Culture, Economy, Ecology and Climate

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

Twitter Reclaiming Commons

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

Reclaiming Commons will be published by Smokehouse Press on 10th December 2018

“I’ll sing to you to this soft lute, and show you all alive, The World, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” sang William Blake
.
The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change says that if we have not reduced cultural carbon emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, then civilisation and its joys will end.
.
Of course, politicians and journalists have skim-read the IPCC report to mean that if we have not begun to think about change by 2030, then & etc.
.
Since, humanity is currently emitting more carbon than 2010, the percentage reduction by 2030 is now not 45%, but 50%. In just few years that will become an absolute and immediate 100%. Looking at modern political systems, it is plain that we have already begun too late.
.
Yet, in the developed world, the largest contributor to climate change is the behaviour of its citizens. Since our behaviour is the problem, it is also the solution. Governments and corporations are abstract ideas. They have not the physics to cause either climate change, or the tragic, cascading loss of species which is falling round our muffled ears. Only people exist. We are the causal physics, which must change. We can reclaim the common. This book explores what commons are and it argues that, fail, or not, adjusting our lives to settle inside an ecological ration of Earth, is the same as the pursuit of happiness.
.
The time of personalities is over. The author is a working farmer, but this is the time of common humanity – beyond identity, profession, sex, class, race, nationhood… Culture is not what we’ve achieved, but what we do. So far, what we’ve done has achieved self-destruction. Now, we must do something different.

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

screen-shot-tce-cover2035

“Noble’s faith in the persistent possibilities of conviviality and the commons, even among the shadows of these times, is heartening and much needed.”
– Dougald Hine, social thinker, writer, founder of Spacemakers, the School of Everything and the Dark Mountain Project.

“Patrick awakened in me the flame of conviviality. He highlights how we can face the future with dignity and do our damned-best to carve out a future for our offspring with the hand-tools our ancestors have passed down to us. The convivial economy need not be a pipe-dream, it existed once, and can exist again. I owe that belief to Patrick. His writing is a flickering torch of light in our dark times.”
– Alex Heffron, writer and farmer

“David Fleming commended that we “do nothing that matters without consulting a conversation”, and his dearest hope for Lean Logic was to encourage such. So I feel sure he would be delighted at Patrick Noble’s thoughtful new collection, inviting a new audience to the critical conversations of our times.”
– Shaun Chamberlin, author of The Transition Timeline; editor of David Fleming’s Lean Logic and Surviving the Future

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.

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

Noblereview26December

patrickcover

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Have a Choice – Between Differing Forms of Tragedy

