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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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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On Being Conservative for the Common Against Those who are Conservative for Enclosure

I don’t think I can do whatever I like. I don’t think I have unlimited rights to express my creativity, sexuality and so on – though I do have some rights. In truth, we cannot be creative in a world without limits. We need forms. For example, every work of art is fleshed around a kind of moral skeleton, from which it has no liberty to stray without loss of meaning. Once upon a time, I came of age into a time of obligation and mutuality. I must be conservative. I also came of age into a world of natural delights, which were not of my making, but which I am bound to protect, celebrate and pass on for the delight of others. Those delights are not mine, but I can contribute my perception of them. I cannot “improve” them, but can easily do them harm. The protection of delights of the common is a learnt behaviour, which we first inherit and then bequeath as our children eventually come of age. Culture is what we do, not what we are or have. Commons are the inherited dynamo for methods to maintain a culture. Commoning may be dextrous, ingenious and inspired with new perceptions, but it must always be conservative.

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Enclosure is a device to escape the obligations of the common and so gain personal liberty to misbehave. Today’s so called conservative political parties have all been founded to protect the lawful amorality of libertines. Every enclosure is the same – land property, status property, intellectual property, monetary property – and their rents…

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Let’s think of commons and rationing – commons and the duration of space or conversely – the substantial punctuations of time…

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Here are some thoughts – The language of the common is rhythmic.
The language of enclosure has no sense of time.

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All is urgency on the common today – climate change, cascading species-loss and the invasion of dis-functional cult economics. Behind the enclosures we can gently sleep. In truth, the mass of population reclines behind the wire. Many though, anxiously pace labyrinths of debt and rent – in waking nightmares. Some are entangled in the wires, while commons call, like birds singing from inaccessible woods.

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Because most political, social and working life is enclosed, people falsely conclude that our struggle must be to improve those enclosures – not to step gently into the wood. That choice, to weave improvements into the wires, is the course taken by most of the liberal left. It endorses enclosure.

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Today’s conservatives would consider this writing to be “radical left” and yet, though I’ve little choice but to identify with the left, I consider myself at heart, conservative.
That is, because I would be conservative from the common – the common of the duration of things and of allotments – allotments of both space and time. I have rations of space and time. The heart of my economy is both the celebration of what I have and also its absolute rationing – fair shares.

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Farming practice is a useful model for every practice – the practice of rationing – the law of use and return, so that what we do is fitting. How do we fit? Within a restlessly paced boundary? – No. I say, by the practice of fitting and conservative behaviour.

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Green writers use the terms limits and boundaries, but seldom rationing – the allotment of rations and also the rationing of allotments! But a ration is a palpable substance that is also shaped by duration. My ration can be loved, hallowed, tasted, shared. I can rest in it and I can call it abundance for just a while. It does not ask me to pace boundaries, or to pause at an extent. I live at its heart. I am a part of both its nerves and its metabolism. I can enjoy my responsibility for it, knowing that my eaten cake will vanish, just as Summer comes and vanishes – everything, including the sequence of my heartbeats will vanish. We carefully share rations of such precious things. If we fit our ration – let’s say of soil, water… and follow the rule of return, then we can fit an undiminished landscape of soil and water that yet bears our traces. (see Ivan Illich, below)

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Commons define fitting behaviour and that behaviour must always be conservative. Consider this – a synonym for fitting might be happy – or felicitous…

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Also consider – modern conservatives, such as those in the currently extreme right-wing UK Conservative Party, would conserve their status quo of monopolies; of status – they’d extend the rigid shape of an existing fence-line into changing times, while this writer from the apparently radical left would conserve the far more ancient moral directions of the common, which also mutate as the times mutate.
Note that this conflict is an ancient one. It indicates why empires will always fall.

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Modern conservatives conserve no less than the stillness of property (land, status, seed…) at their imagined and preserved end of history. But history unwinds invisibly… – visible only to the unenclosed common intelligence of human beings.

