Culture, Economy, Ecology and Climate

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Manifesto

Should I make a manifesto for a society in which work and pleasure are all within walking distances? That is, a society in which human-sized tools replace fossil-fuelled machinery and in which commons of perceptive good behaviour replace the imperceptive amorality of power’s enclosures. Do I need a banner to mark where I stand? If I criticise the banners of others, then I must show where I stand, so that I too can be criticised.
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Horticultural Society
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I say that cultures must retreat and so let the wilds expand. Of course, hunter/gatherer cultures have integrated with the wild as one species among the rest, but that is a far-off dream for us – of paradise before the fall.
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Although we cannot have a secure food supply, without also creating surplus to carry from good years to bad and between the scarcity/surplus of regions, we must grow food within as small a space as we can. That is, we must think of both time and space.
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What is humanity’s ration of soil? Thinking of rations is more helpful than thinking of limits. We shall explore that later.
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What is humanity’s ration of oil? We consumed it many years ago. We should think of it as zero, plus a large measure of shame. We cannot think of it as zero, plus dispensation for negative emissions. Only the wilds can “draw down carbon”. That is why we must shrink our culture to just humanity’s ration within the larger ecology.
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Many, on the green side of arguments make large sequestration claims for a variety of growing systems (negative emissions). These views are often held with a passion, because they provide personal dispensation. With regards to fossil fuels, what’s done is done – no dispensations, pardons, or indulgencies can remove that shame. In all cases, those negative emissions are a fiction.
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Religions have existing frameworks for dealing with shame – stories of agriculture’s Fall from God-given nature are almost universal. They are deeply embodied in cultural tradition – and have been repeated forever. Now, after thousands of years of repeated misbehaviour, we are faced with a final reckoning, which asks of us, and of atheists like me, just how far can we continue to fall?
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We continue to fall too fast if we:
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1 – Fail to replace oil-sized tools, with human-sized tools.
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2 – Continue to replace natural systems with designed systems for the subjugation of nature, by fossil fuels, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers.
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3 – Continue to claim false dispensation for our various niches through “organic”, “permaculture”, “vegan”, “pasture-fed”, “agroecology” and “agroforestry” virtue signals. None of those systems will “draw down carbon” further than an optimum point – although they can restore soil vitality to that optimum point of balance. Often, husbandry mistakes, combined with a naturally par-blind human understanding, will bring us to the wrong side of that balance. Nevertheless, organic and etc are the cyclic systems we must follow, but accompanied by less hubris and more uncertainty.
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4 – Continue to disconnect elements of agricultural economy. A field, a town and a monetary system are all parts of the same whole. Organic, permacultural and agroecological organisations, have all been guilty (and dangerously so) of that disconnection. For instance, we find organically-grown produce in super markets, retail parks and internet-based box schemes. How can that be?
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5 – Continue to think that we can escape the fall. Agriculture is the fall. We can go a long way to diminishing its ill effects, but never entirely. For atmospheric stability, we must depend on the complex efficiencies of the wilds, while shrinking cultural footprints as much as we can – That is, a shrinkage towards our central goal – a society in which both work and pleasure are within walking distances, in which husbandry becomes human-sized (horticulture) and in which energies of tide, sun, wind and gravity propel a far less powerful culture. We must do without much that fossil fuels and biofuels have provided. They cannot be replaced. We must quench nearly all our fires.
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While accepting that hunter-gatherer cultures provide the true lesson, large-population agricultures can only continue indefinitely by:
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1 – Integrating with the wider ecology as much as they can.
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2 – Accepting a limited agricultural ration of that larger ecology, in which husbandry is observant, quick to adapt and efficient. Optimum crop yield from an allotted volume of soil and water must be accepted as a moral necessity. In that way, human-controlled acreage can be reduced, so that the wilds can expand. We must accept this moral statement – Only the wilds can draw down further carbon. Good husbandry can only aim for balance, while accepting that it will often fall short of that balance.
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That means a change from an agricultural to a horticultural mindset, in which large numbers of people with human-sized tools, replace the prevailing and now impossible mindset of very small numbers of people with very large and powerful tools. That greater number of people, also means a greater capacity for perception, ingenuity and quick adaption.
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3 – Arrange for work and pleasure to sit within walking distances, by re-centring suburbia, into towns and villages interspersed with productive fields, gardens and orchards and by reviving the ancient home of trade and the trades and also of pleasures – existing towns and villages.
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Without fossil fuels and biofuels, we shall have no energy to spare for transport. Wind, solar, hydro and tidal powers will prove sufficient, only for domestic and commercial heat, light, refrigeration and cookery. Don’t forget that such a demand will more than double – perhaps triple, current electricity demand.
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Of course, wind will provide truly-renewable power for sail-trade and similarly, wind, tide and water (gravity) can provide truly renewable power for direct traction of pumps, mills and manufactories.
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Once upon a time, every large town and city was built on a shore line, estuary, or navigable river. The early industrial revolution solved the inland problem by building canals. Those structures, though decayed await revival. Not only by canal and river, trade has also been by shore-hopping between small harbours along every mile of coastline. Can we have the electric railway? I may be wrong, but I think not. Electricity will have many more essential demands – principally heat and cookery.
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This manifesto will prove schismatic to most, because it proposes that bio-fuels contribute far more to climate heating than fossil fuels. It says that they diminish both biomass and biodiversity, while also massively reducing the power of photosynthesis to “draw down carbon”. I include the innocent-sounding domestic log burner, or biomass boiler in my list of evils!
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It follows that for ceramics and metal working (or rather, reworking) it would be better to use coal, gas, or oil than both timber and charcoal. Such uses for fossil resources would leave biomass and diversity to live and breathe, but would also require the use of yet untried carbon capture and storage. CCS would, in any case, be needed for biomass, or charcoal burning. CCS has provided the great excuse for those wishing to continue the current (suicidal) status quo, so I present the possibility with diffidence and with insufficient knowledge. It remains true that burning coal with effective CCS would be far less destructive than burning timber with effective CCS.
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There is one exception to the biomass rule – that is anaerobic digestion of wastes to produce useful methane, while also returning biomass “digestate” to the soil. The burning of methane emits carbon dioxide, but the digestate grows compensatory photosynthetic biomass. I don’t know if anaerobic digestion will end the right, or wrong side of a carbon balance. But consider this – fermentation of some kind must happen anyway – in soil, or out of soil – plants need the simple minerals, which fermentation provides. I suspect a balance depends on both efficiencies of production and efficiencies of agricultural return. Certainly, we cannot dedicate crops for gas production, since our difficulty is to grow enough food on as small an acreage as we can. Gas production can be used as an alternative to aerobic composting of wastes – not as an end in itself. It may prove valuable, on a small scale, for domestic cookery, or heat.