My passions rise at the sound of the middle class – a million or so of them – marching to protect lucrative ways of life – their property price collateral, and rents for status, money, land and intellectual properties. Those ways of life have become rich by the poverty of others. Such opulent, extractive living is also a central cause of cascading ecologies and climate change. The European project is for a regulated “professional” class, which collects rent from a “beneficial” dependency of the rest. But that European way of life is also causing catastrophic climate change and so is set on self-destruction. If we do not wish to self-destruct, then we must change our ways of life. Reason says that if we are to build an economy which lives within its ecologic means, then we must leave the European Economic Union. We’ve seen by the example of Greece how an attempt at a real, egalitarian, economic revival was crushed by the EU. Similar egalitarian and Green attempts will be similarly attacked. All attempts to slow spending and so resource-use will be attacked. But, such a slowing (and dramatically so) is essential if human cultures are to survive more, or less intact. That slowing means the end of both debt-created and oil-created growth, which in turn, means the collapse of today’s casino of traded stocks, bonds and shares. Money must begin to flow at the rate of energy flow – of the powers of what people can do. Without oil, our powers will diminish by least ten-fold. That is an egalitarian opportunity to at last put our own shoulders to the wheel – acceleration due to people and not acceleration due to many millions of years of once-sequestered photo-synthesis.
.
Yet how can I not admire the richness and diversity of European cultures – and that admiration is re-doubled by the hateful bigotry and open scape-goat racism and English (it is English) nationalism of the Brexit campaign leaders – also of course, their entitled right to lie and inveigle – to float above both statutory law and moral commons. European culture and the EU are far from the same things. A Green, egalitarian Brexit and the current Brexiteers are also far from the same things.
.
I see these things rising – inequality, consumerist dependency, corporate right, disempowerment, hopelessness, usury, wealth of the professional middle class and poverty of the so-called working class – all of which have been the effects of the European project and will also be of the aims of right-wing, Leave campaigners. Both sides of the conflict – of this civil war – have their separate dreams of the same thing – the continuing prosperity of existing infrastructures. As well as causing increasing social divisions, those infrastructures are trashing the ecologies on which all infrastructures must depend and are causing the end of the stable climatic era, which has enabled civilisation to emerge in the first place.
.
Brexiteers and Remainers are trashing our green and pleasant land in identical ways.
.
The EU project is a negotiated exchange of a guaranteed quality of corporate supply (mildly greening & so on) for similarly guaranteed consumer rights to receive those qualities (fair trade, regulated pesticides…). Thus, consumerism and democracy have become confused as the same. It is no accident that the same advertising agencies will market political parties alongside airlines, car manufacturers, restaurant chains, super markets, a new potato crisp flavour, or a new energy drink. The result is a desolation of retail parks, boarded-up town centres and derelict work-shops and manufactories – and with that depopulation – the evaporation of convivial meeting places, such as market squares, theatres, concert halls, pubs, cafes, libraries, allotments, public gardens, playing fields, village greens, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues…
.
I must sort out my Brexit emotions – my instincts and involuntary reactions have become quite different from my reasoned unpicking of the complex threads. Of course, my reasoned unpicking is limited to a small experience and then is fallible, as all reason is, even inside that experience. That should go without saying, but sadly today it does not.
.
Now, whatever happens will be towards two differing forms of tragedy. I hope we may choose the best tragedy – the one most diluted by hope. I fear we will choose the worst.
.
The best tragedy is rapid and deliberate de-growth and so the collapse of the casino – of banks and stock trading. That is a tragedy, because as trading systems collapse, so companies fold, unemployment soars, tax revenues wither and so essential social and infrastructure spending withers with it. You can imagine the horror of that. I’ve no need to expand. Yet, I say we must be bold enough to choose that course, because it is the only course by which, working together as a community, we can cobble a new economy and a new social system that will function without oil – and can emerge alive from beneath the wreckage. Consider this – what will have changed? We will have stepped towards a bearable level of greenhouse effects and, if we are wise, regeneration of the natural world – but also these things will remain unchanged – agricultural acreage, housing stocks, old infrastructures of roads, bridges, harbours, towns and villages – these can all be re-occupied in new and exciting ways, using the skill and ingenuity of all. Power will shrink from oil to Man. It will shrink from single monopolies, to shatter and fragment into the open palms of all of us. We can devise new currencies and new trusts. That’s a wild impossible dream? No. It’s a wild unlikely dream. It’s possible. It’s also beautiful. Our current European ways of life are impossible. They are also ugly. I must be realistic? No. Our European ways of life are a fantasy. I am realistic and they must end.
.
The other tragedy is much simpler and in which we continue to bolster the casino. We spend the Earth. Human culture – its economies, cultures, hopes and dreams, all collapse utterly with none to inscribe the headstone. That will happen quite soon – money supply (by debt) has far outstripped its energy supply and as that supply diminishes further, banks will collapse. The sooner that happens the better – if it happens later, it may well be too late to slow utterly catastrophic climate change.
.
Both an unpleasant, right-wing, nationalist Brexit and a planned, hopeful Brexit with an egalitarian road to de-growth will end with de-growth of sorts and both may trigger a casino collapse and so also, both a crash in spending and a pause in the causes of climate change. Remaining within the EU will prolong the casino and so lead us to catastrophic species loss and inevitable climate change. Caroline Lucas and the Green Party, take note.
.
It follows that Brexit in any form is better for our children than remaining within the EU. Remaining is only better for a temporary liquidity and – an untouched for a while – but still utterly ephemeral shopping basket, which personally contributes to that two or three percent of expanding and suicidal GDP.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My Confession

