose corrugated sheets in the similarly primal wind!
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Green activists talk a lot about divestment – about diverting casino spending (central banks, pension funds, great corporations, “investors”, into green spending. They shout, Oil is old, this is new. Why not grab the new coming thing? Quick before others get there first!
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I say, they prolong, and for just a little, what is bleeding the true economy dry – that is enclosure. Property is deaf both to its own coming collapse and to the common, and worse, to the coming collapse of both ecosystems and climatic balance.
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Many green activists talk of fighting the “big polluters”, but those polluters only exist by the spending of little people. They do not exist by “big investors”. It is not the supply side, which must crumble. It is the demand.
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Let’s shift the divestment movement to include us all. We can shed the corporate clothing by not paying for it and instead revive those same skills close to home. Close and home are both very powerful triggers of emotion. They instinctively bond.
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I don’t know of one academic economist who has courage to say that a steady-state, circular, or doughnut economy will cause the collapse of the casino and so by cascade, of the real economy of manufacturing, wages, tax revenue and infrastructure spending.
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Ah well, here’s the thing, they speak from the enclosures. What use are they on the common?
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* Of course, a junior hospital doctor has an ordinary wage. It is when she becomes a consultant, or a GP (also a consultant) that she begins to charge rent for her status. She can become rich overnight. For our junior doctor to become a consultant (and also rich overnight), she must first publish a peer-reviewed paper, or two. It would be prudent, to focus on areas which pharmaceutical companies would find “interesting” and also to confirm the currently-fashionable status quo, rather than rocking its boat. Remember she will be horribly over-worked and under-valued and so the enticement of considerable riches and of peer respect will probably overwhelm the contrary leaning – of an innocent search for truth

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Similarly, and in many areas, the possession of a doctorate will not lead to more than an ordinary wage. It is consultancy (enclosure’s gate-keeping), which does so.
For instance, in climate-related areas, researchers may be paid an ordinary wage, but “lead authors” will begin to charge status rent and can become very, very rich – and rather quickly. Commercial and government consultancy positions will, if convenient, open their doors. Any punctures appearing in their previous “research” will be attacked as schism. Respected status and sudden wealth will have been hard-fought and will not be relinquished! Humble researchers in possession of a doctorate and but a small wage, will – to keep that position and that wage – almost exclusively, back-up that “lead author”.

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Changed People, Same Earth

Our destination – changed people, same Earth. People know how to behave (to travel) by inner moral guidance, or otherwise by coercion by other people. That coercion is sometimes violent; sometimes seductive.
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The only way to change myself is to discover a new moral guidance, and if we are coerced, to shrug off that coercion.
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That discovery must always be solitary – even though common circumstance may provoke a discovery, which is side by side and in common with others. We have evolved together and are likely to discover together – simultaneously and similarly.
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I think it best if we think of education as coercion. It distracts from sensual evidence into a levitated crowd of ideas. Certainly, it has done our current culture real harm. We’ll find only dead hierarchies and status monopolies there. Those who say, education is the answer (most people) would but propagandise their point of status and superior view.
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Is this little piece forcing my point of view? – perhaps, but I hope not. I say, find your own point of view – your own intelligence, received through your own senses of both our lovely Earth and of the prevailing human cultures, which are palpably set on destroying our only possible home.
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How do we behave at home? How do we manage that economy? How do we define and ration both chores and pleasures – both in what we can have and in what we can do? How would we like family members to behave together? Then, further afield, how would we like our friends and neighbours to behave? I think, we’d think of rationing – of fair shares of both actions (liberties and restraints) and of things, for instance, of food – fairly breaking bread.
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If everybody answered those basic economic questions in those filial micro economies, then the macro economies of village, parish, town and nation state would function more happily and more appropriately – knit to both specific behavioural terrains and to the wider terrain.
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The same goes for the microcosm of each trade – each with specific skills and perceptions, which contribute to the whole.
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Education destroys the lot. The corporation destroys the lot. Enclosure (property) destroys the lot. That’s my little coercion.
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Morality guides what we do. Cultures are made up by what people do. Cultures are not what we have, or have achieved, they are always what we do.
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A fine painting, or piece of music – a beautiful building, or ingenious machine are usually what ancestors did. We admire their doing. When we enter a fine piece of music, we enter that perhaps ancient doing. We re-embody our ancestor. We remain active. We have not entered a thing, or a possession. We re-live an experience. Afterwards, we say, what a marvellous experience it was re-living that marvellous ancestor’s life. If during, our musical experience, we let ourselves intrude, because we are weary for some reason, or because we cannot restrain our critical faculty, then we will have spoiled the experience. We will not have lived it. It will be despoiled -despoiled by a held opinion or status quo.
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In truth, the finest art, from a simple folk song to a complex string quartet, becomes so, only when the composer’s temporal identity has gone and she has become Everyman. She does not express herself. She will have taken the living roll of ancestors, who similarly sang. She is the living act of the culture as a whole. Most of us instinctively know that if an artist says that she is breaking boundaries, or that her warrior spirit is trampling old hallowed ground – we know that she is ephemeral ambition – trite fashion seeker…
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A culture is a collective of methods – of tools. States kill methods.
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The purpose of enclosure is to kill the method and assert the new state – that is the new property, rent, class, copyright holder.
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The purpose of the common is to continue, but regulate (like a sluice) the flow of what people can do to live fairly by each other and appropriately in their terrains, so that descendants have the un-diminished means to live in a similar way. The evolved advice of ancestors, who provided for the present, is usually revered. Ancestors have the advantage that they level us all.