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Grassland and animals.
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Even though ruminants convert grass that people cannot eat, into food that they can and even though well-managed grassland can undoubtedly prove to be a more, or less balanced system, nevertheless the acreage will be too extensive. Such a system cannot “draw down carbon” beyond an optimum point, as many proponents suggest. Such grassland will be better used for re-foresting, or re-wilding – that is for photosynthesis, biomass, biodiversity and some timber production. Communities will have a greater need for timber than for meat. Such a reversion may also provide the settlement of an ancient social injustice – that is a return of the commons from the vicious enclosures of past centuries, which turned people from the land, in return for the wealth of a few in the golden fleece. Woodland provides more employment than sheep ever could.
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Even so, grassland as green manure in crop rotation is ancient and effective. Animals for milk, meat and eggs, can add to, rather than diminish crop rotation. They do not increase the horticultural acreage. Rather, they diminish the considerable energy needed for cutting and mulching the same acreage of green manure. Green manure will prove essential for a regenerative agriculture and animals are an energy-efficient way to use it. Don’t forget that horticultural acreage will include cereals and the considerable manual labour involved. Will we have the energy for regular cutting and mulching of green manure? – I suspect “dog and stick” will prove a welcome physical and dietary relief. In a ratio of two acres of green manure to one of cropping, we can still have eggs, milk and meat – but rationed for feast days, weekends and holidays.
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With regards to the new wild, which we hope will re-find its evolutionary balance of plant to animal, hunter-gatherer codes of good behaviour may guide a new and rationed supply of wild meat for settled communities.
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I think a weakness in vegan agriculture is that it ignores the lessons of that evolutionary balance. Even so, I respect vegan goals to tread lightly and vegan crop rotations are valuable lessons in similarly treading lightly. Those vegan goals have made us think more productively about perennial systems – beyond orchards and nut trees, we can also consider perennial cereals (the Land Institute). Considering perennial cereal cropping, we’d also have to think (paradoxically) of rotation. Since we’d remove both seed and straw, a harvest would remove a lot of soil vitality. We’d still need that two to one ratio – and again, grazing would provide a productive respite from the scythe – not that the scythe is an unpleasant tool – in good company on a sunny day.
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Commons, or enclosure. Rations, or limits.
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Let’s consider this – Enlightened, peer-reviewed education has brought us to a cliff edge of utter catastrophe – the end of human cultures as we’ve known them and the extinction of very many species, which have accompanied our common evolution to this point. Yet still, people will declare, “What we need is education” to educate farmers, builders, fishermen, climate change deniers… Listen to the science! say campaigners.
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Yet, it is plain that education has taught farmers the efficacy of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides… and has made the educators rich and both farmers and their lands, very much poorer.
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Only a handful of farmers have survived that educated, peer-reviewed invasion and they continue to disappear.
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Architects have replaced the functional, elegant and appropriate work of builders, with inappropriate, ugly, but educated design. In the process architects have become rich and builders, poor. (I do not speak of builders who have become rich by idle accumulation of land value). Is there a single architectural design that can match the beauty of a simple parish church – or almost any house before the seventeenth century? Almost no beauty and none of the ingenuity, dexterity and deep understanding of a builder, for her terrain and her materials has survived the manipulation and rent-gathering of architects.
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In short, the real economy of households and the trades has bled dry by education. Enclosed professions demand terrible rents for their professional status. GPs, solicitors, architects and consultants of all kinds will commonly demand £300 per hour from the ordinary wage of someone who earns £10 per hour.
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Status enclosure, money enclosure (interest is rent), land enclosure and intellectual property enclosure will eventually bring any economy to its knees. Educated opinion has created the idea of austerity, so that remaining money-flow can remain in those same hands.
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Anyone, who writes of stories such as this, will be asked for peer-reviewed sources from within that same rent gathering, educational system.
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Here’s a thing – There are many fine permaculture practitioners. But we must beware of permaculture designers. They are educators extracting rent. Let them emerge from the enclosures to become practitioners – otherwise they may inflict the same old educational harm.
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Thinking of species extinction and climate heating, almost all influential ideas – that is, those accepted by news sources, governments, politicians and NGOs, come from the peer-reviewed, or rather, career-reviewed people of educated status. That status has no senses – it is truly senseless. Of course, true science must remain sceptical and outside moral preconception. It can have no application, because every act has consequence and every consequence must have a moral. Sadly, I see little evidence of that true science, although, of course it has survived as history has always depicted – not in shiny laboratories, or hallowed halls, but in dusty attics. Meanwhile, leaving true science to her studies, it is up to those who act, to morally decide what to do. The pragmatic ingenuity of a trades’ person may be curious for the science, but nevertheless, it is the trades’ person who must decide how to act. Of course, any householder is in that same position.
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This manifesto calls for householders and trades’ people of every kind to shrug off the enclosures and to apply the love, skill and ingenuities that only they can find. We cannot “improve” the enclosures. We must abandon them and if we can, step back onto the common. We have very little time.
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Enclosures have limits – thin lines within which behaviour can be as we choose. Soil, resources and bad behaviour can remain undefined within them. Trespassers will be prosecuted.
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The common has rations – of both time and space – of what we can do and of where and how we can stand. A ration can be loved and shared – it has qualities – tastes, touch, scents, sights and sounds – it is distributed in fair shares of both chores and pleasures. It is received from ancestors and must be bequeathed to descendants. Such commons survive in the household, where they are easily understood. I behave by a filial code. But in the work place they are lost. This manifesto is largely a call for their revival. If we can behave well in the household, then we can also do so at work. A culture is what people do, not who they are, or claim to be.
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Population
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I will not speak of population statistics. Overpopulation is here and now, just as and because of our wild use of fossil fuels. There are no remedies, but to leave fossil fuels in the ground and to personally consider the need to bring more babies into an over-crowded world. I will not engage with those who use over-population as a means to ridicule attempts to find ways to integrate cultures into the ecologies which must sustain them. The currently tragic effects of both fossil fuels and too many people are what they are. What’s done is done. We must endure them, while living differently and so not adding to those problems. The present creates the future. Our present of over-population, species extinction and catastrophic climate heating was created by the past – including our personal pasts. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future. That may seem obvious, but studying social polemics, plainly it is not. That it is unlikely we can reverse catastrophic climate heating, does not make attempts invalid. Rather, it makes the attempt, romantic, beautiful, egalitarian and essential to even a temporal happiness. Mention of sail-trade and the scythe will attract ridicule from nearly every green and educated NGO, and yet truly, there is no other way. The educated must be ignored, or more hopefully, de-schooled, to be re-awakened to the soil, sun, wind and rain and also to true happiness.
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Choosing Tragedy

