Patrick Noble’ Books

For new posts (& old) click on “Archives” to the right

Patrick is the author of a number of books, which are available from both best & worst bookshops, or from the author.  The archive to the right will hold new posts of his writing.  His day job is that of farmer.  http://www.bryncocyn.wordpress.com

Towards the Convivial Economy was published by the Smokehouse Press in March 2017

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It is available from the author, or publisher for £7.50 plus postage & packing, or of course, from any good bookshop.

Patrick’s other books include –

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014)

A Potent Nostalgia (2013)

The Commons of Soil (2011)

The Lost Coefficient of Time (2011)

Romantic Economics (2010)

Notes from the Old Blair and Bush (2008)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was published by Smokehouse Press in November 2014

“Could we dream of a better world? Do we have the imagination to link happiness to places, people closely to our planet? These are epic times, and Patrick Noble sets out how to explore the routes to conviviality we may have forgotten we desire. Creating greener economies will take remarkable effort. Here, then, are some brave solutions.”  Professor Jules Pretty

“Patrick Noble’s writings preserve the organic movement’s authentic radical spirit” – Dr Philip Conford, author of The Development of the Organic Network.

From the author – 350 pages, £8.50 plus postage & packing

Contact onfo@bryncocynorganic.co.uk

Here’s a paypal link – https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=SLUE2BSRZ4VXG

Or from Smokehouse Press –  http://www.smokehousepress.co.uk/patrick.htm

Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. by Dr Philip Conford, courtesy of the Organic Grower – journal of The Organic Growers’ Alliance –

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Casino Anxiety

The governments of UK, Russia, France, USA… have pursued constant and vicious war in regions, which could most destabilise the casino. The connection to oil and its pipe-lines is not direct, although oil is at the root. The direct connection is the anxiety of power for the stability of the casino of stocks, shares and currencies.
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Powerful politicians in those governments have personal anxieties about the casino, since that is where their personal wealth is stored, grown and harvested. Powerful corporations share the same anxiety, since that is where corporate wealth will also fluctuate. Media barons know it too and so spin the yarn for war. All together that shared anxiety (re-iterated and confirmed in elite gatherings) makes the case for war to protect what may for a moment have seemed personal and trite, but now has conveniently become “in the national interest”.
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For “bringing stability to regions”, we should read, “maintaining the continued growth of my bank accounts.”
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Casino anxiety removes reason. Those government policies perfectly reflect the irrational behaviours of ordinary punters in ordinary casinos. Many politicians are addicts – in a state of constant anxiety to bring stability to the casino. Home-life and loved ones are shoved aside for that last and sure-fired punt. For a punt to be safe, the whole casino must be safe. After all, loved ones will benefit from the successful punt – the business takeover – and so also from the drone strike on casino non-believers.
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Another regularly applied euphemism for the cold-blooded wrecking of a culture and its people is “maintenance of democracy.” That democracy is not of people, but of punters and their punts on a stable, democratic roulette wheel – known in the Western media, such as the BBC, as the ballot.
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So ancient and beautiful cultures such as Syria’s, or Iran’s can be bombed to extinction, while brash, new casino-engaged tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia can be armed and encouraged.
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Here in the UK, we can see casino anxiety as the main divide in politics. New Labour is the casino-anxious branch of the Labour Party. There is a similar divide in the Conservative Party, although of course, those with no care for the casino make a much smaller number. New Labour politicians, often either Oxford, or Cambridge educated, or perhaps corporate plants, move in casino circles of property, stock market, corporate promotions and finance.
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Jeremy Corbyn does not care for the casino and so like Syria and Iran, he is a target for media vitriol and (it may be as times degenerate further) for a drone strike. Tragically much of the vitriol is from the previously left wing, but now casino punting, New Labour, New Guardian newspaper.
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Stability of the casino is the central doctrine of all G8 countries with the possible exception of China. We’ve seen how the government of Greece struggled to form a real economy based on diminished resources, but with directed human capital of ingenuity, conviviality and earnest labour for a common social good. EU powers were quick to supress a human-sized, humane effort to revive a real economy.
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It is long past the time for proper cultures to divest from the casino – its politicians and its violence – and to stand on their living inherited soils alongside the exotic delights of other proper cultures, such as Iran’s and Syria’s. Other ancient cultures have evolved across Europe, but EU has been responsible for their gradual erosion and at times, outright suppression.
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The thing is that the bulk of the cruel violence of today’s world is directed to supress real economies and cultures and to implant the supplies of the casino. The bargain is for an increase of consumer rights, in return for a statutory corporate supply. That bargain has been the EU project.
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It is vital for the ingenuity of a region to assert itself in ways that are unique to its terrain. Leaving the EU is a vital first step for those within it. Otherwise, attempts towards economic de-growth and lives lived happily without fossil fuels and within the restraints of terrain, will be thwarted. Tragically, Brexit has been led by those who seek far worse – that is, the scrapping of human rights and the imposition (with no bargain) of corporate supply. That is also a world of competing gangster princedoms, whose only restraints are a rival’s power and potential violence.
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It is easy to look at the Trump administration as a perfect model of folly and viciousness combined. The perfect model is much closer to home. It is plain that Theresa May’s government is now composed entirely of gangsters and their henchmen.
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Descendants of the henchmen, who followed the gangster, William of Normandy, have returned to a new harrying of Britain. They present no bargain and are blind to the terrain they’ve invaded. They cannot see degraded soils, cascading species loss, or climate change. They cannot see people. Their eyes are spinning roulette wheels and all their urgency is to protect the casino – its currencies; property prices; rents; usuries; the protected amorality of stock market punts… Their urgency is also to supress (by any means) the moral probity of cultures and the benign efforts of all who’d live convivial lives governed by the restraints of terrain and not by the results of yesterday’s trading.
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Briefly on Utopia – or the 90% and the Tithe, Part Two