Have we evolved a consensus for a mass, hysterical psychopathy? Certainly, we have lost sympathy with the passage of human time – with the human consequences of our actions and of course, with other species besides… It is no coincidence that a post-modern insult is that we are (that horrible word) too judgemental. We all have rights to unlimited mirror-time; to me time; to our consumer rights. We’re worth it and you’ve no right to say otherwise. We don’t say, I disagree with this judgement, or that judgement, we say, you are judgemental – you have the quality of one who judges – and that is not permitted.
.
I’ve been considering myself and so also my pictures of others. It is plain that most actions are bad actions. For the pleasures of the mirror, we do no less than dismiss and quite possibly, murder our children and their prospects of children. We narcissists don’t speak of defined right and wrong, yet wherever I go, I note that we do speak of vague good and vague evil – that is, the good of my ill-defined way of life and the shadowy evil which threatens it. Neither have form or definition. Our world is of hedonism, roulette wheels, witchcraft, spells and witch hunts. How do novelists depict the end of empires, such as Rome? We’d provide a template.
.
The mirror provides my identity, so whatever distracts me from it, becomes an evil force. I lash out at distractions and judgements. Rules of proper behaviour are negated – we move from civil law to marshal law – from keeping the peace, to keeping the war.
.
And here I am, keeping the war, because I need more time at the socially-just mirror. I say that as a collective, we have become the most narcissistic and socially-destructive ever to have inherited our spaces and times on this lovely Earth. How do I change that depiction of evil, into a reasoned and defined series of complex wrongs?
.
How do I return to sympathetic judgement; to right and wrong and the compromises in between? Well many of us do so, but how do we remain thus, properly judgemental? There! – I have used the word, outside quotation, for the first time in my life. How do we keep the peace and end the war, yet also speak of right and wrong?
.
Perhaps the Confession may provide a remedy. Here’s my world of witcheries. You’ll note that what distracts me most from my mirror-pool, are the goings-on, less of opposites, and more of compromised similarities.
.
THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER has become a witch-finder for a mirror-pool of ill-defined, middle-class, liberal values. It is vaguely Green – the pool’s reflection is nicer that way. It is spitefully feminist, in the same way that other newspapers are brutally masculinist. Above all, it protects the reeds, irises, lilies and willows of the mirror image. It extols the bank accounts, consumer rights and wages which maintain and fund such garden ponds and so also the EU and corporate-sponsored members of parliament, who have been strategically placed to “represent the Left”. It describes Green back-packing in Cambodia, while conveniently obscuring the flight out.
.
THE GREEN PARTY has mutated from its egalitarian, rag-tag, mish-mash of curious and interested humanity into just another Green Mirror faction, seeking political tit-for-tat advantages – even to the degree that the degrowth caused by leaving the corporate supplied, consumerist trade block of the EU, is depicted in the hustings, not as an opportunity, but as a tragedy! I have abandoned my membership, to pin hopes on rag-tag, mish-mashes of personal good behaviour and of course, on assisting the children – Greta’s children.
.
THE SOIL ASSOCIATION in lobbying, not to end the corporate supply, but to Green and so improve its efficacy and credence, are complicit in the destruction of communities of proper trades’ people. It is a small force towards the ending of proper and curious shopping and meeting places – vibrant towns and villages which are connected to their particular terrains by the intelligent senses and probity of the trades – that is: the ingenuity and dexterity of living cultures. Such lobbying for improved enclosure, must also lobby for the dismantling of moral commons. It removes my skilled contribution to the culture, to replace it with consumer right (it hopes) to a negotiated quality of corporate supply.
.
TRUE-COST ACCOUNTING in valuing priceless commons as capital – and to seem plausible, in under-valuing that capital is a road there and back to where we already stand. I confess (this is the confessional) that my witch-hunt is pricked by Patrick Holden’s re-invention (to step over to the right side of history) as an agroecological accountant from his original role of marketing the above, Soil-Associated, corporate supply. He remains exactly where he originally stood. I am not spell-bound. I’m sorry to be personal, but this is my confession.
.
GRASS-FED, PASTURE-FED carbon-virtue signalling of rolling, unchanged acres is my next witchery. That land would photo-synthesise more powerfully as woodland. Grassland also contributes to an economic surplus (80% of Welsh lamb is exported), while removing what is in desperately-short supply – timber. I do think pasture (grazed green manure) is a useful – an essential part of arable and horticultural rotation and I do think that meat and milk can assist a natural enmeshing of human cultures with the natural ecologies, which must supply them. We are a long way from that difficult balance. We have too much pasture and too few trees – apart from exclusively arable regions, which would benefit from some new (and renewing) fertility-building pasture and the enriching culture of meat, milk, butter, cheese… which goes with it.
.
Of course, what I write is only read by people like me and so it is that I speak to them. Certainly, no Tory, or New Labour journalist would survive the first sentence without disgust. Anyway, as man-made fires and internal combustions release still more CO.2 and as ice mutates into swelling sea water – as wind, rain, drought and temperature all jump crazily from their prevailing patterns – so we must also act outside our own prevailing patterns. We can act both as individuals and in concert. Most of today’s concerted action makes personal action difficult. Yet, without personal action we can have no concert. The passions rise. The witches increase. This is my confession. My penance is to re-imagine witches in their original human state and to speak, quietly and reasonably across our common ground – and also to both sow and share the seeds of old Voltaire’s garden. The old negates the ephemeral and depicts the passages of time – it implies the new.
.
Because the present creates the future, I hope, amongst my failures that I don’t fail too much.
.
***

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Very Short Walk Through the Present

That commons, ordinary household morals, religions and regional cultures themselves, have been a thorn in the foot of the oil state, is apparent in its wars and propagandas – witnessed in the once-stable and beautiful cultures of Syria, Iran and Lebanon; in Latin America; in any region, where a native moral, such as socialism, or native religion, such as Ancestorism, Islam, or Christianity might undermine a universal vision of oil-fed progress – a progress towards the destruction of so-called archaic cultures and ways of life.
.
Puppet governments are sought, or created, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or as we currently witness in process – Venezuela. They are armed and encouraged to wreak havoc – usually in the name of Liberal Democracy that is – to create a dependant society, sans loved terrains, sans festivals, sans parochial knowledge, sans ecological connections, sans past and sans future. Liberal Democracy has become a cult of the present. In that cult, puppet parties are manufactured for slightly differing shades of that present (consumer choice). It is a form of catering. Tory, Liberal, or New Labour parties lay out menus in which, neither past, nor future must intrude in the cuisine. Its most potent political slogan is “Don’t deny the present!” (that is the menu in front of us). It leads to conversation-stopping “Let’s be realistic.” It is no coincidence that the companies which advertise pot noodles, similarly compete to advertise those political parties. Their art is to create illusions that the ephemeral and amoral are substantial and durable things. “Let’s be realistic,” they say, “How can we deny that the super market aisle is laden with pot noodles?”
.
So, that’s our task – not to improve the Cult of the Now by green market signals for greener pot noodles, but to assert our loves; festivals; terrains; skills; religions; philosophies – honouring both ancestors (who created the present) and descendants (who must face what we’ve made) – otherwise we remain as puppet people, much as the states of Israel and Saudi Arabia remain as puppet states. We and they, also remain as agents of dispossession, war, famine, death, migration, economic pillage, ecologic pillage and catastrophic climate change. Of course, nearly all of us here in the UK, are personally creating flood, drought, storm and famine. They are properties of our current behaviour. The current mutations of nearly every species on Earth is facing what we’ve done and no mutations can be fast enough to catch those climatic changes. However, if we live in the present – which we have before us in our menu of consumer choices, we can see that future catastrophe is but an idea, while what we have before us is real. Let’s be realistic, we say. Well, if we listened to the voices of parents and looked into the eyes of children, we’d know another reality.
.
Yes. It is no accident that the seven Labour MPs who resigned from the Labour Party yesterday, did so primarily in support of the State of Israel and with no doubt, some very wealthy and powerful backers – in support of realism, the Cult of the Now and pot noodles. For them, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party speaks too much of the future – of inequality and climate change – and shockingly of the deeply traumatic lives of Palestinians – of their futures disappearing into the mouths of a protected puppet state of the present.
.
Meanwhile, our children are rebelling against the Cult, in which their coming reality is not included. The School Strike for Climate also calls for the rebellion of every household, because every household must budget for the future. The future for which we all make plans, is also not included in the published Liberal Democratic manifestos – at any rate, none have escape the censors of the BBC, Guardian and so on, whose purpose is focused exclusively on promoting the temporal reality of the menu…
.
***