Previously, we had chosen the bonny road and so we must, but that road also leads under the hill through good and evil; through an over-dose of truth.
We’ve also explored the problems of de-growth, while using GDP as a measure – as though we could degrow to an optimum point without consequence.
We cannot. De-growth will have terrible consequence. We cannot but pass though that terror. We must endure it.

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The current casino of currency manipulation, usury and advantageous/disadvantageous roulette wheels of stocks, bonds, shares and futures, will crash without growth – that is: without the hopes of punters. That is how the casino spins – not by reason, but by the faith and dreams of punters. Once that faith and the possibility (the odds) of dreaming shatter, then the whole casino shatters.

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Plainly the casino is so destructive that we must somehow remove it. But, I say we cannot remove it without tragedy. And so it is that we must pass through tragedy, if we are to reach the other side of the hill.

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The casino and the real economy of households, work-places and pleasures are currently too entwined to separate without pain. Yet, we must somehow remove the casino, so that the economy can function properly in its terrain again. I say, again, because the remedies we have, live in our cultural histories – awaiting adaption to the times.

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As the casino shrinks (degrows) towards its terminal cascade, so companies will fold, unemployment will soar, tax revenue will wither and social infrastructures will wither accordingly. That means people will be without both wages and unemployment relief. I leave the collapse of other infrastructures to your imagination. It is very simple to understand. Let’s hope we are brave enough to face its darkness.

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If we do not choose that tragedy, then the end will be far, far worse – the extinction, or near extinction of human life as we know it. That extinction is approaching faster than all educated models had predicted. I’ll not make a prediction to add to the noise, but I know this, unless I change instantly to a life without oil, it will prove too late. That is the only truth.

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As the casino collapses – as banks, employment and other means to a living collapse, there will remain an underlying miracle. The physical world will remain untouched – soils, crops, water, fungi, plants and animals – new possibilities for trade and the trades – all will remain in their physics. Human casino fantasy will also remain and human obstacles to that physics will remain to be overcome, but nevertheless all that can be physically sensed will be just as apparent as before the collapse.

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So, we return to our theme that both work and pleasure must be walking distance from everyone’s door. If we can build such connections by reviving population centres of towns and villages – by supporting each other’s trades, and by evacuating the trades of the casino, then we can, with a large dose of luck, provide real economic islands in the storm of the crashing casino.

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It’ll be a close-run thing, because those larger storms are fast-approaching, just as the lesser, but still terrible storms of collapsing casinos will be impeding much of what we try to do. We must de-school and de-educate ourselves and listen to the new evidence of our senses and of each other. Look into the eyes of children. Feed on the skills of your trade and delight in the skills of others. Beautiful music and literature are threaded through with tragedy. We can carry words and music in our hearts. Best foot forward. Stiff upper lip, old thing. Is that over the top? Well yes, precisely. Don’t forget that comedy and tragedy share identical plots. Look at our lives. We are comic. We cannot but be comic. Comedy is a useful sheltering arm. I’ve quoted this from Patrick Kavanagh before: “Tragedy is comedy not fully born.” We may as well add W B Yeats – “a terrible beauty is born”.

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De-schooling Society

Yes. When the trades rise up against the monopolies, then we can have the true rebellion. When intelligence, ingenuity, dexterity and probity throw off the stifling and wealth-extracting “guidance” of research institutes, consultants, architects – the whole education industry, which is designed to extract rent in exchange for subservience, then we can grow communities, which are intelligent to and responsive to their terrains. (Complexity needs long sentences)
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That “guidance” has brought us rising sea levels, catastrophic decline of both biomass and biodiversity, empty holes in the ground where resources once lay, wildly increasing poverty for most and wildly increasing wealth for a few. It guides us to an iceless arctic, terrible storms, drought and extreme rainfall – to cascading soil life and famine.
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Education has achieved all this, yet people facing a particular problem, will still say, what we need is education. What backward people need is education – what deprived areas need is education – what entrapped women need is education – what climate change deniers need is education.
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A result of education has been to overlie and diminish sensual intelligence and specifically: immediate, pragmatic, and personal intelligence of our surroundings; of the effects of what we do as trades’ people; of the evidence of our own senses. And so, information particular to our terrains and actions remains un-gathered for larger society. I see educated doctrine as the senseless leading the de-sensed.
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It is plain that education has brought what we know as civilisation to an end and is about to cause unthinkable tragedy. Yet still we say, how can we educate people to behave better?
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The problem is education. People have been educated into the enclosures – either into the rent gathering monopolies of the “professions”, or otherwise into limp acceptance of a failure to ascend to professional status. (Status enclosure)
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Let’s step outside the educated noise (truly, senseless noise) and just listen.
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Let’s listen for a while to Ivan Illich’s addressing Peace Corps students in Cuernavaca – it could equally have been to VSO volunteers.
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It is incredibly unfair for you to impose yourselves on a village where you are so linguistically deaf and dumb that you don’t even understand what you are doing, or what people think of you. And it is profoundly damaging to yourselves when you define something that you want to do as “good,” a “sacrifice” and “help.”
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I am here to suggest that you voluntarily renounce exercising the power which being an American gives you. I am here to entreat you to freely, consciously and humbly give up the legal right you have to impose your benevolence on Mexico. I am here to challenge you to recognize your inability, your powerlessness and your incapacity to do the “good” which you intended to do.
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I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help.
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Full text here: http://www.davidtinapple.com/illich/1968_cuernavaca.html
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Or here is Gerrard Winstanley:
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“…a studying imagination comes into man, which is the devil for it is the cause of all evil, and sorrows in the World; that is he who puts out the eyes of man’s Knowledge and tells him he must believe what others have writ or spoke, and not trust his own experience.”
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We have been educated into a crazy phantasy, which has made sensual evidence redundant.
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We pay crippling rents to GPs, solicitors, dentists, architects, planning consultants – consultants of all kinds and we watch as our trades decay and as our means to social pleasures disappear.
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Farmers read instructions on the latest drums and sacks. They’ve no idea what’s in the drums and sacks, but since they are the latest, they look up to proudly declare “I’m the cutting edge of industry.” Sadly, they believe what others have writ or spoke and do not trust their own experience.
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Status enclosure has no mention in the commons/enclosure literature, yet I think it pernicious as any of the others – land property, money property, thought property…
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If we are to “build a society, in which work and pleasure are within walking distance from everyone’s door”, then we must see that both education and status enclosure are major obstacles to that end. We will need to urgently regain the evidence of our senses. Fortunately, that is also a road to happiness. In the past we had another form of education: alongside pragmatism, parental guidance and so on, we had ancestral education. That is – the time-honed schooling of the commons. Today it survives in behavioural fragments of what is right and wrong, but most has been enclosed and lost. We can piece something together of our own from those fragments and hope for it to evolve. But, I’m afraid  those fragments are ashes, not embers, so that we must embody the fire and that will take time. We do not have time. Of course, communities, which have escaped colonisation and enclosure will have retained their commons – that is; they are guided by both ancestors and descendants – but they too are scattered tiny fragments. We will be locked into a struggle to escape the enclosures. Nearly all of us have been colonised.
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Change must come so rapidly that the unexpected will be everywhere. Doctrine will not sense it. For that we need our own senses, combined with sympathy, empathy, the skills of our trades…
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And we’ll need resolve in the face of tragedy. There is no path from here to happiness that can avoid tragedy. As we shall see in the next chapter, we must accept a very dark chaos and plunge right in.
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Rebellion