The perfect society and the perfectly adjusted individual may seem two different utopian views. If we say perfectly adjusted citizen, then we are thinking of the perfect society. If we think of the perfect human being, then we may be thinking of many things – of super-men, saints, leaders, acquiescent followers… – Richard Dawkins’s rather debased Darwinism.
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However, Utopia is a place (Nowhere backwards, or Erehwon), and so the perfect human being must be a fitting citizen of the community which creates it. E O Wilson’s eosocial evolution depicts some social groups – not leaders and followers, evolving to fit their landscapes as those landscapes also evolve.
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But wait, you say, how can we have evolution within a stable Utopia? We can, because Utopia is Nowhere – it will never exist. Cultures and their understanding of themselves and their environment will evolve as generations pass beneath the surety of common ideals. Those ideals may be fragments (some devised, others inherited) of Utopia.
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Thinking of the tithe and the 90%, a community aiming to shed that self-destructive, fossil-fuelled 90% of consumption, does so in transition. A Utopian community exists within the remaining tithe, where ordinary, fallible people also strive to exist. The people are Somewhere, while Utopia is Nowhere. Nowhere and Somewhere coexist but never meet, just as a real city and its dreaming spires coexist, but never meet. I think the two may be essential to each other – unsullied, Utopian ideas become comic when superimposed on pragmatic truths. Pragmatic truths become tragic, when superimposed on unsullied Utopian ideas. The tempering is valuable.
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Comedy and tragedy – the one of the mind, the other of the heart – keep the hubris of success in its place. They socialise Superman back to her human capability. That is the virtue of Utopia. It cuts us down to human size. It also gives meaning and also beauty to attempts that fail.
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It is no coincidence, that Utopian visions emerge most often beneath gathering, or gathered clouds – of invasion, oppression, drought, flood – beneath the tyrannies of both people and weather. Utopia may prove spiritually useful in enduring the gathering dark of the current powers and of climate change. What is hope? – the opposite of despair? Yes. Hope is those falling fragments of Utopia that endure – love, justice, belonging… They are immutable in flood, storm and passing tyrannies. Despair acknowledges overwhelming physical truth and sits with her head in her hands. Hope says, I remain; my family remains; love is simply what it is, in spite of all evidence. You see, as I say, Utopia and Somewhere never meet – never in the battlefield – never on that beautiful shore.
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Our trashed Earth of cascading species loss and a crazily disbalanced atmosphere is a truth too hard to bear. It is plain that emissions targets of nation states such as the UK and the US, are fictions and that climate change is already accelerating beyond human recall. It is also plain that, here in the UK, the powerful are incompetent, self-serving fools, who yet hold nearly overwhelming tools of wealth appropriation, violence and misinformation. It is plain that it is the same globally – it is globalisation. Yet look – above those dreaming cities, scales of justice rebalance every wrong in cities of the clouds…
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Nearly every essay of mine leads back to the truth that governments can only act on species loss, cascading ecologies, dying agricultural soils and climate change by abandoning democracy and adopting autocracy. They must be on a “war footing” against pillage. Current democracies act more like the consumer choices of utterly amoral, consumer right. The powers provide the services and pocket the bulk of money-flow. And so, I’m lead to the thought that every economy is but a collection of households demanding services. In turn, and because I cannot but like democracy and dislike despotism, I’m lead home through my own garden gate, to the thought that only my own household has the answer – and all the households like it. A collection of households demanding services could become the same collection deciding to live within its ecological means – leaving the powers to wilt and Earth to regenerate. Those households will step out with just a tenth (tithe) of their old effects, draining the current powers of the bulk of their wealth. My reader will know how casino collapse will shatter real infrastructures and employment. It will bring human tragedy. We’ll leave that to lie quietly, only to point out that the climate change, to which the casino is heading, will be far more catastrophic – with more of human tragedy, than any casino collapse.
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Many of the most potent economic connections within and between households are not measured when most people think of economies. They don’t appear in GDP or in clever economic forecasts. Yet these things are the vital organs of all economies – bed time stories, knowledge, handshakes, gossip, sympathy, empathy, shared pleasures – raised glasses, a pub chorus, birdsong, a walk to the hilltop, a stroll on the shingle, good cooking, gardening… I think it probable that as GDP (spending) shrinks to the tithe, so such things will expand and as they do, so happiness can expand, contrary to the dark of times. Meanwhile the effects of climate change will close in and must be faced. We cannot undo what is done. We can only communally agree not do it again. Those unmeasured connections will remain, if we are able to live them, beneath the collapse of currencies and infrastructures and may bind communities in the face of climate change.
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The good life lived among good lives creates Utopia. It shimmers into being like a Summer mirage and disappears to reappear as falling petals of justice and other fragments, like half-caught, then forgotten memories – those hedgerow scents that recall something we did once, somewhere we’ve mis-placed or forgotten – only that it was good.
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The Ninety Percent and the Tithe