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Short Walk Through Commons, Enclosures and the EU

The factions gather & swell in an entirely human tumult. As the poet says – the worst in passionate intensity call others to the fold. Meanwhile, the ways of life of opposing factions have similar effects, because their ways of life are similar – the only differences being in magnitude – that is, in the poverty, or wealth of practitioners. Wealth commands the greatest effects. Factions are so obsessed with hating their mirror-image opponents, that they forget their similar effects – the common follies of their similar ways of life and also of the untapped virtues of their common humanity.
.
For today, we have a period of great and unprecedented forgetting. It is the Great Forgetting of what we know. We know this – that we are living through the most epic of all human times and that all of us (at least in Europe and America) must dramatically change how we live, or otherwise face catastrophe to end all catastrophes.
.
The human causes of trashed ecosystems and runaway climate change are very simple. They are very easily understood and nearly everyone understands them Even so, the effects are complex and unpredictable. The malignancy is certain, but the complexity of feed-back loups and tipping points eludes our perfect understanding. We can only rationalise unknowns as we stumble upon them. Many, who should know better, are locked in arguments supporting this, or that projected model – to the degree that they become lost in an unpredictable world of future effects. Meanwhile, they may neglect the world of easily understood (and remedied) causes. Present action creates the future – that is all we can truly know of it. Our causes live in a world of simple arithmetic and simple morals – that is in ordinary household economics.
.
In the household, we ration what we have as fairly as we can – in things – food, clothing, toys, bottles of wine… – and also in time – in chores and pleasures. A household is made up of rations of what we can justly do. That is, it is made up, more of verbs than nouns. As we travel out, we carry with us, those filial actions – those household verbs. In the larger world we act out the familiar identity. We know who we are and what we can do. We don’t exceed our rations of things, or of liberties – of nouns, or verbs. If we do so, we lose a part of our identity. We have parents and children. We have tragic and comic passing of time. We embody ancestors and teach children chores and pleasures. This is the world of the commons. Once upon a time, such commons were expressed and formalised by religion. Those commons drove the culture. Leaders could lead – and they could pillage the culture, but they had no means to create it. They could only attempt to steer, benignly, or malignly, what was being created. They needed the intelligence, ingenuity and dexterity of durable cultural tradition to make what they needed – even for pillage. The state depended on vibrant commons and knew it.
.
The powers of many millions of years of sequestered photosynthesis were suddenly brought into the light and multiplied the cultural powers of what people could do by about twenty. But that power was seized and enclosed and so commons withered into dependant consumerism. People no longer made the culture. Coal, oil and gas made ninety-five percent of the culture and without commons of restraint. Of course, application of coal, oil and gas, had no past – It seemed so miraculous that it could end history. It had no concept of the future – only fantasies of future miracles upon miracles.
.
Households, commons and religions have been a perennial thorn in the foot of the oil-state. For a start, the state cannot understand verbs – the cultural power of what people do. In fact, culture is simply what people do to make it. The state would like to enclose all the verbs to make them powerless, yet happy oil-fed nouns. Today, it has largely succeeded. Yet, everything we do has an effect and so also a moral. Morals are dangerous to the state – personal right and wrong, may not chime with statutory right and wrong.
.
Enlightened, new economic models, such as doughnut economics, circular economics and so on are worthy arguments to improve the enclosures. However, such arguments end by endorsing an improved enclosure and so further supressing the commons.
.
Without oil, it is essential to revive the dexterity, ingenuity and moral probity of the commons – of the powers of what people (one by one) can do. People must reclaim the culture from the enclosures and begin living on the common. The springs are not entirely dry. They survive in the household and that is where the true economy must begin – where the word itself also began. I nearly used the metaphors embers and kindling, but fire, today is not appropriate, though we love it so. It is a shame – the hearth – the treasures of the mantlepiece – we love them – but that is what is truly new in our economics – the end of fire and all its mythologies and the search for what we must newly love. That’s a new myth in the making – as potent as tales of the flood and the fall…
.
No. We don’t negotiate with the enclosures, we drain them of our footsteps and our blood. We don’t lobby for an aviation tax, we stop flying. We don’t lobby against the pernicious behaviours of super markets, we stop shopping there – neither do we lobby for their improved behaviours – organic produce, fair trade… We seek proper, fair-trading and organic market places, such as proper trades’ people and market squares. We don’t argue for electric vehicles to re-power our massive oil infrastructures. We change and diminish the structures, to a demand which renewables can supply. We turn our backs and then open intelligence and hearts to a new and possible world. Given current trajectories, we’ll probably fail, but we may not fail – and in any case, doing the right thing, even when it fails is the source of happiness. It remains possible that we may emerge from the rubble with something of a culture intact, as stock and money markets cascade in chaos around us and as atmospheric CO.2 settles back into something like a stable terrestrial/atmospheric cycle. The common can stand as it once did, whatever leaders do, and in the dawn, small birds may resume their songs. There is very little hope, but romance is a powerful, transformative thing.
.
If we continue to waste precious and diminishing time in worthy argument with power’s enclosures (such as the EU), and so neglect our own footsteps, then we’ve not a hope in Hell. We can easily do both, you say? Looking around me, I don’t see that at all, though by all means try it. I hear rising anger and marching in the street and opposing factions with identical life-styles shaking each-others’ lapels.
.
***