Let’s resume – our course is towards a society in which both work and pleasure are walking distance from everyone’s door. Such a society, is stitched into folk memory. It is very easily understood. Only a hundred years ago, it was the normal for nearly everybody and it is still normal for billions of people outside Europe and North America.
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Much that is hateful in contemporary life is a direct result of road transport and the family car – scarring settled communities and driving people to the desolation of retail park and suburban ennui. Concreted ribbons of murderous (they do have intent) speed, force childhood games away from the natural world and into rootless electronic phantasy – adults too. To electrify such a world, will not change its evil and anyway a renewing Earth does not have anywhere near the capacity to produce such power.
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Any proposal for behaviours necessary to shrink the human greenhouse effect, must begin with the assumption that the bicycle and the sailing boat provide the limits to “technological advancement” in transport. If they don’t have that assumption, then they live in the twentieth century delusion that energy is infinite.
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Proposals for a transition back to that ancient and ordinary way of life must first pass through what we’ve got, to travel to where we must. Many are attempting the journey, but most of us are failing. We fail because we must embark not only individually, but also as a community.
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Meanwhile the very first step is to abandon aviation immediately and absolutely. That is easy, and comes with little social complication. Those who haven’t, are clearly not serious. Sadly, very many “environmental” campaigners, film-makers, writers and gurus, fly so often that they must be among the most destructive people on Earth. Let’s begin by forgetting them. They deserve no credence. They must have no understanding of green-house causes, or how could they bear to do it? Otherwise, they have differing reasons, such as narcissism, career prospects, diminished social conscience, or diminished sense of truth.
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You see, we have quickly and simply disposed of the bulk of the academic and political literature. Let’s not waste further time trawling through it.
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For myself as a farmer, and by means of street markets and farmers’ markets, I have attempted to connect with places where work and pleasure are walking distance from everyone’s door. But as town centres become increasingly desolate, so farmers’ markets also decline. Towns and their trades have declined, as oil-powered retail parks and super markets have expanded.
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Meanwhile, many of those who would otherwise seek my produce, are lured away from both their local town and from my market stall, by the ease of “ethical” internet shopping. Not only the now familiar super market delivery van, but also smaller couriers carrying organic box scheme orders, suck dry those older and more durable communities of trade and the trades; of pubs, shops, cafes, concert halls, theatres and libraries, which for centuries, and without oil, or coal have made up what we called, town. Of course, coal and timber have fed the domestic fireplace for some of those centuries. But that’s our central problem – the production of domestic heat. We’ll have no electrical energy to spare for transport.
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We have become deluded by both oil and the internet. There is no future for either of them. I use the internet to “post” this piece of writing. I hope, it is a posting in transition. If we live within Earthly means, then we cannot maintain the vast electrical energy needed for the internet. What’s more, wonderful as it is, it has not brought happiness. I speculate it has brought the opposite.
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But consider this – since internet shopping draws people away from centres for durable shopping, it cannot be a step of transition, rather it is a place awaiting evacuation. The same can be said of super markets stocking organic, or fair-trade goods – those goods are not a step of transition – rather thy await evacuation to something which is more truly on the road. The “virtue” of organic produce cannot be used, in the monk-pardoner manner, as dispensation for the vice of the super market – in which so much vice, mixed with an equal weight of virtue becomes indulged – leaving no stain on the character. Such moral accountancy leaves us heading to mass extinction of very many familiar species and to three degrees of warming fast. It leaves power in the hands of irresponsive, amoral and often immoral monopoly. Consumer choice for a greening of the super market will not change that trajectory.
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Similarly, an electric car does not change the trajectory. The good of electric does not balance the bad of the car. In any case we have insufficient non-destructive means to produce the electricity needed for either the car’s propulsion, or its manufacture. Domestic heat, light, refrigeration and cookery will use most of the electricity we can produce – and then we can hope for some leeway to produce ceramics and so on. It is foolish to seek ways to green existing transport, when the simple solution is to remove the need for most of it.
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It is a deep sadness that my own road to transition is crumbling around me. I have loyal customers, who I’ve known for twenty years and more and I am loyal to them. Like me, they grow older and dwindle by the ageing process. Younger people do not replace them. It is a false assumption that street markets are full of hipster dudes. They are not (at least not here in Wales). The great bulk of my sales are to retired people, who also like to cook – practical people who once held a trade, who garden – who hate pesticides – who are self-reliant – who have sheds full of tools – who fix things when they are broken – and are as far from hipsterism as can be imagined. They are from both the left and right of politics, but are connected by something deeper. I like them – to me, though most do not profess to be “green”, they are the vanguard of a true “climate movement”.
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Our small farm (89 acres) produces vegetables of every kind, soft fruit, apples, apple juice, beef and lamb – all of which are sold on our market stalls. We also grow some cereals. Increasingly, we return from market with unsold produce. That cannot continue. We are hollowed out at the same rate that town centres are hollowed out and as, I speculate, a true climate movement is being hollowed out.
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If I said, opportunistically – town centres are dead, we must follow the new crowd to the internet – by courier, drive-to distribution “hub” and electronic money, I would also be saying – fuck transition to vivacious and convivial centres, I’ll go where the new crowd go. I think that new crowd are heading for oblivion, albeit, peer-reviewed oblivion.
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Many of my organic, agroecological, perma-cultural friends are following the money. Once a friend set up a box scheme on rented, well-chosen and good land, using amateur gardening skills. Within three or four years, having had large “rural development” grants for machinery and promotion, she became both stressed and bored and sold the business and machinery for mere money – the community’s tax money. Instead she took an English literature course. My son met her husband a year or so later, and he asked, are you still doing that? We’ve moved on ages ago… Yes, I’m afraid we are still rooted in our fields – as Thomas Hardy noted, though dynasties pass. I must add that I love the true amateur – that is, one who loves. I hope we are amatory on the farm. Certainly, it cannot be abandoned without breaking the heart.
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I support the school strike for climate – it is a marvellous thing. Moral children ask immoral adults to act morally. About extinction rebellion – I have sympathy, but also have doubts. Adults demand that other adults behave properly. But are those who demand it of others, also demanding it of themselves? Are they truly adult? Extinction Rebellion could be much like consumerism in which dependants demand changes to the provisions they receive from government and corporation, but are determined to remain in that dependent childhood. If they remain in dependent childhood, then god help the children.
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If those in the rebellion are also attempting to change the ways that they live and work – if they are also rebelling against themselves – then a demand that government and corporation remove obstacles from that path is productive and genuine. Many in the movement are doing just that, but a very high proportion are not. Others are demanding a greening of their work and play places – which is a consumerist demand and also a lucrative opportunity for established corporate wealth to mop up new markets and to collect government moneys in green new deals perhaps. A greening of the status quo is a revolution of sorts, but it does not solve our problem, which is the status quo itself. Our revolution must be firstly against ourselves – our ways of life – our own status quo, then secondly against obstacles to that transformation – corporate monopoly, status monopoly, money monopoly, information monopoly and the consenting politics, which props up and enables all those things.
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One small thing – Greta Thunberg advises us to follow the science – she means of climate change. I love Greta, but she should be very careful in scientific company. Science does not mean truth. I think the peer review system is now so rotten; so interconnected with career prospects, university guidelines, funding complications, commerce and power, that I think it can also mean a very large dose of delusion and careerist lies. The science on “our” side of the argument can be equally suspect. Just as Albert Einstein returned to Newton to test relativity, so we must return to solid ground; to trial and error; to our own experience, to test the latest scientific papers. The value of science is its detachment from both pre-conception and post-conception. It lets new light into personal per-ception of things, but it cannot instruct us how to act. That is for skill, dexterity, pragmatism – for trades’ people to decide, perhaps using that new scientific illumination, but combined with old understanding and the perennial moral of what it means to be human.
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Irish poets, learn your trade – sing whatever is well made – scorn the sort now growing up – all out of shape from toe to top – their un-remembering hearts and heads – base products of base beds… sang W B Yeats, and so should we.
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If we are not rooted in our trades and culturing, we have nothing to give. When the trades rise up against the monopolies, then we can have a true rebellion. When baker, weaver, carpenter, farmer, sailor, brewer, stone mason, forester… rise up by methods which thrive without oil and biofuels (without fire, or very limited fire) then we can truly have the revolution, which the children ask of us. Culture is not what we demand, but what we do. Much of our now terrible predicament has been caused by monopoly – by unskilled “professional people” – by architects instructing and distorting the skills of builders, by “research bodies”, or pesticide manufacturers instructing and distorting the skills of farmers, by peer-reviewed ignorance instructing and distorting us all.
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So, our revolt is an ancient one – against the enclosures. Why do we revolt? – for love and gratitude – for the gift of life and for our children, parents, friends, neighbours – and for the near infinite variety of interconnected dependencies of awesome species for awesome species – and for the knowledge we can have at our finger tips, which those in power have lost.