I think it likely that 90% of our working time creates what we don’t need and also damages work to preserve what we do need. That is: most of our time is not only wasted but destructive. Of course, I’m speaking of the so called, First World and of the mass of what it does. First World economies could be renamed Last World economies. If First World people want to be constructive – to become Possible World people, then we must shrink our GDP to just that 10%. No government can or will even attempt to achieve that. I cannot think of a single powerful politician (even in the Green Party) who would even consider it. Only the household can do it. Politicians may then follow the fashion.
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Money-flow through wages and profits follows (or should follow) the same trajectory as energy-flow. Let’s consider that 90% of energy-flow – of what people do – is powered by fossil fuels. So, then we can say that wasted time, destructive time and soul-sapping futility are also directly related to fossil fuels.
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Remove fossil fuels and we can easily produce what we need, while also dramatically reducing ecological and economical harm. 90% of our time will be freed to devote to new, regenerative and more appropriate cultural activity. Removing fossil fuels will prove beneficial, not only to climate change, but to the conviviality and durability of culture.
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Yes, cultures were often destructive before the use of fossil fuels. Even so, reliance on natural cycles will mean engaging with natural cycles, whereas those millions of years of sequestered photosynthesis lay supine for the plundering by the worst of our opportunistic human nature. Now we may find our better selves. That’s the moral – we may or may not do so. We need moral conversation. Decadent cultures, such as ours, refuse it in favour of “liberal”, amoral consumer choices. Both gossip and conversation could and should implicitly accept that it is wrong to use any part of the 90%.
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I am looking for simplicity. Moral truth is simple, whereas pragmatic truth is complex. I pluck that figure of 90% as a simple moral. There it can remain as a black immoral mass. Place it back in complexity, and we become doubtful. The true figure may be 96%, or 85%. Actually, we won’t know the true figure. Perceptions are always limited and calculations using those perceptions are always fallible. Moral truth remains true. Waiting for the latest peer-reviewed research is a waste of fast diminishing time. The intrinsic moral, not the research paper, should be our guide.
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With regard to the household – again no figures will hold – yet it remains a moral truth that if I do not act to shrink my consumption, then no democratic government action will be successful on a national scale. It remains a moral truth that the microcosm of household behaviour creates the macrocosm of a nation state.
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I’ve seen various figures which present a litre of petrol as an energy equivalent to between two and three weeks of manual labour. A litre of oil for two weeks of toil? Well, that’s rather simple – it’s a useful moral truth – a lesson in humility. But how much manual time, ingenuity and stroking of chins is embedded in the petrol-drinking machine? Let’s pretend that after maintenance, insurance, licensing, manufacture, garaging, road-building, road-maintenance, road-policing and so on that we have returned to that moral 90% of unnecessary fossil power.
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Plainly, without fossil fuels, the family car, aviation and suburban ways of life will become impossible. All three were created by fossil fuel and none can be maintained by a substituted renewable energy. As we engage with natural cycles, or more accurately – as we become natural cycles – so we will be limited by them. Fields will shrink from the compass of oil power to the compass of man power. Travel will descend and slow to the contours of terrain and must wait for wind and tide. Factories will shatter into air-born fragments to alight in open palms of evenly-spread workshops – a benign confetti of corporate ashes. Similarly, famous retail chains will evaporate and fall as rain – mostly on stony, or unoccupied ground – while a tithe’s-worth may water the seeds of villages and town centres. Cultures will shrink into the beauty and truth of loved landscape. We can tend that germination or gaze at selfies reflected in the pool (of economic flood water).
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90% of GDP is harmful and useless. The necessary common good of the 10% can be maintained by manual and appropriate technologies. We’ll need to work a lot less, because we will produce a lot less, but we’ll need to work a lot more, because man, electrical (wind, solar, hydro) and direct-traction (wind, tide, hydro) power must replace fossil power. My moral says labour hours will stay the same but will be both more physical and more spiritually engaging. The 10% transmutes people from machinery slaves to economic actors. Cultures have been dominated by what machines do (the industrial revolution). Cultures can become what people do (the human renaissance). I can own the moral of what I do. I can see the effect of what I do. Those things make a recipe for happiness.
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Ancient agricultures needed to work a lot less than we will, because we must spend time both undoing and doing. We must re-centre suburbia into villages and towns. We must house the necessary mass exodus to the countryside and we must learn from our doubtless many false turnings and mistakes. I am speaking of the benignity of the 10%. To say that these things will never come to pass is probably true, but still, to act as though they will, is a course to happiness. True – the black 90% will probably swallow any settled future, but we have no choice, but to act as though it won’t.
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All I’ll need of my current wage will be a tithe. We’ll keep the tithe and refuse the rest. We’ll keep just a living, breathing Earth and refuse the strata of those many millions of sequestered and fossilised years.
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“Keep the tithe and refuse the rest!” could prove a populist slogan, or the refrain to a popular song.
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The physics says that there are many whose consumption is so massive and others, whose poverty is so acute, that keeping a tithe is an utterly inappropriate measure for both groups. But let’s keep the moral. The truth of complexity will have a multitude of complex answers. The moral remains true, whatever the answers.
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The physics also says that manmade climate change has recently passed beyond human recall. It says that soils are degrading so rapidly that harvests will similarly decline. It says that ecologies are cascading towards mass extinctions not seen since the Age of the Dinosaurs, that sea level will rise above Earth’s ancient cities and that culture as we know it will end. Of course, like the black immoral mass of 90%, that understanding is also a black immoral mass – a simple, moral truth. It is also the evidence of (sceptical) scientific complexity. Many of us, including me, have difficulty retaining hope in that black mass of guilt and despair. In 2017, culturally-produced carbon emissions were higher than any year before and more fossil fuel was burnt than ever before. Yet national governments profess that they are meeting targets on climate change. One by one, nation states make up the whole and so there is something very wrong about the Paris Accord and the figures entered into it. We could innumerate the wrongs, but for now, since my reader will probably know them, we’ll leave them be.
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One by one, citizens also make up the whole. “Culture as we know it will end…?” We can attempt to change the culture or wait to be changed. Governments will not and cannot change the culture… Even a carefully planned economic de-growth will probably cause the casino of stocks, shares, debt-trading and related currencies to collapse, but those things will collapse anyway. Even though collapse will come, governments will not risk blame for that collapse. Any de-growth planned to avoid casino and related economic crashes, must first freeze casino trading of stocks, shares and currencies. In that way the real economy of work and wages can be partially protected. Casinos implode, not by laws of physics, or the moral decisions of punters – they live and die in faith, loss of faith, hubris, panic, tea leaves and superstition. Loss of faith can lead to an irrational, contagious cascade. As Adam Smith would have advised, governments could mitigate collapse by making the trading of stocks and shares illegal. Shares remain a useful way to capitalise a venture, but those that invest, must truly invest in that particular enterprise’s future. Unfortunately, when casinos implode the real economy of production and infrastructure can explode into human chaos.
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Anyway, argument with authority is a lost cause. It is too late. There is a historical tendency for weightless amorality to rise, but today, the weightless have risen to cover the entire human pond – obscuring the light. Nevertheless, hope has a quality that can remain in the blackest of predicaments. Anyone with children will know how to conjure and hold on to it. Once upon a time… and then – they all lived happily ever after… at bedtime – before turning off the light.
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All the metaphors for hope – flickering candle, first-sighted swallows, South West wind, the delight of blue bells, a field of corn…
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What have they to do with rapacious casinos of stocks and shares, or the sewer of today’s political powers? You might say everything, because they are defenceless to the rapine. You might say nothing, because within the household, behaviour is self-determined.
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Invest or divest?
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If we divest our time from the 90% and invest it in the 10% our lives gain illumination – we step from dark to light. This is not to claim virtue, but to claim what is fitting. The vices, which brought us to this ecologic, atmospheric, economic, political crisis belong to us all. My way of life in 1980 remains as CO.2 in the atmosphere today. None of us (in the “First” World) can claim virtue – only contrition and reparation – and then some sort of happiness by doing what is right. I was reared in an atheist family and remain an atheist today, but religious language seems the most appropriate. Perhaps it is no accident that the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change is the finest document we have on the moral imperative of acting on climate change.
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Modern economists have fallen off the rails by becoming mere calculators of odds at the casino and like all gamblers, have become adept in superstition and cult reading of tea leaves – those things sell to punters. Because those things also need sums, “economists” pretend that sums mean science! They do not. Sums are the patterning of human brain. They are a technology – a useful tool without meaning. Meaning lies in interpretation of the physics of nature and in our part in both it and human society. Science uses the tool of scepticism to remove preconception. But once we apply scientific knowledge, we move back into the realms of technology. Technologies have effects and so always have morals.
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Societies are bound by a common sense of history – its rights and wrongs – to the courses which brought us to this moment. There lies the true storyteller. All proper stories have a central form, which is their moral form. The true study of economics also belongs as a branch of moral philosophy – always has been, always will. How do we share a common wealth among singular households?
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How do we limit the worst of human nature and encourage the best? How do we devise a fair currency of exchange? Do we need rationing, taxation, or do we appeal to, or trust citizens to apply the moral to themselves? What is the common good? What is happiness? Should the unpaid labours of mothers and carers be paid, or should they be celebrated? Should the trading of shares and bonds be regarded as illegal, or merely immoral? What of land property and enclosure? What of inherited violent enclosures? Is enclosure itself parasitic to economic activity? Are commons a universal solution? Should all rights bear an equal weight of responsibility? How well does a community manage its resources? Can current economic behaviour be maintained? … These are moral questions and they are economic questions. Every microcosmic step has ripples of macrocosmic consequence – the rights and wrongs of footsteps – of individuals, households and communities is the study of economics.
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Here, where time has brought us the desolation of post modernity, it is accepted that it is an insult to use “should”, “right” and “wrong” in ordinary conversation. Personal decisions have become private. My destruction of ecosystems and my personal CO.2 emissions have also become private property. You’ve not the right to intrude, or trespass. Post-modern art confirms it – I’m saying nothing, says the artist – take it or leave it – interpret as you choose. Post-modernity is the definition of a decadence which will crumble any civilisation.
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Well, Post-modernity is over. It’s time for new romance to emerge above those limp and nuanced ironies – for the impossible mountain – the lonely silhouette – for beauty and truth – for the exodus of the 90%. How did we get to this point? It is a moral story, with moral solutions. There are right actions and wrong actions. It is black and white. Oil and its machinery is black. 90% of GDP is black. There is very little nuance. If ever a story was to be the foundation of a new religion, then that story is ours – the story of the tithe. It will be an epic adventure, which may well fail, but if we remain with the 90%, then we’ve chosen certain chaos. There will be no nuance. Of course, religious and philosophic leaders – from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Protestant Christianity have joined Catholicism in issuing profound moral statements on climate change – I’m sure leaders within Judaism will also have done so. Had Europeans (such as me) retained our original religion of ancestor reverence and of those to come, we may never have reached this precarity.
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We cannot conjure a new religion by reason – we end with a cult. The great religions have evolved within landscape, culture and intrinsic, inherited and ancient moral commons. Those moral commons are a truly common ground for every evolved religion and for everyone who has no formal religion. How do we wake them?
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Three Old Thoughts to Post Again