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Here is a favourite passage of mine from Ivan Illich, (Declaration on Soil 1990) –

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“We note that (such) virtue is traditionally found in labour, craft, dwelling and suffering supported, not by an abstract earth or energy system, but by the particular soil these very actions have enriched with their traces.
Yet in spite of this ultimate bond between soil and being, soil and the good, philosophy has not brought forth the concepts that would allow us to relate virtue to common soil, something vastly different from managing behaviour on a shared planet.”

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In case that readers think that mere philosophy is a snowflake falling to the fire of today’s awesome problems, I note that the study of economics – the management of households and their supporting businesses – is a branch, I think the central branch – the trunk, of moral philosophy.
I’d go as far to say that commons are inherited and also bequeathed moral philosophies – the time-honed, ancestral guidance of community.

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Eric Linberg beautifully discusses the same in a deeply thoughtful article on the conservatism of Wendell Berry. (Look and See; Listen and hear: Wendell Berry and the Contradictions of our Climate, Resilience.org)

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He speaks of Wendell Berry’s “unembarrassed appeal to morality and its requirements. More specifically, the moral order of a unified society, Berry says, “requires the addition of a third term: production, consumption, and return. It is the principle of return,” he continues, setting up perhaps the most beautiful lines in The Unsettling of America, “that complicates matters, for it requires responsibility, care, of a different and higher order than that required by production and consumption alone.”

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And in a following passage:
“Thus, the great internal conflict within Liberal Environmentalism, not to mention left-leaning politics in an age of limits. Our natural environment requires this “care and responsibility of a higher order,” yet Liberal choice forbids any such requirements. We desperately need limits and constraints; yet our Liberalism requires that they be freely chosen and that they reflect our personal style. One of my main purposes, here and elsewhere, is to reflect on the way a reconciliation to this contradiction is or might be imagined. An originary Liberal attempt, lost long ago in the trenches of the Somme and scattered by the fragments of modernist culture, was the dream that Enlightened knowledge would guide us to freely choose a higher order. More recently, the systematic depersonalization of power, order, and authority represented by the market economy has been a facile proxy. Communitarians, in contrast, have hoped that finding a true natural order would provide a “reunion to that which one belongs and from which one is estranged.”

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The rule of return is the central principle of all farming methods. It is a part of both that belonging and the defeat of estrangement. It is also the central moral of the commons. One whose guidance is the rule of return may be called a conservative – conserving by methods which focus on, as Ivan Ilich says, not an abstract earth or energy system, but the particular soil these very actions have enriched with their traces.

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Of course, we may be imprisoned or worse for living beyond the wires, but we negotiate the conflict as best we can. From the common we must negotiate with the enclosures.
Dougald Hine explains the danger in that negotiation. (The Three Languages You Need to Bring a Project to Life, dougald.nu):

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“The Upward language is the language of power and resources: the language of funding applications, the language of those who are in a position to interpret regulations and impose or remove obstacles. It is not a reflective or a curious language, it is a language of busy people who make decisions without having time to immerse themselves in the realities their decisions will affect. It is an impoverished language and when you have to describe what you are doing in its terms, you will feel that something is missing. You need a guide who is initiated into the relevant version of this language, who knows which words currently act as keys to which doors, what you have to say to have a decent chance of the gatekeepers letting you through. Yet even inside these institutions, you are dealing with human beings, so if you can allow glimpses of what matters about your project to show through the filter of keywords, it may just make a difference.”

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He points out the dangers:
“For example, you might recognise the kind of project which has an Upward language but no Inward language, which appears to have been constructed entirely for the purposes of accessing funding and resources, with no underlying life to it. Whole organisations seem to exist to create such projects, serving little other purpose.”