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Exodus

Consider this: everything we do to support current ways of living is so destructive that it will cause the end for human cultures as we know them. The jobs we do; taxes we pay; purchases we make, all contribute to self-destruction.
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To lobby for improvements; efficiencies; for a greening of that way of life, gives it further credence and worse – a greater longevity. By that lobbying, we endorse destruction and we signal support for a more efficient but still destructive status quo.
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The answer is a mass exodus towards another way of life. For me, it is a journey from the extra-ordinary to the ordinary – from anxiety to sweet relief – from the end of history to history again – and from a crazy, fossil-fuelled levitation, to a specific ration of time inside a measured allotment of space – palpable things, which weigh easily on my understanding and which I can love, share, smell, taste, touch, hear and see.
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It is an exodus from cyber money to real money; from an internet of illusions to the physics of things; from travelling without travail to the obstacles and rewards of terrain – rivers, hills, seas, peoples… Our journey will pass from dependent consumerism to personal management of a fair share of time and space. We inherit that share in the passages of time and we are tasked to bequeath its undiminished space as our time also passes. We fulfil an ephemeral role, which was similarly held by generations of ancestors. We occupy but one small human space in the larger and grander flow of history, but the grand is made up of all its individuals. Past action created my ration, just as my present action creates (or diminishes) future rations.
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The idea of an allotment, or a ration is very different from ideas of limits, or borders.
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A ration is both physical and spiritual – my allotted garden is full of wonders, changing seasons, visiting species, evidence of personal histories on a terrace here; a tree there; many stories and moral lessons attached to the physics of things. I see the actions of ancestors embedded there too, as clearly as I can read ancient words emerging from a page. Similarly, both my allotted house and my allotted workplace are repositories for memory; obligation; celebration and are catalysts for new ingenuities to fit the inevitability of changing times. My allotted time and space are fluid, ever-changing and also changeable by my actions.
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The ancient term we have for such allotments is the common.
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On the other hand, limits and borders, remain as thin lines, which we cannot cross. They can’t be loved – only defended. They sometimes appear inside the common as taboo – that is, things which we cannot say, or do, but more generally they destroy the common. We have liberty inside a border to do as we choose – home as castle – profession as castle – money as castle, and where we override another’s morality, we can become lawfully immoral. Monopolies of land, profession and money, exclude the specific ingenuity, dexterity and sensual intelligence of others. The consumer is limited only by the thin line at the edge of her borrowing and spending power. Her right as money-property holder overrides moral commons of proper behaviour.
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The terms we have for borders and limits are enclosure and property. Inside my property I am libertarian – I can be profligate, selfish, cruel, or (I defer), kind as I choose. Enclosures are untouched by nature – they have no nature. But they can be bought and sold, or violently lost and won.
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The now accustomed measure of economic success is GDP, which in recent times has been mostly composed of spent assets. Tragedies of war and natural disaster, as well as foolish and profligate behaviour, plus usury and rent, all lead to a swelling of GDP. If we applaud GDP as a measure, then we applaud those things. If we applaud a shrinking of GDP, we may seem to applaud the shrinking of those things, but nevertheless we still signal approval of the measure itself (de-growth of GDP). For instance, GDP measures the expenses of climate heating as positive.
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We may reason that to fit within the means of a terrain, we must shrink that spending – we must achieve rapid de-growth to just the point that our limited means will provide. And yet, we can see that degrowth will cause “economic”, or rather, casino collapse. Casino collapse (of banking, share and stock markets and currencies) will also cause real economic collapse (of manufacturing, labour, social infrastructures…).
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So, our exodus must be from GDP to a different measure – from the spending of assets to the maintenance of assets. Our hope is not for the casino to degrow to a point – an apparently positive end within the same measure – but for the casino to collapse, while at the same time, we have built a new life boat economy defined by new measures to rescue the falling fragments of the old. I say life boat, because there is unavoidable chaos ahead. The life boats can then deposit us on durable ground.
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Pursuit of the de-growth of an impossible way of life, does not change the way of life, it merely presents it with new limits. In any case, enforced degrowth is impossible without chaos and human misery.
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If, like any business, or household, we measure community success by measuring assets (not the spending of them), then we enter a brave new world of possibility. The Inland Revenue measures my annual household income as assets in year two, minus assets in year one. In the same way, so can a national accountant. But then, if we ask the questions, what are assets? and, what do we mean by assets? – we surely leave the amoral world of property and enclosure to enter the both pragmatic and spiritual world of the always moral commons. The study of economics is, after all, a branch of moral philosophy.
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Everything I do has an effect and so also a moral. My property enclosure allows me to deny that truth. GDP as a measure also denies that truth. It liberates bad behaviour.
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What are my assets? I say, family, friends, good air and water, birdsong, green leaves, scent of flowers, ancestral music and literature, good cooking, musical instruments, pubs, libraries… Some have monetary value, some not. All have moral value.
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Do those assets survive from year one to year two? Even though they may not and become lost in war, famine, or flood, GDP may still soar, and by the same expenses of war and post disaster re-building that those lost assets bring. It does not measure destroyed assets as a negative. It does not hear the weeping.