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

On the Farm

Farms and gardens remain as the principal engine of all economies. City states whose money flow is largely of the trades and trading are yet utterly dependent on the supply of food. Thus, we come to have a devalued food supply – the modern world over, the labours of fields have mutated to become the labours of slaves. Of course, by way of their money markets, modern cities also pillage trade and the trades, while in turn, those trades pillage the labours of fields…
.
It follows that cultures, which would sit within their particular rations of Earth must re-empower the ingenuities of fields – emancipation of slaves.
.
Whichever way we reorganise settlements and social systems, the new organism must flow through its particular ration of soil and back again. That ration of soil gives the ingenuity of a social system the problem of both distributing its ration of food and returning that ration to soil. As I say elsewhere, it is beneficial to think less of limits and more of rations. Rations indicate fair shares. Limits provide excuses for enclosure, monopoly supply and then – imposed austerity.
.
As I stand up to reclaim my citizenship, I also stand up to reclaim a word – organic, which I define as a cultural method, which gains efficiency by imitation of organic cycles. That is, it follows the rule of return. That the term has become debased by those who’d market it, is not a reason for abandonment. Rather, we must attack that marketing and emancipate the word. After all, many cultural methods have become debased by fossil-fuelled methods and must be similarly reclaimed. My green friends have turned to the clumsy and modernist new-speak of agroecology and permaculture. Both new-speak and modernism (including post-modernism) are a large part of our problem. On the common, the deepest understanding is simple and universal to all. Everyman understands the rule of return and the cycles of life. Meanwhile, the innocence of academic study is a beautiful thing. It should not be tainted by experience. Similarly, agroecology has no place in the wind and rain.
.
That brings us to another and critical problem – inflated claims for carbon sequestration – indeed, also, the use of the word itself. Unlike our thickening deposits of atmospheric CO.2, soil life flows at variable speed in variable masses. Sequestration implies a still and quiet mass – one which denies that mass to the atmosphere.
.
But it is the power – the acceleration of life and death in the soil, which leads to acceleration of green photosynthetic blades and leaves – all those lives, in soil and above following the rule of return. Here we note, by shear experience that acceleration due to biomass (life) travels only to the optimum point that can be maintained within a particular volume of soil, water and air. Within that cycle, it is also plain that complexity means resilience.
.
However hard the organic farmer tries, she will never imitate that complexity and will always fall short of that resilience. We have simple minds and simple techniques. All farming systems will disrupt the efficiency of natural systems. Since modern cultures are agricultures, it follows that our task is to grow food and limit disruption as much as we can, while leaving as much as we can of Earth untouched by the simple, clumsy and limited tools of humanity.
.
It is fortunate that leaving fossil fuels in the ground also enforces appropriate, mostly man-powered field systems. That is – the efficiency of horticulture. Now, horticultural systems will need about two-thirds of their areas sown to green manures. A good way of recycling that green manure is by grazing animals. They provide meat, milk and eggs and also remove part of the considerable work of incorporating plant materials. Animals can be easily managed by “dog and stick” methods. Of course, human wastes can be returned to grazing parts of the rotation.
.
Please note that I speak of what we can do on an instant – we can have perennial fields, such as orchards, but other perennial crops, such as cereals managed like perennial grasslands are a hope for the future.
.
We can imagine narrow strip fields (centuries corroborate it) bordered by hedgerows or fruit and nut trees. We can also imagine cereals grown in the same dis-modernist, horticultural way, in which people replace fossil fuels. Don’t forget, that human ingenuity will similarly replace fossil-fuelled monopoly. So, animals fit that agriculture in much the same proportion as animals fit in nature. To exceed that balance leads to inefficiency and also further erosion of what must become essential – the return of the wilds – for both biodiversity and bio-massive photosynthesis. Don’t forget that hedgerows can be left to grow on an instant and that high-powered flail hedge cutter, can be left to rust – or rather re-forged to more appropriate tools.
.
Another advantage of a human-scale, horticultural mind-set is the slotting of vegetable and fruit growing within towns and cities and as suburbs by necessity (by loss of transport power) fade into new centres and their hinterlands, so people can occupy new rings of market gardens… Small plots become highly visible, and so suddenly possible to the imaginations of many more people, who’d learn both the travails and the delights of their soil; their place; their weathers – that is, the truth.
.
On a macroeconomic scale of a nation state, we would need a third of farmed land in crops and two-thirds for regenerative grazing, or green manures. Plainly, for wealthy nations, meat consumption must dramatically fall. Intensive organic market garden production will liberate land for re-wilding. Of course, true yield is durable output minus durable input, so that organic methods far out-yield techniques, which import (always from somewhere, which is similarly diminished) artificial fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, biocides, matricides…. along with the closed minds of their intellectual property licensees.
.
As we farm, we must know that we are adding to climate change. Our task is to limit that addition. Fortunately, the same task leads us to the most efficient cycling of nutrients from man to soil and back again. Here in the UK. the most fulsome, diverse and successful habitat is untouched woodland. Only there, can we find so-called negative emissions. Those who boast the sequestering power of well-managed grasslands are in truth, flaunting an excuse for the status quo – even though the boast has been made at the Real Oxford Farming Conference – home of an alternative status quo. Sometimes, I find my green friends, to be the most shocking friends.
.
As individuals, as families and communities we must live within our ration of Earth. That cannot extend to rolling grasslands, which are purely allocated for the grazing of cattle and sheep. Changing weathers will lead to failed crops, inappropriate timings for sowing and cultivation and for many mistakes. Even the most skilled are sure to add a little to climate change. But if woodland regenerates over those pastures, it is possible that the whole may muddle along. Don’t forget, we’ll need timber for building materials, far more than we’ll need the luxury of meat with every meal.
.