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Many green writers, though usually with the best intent and I’d say, nearly all NGOs have lost their way with that upward – what we might call “grown-up” language. Such language is usually studded with acronyms and code words which demonstrate the speaker’s battle-hardened prowess in a “real” grown-up world. Such adversarial language is rather like the trespassers will be prosecuted signs at the fence-line of enclosure. It has not the diversity to celebrate what’s within the fence – to make it worth the defending – it is a tool to keep invaders out. At the edge of the Hundred Acre Wood in which Pooh and Piglet hunt for the Woozle, a sign so faded that only the letters, Trespassers W remain, leads Piglet to fancifully expound how Trespassers W was an ancestor of his. As David Bollier (and also Lee Hoinacki) points out, the common is a realm, more of verbs, than nouns. I’d go further – it is a spiritual world – the same spirit which was inhabited by our ancestors and must remain for habitation by our descendants. The wood (or guiding spirit) is populated by goings-on; by verbs; by responses, whereas the woodland property is made up of nouns – unresponsive things. In the language of commons, we can speak of time – of the duration of things and of a variety of clocks of differing speeds, such as receding, or returning felicity, decay, regeneration, life-span, ancestry, heartbeats, hopes, tides, diurnity, seasons, or the elasticity of times between hope, excitement or disappointment during a Woozle hunt in a hundred-acre wood…

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If grown-up language has not the capacity to express the whole of truth, then we should use it with the greatest care – though it may be a tool for defending those lawful (and lore-full) properties of a common – that is, their right to exist – to be acknowledged in the eyes of others. It may express simply – this common exists.

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When Theresa May leans forward, wagging her finger, to say, “there is no magic money tree”, she is using the ancient ploy of those who live by such trees to keep commoners in their place and without them. Theresa lives by magically debt-created money; by quantitively easing magic money into the money flow – most of which ends in increased property prices and increased rent – accumulating the wealth of those reclining beneath the money trees, while further impoverishing those, who by Trespassers W, have been expelled from the wood.

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But the phrase is effective, because there are no magic money trees on the common, or in an ordinary household. She appeals to both an ancient moral and a law of physics to maintain the depravity of the amoral and dis-physical casino which sustains her circle of friends and her government. Householders know that money does not grow on trees and so return home reflecting that our Theresa has a wise head on her Tory shoulders. Many, who would otherwise consider that social justice and climate change were a part of balancing budgets, instead, recoil from the idiocy of magic money trees (the social spending of the Left) and vote for Theresa in the following ballot. Citizen-contributions to pay for that social spending are similarly demonised by the wagging finger as importunate attacks on hard-working households.

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I suppose the lesson of this little essay is to beware of grown-ups – the grown-up in ourselves as much as in others. Our true coming of age is into the spirit of the common; into the responsibilities of the rule of return and the maintenance of the joys of precious things. That is – to become conservative and to stand against the violent conservation of suicidal, time-dead, greed-laden fence-lines, which has become the purpose (in UK) of Tory, Liberal and New Labour political parties. The world over, it seems that similar stories unfold…

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The Music of Time – or how we’ll not change the music, unless we change how we sing

