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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The Beauty Things and Grenfell Tower

We have precious things. Whom do we show as we bring them to the light? – not the powers. We shield them from the powers. The powers have little to do with the beautiful or loved.
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Such things are passed down families and shared in deep friendship. Once upon a time precious bones were displayed in our roundhouses and now precious memories and stories are enough to vivify ancestral morals – lessons in living – we show the relics to new times and places and new times and places to the relics.
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In that sense, filial codes are things – objects, not thoughts – to be brought out in intimacy – quietly viewed and turned over.
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Can politics, or commerce touch them? Of course not. And we do not explain them either, or they shatter with the physics of reason – sacred shattered by profane.
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Once upon a time, an ancestor offered a precious thing to the water. Such gifts connect us. We are fed by the connection and also obliged. It is singular. Singularity makes the whole. My life completes the whole.
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So, the connection is deeper than reason – than pragmatism which is bound to time. We must be pragmatic, but we are also timeless, flowing humanity.
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Debt is the temporal converse to timeless obligation. We pay rent for property, money and the mere status of rentiers (GPs, dentists, lawyers…). Our mortgages are but land rents paid to the bank. All that money is idle. It makes nothing. The lawyer contributes only to the point of a fair wage – for the rest, we pay rent for parasitic enclosure – her status as lawyer.
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We are obliged to ancestral gifts. They create the common, which maintains assets where power cannot tread. Alan Garner tells us, of the obliging gifts of a friend – the passing on of what his friend called, the beauty things. Here’s a thing – the beauty things are not idle. They conjure codes of proper behaviour and revive the flow of good living – of humanity herself. And the common, unlike the enclosure, is never idle. It is a river – even though enclosure can dam the flow and suck the pool dry into idle and hoarded rentier wealth.
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In a sense, the common accumulates another form of debt – that to ancestors and descendants – so that we are obliged to act out remedies to diminishing commons. Two competing forms of debt, are firstly, rent for enclosure, which saps cultural activity and secondly, obligation to the beauty things, which revive cultural embers, stimulate reason and compel remedial actions. We should be more obliged to ancestors and descendants than to the violent demands of enclosure and rent. Descendants will know of dying soils, swelling atmospheric CO.2, squandered resources and cascading species loss.
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Grenfell Tower is a distilled image of what Britain has become – a bonfire, not only of regulation, but of probity, conviviality, moral commons, community… “Beauty, truth & rarity, grace in all simplicity here enclosed in cinders lie…” Be the Phoenix”, says the message of the beauty things.
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Yes. We are closer to William Shakespeare and his beauty things than to Theresa May – and he, closer to us. Pass it on. I hope the dreams of those terribly consumed by that bon/mal-fire fire of regulation, also pass on in those who understood them. Now we have a massive, accumulating surplus of ugly things as we wildly burn millions of years of what was once quietly-sequestered photosynthesis. We, not the powers, must end the burning and then pass beauty things to the waters.
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Tragedy

“Tragedy is underdeveloped comedy, not fully born” says the poet Patrick Kavanagh. Yes. Yet in the best comedies, tragedy can remain as tragedy as we laugh through the tears.
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Some tragedy is too dark for the rational to bear and so also too dark for comedy to emerge. We know it exists. We see the shadow. But we cannot measure, weigh, or innumerate its truth, because then we must own the particular forms of the dark futures of family and friends. Comedy is of the mind, tragedy of the heart – the broken moral heart. Comedy has the remedies.
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Climate change is such a tragedy – a tragedy to end all tragedies. A friend may book a holiday flight, while also campaigning against plastic straws. She is a hypocrite and mass murderer and yet we don’t say those words – or register her utterly shocking presence. She is a friend, who happens to walk from the undefined object that casts the shadow. And for ourselves, we are the same – easy in the normality of mass murder.
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It seems we have a collective broken moral heart. “Climate change? – no big deal – other species will go on if humanity doesn’t.” says neo wisdom. The conversation will not register that as we speak, we cause mass murder of both human and other species and that also as we speak, we could collectively end it. That’s OK, people say – just accept the nemesis. “Anthropogenic is too grand a word – it’s more hubris, when what we need is humility.” That will also arrive in conversation. It helps us to change nothing. Yes – though our species is but part of a par-blind understanding of the wonder of all the rest.