Negative emissions do not exist in agriculture. Their pursuit is a distraction from the epic journey we all face, which is to remove fossil fuels and biofuels from our lives. There is no escape from this truth – we must instantly and absolutely end the burning of both life and fossilised life. We are no longer super-human. As our oil power shrinks, so time expands and with it a marvellous diversity of space will fill those hours. Distances will become walking and cycling distances, so that we must re-organise both work and pleasure. Fields will return to a human scale – apparent to the intelligence of many pairs of eyes. Work and pleasure will become of necessity, both personally and socially, self-determined (unenclosed). Two people walking, or working side-by-side are more or less equal. The difference being, not in their wealth or status, but in their personal qualities.

.

Of course, we can burn existing fermentation gases (anaerobic digestion). Fermentation is an essential part of life cycles. Use them or not – those gases will rise. Even so, we do not have the acreage to grow crops specifically for the digester.
Devising farming and distribution systems, which are not powered by fossil/bio-fuels is surely a cultural and personal problem of a magnificence to dwarf the anxieties of all the rest. If we do it right, it’ll bring unprecedented pleasure.

.

If a young person, as young people do, needs to escape the parochial, soil-bound identity of farm life, then a wide world waits. After meandering through fields, woods, towns – across rivers and in many weathers, eventually perhaps, she’ll come to a schooner moored at the quay – in-tune with the trade winds. Meanwhile, her natal parish will remain imprinted in memory, in a complexity of images, scents, sounds and personalities, which will all have been harvested at walking speed. That memory will own a greater wealth of intelligence than anyone’s today. It will guide the traveller’s understanding and also at times, call her home. Fossil fuels have impoverished both happiness and understanding and as far as good husbandry goes, have lifted us too high for intelligence of the land below and also too fast for the diverse speeds of a common soil.