We don’t need more renewable energy to power how we live, but to change how we live so we don’t need that power. The power of fossil fuel has been so great, that no regenerative source can replace it. Culture is what people do. What cultures did by fossil fuel is no longer possible. Regenerative sources will change what cultures can do.
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We’ll not achieve that massive cultural change, without massive personal change. We are social creatures. In me, is the template for the whole – I am society. Only by changing me – that is you and me, can we, all-together, change the culture. I live in the ways of the culture and the culture lives in the ways of me.
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A culture is a collective of households (or nomadic tent-holds) living in similar ways, and within agreed restraints and liberties. It shares pleasures and also necessary pains. It is fortunate that new, or rather renewed restraints to how we live have the same behavioural limits, which were managed, celebrated and recorded by our ancestors. And so, at the deepest level, we all understand those limits – they are scored into cultural memory.
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It should be a natural relief to step back inside natural limits. Limits have forms, sounds and scents – we can touch them – taste them. They should feel like home. We’ll be prodigals shuffling homeward from a wild fossil-fuelled adventure to finally open the familiar garden gate. There, we return to the judgements of aunts and uncles and neighbours. There are delights and comforts, but also restrictions. The same may be said for evacuating the wild fossil-fuelled casino, which most contemporary “economists” (even green economists) call an economy. We leave it behind to open the leger of the household – which always was, along with all the other households, the substance of the economy.
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A house sits quietly in its landscape of neighbouring houses, workshops, fields, forests, wilds, roads, villages, towns, canals, rivers and so to the sea. Householders use inherited infrastructures by similarly inherited moral codes. After all, we are all born into such a landscape – first negotiating it by parental guidance and then by rites of passage to the probity of adulthood. Both infrastructure and its morals can evolve, or change – sometimes by economic necessity, sometimes by common inspiration and often at a shallower level by the manipulation and coercion of elites. Packs, flocks, and herds of other mammals are similar to human clans in that all have leaders. Benign human leaders have followed those courses of necessity and inspiration. That is, they are happy for the culture to be generated from the bottom up. The bottom is where dexterity and ingenuity live. A good leader protects that evolution. Only then can a culture thrive – sensually connected through thousands of senses, to a naturally changing landscape – of weathers, crop yields and the testing of ingenuities. It is plain that today’s leaders do not protect that essential evolution. They pace the borders of a variety of enclosures. An enclosure is no less than right to amorality, freed from the ancient obligations of the common. It follows that our task is to evacuate enclosures and reclaim the common.
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We’ll not reclaim the common only by negotiation with the enclosures – which is the course advocated by those who say we must seek social change before we seek personal change.
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Necessity to act – let’s say on climate change – is a moral necessity. There is no morality in an enclosure – that is its definition, and so to act, we must step onto the common. That is a personal step, and hopefully, one in concert with others. Much of our hand-wringing and anxious excuses are at the tangled barbs and fences of enclosure. We say, we cannot act because we are dependent on a variety of monopolies. And so, we struggle to negotiate improvements to monopolistic provision. We say, let’s improve society, so that I’ll be freed to improve my own life. We say, let’s lobby for a tax on carbon, so that I may burn a little less of it – or let businesses demonstrate true-cost accounting, so that the extra price restricts my purchasing – or let’s pay a little extra for a ticket, to buy a tree, every time we take a holiday flight.
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I see it as an absolute truth that moral commons bind societies and that amoral enclosures disintegrate them. I don’t say it is easy to stoop under the fence and back to the wagging, social finger of the common. I say that it will an epic adventure of searing pain and trembling joy. Sitting carelessly in personal properties and by our personal consumer choices, we created the culture which shook life askew from the quiet courses of a mutual evolution. We are not the insignificant, or lowly pawns, which need social change before personal change. We are full of ravening power. The respirations of a balance – the breath of the Holocene – that is, the loveliest breath of nature, which rapt, we hear at dawn’s chorus, or see in hedge banks of wild flowers, or as a passing cuckoo calls, we descend the scented turf of a hill, is coughing blood and fading, species by species.
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Behind the fence, my oil-lungs breathe easy for just awhile, but this is personal. It was always personal. The damage is personal and the solutions are personal. Enclosure doesn’t say otherwise, only that we’ve the right to both say and do otherwise and that our right to dissemble is protected by law. Property law is a daunting thing. It also says that I’ve lawful privacy – that behind my net curtains, tinted glass, castle moat, intellectual property patent… I’ve privacy to do whatever I choose.
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On the common, we know that our landscape – the one that reacts to personal footsteps – cannot provide the energy that oil once provided. We have personal senses to gather that knowledge – it’s in plain view. We know from the trial and error of a garden fork, that our small patch of soil, plus that additional acreage which grows our food, plus also that small wilderness we cherish for personal recreation, will not sequester the equivalent carbon to an internally-combusted and oil/gas/coal/wood-heated, lighted and transported way of life. Yet that is the claim from behind the enclosures for offsetting, for national carbon budgets, BECCS and so on.