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Anthropogenic is not too grand, it is simply true. The awesome, devil-like, future-removing power of oil tools must become as terrible to our eyes as they truly are. They are not in the shadows but in our hands. Not only that third runway at Heathrow, but aviation as an idea – as an infernal instrument – should scorch our palms and sear all conversation.
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Of course, aviation is only a part. I use it as a metaphor for the rest – that levitation above terrains and durable cultures – industrial agriculture, centralised distribution, consumerism, the family car, suburbia… Vapour trails tease out into cirrus clouds, seemingly innocent as the first carded wool of an early Summer day.
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And that is how we converse in our self-centred and vicious households and holidays. “Gorgeous weather!” “Yes, we are blessed.
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A Letter to the Green Party

I think that anxiety for the loss of environmental and human rights protections embodied in European law has provoked a loss of wider perspective in recent Green Party policy. Polemical reactions by Green party leaders to the follies of the Brexit campaign, have lead them to places where no green thinkers or actors should remain. For instance, the slowing of GDP which will inevitably follow exit from the EU has been heralded as the height of folly by both leaders. Yet both leaders also argue for economic de-growth.
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It is true that a slowing of spending will have potentially dangerous effects on the casino of stocks, shares, currency-trading, usury, property prices and rent. As prices tumble, businesses collapse, tax revenues wither, unemployment soars and infrastructures crumble – with deep human costs. Those effects will vibrate through the Eurozone.
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However, the level of spending necessary to maintain the casino will trash ecosystems and continue the acceleration of climate change – with far deeper human cost. No other political party will grasp the truth that whichever way so-called developed economies now turn will lead to differing sorts of tragedy. That should be the Green Party’s role. She should choose the only possible future for human cultures, which is to shrink economies to just the size that ecologies can support them – that is also the only course to avoid catastrophic climate change.
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Before the casino crashes (it will crash) we need to make sure that self-sustaining communities have the resilience to survive more or less intact. The Green Party should be calling that community together.
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As Green Party members will know, cultural CO.2 emissions in 2017 were 60% higher than in 1990 when nations first pledged to act on climate change (Anderson). I think that if we could devise the figures, we’d probably find – whichever day you are reading this (at least in UK Winter) – that UK activity will emit more greenhouse gas than any other day in history. Yet nation states, such as the UK, boast that they are meeting their climate obligations.
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The Green, “enlightened” stance to European membership is a dangerously unconsidered reaction to the undoubted Brexit endarkenment. Similarly, for myself, I voted to remain, because I could not share the company of racist and flag-waving Leave campaigners. I would leave in better company. But mere reactions should not colour our deeper thoughts and policies.
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What is the European project? – open borders for corporate “investment” in exchange for negotiated human rights protections.
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The EU project, is at its heart, against any green first principles. The project is a consumerist bargain – statutory consumer rights are exchanged for statutory corporate supply. It is happy to “green” that corporate supply, but not to end it. The EU project is to create universal consumerism. Democracy and consumerism are often confused – no wonder – political parties are marketed in the same way and by the same agencies as pot noodles. A consumerist project to green the casino (market signals – electric cars, recycling, no plastic campaigns and so on) lends an impossible system credence. Changing a system by the system erodes its sharp edges – it looks more attractive – but it remains the same system.
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Anyway, few in the Green Party will dispute that GDP could be renamed GDCC – gross domestic climate change. A 2% increase in annual GDP (spending) will mean a more or less 2% increase in GDCC, or CO.2 emissions. Current increases in renewable energy look impressive (at least for electricity generation), but they have not matched the (even more impressive) increase in Gros World Product.
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Green Party members will know that GDP is a measure not of economic assets, but of the spending of them. Green Party policy would be better directed to nurture and defend a true economy of people, their needs, loves, futures and resources … An economy divested from both fossil fuel and the stock market may remain more or less alive as the casino collapses around it, because its substance will remain more or less erect. Much that binds will be unrelated to spending – friendships, trade relationships, the skilled and their apprentices, parenthood, people gathering to sing at the piano… Those essential bindings to an economy have no column for entry in GDP.
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To be fair, protection of inherited cultures and languages is a part of the EU project, but as museum pieces. Watch them evolve into the present and they will be crushed, as we’ve seen with the recent tragedy in Greece and the coming tragedies in Italy, Poland, Spain…
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Any national attempts at degrowth to a size which fits national ecological limits will be similarly crushed.