Thought One
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We measure climate change as an abstract idea balanced against the real problems of our lives. We see the truth of climate change, just as we understand that Earth is roughly spherical. We laugh at flat-Earthers and climate change deniers.
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We also understand that our ways of life cause climate change. Even so, in the scales of self-justice, we think that living as we do has weight and importance, while climate change, being but an understood idea – is weightless and without importance.
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The truth is to the contrary – we live by delusive and weightless ideas, while the climate change, which we’ve caused by our heavy footsteps, carries an overwhelming weight of physical reality.
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Thought Two
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We think that the weight of our lives, whose mass of problems (we think) out-weighs climate change, is insignificant compared to the vast weight of corporate and political power.
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We propose that governments and corporations cause climate change.
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The truth is that governments and corporations are abstractions. They have no physics to cause anything. Certainly, I’ve not seen a government or corporation. I see people are everywhere. We create the effects of government and corporate ideas by our personal and physical actions.
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So, we use the abstract thought that corporate and government power seems vast to make it conveniently purposeless to act morally ourselves. We sign petitions to corporations and governments to improve their non-existent behaviour and we vote in democracies for the least-worst candidate for utterly abstract power.
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Why lobby governments and corporations to behave better, when it is only through us, the lobbyists, that they can behave at all?
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We are deluded, because –
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Firstly – we ordinary people are the causal physics of climate change.
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Secondly – only ordinary people and one by one, can stop causing climate change.
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Governments, corporations and their disseminators – the BBC and our particularly chosen newspapers – are voices in our heads – coercing bad behaviour.
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Once upon a time, ancestors; church; temple; mosque… – that is, perennial, ancestral tradition – out-weighed the ephemeral coercion of power.
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We cannot conjure those social commons from thin air. Neither can we easily revive them from enclaves of dying embers.
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It all points to ourselves – as Tolstoy mentioned, The Anarchists are right in everything. And as another religious leader similarly advised, the kingdom is within you.
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Thought Three
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Cultures are not the state of things, managed by elected representatives. They are methods of settlement managed one by one by ourselves. Culture stops when people stop culturing.
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Currently, developed economies are cultured by monopoly-controlled tools of retail park, ring road, family cars, industrial agriculture, centralised networks of procurement and distribution and similarly centralised networks of politics and information. Even so, it is only by, and through real people, and one by one, that monopolistic (mostly oil-powered) systems can be applied.
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So-called mainstream political and information networks (such as the BBC) are the political and information networks of those tool-controlling monopolies.
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People have, for the most part ceased to consider themselves as cultural contributors and instead – by both employment and purchases, have become vehicles – conduits or carriers for the culturing suggested by those networks of politics and information. A bargain has been struck. Consumerism provides networks of bottom up requests – in exchange for top down responsibility. The transaction asks that citizens shed responsibility for maintaining the culture, in exchange for statutory rights to the quality of external cultural supply.
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The flaw in the contract is that the top down responsibility is actually a top down right. We have right of supply and right of consumption. Responsibility has been quietly erased from the contract. The culture is a ship at sea. There is no-one on the bridge. The ship’s engineer and deck hands work a well-oiled machine to nowhere.
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It remains true that people, one by one, apply the tools, which make the culture. Without that application of one by one, the whole monopoly infrastructure of super market, retail park, family car, suburbia and so on, will collapse. That network is an idea. People provide the physics, the market signals and the money.
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However, the consumerist pact has shed ethics from actions by acceptance of the “good” of a network, which we pretend has ethics, but in our hearts, know has none. It is a common misconception that rights carry a balance of responsibility. They do not.
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Since all our acts have consequence and so a moral, the shedding of that moral leaves our acts bereft of meaning. We become defensive, confused, belittled and cynical. We have rights, but are nostalgic for responsibility. Responsibility is the source of self-worth. It places us as actors in the larger world. Without it, we cannot be happy.
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The network is unaware of the physics of its actions, because all physics passes through the intelligent senses of people – one by one – all of whom have signed the pact –firstly by the ballot of shed responsibility and secondly by accepting the consumer contract of purchase.
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Democracy and consumerism have merged as a single entity.
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Brexit