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GDP does not measure even monetarily-valued assets – furniture, tools, property, or existing social infrastructures, such as electricity cables, water and sewage systems, hospital buildings, roads, harbours, bridges, work-shops, houses– it knows neither the presence, nor the lack of them. They become visible when they are sold. Monetarist UK governments, such as Margaret Thatcher’s, Tony Blair’s and all others since, have paraded rosy “balance sheets” by exchanging such assets for money (privatisation). However cheaply they are sold they will add to such “balances” and also add to GDP. Asset stripping is a well-tried method to stave off bankruptcy – or to make hidden subsidiary companies (otherwise known as favours to a friend) rich by the cheapness of the purchase. But a bad end is inevitable! Yes, if GDP is a measure of the good, then a bad end is inevitable.
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The government of Bhutan has introduced us to an “Economics of happiness”. From Latin America, we have learnt “Buen Vivir”. “Liberation Theology” teaches much the same, while the thoughts of Ivan Illich require urgent revival. Then we have the lean economics of David Fleming.
They all point to our first steps of exodus – the pragmatic answer to the question, what is happiness?
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Those who argue for de-growth of our current way of life, perhaps combined with a green new deal for more durable infrastructures, must be careful what they wish for. If it supports the same, but less profligate and more green way of life inside the same old world of amoral enclosures, then it is doomed to failure – more money to fund the impossible – flood, famine, storm…
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However, if a green new deal is diverted to support the pack-horses of Exodus, with provisions for the journey and for the final settlements, then money can mutate to an asset again. Money, which has once spent, or extracted real assets can be returned to the common from where it gained its destructive power by bleeding that common. Like Tom Paine’s land value tax, which returned enclosure-generated money to the common, a green new deal can be seen as restorative justice.
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Here is a very simple truth – only good personal behaviour can bring humanity as a whole (literally) down to Earth, and to living within a ration of Earth. All intelligence of the goings on of life, must first pass through unique and singular senses. There is no corporate, or consensual way listening, scenting, seeing… What’s more that intelligence is specific to its time and space. Cultural adaption is specific to its terrain and to its time in history, and so is personal in the same way. Of course, personal action will be in, or towards concert with others. We are a social species. We love to share intelligence and we love to live and work together. We are empathetic and sympathetic – personal good (or, I suppose bad) behaviour is contagious.
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Political behaviour can be useful if it speaks in defence of an established, or establishing way of life. It is up to us to establish that life, only then, can we defend it – that is, we must have something, or at least the infancy of something, to romance others to join it.
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Otherwise, we punt just another idea in the greater casino of ideas. We say, that others must distort their realities to an alien idea. Of course, hierarchies, armies, police, secret police, manipulated ballots, commercial advertisements and persuasive newspaper barons, do that as a matter of course. It has not been productive. Its purpose is destructive.
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Our purpose is to escape that course towards the truths of a human settlement within its ration of larger nature.
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However, there is much that can hinder that personal journey, which we may need to repel by argument, ballot, or violence, but unless we are personally on the road and unless we know what it is that we defend, then political, or violent, or so-called, non-violent action will be futile.
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So, if we are on, or are about to step on the road, or even simply dreaming of the road, then political action may assist the journey. Certainly, unless the so-called body-politic can see our journey as a palpable thing, then we flaunt a mere idea, which can be neither emulated, nor shared – nor truly attacked.
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So, our extinction rebellions must be primarily against ourselves. Without our billions of small purchases, the corporation would not exist. We must urgently create an economy amongst ourselves, which can survive the crash of banking, stock and share markets, currencies and everything which depends on them. To be sure, the richer we are, the more planetary harm we command, but from where do those riches come, but from ourselves? Our argument is with people – with the vicious rent extraction practised by doctors, lawyers, architects and so on – many of whom may well take part in the extinction rebellion. It is no accident that those status enclosures usually define themselves as a practice – medical practice, law practice, architectural practice and so on. We argue for an exodus from the economic drainage of such practices. When Adam delved and Eve span…. Once upon a time, professionals professed. Now, as a casino has replaced an economy, professional means one who has enclosed a trade and can charge rent for it. It means one who must never profess, but must be reserved, taciturn discrete… To profess is now labelled, unprofessional.
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Arise ye professionals and profess – because you are currently the very foundation of our suicidal, but peer-reviewed, rentier casino.
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I am an atheist, raised by two atheist parents, but surely our exodus must be a religious exodus? Don’t we join the swelling caravans to protect the sacred – good soils, clear water, vibrant forests, teeming seas…? Are not invisible ancestors spurring us forward in shame and ain’t that an invisible future I hear calling through palpable veils of richly-spun illusion? Certainly, for myself, I feel my mother and father looking down and it is hard to bear the steady eyes of children. How can ephemeral powers compare to that? And how can ephemeral power compare to this – my present action creates the future?
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Are not clear springs and ancient woods invisible to GDP? What calls us forward has no peer review and the language of that calling is the language of the Koran; of the Bible… We respond at the deeper level of fine music, poetry, prose and painting and of the primary lessons of childhood for what is deeply right and deeply wrong.
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That lesson is currently invisible to journalists and politicians, but as the saying goes, they are people too – especially in the small hours of the night.
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When I say fine music and so on, a folk song, or an elegant two-up, two-down house can be fine things. Ancestry calls for present action to create a future. It says culture is what I do. It is the voice of the commons. Our exodus is from the ennui of enclosure, to the ingenuity, dexterity and conviviality of the common.
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Spending and Selling Ideas into Reality