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Here is Yanis Varoufakis, Finance Minister for those times…
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“For a manifesto to succeed, it must speak to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new. It needs to open our eyes to the true causes of the bewildering, disturbing, exciting changes occurring around us, exposing the possibilities with which our current reality is pregnant. It should make us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised these truths ourselves, and it must lift the curtain on the unsettling realisation that we have been acting as petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past. Lastly, it needs to have the power of a Beethoven symphony, urging us to become agents of a future that ends unnecessary mass suffering and to inspire humanity to realise its potential for authentic freedom.”
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The Green Party needs such a manifesto to resist projects, such as the EU project. In truth, only a mass romantic movement is appropriate to face our extraordinary times. Cascading species loss, wildly accelerating climate change and an economy consuming far beyond its means, cannot be met by “petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past”.
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The EU’S human rights, consumer rights and environmental protections (that is common morals enshrined in law) are placed to placate objections to open borders to amoral corporate supply. That is – human right is balanced against corporate right. The amoral corporate supply is central to EU, Tory and New Labour policies.
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Money flow mirrors (or should mirror) energy flow. It will be easy to generate green electricity to meet current electricity demand, but it will be impossible to generate green electricity for the new demands of industry, transport and domestic heat. In other words, fossil fuels cannot be replaced – they are too powerful.
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We must find ways of life, which sit within the dramatically-reduced means of the resources that remain. We must do without both fossil fuels and the ways of life they have created, by finding new (or revived old) ways to live.
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The scale of the change needed for cultures to survive is too great for either European, or Westminster politicians to embrace – that is – the end of aviation, the family car, suburbia… They came with fossil fuel and must go with it. There are two choices – the end of those things, or the end of settled human cultures.
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Now I know that the Green Party is a political party set up to engage in political processes and so many members may feel it is stuck with the formal processes that we have – from local, to devolved national, to centralised Westminster. However, all those institutions are set in a media led lens, commonly known, but misnamed as the Westminster bubble – beyond that frame nothing will be accepted. Yet every action we take for both households and communities to settle within their ecological means is outside that perspective. It is as though the whole of UK and EU politics is a reality television programme levitated above both the measurable Earth and ordinary, good company. No convivial solution to climate change and social justice will entice a camera crew. If we act properly we will not be noticed. I propose that the Green Party should function as a new camera crew to bring ecology, economy and social justice into a more convivial focus.
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Existing formal political processes are not the only political means.
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Curiosity for, and delight in different cultures should be celebrated and brought in view whenever the parochial racist speaks, but to polemically bring the EU into view to counter those things is a lazy reaction.
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We are also led down a blind alley with thoughts of Left and Right. As G K Chesterton said, communism is big business run by the state, while capitalism is the state run by big business. Both are contrary to G K Chesterton’s, a green, and so of course, any future.
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The EU project is to have Europe run by big business, but within limits of negotiated social and environmental protections. That is the invitation – to trade national governance with corporate supply in exchange for those protections. Traditionally, such protections evolve and are kept alive by commons of good behaviour. By placing them in statute, they become enclosed and static – beyond evolution. As with all enclosures, living morality is replaced by statutory amorality. Personal morality becomes unnecessary, because (it’s said), we can trust in the law. Proponents of the human and environmental rights embodied in the EU project follow the same false turning that the New Labour project took, and which destroyed, for a while, the purpose of the Labour Party. It secured a winning ballot by accepting defeat for the Labour movement. Current Green Party polemic is following that same dangerous road. The difference is time – we cannot delay action on climate change. The polemic argues inside the enclosures, because it cannot see a way out. It should argue from inside commons, which have not yet been formed (or reformed).
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I say it should appeal to personal morality – that after all, explains the success against all odds of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. They have occupied potentially increasing commons and that is why the poisonous invective of the monopolies rains on them with similarly increasing volume – just as it will rain on the Green Party. Let it rain.
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Meanwhile, carbon limits are traded, natural capital (true-cost accounted) is bought and sold. Green dispensations, pardons and indulgencies have become a market place and the good behaviours of people, communities and nation states have become superfluous.
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That is the battleground.
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The Tales of History are a Dead-End Road

Culture is what people do. It decays when people stop culturing. Changing a culture means changing what we do. Often, that will need a step by step transition as we negotiate obstacles. Even though we follow some backward meanders, the river may flow on.
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But there are some transitionary illusions – convenient untruths, which are not obstacles to be overcome, but dead-end roads to be avoided. In those cases, we must turn back and begin again.