.
***

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Speed

What of fossil-powered speed – the borrowed muscular lives of fossilised years? Do we forget ourselves in consequence?
.
What of two people walking side by side? They are more or less equal until they step into what money can buy – a car; an aeroplane…
.
What happens when the energy required for cars and aeroplanes exceeds available energy – that is, exceeds what is possible? Is that a partial recipe for equality?
.
But does that speed lead to a forgetting, not only of human speed, but of all human qualities?
.
What of the time between destinations – both the space/time and the space? Does shrunken time, also shrink space and so the richness of a life?
.
What of the purchased fancy of traveling between places, without the revelatory truth of the places in between?
.
If the places in between are a nuisance to be transcended by those millions of purchased photosynthetic years, is our knowledge not impoverished and our imagination stunted? Certainly, our chosen purchases must crowd out what is unpredictable, sacramental, revelatory, beautiful and true.
.
Listen, as we slow to walking pace, so the great mass of life comes around us in the ways we’ve evolved to live – in obstacles, delights, gradients, weathers, sights, sounds, scent… As we slow, revelation accelerates. That is, as we slow, what is human accelerates and swells. Also, what is possible, accelerates and swells.
.
Here’s something else, as we speed by our purchasing power, so we impoverish the passage of time. That’s as old as the oldest philosopher.
.
So, is slower richer in rewards and faster poorer – even though slower is poorer in money and faster richer? Is unnatural speed, not a perfect parable for folly?
.
May that (if we have sufficiency) be a paradigm for everything? – the poor little rich kid and the convivial cottager? – or, our current ways of fossil-fuelled life relative to a life lived within human limits? I propose that a future moral, good life could be very much happier – and happier for all, than today’s lives of copious consumer-choices for some and debt and anxiety for the rest.
.
What of the speeds of a lifespan? A journey passed without event is impoverished and empty. Is a full passage of obstacles, physical efforts, surprises and unexpected delights really less full of travelling power than the sleeping traveller purchases from those ancient fossilised years? Unless we move at human speed, can we be fully human? Can we think straight?
.
The office worker who complains of the slow pace of rural life is truly confused by the delusions of her speed of purchasing and speed of supply. That rural life is far quicker (in both senses) with urgency of confronted obstacles and the celebration of delights.
.
In a recent Guardian article, George Monbiot provides this –
.
Guy Debord argued that “the spectacle” (the domination of social relationships by images) is used to justify the “dictatorship of modern economic production”. It both disguises and supplants the realities of capitalism, changing our perceptions until we become “consumers of illusion”
.
Let’s think of reclaiming commons as reclaiming past and future – reclaiming the flow of time. Let’s consider re-synchronisation of motion, so that lost things and places become apparent as they re-enmesh. Let’s become the beat of a pulse; the inhalation of breath; the sound of a footstep; the delight and honour of walking side by side with other humans and all the species, which together both reveal and partake in the unfolding of Earth-time. The enclosures fly past along the white lines of a parallel world that has lost a dimension. It is fast and poor. It flies past what is – a common and marvellous gift, to chase what is not – the consumption of a private, purchased and enclosed illusion.
.
Climate change is the last great sorrow; the divorce from time; the last cause of the first cause for humanity at least. Did we come to think of space/time – of the time-full morphology of space? It seems not. We speed above space, but that space became the thickening layers of the greenhouse. The strata of fossilised years became a new. atmospheric strata, and in the same linear manner that we flew from place to place, it weighed down the beneficent living cycles of the Holocene. We thought in straight lines and received them back like a cruel reflection, or final knock-out. Poor Narcissus.
.
We moved by the speed of many millions of fossilised Summers, in what we thought was a new Summertime at the end of history. We thought ourselves transcendent, but Narcissus was not transcendent. He was deprived of the wonders of sense, just for the fanciful consumption of that self-illusion in the pool.
.
***
.
So, if we can ingeniously negotiate the coming casino crash and its real economic consequences – of collapsing businesses, unemployment, shrunken tax revenues and so withered social and infrastructure spending – if we can negotiate that, while looking out for one another, leaning on each other’s skills and somehow trading each to each, having divested from the casino – if, if, if we can, then we may find a world far more rich in possibilities than the one we’ve just left behind. We’ll have lost non-human speed and regained what is human. And we’ll have the possibility to end our further contribution to that highly-personal stock-pile of atmospheric CO.2.
.
Just as money flow detached from its gold standard, raced away as fast as debt would carry it, so our economic reasoning detached itself from reality. Aviation, the family car and suburbia are all detached from reality. They flew at unreasonable speed. Now (we hope) they are beached at the end of history. We can walk away at Earth-speed as history resumes.
.
In truth, money has remained very shakily attached to an unspoken oil-standard – hovering above it on a lengthening, uncoiling, debt-created thread.
.
We’ve a massive monetary shrinkage to face, as we pass through circles of Hell to benign, Earthly ground. First, we must sink though acceleration due to debt-creation, then through acceleration due to fossil fuels. We’ll find on landing, just the acceleration due to gravity and to life in all its forms. Money will be directly related to just the power of what ingenuity and dexterity can do – that is acceleration due to people.
.
Acceleration due to people cannot maintain the casino. It will crash.
.
We can step onto the common and watch our own footsteps either collide with the world, or else gently slip into it. As we synchronise with the clocks of other species, so a world of wonders can expand. The natural world – its crop-producing soils and so on – the potential for the happiness of human societies – will remain immediately after the crash. Thereafter, it can increase by regained awareness – by renewing lost intelligence. Powered by oil, we’d forgotten to be intelligent to our surroundings. Meanwhile, the national governments we elect (Let’s hope. Why not?) can nationalise private banking and let money flow at the speed of human action within the natural physics of a national terrain. Let’s not forget that money is a means of exchanging what we do to contribute to society. The money standard of a society is the sum of what its citizens exchange. Much of what people do, is not related to money, or directly to exchange, because many of our behaviours are productive, but moneyless. Our reward is membership of common humanity. Don’t forget those riches, as we descend through the veils of oil and debt towards solid ground. Meanwhile, personally, each to each, we can devise local currencies, so that communities exchange their trades in ways which are apparent. If my local currency seeks, let’s say, a wind turbine blade, and then finds it must use the national currency to purchase it elsewhere, then a craftsman from the community may see that she must learn the skills. Thus, the community can become more resilient, ingenious and complete. Money cycles can also serve as cycles of recognition, trust and respect. It is only recently, that communities became dependant on “the kindness of strangers”.
.
The corporate stranger will evaporate as we divest from both corporate wage and corporate spending. Corporations were only ever the sum of our corporate consents. Now we invest in each other – in collectives of households on a common soil. We also divest from the corporate media of the BBC and the corporate newspapers – Times, Guardian… We disconnect from those trashy sounds and those trashy prints may mulch that weedy garden bed. Catch the pages as they fly too fast, on the malign wind of oil power and bring them down to feed the bacteria and fungi of good earth at earthly speed. As we enmesh with Earth Time, so past and future may become apparent and reasonable. At fossil time neither exist.
.
***

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And What of the Enclosures?