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If mine is an ordinary household, then it can be diagnostic of the rest. If my household is unbalanced – that is, if it does not sit happily in its ecology – I can guess that the macro-economy will be similarly unbalanced. The larger economy – of parish, county, nation state, is always but a collection of households. Modern economists will tell you otherwise, because they think that the casino of land values, currency manipulation, share, bond, and futures trading, plus forms of rent, for status, for land and for money (interest is rent) is an economy. It is not. It is a casino.
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In that confusion we find a simple truth – economies live on the common, while casinos are enclosed. That’s why there is no conversation between the two. The languages are incompatible. Morality and amorality cannot happily coexist. Of course, they do unhappily coexist – the model is myself. I am entangled in the wires, while the voices of the common – of the longue durée – of ancestors, descendants, neighbours… – call for me to behave properly. I am a twisting courtroom of denial, pleas, excuses, justification and guilt. It is not an easy thing to change a way of life that is bound in the familiar – family and friendship, wages, debts and duties.
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Duties! – don’t duties live in the moral world of the common? Doesn’t family and friendship live there too? Of course! – We return to the household. Through the garden gate – as the gate swings-to behind us, we enter a world of families and friendships – of anecdotes, memories and future hopes – and of household accountancy – of the true economics of expenditure, rationing, capital and commons.
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Have you not noticed that there is no conversation over the garden hedge between the sanctity of home and the wider world of the casino, which casinoists, such as the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, have the affrontery to call an economy?
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Climate change is the messenger that a whole economy must settle down, like a house in a landscape, within the budgets of its ecologic cycles. Otherwise, Earth’s auditors will come in to re-possess accumulated assets of fossilised years – not as gas and ashes – not as space, but as time – as the tenure’s end. That budget guides the true economic metabolism of use and return. Balancing household columns is the beginning. It ends in a similar, collective balancing of a social system and its collective economy. To unify our purpose, we live by inherited commons of justice and distribution. Commons attempt no less than fair shares of happiness within the restraints of tomorrow’s share. Time brings a ration, which commons define.
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The common is maintained by singular commoners to the rhythms of days and seasons. Singular senses observe the changes and act on them in concert – in observed concert – sometimes rapid – at other times more slowly at a savoured pace. Just as a market square fills trader by trader at dawn, then continues to swell as town’s people stroll past, because it’s market day, or just as, one by one across a landscape, people gaze at the darkening sky, feel the first drops of rain and in sequence abandon harvest plans for a while.
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Similarly, I must act to reduce my own use of fossil fuel, because I observe the climate changing. On the common, I act and trust in the actions of commoners. Together, we don’t petition an authority to somehow create a social system that has artificial incentives for us to act and deterrents to prevent us from not doing so. We don’t ask authority to tax fossil fuel, so that it becomes more difficult for us to afford it. We act because it is the right thing to do and because we are a part of what Victorians once called, the moral fabric of society.
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Enclosure has no concept of time.
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For most of us today, at least in Northern Europe, we are entangled in the wires of enclosure, while our hearts are tied to mistily perceived ancestral commons. Within the household, those commons are still brought out into the light and shared like those family treasures on the mantlepiece. Parental instruction, bed-time stories, old family adventures and holidays. It’s personal we say, work targets, rent and debt don’t intrude.
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We don’t need more renewable energy to power how we live, but to change how we live so we don’t need that power.
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Can we change a social system so that a whole society begins to do the right thing? How? – By military coup? -by clever use of the internet and thought police? – by fantastical dreams of the ballot, where we shout rather loudly at the hustings? Plainly, the answer is no.
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To abandon fossil fuels and to re-learn what a living landscape can provide, we must step back onto the common. That is a solitary act. We do it, because it is the right thing to do. Others do the same. Gossip in the market square also says it’s the right thing to do.
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That’s how I began this essay. The only energy will be renewable energy, and that can only support a far more modest way of life. That modesty will prove a source of happiness, because as our powers decrease, so the world expands – in all its forms and species in both time and space. Don’t forget that we’ll re-find a sense of time, which has recently been missing from our lives. But mostly, by personal footsteps we gain personal significance and worth.
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My worthies, those synchronised steps can make the concert music of time, which oil enclosure once shattered to silence and ennui at the end of history – and they can make that old moral fabric sing with each contributory voice.
.                                                                                                                                                               And listen, as the first dust rises from the enticing roads of Summer and you long to set out with that rock ‘n roll band, you don’t think of negotiating a rock ‘n roll system – first, you master your own instrument.