Just to keep us focused, dear Reader – Much of the Arctic is currently, in the heart of Winter and in total darkness, measuring two degrees centigrade above freezing. It is thawing. Just about every ancient, and nearly all modern cities are built on a shoreline. Sea level will undoubtedly rise faster than all previous climate models. It will rise over streets, harbours, railways, houses, factories, parliament buildings, pubs, cafes, museums, libraries, concert halls, theatres, mosques, temples, synagogues, churches, casinos, economies, ecologies, people, people’s ideas, animals, invertebrates, plants, fungi…. It will rise over every concern about Brexit.
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In the face of both the climate change and ecological/resource catastrophes, we must urgently and dramatically reduce consumption – that is, shrink spending (GDP), massively cut energy-use in personal travel and trade and manufacturing and look about our landscapes and our cultures – to what they can and cannot produce – and to value, maintain and fairly distribute what production can remain.
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Those that campaigned for Brexit in UKIP, Conservative and White Supremacist Parties, campaigned for the opposite – that is, a New Cool Britannia for world markets with stripped environmental protections and a bonfire of human rights. That is the path chosen by the UK Conservative government – to an area, ring-fenced against regulation and yet with an unquestioning open border for undemocratic corporate interests and banking. That open border simultaneously lets in the rising tide, plus unprecedented storms, droughts, precipitous rainfall, failed harvests, mass evacuation…
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The Conservative government’s chosen path is to wild ecological cascades, accelerating climate change, increasingly-resented wealth gaps and a crashing economy. That particular Union Jack will shatter the culture.
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Even so, Brexit is also an ideal first step for any Green, or socialist transition to a stable future. Remain in the European Union and we remain with obstacles to that future – to de-growth; to parochial ingenuity; to alternative and localised currencies and the ethics – the inherited moral commons, of the communities they serve. It will be essential if any culture is to sit within the resources which supply it, to shrink its demands to fit those resources. More than likely, this will cause the casino to crash and cause dangerous ripples throughout world currency and share and bond markets. But consider this – the casino will crash anyway. The infinite growth in spending on which it depends, was always a fantasy. It has far out-spent resource and so economic limits. Current money flow and the flow of fossil fuels are directly related. Now, as we divest from fossil fuels, the casino will be stretched to breaking point. Government intervention – quantitive easing and so on, will only increase the eventual magnitude of that crash. Whichever way we turn and whichever path we take, there is danger.
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We need to urgently build a culture, which is divested from currency, share and bond markets. We need to build a new and benign relationship for every aspect of economic activity, which can emerge from beneath the corporate rubble. It will be helpful to begin by divesting from the European single market.
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The single, greatest, cultural danger is climate change, the second, ecological pillage, the third, economic growth. Of course, those three are directly related. Each will influence the other. All three are the trajectory of every developed economy – of every EU member state and in particular of the UK. On the other hand, and on the contrary, economy and casino are not at all the same – they influence each other, but they are by no means, directly related. Remove the casino and we can emerge with some sort of an economy.
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I say, some sort, because when casinos crash, companies fold, unemployment soars and tax revenues wither. There will be insufficient revenue for unemployment relief, healthcare and infrastructure maintenance. But if we have built sufficient and localised relationships, divested from the casino, then they may be similarly (at least partially) divested from the crash.
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We’ve come to a point of human folly that every we path we take will be met by a certain amount of human tragedy. The longer we delay, so the tragedy increases. Here’s the truth, in 2017 humanity as a whole burnt more carbon than any year in history. In 2017 we collectively chose maximum tragedy. Yet every government professes to act on climate change.
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I must come clean – I voted to remain in the European Union, because I could not stomach the dis-convivial company of those who campaigned to leave. Yet in an untainted ballot, I would have voted to leave. Should I have been so fastidious? I now think that I was very wrong to vote as I did.
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We’ve seen how the European powers thwarted the efforts of the government of Greece to remedy chaos caused by the pillage of the previous government. The sole concern of the European powers was to maintain the fantasy of an ever-growing monetary casino.
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Those that campaign for a second UK ballot to return to the EU, such as the Green Party, do so for the environmental and human rights protections embedded in EU law. Polemically (and tragically) they also point to the de-growth, which will follow isolation from EU markets as a malign thing. I say that de-growth, properly managed, can be benign. It is an opportunity to begin what we are all reluctant to begin. De-growth is an essential first step. The Green Party is seizing populist advantage and in the process is abandoning its own first principles. We see from the Greek example that EU member states, above all else, will protect the casino – the Euro. That comes before Greek and anyone else’s labour rights, human rights, environmental protections and accepted responsibility for climate change.
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The Cricket on the Hearth