In this book, there are two principle enclosures, that of land and that of status, which effect everyone directly and perniciously. There is also intellectual property, which is pernicious to all indirectly and to a few, directly.
.
For more on status enclosure, please see the earlier chapter, How Destructive is the Middle Class.
.
All enclosures are selfish – anti-social, anti-economic and immoral. Those so called, “land improvements” could be equally applied to the common.
.
The most elegant solution to the economic drainage of land enclosure is still Tom Paine’s – a land tax, or ground rent, re-distributed to everyone by means of an equally-shared citizen’s dividend.
.
Similar solutions could be applied to other enclosures and monopolies. For instance, fossil fuels could be taxed at source (not at the pumps) and the revenue invested in the common good of renewable energy systems.
.
The now customarily extortionate demands for the status rent of GPs, dentists, solicitors and so on could be heavily taxed and re-invested in a National Health Service, in legal aid, or police and justice services.
.
Of course, John Locke, who witnessed the devastation of the enclosure spree of the Reformation (even after a hundred years) had a different proposition – property for all – that is a house and a field or two, for everyone. Seeing no way to do away with property, he sought a more just distribution of it. After all, most commoners had lost everything that recent ancestors had quietly held as right. Writers from the left, often demonise poor John. Let’s grow more receptive and curious minds.
.
Most, non-puritan writing of the time, is permeated by a half-liberated perfume of lost commons – the common, which dared not speak its name… I’d say, William Shakespeare’s plays are so quietly smoked in that unspoken scent, it lends a kind of ethereal form, or common, lunary sense to his writing. That moon shines on lost fields. Oh yes! – the common has fields. Meanwhile, unlike Thomas More and many others, he kept his head from the equally vicious Tudor and Stuart blocks. That goes for every other 16th, 17th and 18th Century poet besides… – even John Milton, alongside more obvious lost-commoneers cannot supress those rising valedictory phrases. (though in tribute, perhaps to the eclogues of Virgil)
.
One problem with the regulation of enclosures is that unlike almost every other institution, they have no intrinsic moral structure. Thus, they cannot be reformed from within, but must always be disempowered from without. After all, the purpose of an enclosure is to remove the moral restrictions of the common. That goes for land, status and every other enclosure. Once we remove the moral, we remove the means of reasoned argument.
.
Status enclosure may well provide one reason for our personal lack of action in spite of universal evidence of cascading species loss and climate change. We believe that appropriate “experts” have the matter in hand. They do not. Enclosed “professions” no longer profess anything, but are taciturn, discrete and dignified – so dignified that the gathering of rents for that dignity have become their primary end. Those within an enclosure, seldom have much interest in those without. It is heart-wrenching to me, that the above is appropriate for the bulk of ecologists and so called “climate scientists”.
.
I’ve left another enclosure till last – money. What is interest? It is rent for the enclosure of money as property – not as a tool of exchange, but for itself as something owned. On the common, where money remains as a useful medium of exchange, money-rent is called usury and is not permitted.
.
Recent magic money-tree injections of money capital (money property) following the crash of 2008, (quantitive easing) has nearly all washed up in land property and further rent gathering for the already propertied. Of course, the debt-created, magic money-tree money, which is created by private banks is also largely spent into rising property values and further increases of rent. (It is nearly always created on the back of collateral land property)
.
Just as land enclosure provides the right to pillage the soils one “owns”, but did not create, so money enclosure (money as capital) provides the right to pillage the real economy of natural assets, ingenuity/dexterity, wages and resultant social infrastructures of towns, villages, fields, woods and manufacturies. Rent is syphoned from that real economy.
Increasing rent from diminishing assets is not a good equation to contemplate. Status property (GP, lawyer & etc), money property and land property all demand rents from increasingly dry river beds of real economic activity. That activity has largely been powered by fossil fuels. Indeed, the flow of money should be directly proportionate to the flow of energy – that is the transformative power of what people do.
.
So, we have another fantasy – austerity – designed to keep the flow of rent from an energy-diminishing river. Restricted wages and restricted social spending are surprisingly thought to allow the sea level of rent money to remain the same.
.
However, the stupidity of elites should not be a surprise. It is ancient and universal. Personal ambition always has, and always will, remove reason. Enclosure provides the right to live without reason. However, it is only very recently that elites have had even the smallest hand in the goings-on of economy. Thus, we have unreason, even dis-reason everywhere. Now, that the last enclosures are complete and because elites hold almost everything, economic collapse is inevitable – I mean catastrophic collapse. Nothing can replace the massive powers of fossil fuels and nothing can sustain the related money flow.
.
***
.
Over here, on the common, as money and share/stock markets cascade; as unemployment soars; as manufacturing folds; as tax revenue withers; as social and infrastructure spending dries to a lost river bed…. – over here what can we do?
.
We can live as from ancient times, we used to live – the lord in has castle/enclosure and we, on the land, in workshops and factories, trading each to each by means of villages, towns, market squares, harbours, roads canals, rivers… churches, mosques, temples, libraries, meeting houses, pubs, theatres…. already stand by a common vision of what we are. In spite of cascading money markets, all those things remain, nestled among fields and woods –If we begin to divest as best we can from the amoral and immoral enclosures and reinvest each to each (moral citizen to moral citizen), it will be possible to form a real economy as the fantasies of the casino crash around us. Money is but a tool – a medium of exchange. At a pinch we can exchange skills and their produce without money, but money is very useful. We can make our own. Those with surplus can invest (as of old) in another’s venture, by means of non-tradeable shares – we partake in the adventure for better or worse – it is the bond; the trust. At the base of all transactions, however regulated, is trust.
.
I don’t see a springing up of alternative communities and eco-villages. I see the shadow of a proper economy everywhere, waiting occupation by the nervous system and metabolism of Everyman. It’s a shame that I must interject that Everyman is sexless.
.
But this is ever-so old fashioned, you say. Well, yes. That is why it can endure.
.
***

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment