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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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…
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It follows that cultures, which would sit within their particular rations of Earth must re-empower the ingenuities of fields – emancipation of slaves.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 licenses.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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Speed

What of fossil-powered speed – the borrowed muscular lives of fossilised years? Do we forget ourselves in consequence?
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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…
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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?
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But does that speed lead to a forgetting, not only of human speed, but of all human qualities?
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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?
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What of the purchased fancy of traveling between places, without the revelatory truth of the places in between?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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?
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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.
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In a recent Guardian article, George Monbiot provides this –
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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”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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In truth, money has remained very shakily attached to an unspoken oil-standard – hovering above it on a lengthening, uncoiling, debt-created thread.
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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.
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Acceleration due to people cannot maintain the casino. It will crash.
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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”.
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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.
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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.
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For more on status enclosure, please see the earlier chapter, How Destructive is the Middle Class.
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All enclosures are selfish – anti-social, anti-economic and immoral. Those so called, “land improvements” could be equally applied to the common.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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)
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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.
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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”.
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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.
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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)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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But this is ever-so old fashioned, you say. Well, yes. That is why it can endure.
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Fancy and Imagination

Just as we can love an island set in a silver sea, not for the extent of its borders but for what it holds, so we can love our lives, not for the extent of their liberties, but for what they also hold. Any artist who professes to push boundaries has really not come of age. She remains locked in an adolescent resistance of parenthood, while neglecting the substance of herself.
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Now, Fancy pushes at boundaries, while Imagination considers what she holds. A boundary is a thin line, which generates thin rewards, while what it holds, is of sights, scents, tastes, sounds… loves, friendships, many turnings and resting places… It is full of rewards.
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Imagination – finds intelligence of changing physics as we sense it, married to the inner morality of who we are. Since, we can neither deny that physics, nor the inner morality, imagination is the struggle to reconcile the two, so that who we are and where we stand become apparent. Imagination is a constant dynamo. It is a spring of happiness – it shapes us to fit the changes as new changes come. It eventually provides meaning, as we encounter unpredictable death, love, failure, success… Often, reality and our sense of self drift apart. Imagination re-joins them.
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Fancy – is disconnected from both physics and that inner morality. It drifts out to those boundaries and dreams transcendence. It is not helpful. It provides excuses.
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We can be as fanciful as we choose in an enclosure – we’ve right to choose, so says our Fancy. We’ve a right to choose nonsense. We’ve a right to fanciful consumer choices, to just the limits of our spending power.
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We cannot be fanciful on the common. Physics denies it and morality denies it. We’ve no right to choose the immoral, or even, amoral and we’ve no right to choose the dis-physical – that is – we’ve no right to choose nonsense.
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So, here’s a thing –
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Commons define a right to the responsibilities of imagination – that is, they define moral sense.
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Enclosure defines a right to irresponsible fancy – that is, a right to nonsense.
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That is why commons have been enclosed by elites.
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Should we not be allowed to lie back and dream frivolous dreams? – Of course, we should. Lie back beneath spreading branches and whispering leaves, or listen to the inhaling and exhaling breath of waves on a beach and let the fancy roam…
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But, should we be allowed to enact those dreams by right of our monetary, sexual, military, status, land, intellectual, or consumer properties?
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Dear Reader, those fancies are the cause of such a change in climate that all fancies may soon end. Now imagine the extinction of species after species and also an unprecedented and widening chasm between rich and poor…
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Elites are more and more violently holding onto their enclosures – that is, their accustomed and idle fancies – as physical evidence mounts against them. Enclosures, like fancies, have no sense of time.
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Our battle is to reclaim the common. All evidence, and all justice stands behind us. Imagine that.