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A Little Summary of my Thesis

FIRST
The dramatic social change necessary for modern cultures to survive more or less unscarred will not happen unless citizens change themselves – as individuals.
I can lobby governments and corporations to change – it does little harm, but if it distracts me from personal change, then it will do more harm than good.

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Sometimes we must engage with authority, because authority is preventing our (or others’) steps towards the good life, but those steps must remain our principle focus.
Physics reacts to physics. I am physical. Governments and corporations are abstract. They do not exist. They can only become physical firstly, by the individual purchases and sales, which make up the fabric of a corporation and secondly, by distortions to my behaviour, which have been coerced by governing authorities.

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I cause climate change. I deplete resources. I pillage ecosystems. Governments and corporations cannot. They can only do so, through me – through the physics of me.
However, in the realm of abstractions – of ideas, advertisements, manifestos, white papers, trade agreements, environmental and climate agreements – truth is important. So, I must engage with the falsities of those things – and even, on occasion, applaud their truths.

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Even so, just as with the physics of personal behaviour, so it is with our inner lives – if we become distracted from our own thoughts, by entanglement with the thoughts of others, then that engagement will similarly do more harm than good.

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Should we not be entangled with the thoughts of others – friends, colleagues, neighbours, writers…? Why yes – but the measure remains – if our own thoughts are stimulated then entanglement is good – if we become distracted from them, then entanglement is bad.
If deeply-held truth is not expressed cleanly and simply by ourselves – that is, one cell of the populace, how can we expect it to become a part of the popular gossip of let’s say, a market place?

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I do not think I am extra-ordinary – the unique individual of self-empowerment manuals. I am ordinary – just a bloke passing by, so that when I truly express myself, I can express everyone. Often, I don’t express myself truly – I avoid difficult truths and invent self-justifications – that is, I lie – and so it is that I come to have the above conversation with both myself and with Everyman.

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SECOND
Relatedly to the first, we apportion too much power to the powerful and not enough to ourselves. This is not to self-aggrandise – rather, it is to stir personal obligation. For instance, the powerful can only cause climate change through me, as their instrument. Their power is by my shopping basket; by my adoption of ways of consumption which are suggested, coerced, or imposed by them. Without my participation, the powerful can have no power.

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Yet history does not record my actions. It records the fortunes of princes, lords, nations and city states – their generals & admirals and also strategic intermarriages. This leads to mistaken policies of otherwise benign campaigning individuals and NGOs who concentrate their energies towards what they see as the forces of history. Yet that history and that force, is a fiction.

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How are cultures made – stories told, houses, bridges, harbours, roads, ships, churches, mosques, temples built? They are made by the unrecorded skill and ingenuity of ordinary people. Power may have a hand in restricting, taxing, bleeding and outright destroying those things, but it has not the means to make them. You say that power can pay for them? – How? Its wealth is derived from the above restricting, bleeding & etc. Without the skill and ingenuity of physical people, power can have no substance. Truly, it is a ghost in the machine.

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Culture is what we do, not what we have, or profess to know. All that we do has an effect and so has a moral. Only we can know what we do and so only we can make truly-informed moral decisions.

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With regard to campaigning individuals and NGOs, their focus should be on what makes a culture – that is on what people do. Without my purchase of a ticket, the airline will not exist and the crafts’ people who build aeroplanes will have no function and so must find another. To concentrate on the powers, gifts them a re-enforced credence. It says that if power responds, then the culture will similarly respond. I think that is untrue.

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The ghost in the machine, which is power, cannot cause species loss and climate change. That is my choice. Power can prevent my good action, but it cannot act without me. It cannot build an aeroplane. So, when we engage with the powers, we should engage to restrict their restriction of our good actions. That engagement will usually fail, but nevertheless it is worthwhile to persist, so that we become freed to act more properly. We try by the ballot (new powers) and by suggestions for benign changes in taxation and distribution and in money markets. And we lobby for civilisation – for the commons; for environmental and human rights protected by law.

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However, if we lobby to prevent that third runway, while simultaneously booking a business, or holiday flight, we provide a positive market signal for building the runway, we cause climate change and we demonstrate that we are not interested in the consequence of our actions but are more interested in posing as a counter to the powers – that is, to become another power – another ghost in the machine. We add to the false narrative of history – which is the ebb and flow of wars, borders and properties – which, once upon a time, were sung by court bards and now are sung by journalistic sycophants to the ghostly corridors of corporations, gangsters and governments.