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The past creates the present, just as the present creates the future. Without a common rationing, the future will suffer. That suffering is a betrayal of ancestors. It is a deep shame. Without such commons, we have chaos. The songbird who delights us today, as we excavate another acre of her habitat, will only be gone in the future. Today, we pause and listen. The silence comes a year, or two later.

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We have chaos. We have status, property, status law and property law. We have usury and rent. We have enlightened futuristic education, which denies the present – and relentless enclosure-journalism. We have no future.

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Please step down into the wind, sunshine and rain of the common. Consider how you’d like your children to behave, then follow suit. Don’t follow Great Thunberg and the school strikers. Reassuringly take their hands at last, for that is what they ask. Then, together turn away from the crumbling cliff edge, until we all find fertile ground to inhabit – making tools, which are at last adapted, as best we can, to its ways.

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The Dark

That my reality of collapsing ecosystems and catastrophic climatic disbalance is not the reality of anyone I meet, is driving me into the dark. I do not know how long I can endure total isolation. I may not emerge at all. And my “on-line” contacts seem, but for the fingers of one hand, as unreal as my family and friends. The most august “climate scientists” treat climate heating as an abstract idea, the nuances of which bring them to heated discussions with their peers – who form themselves into schools of thought. That’s how they spend their days. To them, climate projections are realised abstract ideas to be defended, while their climate-collapsing lives remain real, but not important and needing no defence. The real destructive force of their lives is outweighed by their own abstract solutions to that destruction. So, they subconsciously decide that their lives must go on unchanged, and also that arguments about solutions should also go on unchanged. An academic career in climate change, becomes more important than the climate change itself.

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Similarly, academics create models for steady-state, circular, or doughnut economies and, because of their status (doctorate, professorship) present their findings to governments and corporations. It’s nice to move in such circles.
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Not one of those economists has courage to accept that any of those solutions would cause total economic collapse – mass unemployment, crashing tax revenues and so collapsing social and hard infrastructures.
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A steady state economy is one we can adopt, only after collapse. Indeed, collapse is essential to their birth. Any future must first embrace the deep tragedy of collapse, before re-building can begin.
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No economist that I’ve encountered is brave enough to profess that truth. Instead, they speak in the language that the powers will understand – that is, in nice, little, spun illusions.
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There is no way out from our predicament than tragedy. I can embrace that. It is the unreality, which kills.
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Satellite imagery will record no difference before and after collapse – roads, bridges, harbours, towns, hills, woods and fields will all remain the same.
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That is our destination – changed people – same Earth.
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