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We reclaim the common, by reclaiming the guidance of our inner selves, combined with the evidence of our senses. The deeper we go, the more we are the same. Individuality lives in the shallows. Both depth and shallows are essential to the whole. That reclamation can only be achieved one citizen at a time, through her unique and lonely senses, combined with the power of imagination. Eventually, that citizen becomes Everyman. I am the species. Look what my species has done.
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Even so, the sands are running fast.
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Possible Foreword

My purpose is to show that if cultures are to end further acceleration of the climate change, they are causing, then new ways of life must be found, which no longer cause it. Tinkering with improvements to our current ways of life is futile. We must each of us change how we live, or else be changed forever by our own effects.
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Such new ways of life could be very much happier than the lives we live today. Philosophers from every age have told us that living on less is a recipe for happiness. In short, we must do without just about everything, which the power of fossil fuels has given us in the last hundred years. From now on, we shall be reliant on – not fossil mass, but biomass and all its diversity. What’s more we cannot burn that biomass and biodiversity, but must do all we can to become a part of the biological cycles, which provide our food, clothing, building materials, but not alas, our fuels. We need optimum biomass and optimum photosynthesis. By optimum, I mean the durable maximum.
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The benign, almost infinitely-complex, but self-regulating life-cycles of the Holocene, which have enabled all that we call civilisation, are deflating – the gas of lost lives escaping, like wind from a punctured Earth. Instead of optimum cycles, we tend towards dead linear chaos – that is, the simple causes and effects of the fossil-fuelled and bio-fuelled human cultures. The simple mind of Narcissus has inflated, as his means of subsistence has withered. Perversely, in consequence, he considers himself, newly powerful – a geo-engineer; cloud-seeder; genetic sequence-holder; the ender of history.
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The Anthropocene is not too grand a term. Our oil-powered actions have been monumental.
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Images of a bloke sawing trunk-side of a branch he’s sitting on, or earnestly building a sea wall to protect his oil refinery are classic slap-stick comedies. The same plots are also tragic. Tragedy looks on with the heart, while comedy views it with the mind. The heart knows what is deeply true, but mind has the solutions. It can find tools to fight what breaks the heart.
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The tragedy of a consumed Earth is too great to bear. Even comedy seems too glib; too clever by half… and so we shut down both mind and heart. We must somehow open them again. I’ve seen no signs of an opening yet.
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There is a place where we may pass the deeply heart-felt between the humours of generations. It is old as human cultures. It exists. It is powerful, but is mostly unspoken. It is called the common. A clear-eyed comic revival will be necessary to find solutions to our tragedy. What is the common? – it is an inherited code for the good life. How much space can we take as an individual in larger society and as a species among all the other species?