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I say that we engage with the state, but not with the powers (the powers of that wrongly sung narrative). The state is a system of taxation and redistribution, of rights and protections in law and of democratic accountability. Unfortunately, both the state and the ballot are often in the hands of the powers. The powers neither engage nor converse. However, we can converse about taxation and spending, negotiate rights for future generations and hope for a part of the ballot to represent those views.

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We can only engage with the powers by power’s methods – by becoming a power or power’s dependent. If we succeed, or fail – both ways, we will swell the credence of power.

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My accustomed example is engagement with super markets by market signals and by the direct lobbying and petitioning of populist NGOs.

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The proper way for communities to revive self-determined towns and villages is simply to occupy them. That is to evacuate the super market and to populate proper trades, shops and market squares. We don’t engage with the super market. We disengage – and also gossip about the disengagement in the convivial company provided by that market square.

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The more the super market provides our suggested good of organic and fairly-traded produce, so the more powerful it becomes and the more the dereliction of our centres of community swells. Further shops and workshops become boarded up with the cheapest wood and the cheapest sadness.

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Similarly, the greening of the family car by reduced emissions, or by the electric car, re-enforces an impossible corporate dependency and an impossible way of life and work which has been built around a network of roads and family cars.
Of course, everywhere we look, naked power is rampant and moral commons are shrinking.

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However we don’t defeat power by becoming it.
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Stepping onto the Common