We love fire. Our ancestors probably loved and used fire even before our mutation to homo sapiens. Now we’ve come to an impassable truth. Our fires have released so much gas that the benign climate which has supported our species for several thousand years is about to go wild. Our hospitable, kindly Earth is about to grow very unkind to homo sapiens – and most other species besides.
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Everyone knows this (though many conveniently forget), but still we cannot relinquish the fire. Instead, we call for negative emissions – for fantasies of carbon-eating soils – and even for paying (with money!) for carbon emitting behaviours, so that consciences are salved. Salved conscience can continue to jet the globe and drive to the retail park. Carbon trading schemes, carbon offsets and true-cost accounting are convenient pretences that the physical Earth will respond to inner sophistries of the human brain. Unfortunately, the natural world does not register money – or dispensation certificates (purchased pardons, or indulgencies). It receives no intelligence of those things
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As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, money and dispensation rackets are almost entirely in the hands of the powers, while the consumption, which causes climate change is in the hands of all of us. Of course, while elites personally consume the most and so are the most destructive group, nevertheless, we little people are far more numerous and are not powerless. A great mass of consumption is ours. Not only that, mercantile elites exist by our consent – by particular purchases which make them rich – and also by mercantile connections to the ballot. It’s an ancient truth that I can become rich, only if you become poor – that is by your acceptance of poverty. The wealth of other elites (and poverty for others) also exists by enclosure, or inherited enclosure.
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Here’s something – gross domestic product could be renamed gross domestic climate change. And still more – our current consensus politics, in which we select from just two, or three marketed “packages”, could be renamed consensus for elites, consensus for poverty and consensus for climate change.
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Anyway, to return to fire, the perfume of Ash logs (from fallen branches and wind-felled trees) delightfully suffuses our farm house. I must add that this is another tale of elites, though of a different kind. Through the sixties and seventies, it was almost a badge of honour for green, rural households to wear that same perfume. Now, it is almost universally accepted that burning wood is natural and virtuous – that forests re-grow – that CO.2 released in combustion will be re-absorbed in the subsequent re-growth of trees. Those that know me, will also know that I don’t think that CO.2 can be re-absorbed by regularly-felled, “judiciously-managed” forest – or arable fields. How could anyone? – yet most do so, perhaps coerced by convenience, or by lazy “research institutes” largely composed of green, “alternative” elites like me.
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Putting aside climate change, a perfumed hearth for everyone on Earth will very soon strip the whole Earth of trees. I’ll not bore you with historical (and guessed archaeological) population statistics. You’ll know that once upon a time, communities could gather at firesides to eat and tell their tales. You’ll know that later, Seventeenth Century England had utterly stripped the last of her trees for fuel and for timber. Tree cover was a fraction of today’s. Economic collapse was inevitable.