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There is a small chance that we can partially heal our punctured Earth and live convivial lives inside those self-sustaining living cycles. The odds are against it. We can only change the odds by changing how we live – by changing the causes of the Anthropocene – that is, ourselves. In developed economies, such as the UK, personal CO.2 budgets are long over-spent. We cannot undue that damage – proposed negative emissions are a sordid, escapist fantasy. And why lobby for carbon taxes to encourage what we must do anyway?
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Banks, corporations, governments and their propaganda departments – newspapers, radio and television stations, such as the BBC persuade us not to do the right thing – to remain in their currently lucrative enclosures – to rely on marvellous, yet-to-be-devised technologies, combined with newly-presented, green consumer choices and the same elite’s similar “provision” of liberal democracy.
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They tell us that all will be provided – each from its particular, specialist, rent-gathering enclosure.
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This little book argues to the contrary. We can only change the culture by first changing ourselves and we can only find ourselves, by stepping onto the common.
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If we think, in the ecomodernist manner, that we can devise “renewable” methods to power our currently-massive energy demands, then we’ve not a hope in hell. Biofuels for current levels of aviation alone, will require (per annum) 17 million sq. kilometres, or six times the area of all the arable fields in the world. That is, 68% of Earth’s total land area. A similar calculation would apply for timber-fuelled power stations (such as Drax) for electric aviation. Now, start apportioning the world’s forests… I had the above from Anna-Lotta Jadinge on Twitter, but the calculations are easy for anyone – back of an envelope stuff – use your own envelope. Her figures are UN figures. Next calculate for the family car, industrial machinery, domestic heat, light and air conditioning, commercial road transport, shipping, internet provision…
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Ingenuity cannot replace resources. We will very shortly have consumed the Earth.
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The Seventeenth Century English population (for example) was a thirteenth of today. Nevertheless, the land was stripped bare of trees for fuel, construction and ship building. The landscape was pillaged – truly desolate. Economic chaos was inevitable. Then, coal came to the rescue. In the centuries since, many millions of years-worth of sequestered photo synthesis have continued the rescue, but at a terrible, cumulative price. All the atmospheric CO.2, emitted from then, to now, remains – thickening the roof of the global greenhouse. We cannot thin the roof, we can only end further contributions to it.
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Some woodland has been allowed to return – but not enough. From all its cropland, grassland and forest, English photosynthesis cannot match English CO.2 from English, ordinary ways of life, which fly upwards in a contrary and suicidal direction. That sky motorway shows life loudly accelerating upwards as gas, while the downward photosynthetic gas lanes return more quietly towards terrestrial life. The human metaphor is appropriate. It describes the Anthropocene. Human fire swells and life (including human life) withers.
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If we think that “wicked corporations”, or bad government are responsible for that CO.2, then we are truly deluded. We, ordinary people buy the services. We are the physics, which burns the fuel. Corporations and governments are but an abstract coercion. When did you last see a corporation? We burn fuel every day. This is personal.