How do we find universal truth? – by shutting our eyes and looking within. I am Everyman. At the deepest level I find not a unique self, but common human experience. That deepest level can only be found in ourselves.
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There we find strata where myth is harvested. I think we also find layers of moral commons, which have guided the behaviours of centuries. Presented in society, both myth and commons have a child-like quality which is easily dismissed as fairy tale. From behind the fence-lines of enclosures we wryly smile. The holy innocent and the child are comic in their certainties and so we ruffle their hair but turn from the truthful gaze back to the problems of either paying or demanding rent.
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Status enclosure makes a breeding ground for ridicule. By status I mean the monopoly-rights of lawyer, GP, dentist, “scientist” climate scientist… Peer review takes spores of ridicule and cultures them into the exact form and limits of a particular discipline’s enclosure. They are levelled to existing contours within the fence-line. Abandon commons all who enter there! – also abandon truth – and of course, hope.
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However, at the deepest level I can express myself and know that I also express anyone else who similarly descends. When we express horror at contemporary culture’s pillage of ecosystems and wild combustion of resources, ours are the voices of children and holy innocents and also of ancestors. People ruffle our hair, avoid eye contact and continue in a grown-up way, to cause catastrophic climate change.
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William Blake carried heaven with him by the symbol of a wild flower, or grain of sand. Mocking laughter followed those footsteps – from behind hedges, on those long lawns down to the Thames.
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So it is with universal truths, such as households and regions living beyond the means of their houses and regions. It is simple and in plain view. We need no scientific paper to confirm it.
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Here’s a sadness – private property, such as that scientific paper, my status as solicitor, or GP, the state of my lawn and jasmine-muffled lattices, will always take precedence over the accepted truths of climate change. Climate change lives on the common. Our teenagers speak of it and we ruffle their infuriated hair but turn back to important news that the chancellor is about to raise interest rates by half of one percent. My properties of job status and intellectual property owner first demand my attention.
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Climate change is an interesting addition to my store of knowledge, but that is where it remains – sitting idly in pages. I’d go as far to say that climate change cannot exist in an enclosure. It happens on the common. That is why climate “scientists”, sure of their status, will jet to multiple climate change conferences to maintain that status. Meanwhile their deeper selves, which live on the common may be screaming. It is a child who screams and so they ruffle the hair of their younger selves and suppress the scream. The common has no age and no status.
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Time – once and future time; common time flows on. We can join the flow or not. We cannot change an enclosure from within an enclosure. We must evacuate, sink into the river of inherited humanity, and release the inner scream. Well-meaning, but enclosed environmentalists look on with a wry smile. World-weary activists who tinker with rules of enclosure, (carbon taxes, tradeable indulgencies, true-cost accounting, ecosystem services…) end only by legitimising them – by improving the enclosure and further suppressing the “innocence” of the commons. Property levitates outside time – truly above and so at the end of history. At the end of history we find these things carelessly reclined – the family car, super market, centralised procurement and distribution, ring road, retail park, aviation… grotesque, stupid, slow-footed and muscle-bound with drip-fed anaerobic strata of fossilised years.
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Commons have all of history at their backs and all of future to their fronts. Children and holy innocents can see them – they know that ending the flow is an outrage – and we all know it, being equally human, but through veils and filters of suppression. Rules of enclosure steal our time and they steal humanity’s time. They steal knowledge of right and wrong. If we sequester time, we sequester obligation.
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On the common, I know this – it is very simple – my imprint must be just my shape and size. That physics is a delight – it is all of delight. Someone must settle in my place to receive the same pleasure, just as I have lived in the shape and size of another. We are one – the species. That is the common.
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A farm or garden which follows the rule of return is a heart-beat in the common. We cannot take from soil without feeding it in return. If we take without return we slow the flow and accumulate dead time – dead time is a property right – right to amorality and a garden fence that says, “Private – trespassers will be prosecuted.” and also, “Abandon time, all who enter here.” We gain the right to be a class apart – to levitate above ancestral commons of responsibility; above climate change; above heart beats and intelligence of heart beats, above the poverty of others and certainly above the judgement of holy innocents and children.
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The battle to restrain climate change, is a trumpet call to a sleeping species, curled just where she fits in the physics of her soil – not to shake the lapels and ear drums of badly behaved property holders.
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I am myself, but mostly I am the species and we are all the same. Anthropogenic climate change is a reaction to private property. It swells by the actions of climate scientists seeking peer review (career review) – that is more private property – in international conferences. “Respected” climate scientists probably burn more oil than any other profession on Earth, putting aside the super-rich, who profess nothing.
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That is the tragedy of enclosed expertise – the tragedy of enclosure. It freezes time for private peace. Professional is not to profess, but to be taciturn and discrete. Soon shall the high midsummer pomps come on – soon will the musk carnations break and swell, soon shall we have gold-dusted snap dragon – sweet william with his homely cottage smell – and stocks in fragrant blow – roses that down the alleys shine afar – and open jasmine-muffled lattices – and groups under the dreaming garden trees – and the full moon – and the white evening star…
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Is that garden, dreamed by Mathew Arnold, enclosed or common? We can choose.
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Is my knowledge of ecological cascades private, or common? My childhood of butterflies and songbirds is not the childhood of today. How is it that a universal thing such as childhood could ever change?
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Commons are moral spurs to act – to profess; repair; heal, but in my property, or profession I’ve earned the right to sleep, consume, accumulate…
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Only that inner child, will save modern cultures from blind self-destruction. We don’t say, come on children, let’s gather at the river! One, by one – in solitude we step back onto the common, until we find the species there…
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Of course, I write this from behind a variety of enclosures. It is a letter to myself and for Everyman (sexless term).

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EU delusions

Green-house gas emissions rise slightly faster than increasing renewable energy can replace fossil fuels. Today fossil fuels account for 81% of energy consumption, while in 1988, they accounted for 79%.

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But, because gross world product has increased, total energy consumption has wildly increased between those dates, – CO.2 emissions in 2017 were 60% higher than in 1990.
It is plain that the ways we live today cannot be greened. We must immediately and utterly change how we live, or be changed forever by flood, storm and famine.
It is tragic that increases in renewable energy production and also the increasing cheapness and so economic justification for it, have evoked a complacent delusion that we are heading to a greener world.

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Those who have just marched for the liberal values of the EU are engaged in a similar and directly related delusion. The EU project depends on both economic growth and amoral corporate supply. It is happy to green that supply, but not to end it – so that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise. The EU project depends on the ways of life and consumption, which cause climate change – and also cascading ecosystems.
All human energy must be directed to finding ways to live happily (or happily enough) within ecological restraints.

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The undoubted truth that the EU provides more pleasant company than the currently foul political leadership of the UK, should not distract us from the truth that both lead us to the same destruction – just that in one, we’ll have more convivial company. The flood, famine & storm will remain the same.

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