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In 1600 the Western demand for timber was utterly unsustainable and utterly destructive. Bitter, murderous Winters were certain – but coal – vast amounts of it – came to the rescue. After the mass use of coal, forest cover expanded again. Since 1600 the human population of England has multiplied by 14.8 times, Wales (for me) by 8.83 and the world as a whole by 13.1.  Now today, and for such populations,  biomass energy is heralded by the UK government, the European Union, the USA, the IPCC, and the Paris Accord as the answer to anthropogenic climate change! The bulk of England’s so called, green energy is imported from Canadian and South American Forests. The three Drax power stations in Yorkshire, alone and annually consume timber equivalent to three times the total annual (for all uses) timber production of the UK.
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Yes. My scented Ash logs are another tale of elites. Are those elites, people like me, who have been delightfully privileged to scent their homes in that way? Certainly, a fire, here or there, from fallen branches and judiciously-managed trees can do little harm – our ancestors have enjoyed fire, with little consequence, far into pre-history. Yet we know that by 1600, leaving climate change aside, wood fire for everyone had become impossible. Today we know, still leaving climate change aside, that wood fire for everyone is utterly, utterly crazy – unless we claim the elite privilege.
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UK government disagrees – it wants wood fire for heating Everyman’s home (heavily grant-aided) and for generating her electricity (also heavily grant-aided). Both are promoted as a part of UK climate-change targets. Still worse, using the yet untried BECCS (carbon capture and storage from burnt biomass), it targets negative emissions!

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Here’s a proposition – burning coal emits the same CO.2 as burning biomass, but by using coal we free biomass to live breathe and photosynthesise. Burning biomass simultaneously burns both potential photosynthesis and potential cyclic biomass – it reduces both the mass of bio and its capacity to regenerate. We cannot avoid the proposition that burning biomass is considerably more dangerous than burning coal.
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If we think of cultural transition as a series of steps, it follows that with regards to climate change, the first of all steps must be to stop burning biomass. The second step will be to remove coal – the third and fourth, to remove oil and gas.
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Thinking of gas, fermentation is an essential part of natural systems – breaking complex proteins into the simple minerals necessary for the regrowth of new proteins – that is, plants, animals and so back to fungi and so on, again. Whatever people do, those fermentation gases will continue to rise. We may gather those gases and burn them without additional harm – or greenhouse effect. It seems attractively like a return to hunter/gathering. Heat generated in fermentation can also be used without harm. Those gases and that heat will always be present – use them or not.
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As Joshua Msika has suggested, we can build simple houses above aerobic compost pits (with some obvious inputs). Anaerobic digestion for cooking, heating and (limited) transport/industrial gas is plainly beneficial and can be both self-determined on the smallest scale and also as a larger community/parish project.
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The purpose of this article is to call privilege from its high horse (and high horse power). It is to confess my guilt – I’ve claimed the status of Ash perfume. Similarly, I’ve friends who boast green virtue in heavily-subsidised wood-chip boilers. Come down. Confess.
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Energy had seemed limitless. Now it is not. Carbon taxes, offsets and so on will fail. They make the poor, still poorer in both money and opportunity and have no effect on the rich, highest users. We need energy rationing and fair distribution (such as Cap & Share, Feasta, or Energy & a Common Purpose, David Fleming) and we need common ownership – that is, commons rights, which define common obligation. Let the Earth dictate, not time-warped “alternative” land settlers of the early Seventies, such as myself. After all, such people may have often declared, “Listen to the trees!” – while piling on another fashionable log of Ash, Oak, or Thorn. Sadly, many of us have mutated into leaders of environmental research institutes, or organic farmers and cannot shake off those life-forming delusions.
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Living well on less has always been the primary route to happiness. The less starts first, with all burnt biomass, then with all burnt fossil mass and then with transition to… Well, unless we end the burning of both living mass and fossil mass, there’s not a hope of realising any of the rest. There will be no quiet contemplation, or then a song, or a tale shared in good company with the cricket of the hearth.

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The Great Agricultural Re-settlement, or the Next Chapter of the Fall

Here’s my own picture.
I am a farmer and that is where my world begins. What is an agriculture? I say it is a culture of cities, towns and villages, bridges, roads, canals, harbours – of trades’ people and the trades, which have been created by the specialised cultivation of fields. The industrial revolution was a revolution within agriculture – germinated by fossil fuels, so that today, nearly every culture on Earth is an agriculture. The farmer has a lot on her shoulders, because the greatest towering city, and all its goings-on, is utterly dependant on her crops – although in my Utopian picture, trades and pleasures of every kind bear their own egalitarian apportionment of the weight, so that the labours of fields gain new springs to their steps.
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Farms disrupt natural systems. The more husbandries imitate and integrate with natural systems, so the less they disrupt – but still they will disrupt to some degree. Good husbandry reflects our simple minds more than the complexities of nature. Nevertheless, it imitates, as best it can, the cyclic behaviours of organisms. The highest crop yield will be achieved by the closest integration. “You never enjoy the world aright, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars”, meditated Thomas Traherne in the Seventeenth Century. To which the farmer pragmatically adds – and shod with soil fauna, shaded with green leaves, watered by clear springs and fed by the lives we’ve fed in return.
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I must note that true yield is output minus input – massive inputs massively reduce true yield, so that organic methods out-yield all others.
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So, in attempting to do the best we can, we choose the least worst farming techniques. This is important to keep our humility and gratitude intact. It is also an important part of discussions on climate change. There have been outrageous claims of carbon sequestration (so-called negative emissions) by a variety of farming techniques, such as grasslands, or organically-managed lands – or regularly-felled woodland, or coppice. But the most these can achieve is a balance and that balance, given the flawed nature of all human practitioners is unlikely. As weather grows more unpredictable, as climate change accelerates, so that balance will become still more unlikely.
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Yet, we must grow food and timber. That is the dispensation – hunter-gatherers don’t need the dispensation, but we agriculturalists do. Claiming the dispensation, is a heavy responsibility. We should call on it to the smallest degree we can. Some organic lobby groups claim that converting a lifeless cereal prairie to organic techniques will sequester tons of carbon as soil fauna returns. It is an arrogant claim and arrogance is a problem. It is true that soil life will return – redressing a critical harm – but only to an optimum point, when the farmer can only do her best to maintain that near enough balance. Organic, biodynamic, or perma-cultural methods do a fraction of the harm that so-called industrial techniques cause, but still, they disrupt natural systems – still, they create harm. Agriculture had disrupted for thousands of years before artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides existed, but the atmospheric/terrestrial balance remained unaffected. Some ancient cultures have carelessly mined their own good soils to the point where all that would grow were a few twisted olive trees… (That’s another tale of the pillage of empire)
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We gratefully accept the linear gift of sunlight to heal the wounds in our flawed agricultural cycles. We can claim the food/timber dispensation and continue without guilt as we’ve done for several thousand years, but we cannot claim to be reversing climate change We can only claim to be doing less to cause climate change than some others.
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To end our contribution to climate change we must stop burning both fossil mass and living mass (biofuels) and also leave as much as we can of Earth, untouched by agriculture. Climate has been changed by fire. We can heal it only by quenching the fire. Personal sequestration claims, presented to excuse personal fire are despicable. They do real harm. I know of an organic grower who claimed his (enclosed) carbon-rich soils pardoned his twice-annual holiday flights. Pshaw! Such self-help nonsense can be found in popular, monk-pardoner carbon footprint calculators. It was also delusively applied to the convenient projections of the Paris Accord.
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The dispensation for farming is the growing of food. There is no dispensation for fire. Energy opulent ways of life will destroy themselves. Even an imagined and perfectly balanced farming system with a thriving soil fauna will do nothing in itself to mitigate climate change. It will have minimised its agricultural disruption as a contribution to climate change, but it cannot go further – towards negative emissions. We must remove the cause – we must end the burning – for cultivation, processing, transport, electricity generation and heat.
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If you are a farmer or woodsman, would you be happy to shoulder those so-called negative emissions, which are the foundation of the Paris Agreement? That’s what’s expected of us – are you confident enough to accept them, when considering the happiness of your children?
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Perhaps you boast the sequestration power of extensive grasslands? Are you sure? Who told you so? Was it a lobby group for pasture-fed beef, or an organic, consumer lifestyle magazine?
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Farmers and lumberjacks are supposed to recognise bullshit when they see it. The bullshit is everywhere – from green sources too. This is urgent. There is very little time.

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The catalyst of climate change could ferment a new agricultural revolution as we leave those many millions of years of sequestered photosynthesis to lie quietly in their strata. Negative emissions? – there they are. Leave them to sleep. Instead, we can re-learn our parts in nature – a curious, inspiring, daunting, sobering, intoxicating, fearful, delightful, difficult, liberating and hopefully possible journey. Perhaps rage at what we’ve done, combined with humility at what we must do, may propel our first and diffident steps.
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Those first steps are not into the Garden. We remain outside in the Fall. Our steps imprint. Only our hunter/gatherer cousins can walk lightly enough to stay in that original home. All great religions and philosophies in both time and space narrate stories of the Fall and evolve codes to manage the journey – because, it seems, we are never quite at home. Agriculture is never quite at home.
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Although our great agricultural resettlement can only come about by a mass personal change of all we personages, nevertheless we are social beings and need a vision of the greater moral of how and why we change. It is useful to have Utopia as a measure. Of course, in turn, Utopia must have nature as its measure. The flaw in Utopia is myself. What’s more – Utopia is not the garden – It is the best of all settlements of the Fall. As we head towards the Utopian (unattainable) landfall, natural truths will be revealed by our natural mistakes – without the mistakes, we don’t find the truths, or the new methods. In that respect, I can consider my naturally-flawed nature to be useful. We learn because of our flaws.
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Humility is also useful. “Ne never had the apple – the apple taken been – ne never would our lady – have been heaven’s queen – so blessed be the time – the apple taken was – therefor may we sing – Deo gracias.”, people sang as they danced in the Fourteenth Century. Yes. People danced to religious songs then. They were called carols… Of course, we could compose a dancing song for many aspects of the Fall – of passages from the ease of hunter/gathering to the labours of fields. We yearn for life in the Garden. Since that cannot be, we do our best.
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Natural truth will partially escape both myself and my Agricultural Utopia – that’s why scientific hypotheses are always wrong – overturned by new hypotheses. Today’s accepted and peer-reviewed hypotheses will also be wrong. They will have emerged by cracks in our perception that allow new light in. They remain useful and they remain flawed. Deeper commons – inherited moral truths are unchanged from pre-history. The rule of return is one. We cannot take from the soil which feeds us without feeding it in return. Deeper, both inherited and bequeathed commons contain contracts with nature as well as social contracts.
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That’s why as a farmer I can take the sequestration claims of this or that research paper with a pinch of salt. I am outside the Garden. I am in Agriculture and its commons and I struggle to maintain something like a balance. I know it daily. I see it in the deepening or paling green of my crops – the colours reveal the intensity – the rise and fall of the flow of life. They often reveal the flaws in my husbandry.
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There is no perfect agriculture.
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No agriculture – no food, or timber system can achieve “negative emissions”.
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To pull back from catastrophic climate change we must remove the cause – we must remove fire from our culture. The linear gift of sunlight heals some cracks in agricultural cycles, but it can do no more – the flaws are intrinsic to practitioners – to me.

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We love fires. We must quench them. It’s a very tall order, but nevertheless, here ends the industrial revolution. Machines replaced people. Now people can replace machines. That looks arduous, but it also looks liberating. Growers can take it to their hearts.

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