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Afterword

Some sweet day, we shall gather at the river and be renewed… The crooked ways will be made straight and the last fears unbound. We’ll reflect beneath the shade of ancient trees, that generations will rest there too – the common flow of humanity – passing the spirit from departing generations to the curiosity, ingenuity and dexterity of the living.
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That’s what commons are – an inherited guide to proper behaviour. We also inherit the Earth. Commons teach maintenance of that gift, so that it remains as complete as we found it. Commons are a kind of artificial, moral genetic code for the anciently-learnt best behaviour of the species. As we accept the legacy, so our personal learning may contribute to it – that matching of appropriate social behaviour with the settlement of our community amongst the soils, minerals, bacteria, fungi, plants, fish, insects, invertebrates and animals of which it is a part.
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With the eyes of ancestors and descendants upon us, we also take up both honour and obligation as we embody their footsteps…
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Except that we can no longer conjure that day. The common – that is, the methods of convivial society, has been betrayed – the legacy cut short, by the most narcissistic and vicious generation ever to receive the gift. Without gratitude; without grief, we took the most copious gifts and squandered them. We betrayed each other and severed the essential curiosity for our settlement – our causes and effects… We took our rights – consumer rights, sovereignties and properties – and treated the common as an old and inappropriate thing to be enclosed and trampled by a right to carelessness (liberal values).
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Gratitude and grief – here is Andrew Cliburn – “We cannot seem to grieve anymore in rich and latticed ways (in public, loudly, for long enough, or deeply enough) and we cannot seem to know that in gratitude comes the kind of responsibility that engenders the act of return. Thinking of gratitude and grief as twins and as totally necessary ways of being maturely alive as a human is no longer a given and probably can’t be until there is a reckoning.”
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But the common is not a thing. It is a vision, honed, as Ivan Illich says by labour, craft, dwelling and suffering – that is, by time’s mutation of the nature of settlement. As we adopt the role of commoner and adapt to it – we find that the role has an obligation to observe – to be intelligent to change. The commoner is the species, in a particular time, in a particular place and with particular skills on which a particular community depends. The advantageous mutation of a community (and in macrocosm, of the species) is always a response to one pair of eyes and then another and so on. One pair of eyes, along with all the rest, connect humanity to her earth. Think of that. Without commons, we have a crazy casino, which most call the economy, we have cascading ecologies on which we all depend (and so must join the cascade) and we have catastrophic climate change.
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As we sit amongst our consumer rights, corporate dependencies, intellectual, status and property rights, the chance of poverty and the chance of riches, we have a supressed yearning for what we cannot express. We cannot express it because the language has fallen from accustomed use. Nineteenth Century poets pursued the difference between narcissistic fancy and physically-inspired imagination. Ordinary people, like me, also know it – standing on the common – in the physics of reactions to our actions – those destructive, or creative actions, which draw a frown, half-smile, or nod from the ancestors.
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The common is imaginative – it guides human settlement in the physics of changing landscapes and seasons. By physics, I mean all that can be sensed. By commons, I mean an intrinsic moral guide to negotiating that often unpredictable physics.
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The common has kings, queens, corporations, newspapers, politicians and bishops as its subjects. That is why we had the enclosures – so that the common became subject to corporations, newspapers, television news rooms, gangsters, politicians…
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Now, the common remains, only in tiny but numerous (billions) of enclaves – in the “sanctity of the home”, in family anecdotes, parental guidance, celebrations and holidays. By that, I mean everywhere. It is plain to me, that those enclaves are the very places (I also suggest, the only places) where the remedies to our currently crazy ways of living will germinate, ferment and finally overwhelm the blind, unresponsive fences of the current utterly-destructive power. A contrary power will not achieve it. This is old as the hills.
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I’m told, I’m away with the fairies – well, that’s also not a bad analogy. I’ll say this, there is no other way. What it means is simple – not esoteric, or deeply philosophic – it means that if I don’t change how I live, to accord with my intrinsic morality, then there is not a hope in hell for the success of my campaign to change society in the same direction. If I campaign for action on climate change by wildly jetting from podium to podium, there will not be a hope in hell of combatting climate change. To use the methods and languages of enclosure to fight enclosure, only spawns new enclosures. We see that everywhere – New Labour politics destroys labour movements, “eco-system services” destroy eco-systems, “true-cost-accounting” destroys priceless commons, organic regulation of super markets destroys organic systems…
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I think it is probably true that the established religions have all, once upon a time, been the formalised voices of the commons. Of course, that formalisation has led to dangers, as political hierarchies within religious organisations have come to “enclose” their status. Then (to use these islands) instead of church and state we come to have a state church (Reformation), followed by rapid enclosure of the last commons.
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If we are to end catastrophic climate change and also reverse the catastrophically increasing chasm between rich and poor, first, we must reclaim the common.
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In our billions of house-holds we have deeply-intrinsic rules – these are heart-felt. We also have pragmatic and conveniently-changeable rules. We have a household economy (actually a tautology) – in which we fairly distribute rations of time (chores and pleasures) alongside rations of things (food, clothing, toys…) We have forgotten that this is also how a society can be run and that this is what happens on the common.
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It follows that to fight resource depletion, inequality of distribution and climate change, we need look no further than ourselves. If we shut our eyes and then remember – the voices of parents and the voices of children, we may find that we already know what to do. As the physics of the world reacts unpleasantly to our unpleasant actions, by all that’s holy, we can set out to behave properly at last.

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On Choosing Peace

I recoil from the foul cess of the Brexit campaign – the bigotry, racism, scape-goat-ism and also, the entitlement to above-the-law criminality, yet I also recoil from the equally foul cess of de-humanised, corporate-supplied, big-is-beautiful trade blocks, such as the EU. Looking out, across lovely fields and woods to the undulating horizon of the Clwydian Hills, I imagine those two armies gathering to topographical advantage. The one encamped on Moel Famai, the other, Moel Arthur – both careless of the soil beneath their armoured feet and the ancient settlements of towns, villages and farms, which lie along the Vale. The victor will flood the land – whoever it is – with their own tides of pillage, havoc – and propaganda.
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I look nervously through my fingers from my vantage on the slopes below Foel Fodiar – the opposite side of the Vale. Friends of mine, feel condemned to join the conflict – to abandon their fields, turn ploughshares into weapons and join whoever they think ferments the least stench. Green Party leaders, who should know better, have similarly abandoned green pursuits in an all-out EU campaign. Civil war draws people in – the white rose or the red? At any rate, I’ll not join the muster of Green Party brigades. To me, white rose and red are equally unpleasant.
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Of my circle, nearly all are swayed towards the EU – into the mothering arms of Europa – particularly as Mad Uncle Sam puffs his ridiculous, but dangerous chest. To them, Europe represents enlightenment and environmental, religious and social protections. She also represents the settled ways of globalised trade and a stable percentage of perpetually growing GDP.
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Those currently-settled ways are pillaging resources, ransacking ecologies and burning so much of them both that climate itself is tumbling from life-regulated benignity into linear physics. Species are escaping from a punctured Earth, like gas from an increasingly-limp balloon.
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Both the leaders of Brexit and the leaders of the EU are set on a course to that chaos. There’s little to choose between them. In Brexit, spending will shrink and so UK effects on climate change will diminish to the same degree. However, that shrinkage will provide an excuse for environmental pillage and so, a return to the same old acceleration of climate change. In Europe, minimum wages, human rights and some environmental protections will remain in place. Neither advocated systems will change the truth that developed economies for all their climate targets and environmental protections are emitting 60% more CO.2 today than when nations first pledged to act on climate change in 1990.
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Plainly, citizens with a hope for the future must break out and away… Citizens with a hope for convivial, responsive, egalitarian and durable cultures cannot retain that hope either inside the EU, or alongside the current Brexiteers. Neither model will survive even to the point where climate change finally wrecks all human cultures. Money flow of either pounds, or Euros cannot expand much further beyond physical limits without a crash. Human fantasy keeps money flow in its banks (no pun) – chasing a punter’s dreams. But as faith collapses the whole deck of cards will become as meaningless as it actually was. All that remains will be social chaos, soil, water, biomass, biodiversity, climate, weather, human co-operation and human ingenuity.
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We come to the word fascism – I think the term is appropriate for the current leanings of many of those of the UK’s Eton/Harrow, or Oxford/Cambridge educated establishment, who back UK exit from the EU. Just as before 1939, it is not truly fascist, but the term remains appropriate. The Third Reich was built less by ideology and more by simple terror – fear, scape-goats and propaganda, combined with a privatised, military industrialisation. In striking contrast to its ideology of demonised usury and idealised indigenous artisans, folk music and nationalist crafts, the Third Reich was run by internationalist bankers and industrialists – not by the state, but by privatisation. The parallel is plain in nearly every respect. Fascism was normalised both by personal prudence (fear) and relentless propaganda – the same propaganda – notably and shockingly by the BBC – is unfolding today.
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Similarly-shocking, (on the Remain side) the once reliable Guardian newspaper has become a collection of sordid and spiteful gossip columns – a mouthpiece for corporate-backed, Blairite, pro-trade-block-EU career politicians and post-truth, journalistic acolytes. The Guardian is conducting a war (in war, we can abandon truth) of its own against the one glimmer of hope we have – an honest man at the head of the Labour Party. (In the US the Guardian would attack Bernie Sanders and applaud Hilary Clinton.)
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It is not surprising that we should run from the foul cess of both sides, but we should watch and think as we run. We need not choose between those two pitched encampments. They are pitched inside the Westminster Bubble. We ordinary people live elsewhere. We can choose peace. Brexit campaign, or Remain campaign – both use seductive cultural illusions, cemented by manufactured scape-goats. Both back the status quo of suicidal economic growth, cascading ecologies and catastrophic climate change. Both back a corporate-supplied, dependant consumerism. Both back lucrative (for UK) war in the Middle East and the most terrible destruction of ancient and beautiful cultures. Both are in the hands of fabulously-wealthy elites.
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There is another world where most of us belong. By a crack in the usual unfolding of time, a leading politician lives there too. A perversity in the course of history has left Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. He is as bemused as all ordinary people are, by the vitriol of both Leave and Remain campaigns. Both campaigns manufacture deliberate lies about him. (It is permitted to lie in war) After all, one from outside the bubble is not supposed to have influence. Caroline Lucas, UK’s only Green MP, spends most of her energy (at least on Twitter) taunting Jeremy Corbyn over his failure to join the Remain campaign. Even though I am a Green Party member, she has lost my respect. Jeremy is a life-long peace campaigner and will not join Caroline’s war.
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Though a majority of us in the UK remain in denial of climate change and cascading species loss – both of which belong to us – they are properties of our personal behaviours – nevertheless, I also think that a majority would prefer to remain neutral in this civil war. Caroline should concentrate both on that denial (the better world we could build together) and on maintaining that peace. The role has fallen to Jeremy Corbyn.

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