Yes. Let’s stop spending, or enacting polemical ideas into reality. A corporation exists on two plains – one is a polemical idea – an advertisement – the other is the many small purchases, which create its reality. A corporation is a sold fantasy, which becomes actual by my spending. Has anyone ever seen a corporation? Yes, you may say, they are very real – you receive real wages for real work done. You are a real cog in its wheel and your work-place is a highly visible concrete and glass structure. I say, that you too have been spent into existence and what’s more, you could just as easily be unspent and in search of a new identity – hopefully inside the true physics of soil, forests, fields, rivers, seas, workshops and people.
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Currently successful political parties are those which lobby for and disperse that same corporate advertisement. Votes follow the money and money follows the votes – those many small purchases and votes, which make a reality. Softly and silently (I apologise to the poet) commercial corporations are sliding into government. Most politicians angle their profiles, so that they, in the same way, will be personally spent and balloted into power.
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Politics and consumerism have become so entwined that the ballot has become little more than another consumer-choice – a consumer choice within the same corporate supply.
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Here in the UK there is only one large political group, which stands on more or less physical ground – that surrounding Jeremy Corbyn. Just about every newspaper, radio/television station and political party is utterly focused on destroying it. If they don’t destroy it, they may be un-spent from existence by the contrary power of reality. You ask, What of the Green Party? I say, it has very recently levitated into what it sees as the advantageous world of corporate European power. Rest in Peace.
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How can something, which has no existence, become physical by the power of money? Well, many things do, such as class structures in which real money is extracted from the real economy of the real household to finance my absolutely abstract class status as dentist, GP, solicitor, architect… That extraction could be called rent and it could be called extortion. All enclosures do the same. They extract rent for money, land, status, or ideas and weaken real economic activity – that is the real goings on of people and the land.
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Actually, instead of spending an abstract corporate polemic into reality, why not find a reality and describe, extol the value of its existence. Why not extol existence into existence? Then, why not un-spend a corporation into abstraction again? It is easy to spot politicians who have been bought into existence. They speak like robots – or puppets on a mysterious string. Often, coming from nowhere, they suddenly appear on every front page, fulfilling, of course someone else’s purpose. Here in the UK, one of those chosen in that way, is the well-groomed Liberal Democratic Party leader, Jo Swinson. I suspect the puppeteer is the media baron Rupert Murdoch.
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But it is not only the corporate fantasy that is sold into reality. On “our” side of the argument much that is doctrine, is repeated so much that it can mutate into a consenting hypothesis. That such hypotheses are untested is forgotten in the passionate noise of the original doctrinal polemic. In the battlefield we grow to encourage and protect our comrades in arms.
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Then, an untested hypothesis can be used to create further chapters to the doctrine – with reference “to the science” – quietly forgetting that the science has never existed.
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Gunnar Rungren has an excellent article, currently on the resilience.org site, which unpicks the polemic that “Small farms produce 70% of the world’s food” They don’t. It doesn’t help either our argument, or our task that they should produce all the world’s food, by manipulating figures to show that they already produce 70%. The claim originates from a report by the ETC Groups in 2009, Who Will Feed Us? Now, most of the small farmers and growers I speak to, have that figure indelibly imprinted as a motivational slogan.
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I’ve come across that same brick wall – that line of shouldered arms and have been labelled both schismatic and also of having “no peer review”. Pointing out that the doctrine in question similarly has no peer review and has never been tested, will have no effect, because the doctrine has become sacred and I have become schismatic.
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This particular doctrine is the foundation for sequestration calculations of the IPCC, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 and almost all academic publications besides. No one can show me where and how it has been tested and I’m fairly sure that it never has been tested. I think that the hypothesis, now mutated from an original doctrine, whose source seems untraceable, is possibly (I think extremely likely to be) the cause of the vastly underestimated rate of climate change.
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Here it is as given to me by one of the authors of Zero Carbon Britain 2030 in response to my inquiry –
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“If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO2 and water) are released. There is then no net gain or loss of CO.2, which is why biological fuels are considered to be carbon neutral.”
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That is to say, we can burn a crop, turning its living, energetic mass into dead gas, small ashes and powerful energy and then wonderfully as virgin birth, green shoots will rise from somehow immortal, yet still living soil to spread their leaves and photosynthesise as before. Soil is proposed to be as the cauldron of Ceridwen – though we regularly devour the contents, it will never be empty.
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That the doctrine is unbelievable probably gives potency to the belief.
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The tragedy is that the hypothesis is tested season by season by millions – even billions of farmers, growers and gardeners and by scores of agricultural research bodies, which publish crop yield figures. Yet, specialist monopolies are so sure of the sanctity of their enclosures that such simple truth is forbidden entry. After all, careers would be on the line and the credibility of researchers and university departments seeking funding would be shredded by the winds of ordinary common sense. Well, Amen, I say. Professional status enclosure, not only wrecks economies by rent, but it also monopolises truth and so spreads unchallenged delusion. Peer review has mutated to career review, in the same way that doctrine can mutate to hypothesis.
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Here’s some simple truth – a truth at the finger-tips of every farmer and gardener –
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In addition to the gas released from burning a crop for energy (about the same as from burning coal), we also create the following negative effects.
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1 – If we grow a crop, burn it, and so make no biomass return to the soil, then the following seasons crop will be smaller, because the biomass of soil fauna will be similarly smaller.
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2 – Reduced crop yield means reduced photosynthesis, so that the linear contribution of sunlight to the otherwise cyclic nature of life in our garden will be similarly reduced. Atmospheric CO.2 will increase in consequence.
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3 – We could import minerals (fertilisers) from a consequently emptying hole on the ground and so maintain crop yield, but still, soil biomass would decrease. Furthermore, it would decrease more rapidly than in point 1, because artificially-increased plant biomass would “mine” the natural mineralisation of soil fermentation and so further diminish soil fauna/biomass (sequestration).
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(I leave aside the negative effects on soil fauna – biomass and diversity, of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, growth regulators, genetic manipulation and of other effects of fertilisers themselves)
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4 – If we take biomass from our garden and bury it deep – sequestered from the cycles of life – that is, sequestered like coal, oil and gas – then, similarly to point 1, we will diminish soil life, stunt regrowth and shrink photosynthesis. Consequently, we will increase atmospheric CO.2 . Gas, which would have been drawn down by an optimum photosynthesis, will remain in the atmosphere. The same applies to “embedded structures”, such as timber buildings.
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5 – Removing biomass without a return of biomass, slows both the speed and energy of a cycle, while also of course, shrinking its biomass. Speed and energy are often missing from carbon-cycle models. We can observe changing speed by the deepening, or paling green of foliage. Imagine watching the flow of biomass in the same way that we watch the flow of water in a river. The volume in front of us remains the same, until we consider time – litres per second – and energy – driven at 32ft per second sq. We must also consider the speed of flow and energy in biomass. Life is energetic and so is the contribution of sunlight.
The linear contribution of sunlight is dependent on the gathering power and mass of life cycles.
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To continue my (imperfect) analogy, if we remove a mass of water from the river, the water will slow, as the smaller mass spreads more quietly between its unchanged banks.
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If we remove biomass from a field, life will slow as it spreads more quietly across its unchanged acreage.
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Regrowth will slow. Photosynthesis will slow. More time will be needed to achieve the same yield from both sunlight and plant mass. Days and seasons have absolute limits. Time, as the philosophers say, waits for no biomass.
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Actually, crop-yield teaches all we need to know about manipulated organic cycles. To test the IPCC hypothesis, we can go to the great mass of research into crop yields. Otherwise we can record the goings on of our gardens. A simple record is enough.
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5 – IPCC and almost all others propose that carbon sumps and embedded structures remove CO.2 from the atmosphere. That delusion is a part of almost all climate models.
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They also propose that burnt biomass from an unchanged cropping system (“non land-use change”) is Carbon neutral. Moreover, it is proposed that if emitted carbon is captured and stored, (CCS) we can achieve the miracle of negative emissions. That delusion is also part of almost all climate models.
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6 – Burnt biomass with CCS at proposed rates will very soon strip most forests from the Earth, while turning fertile soils towards desert. Burnt coal with CCS would leave those forests and soils to live and breathe.
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Coal and biomass burning emit more or less the same quantity of greenhouse gases, but biomass burning also shrinks both carbon sequestration and the regeneration of biomass. It follows that burning coal is very much safer than burning biomass. If we consider a transition to “zero carbon” (it must be rapid), then first, we must stop burning biofuels, then coal, then oil, then gas. *
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I don’t recommend burning coal.
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Biofuel crops for transport fuels – oil seeds, sugar cane and so on, have the same ill effect.
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I do not apologise for repeating the above, which I’ve put regularly in print, in various forms since 2005.
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* Anaerobic fermentation from “wastes” provides useful gas – especially for domestic use, while also returning biomass “digestate” to the soil. Fermentation happens anyway and everywhere and whatever we do. With AD we gather methane (mostly), burn it and release CO.2 But, I don’t think we have the acreage for AD crops to displace food crops, since we must do all we can to reduce that area, and so let the wilds expand.
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A Society in which Work and Pleasure are Walking Distance from Everyone’s Door

We need a society in which both work and pleasure are walking distance from everyone’s door. That is the foundation of our task to allow the revival of other species and to allow the lungs of Earth to re-find their balance. I cannot see another remedy. Most people profoundly disagree. Wild polemics advise that we can green our current ways of life, while friends of mine say that their chosen way of farming will “draw down carbon”, others say, Yes, – very nice, but dream on…, while still others say, look how far we’ve advanced, technology will continue to advance and find a way.
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This is what I say.
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We need to re-centre suburbia, revive derelict town and village centres and shut-down corporate-supplied consumerism. Rather than green our loud energy demands, we must hush the noise and begin to watch and listen. We must shrink our needs to fit within what we learn from that natural lesson. Our most destructive activity is transport. Greening that destruction is futile. We must remove the need for it as much as we can.
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And we can replace the high-powered internet and its connected global transport with good conversation, concerts, theatres, pub gossip and sing songs, musical instruments, books, market squares, proper shops, workshops and cafes spilling onto the street. We can replace unreality with reality. That reality includes safe and convivial car-free roads, where people can stroll at leisure and children can play as children should. And we can bring market gardens into town and revive private gardening and allotments. As we remove the old infrastructures, so we also remove dependency. Dependency is a soul-sapping weight. Liberated, we can set pleasures, ingenuity and dexterity free. These arguments are old as the hills.
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Which is why this needs little explanation. The transformation is from an extraordinary fossil-powered levitation and back to very ordinary and easily-understood solid ground. It’s also fortunate that the ordinary contains all that is marvellous – seasons, sights, scents, sounds…. We need no advice from academics, consultants, architects, journalists, or government officials to achieve it. In truth, that hierarchy of professional (and deluded) monopolies has played the major part of our crazy levitation. What’s more, from that elevation it has reached down and extracted crippling rents from those who still generate real economic activity. If I need a solicitor, or doctor, or if I need planning permission for my self-built house, I must bring my £6 per hour to pay for their £300 per hour. I pay for a class system. I pay for idle education by my physical labour. That educated idleness can only exist by the cash-generating power of fossil fuels.
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Sometimes, reality will produce scarcity and surplus – such necessary trade can be managed (if we work at it) by canal navigable river and the sea. Sail trade is tried and tested. Even though you say, “Dream on mate”, it is the only trade which fits physical reality. It can also revive coastal communities. Can we maintain the railway? Only trial and error will tell. Certainly, it must be efficient rail – that is, slow rail. How far will durable electricity stretch? Nobody knows. Its first uses must be domestic. That may well prove its limit, but perhaps it will stretch a little further. Certainly, I don’t know. In any case, uncertainty is the best frame of mind to receive enlightening fragments of certainty.
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Fossil fuels have lifted humanity high above the Earth on a wild ride to self-destruction. What’s more, they have not brought happiness. Our species had evolved to find its place amongst all the other species. Firstly, agriculture came too fast for our deeper selves to keep pace – the inherited moral structures that form family, community and their settlement inside the natural world, were often overlain by that new reality. Thus, moral structures became both strained and exploited. In many instances, we could justly call that new agricultural reality – unreality. Throughout history, (and no doubt, pre-history) many agricultural communities had pillaged their soils and so themselves, even before the magnificent power of fossil fuels levitated our half-unreal agriculture into utter, unmitigated unreality. By agriculture, I mean a culture of roads, villages, towns and cities – of specialised trades – all of which are enabled by the specialist cultivation of fields. Today, in spite of the marvels of aviation; of the internet and so on, we remain an agriculture.
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A society in which both work and pleasure are walking distance from everyone’s door can remain an agriculture – or as I shall pursue, a more horticultural society, into which animals can beneficially contribute. I think our settlements must retract as the wilds expand.
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I carry Utopia with me like an imaginary harbour light, or the evening star. Our cultural voyage cannot embark without hope. Yet, looking at the evidence, there is now no future for humankind – the heating is more rapid than all peer-reviewed predictions. Looking at my family, friends and neighbours, it is plain that we will not achieve the fast (immediate) mutation of social behaviour necessary to live within planetary means. Yet hope is something different. It is anchored, transcending time, to its final leading light. “You never enjoy the world aright, until the sea itself floweth in your veins – until you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.” Says Thomas Traherne. “And know yourself to sole heir to all the universe – and more so, since all others are sole heirs also.”
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Yes, our journey will devise many compromises in the face of both human and natural obstacles. But the thing is, as we set off again, having necessarily compromised, our renewed guiding light must remain Utopia. Compromising a pragmatic compromise always leads to hopeless disaster. After all, Utopia is Nowhere. It always leads to hope.
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