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Dead-end roads (or stagnant backwaters) can be paved (or punted) with the best intentions – often because we are focused on singularly-important things, such as energy-use, pesticides, human rights… We applaud solar panels on the buildings of a retail park, or the rising quantity of organic and fairly-traded produce in the super market swamp. But retail parks and super markets were created by and are maintained by fossil fuel. Greening such infrastructures gives them an illusory credence. It satisfies complacent images of social justices, green energy and regenerative farming. But what came with oil must go with oil. However green we strive to make them the retail park and super market remain vast and stagnant backwaters.
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We lazily mined those millions of years of sequestered photosynthesis. Now we must live by singular seasons as they pass. The thing about natural limits, is that they have shape – taste, scent, sound, mass, energy, volume, chronology… We can give them meaning, and if we know them truly, they can gain beauty.
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Buying organic produce (for instance) in a super market defers a large part of cultural creation to infrastructures, which we cannot see, or taste. Those green market signals are not signs to a better future but delusive advertisements to the virtues of a dead-end road.
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Just as the flow of money directly relates to the flow of energy, so does the flow of cultural effects. As the flow of fossil energy diminishes, so we must return to human sized spending power with human-size imprints.
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Returning to just human size brings culture round us like a shawl. We can wear it – a durable vestment died with both personal and community colours. We can divest from identity levelling, but powerful provisions of oil. They are, in any case much too large to fit. Of course, much of what we do is not measured by GDP, needs no fossil fuel and has no monetary value. Nevertheless, it may be vital to the functioning of any measurable economic activity. As we leave oil in the ground and as oil infrastructures evaporate those unpaid activities of parenthood, home-making, cooking, gardening, story-telling, singing, dancing… will remain untouched and can swell as the consumption of piped entertainment recedes.
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The culture we created by fossil fuel is no longer possible. Most of our choices have become dead-end roads. A 2% increase in GDP is more or less, a 2% increase in green-house gas emissions. GDP could be just as accurately named GDCC – Gros Domestic Climate Change.
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If culture is what we do, what do we do next?
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Some difficulties emerge, because we are social partners to existing infrastructures. There will be some backward meanders (infrastructures don’t exist until we find or make them) and many dead-end roads.
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We exist as a social species. Our identities are parts of the whole. When cultures break, they break identity. To heal ourselves, we’d heal the culture. But cultures evolve from deeper commons and may resist time-bound manipulation. Alienated, we seek artificial, or imagined fraternity. Fraternity? – Where is the sexless alternative? I cannot find a word – so it is with wider culture – its evolution and revolutions. Revolutions are usually temporal and unsatisfactory. Yet we do need a powerful, all-embracing, sexless equivalent to fraternity. If cultures place evenly-sexed roots in the soil which feeds them, then a more balanced and so durable ethics can evolve. That is how new commons emerge. In removing our dependency on the strata of fossilised years we become intensely dependent on local resources and on each other… Since we need an utter revolution in the ways we live and think today – those commons must evolve quickly… How most of us lived and thought in, let’s say, 1914 is a good start.
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Breaking connections to dead-end roads may mean both breaking and healing hearts. Broken cultures break hearts, but then healing hearts heal cultures. And with regards to quickly evolved commons, inherited commons lie neglected and dormant – awaiting resuscitation – somewhere very like the some-when of 1914.
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Nostalgia is an answer – what has been could be. Within the nostalgic vision, deeper and essential commons survive, which could not be manufactured by reason and thin air. And they are familiar. The once and future life comes ready-made with poets, musicians, painters, familiar voices… Once the nostalgic vision is adopted, circumstance will force pragmatic change and new artistry may sing for what newly surrounds it. The nostalgic vision provides a landing ground for the first footstep (the last flight!) – and one which can be communally understood. Time, and the contrary physics of 2018 will change it – but we can embark with genuine ancestry.
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Where do we find a coherent model for a life without fossil fuels? For most of us in the developed world, it is not a case of greening how we live, but of abandoning it. Many of our infrastructures cannot be greened. They must be evacuated. We shall be refugees and foragers making the best of what we find. Why not pick up what is deeply familiar? Why not revive how our grand, or great grandparents lived – untouched by subliminal advertisers, or shadily-financed political punditry – sequestered from time, yet beside the same spring of deepest commons, which flow between all generations?
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Are you ashamed to step backwards? Why? – The paths we’ve communally taken have been misdirected. It is natural to retrace those bad steps to the first solid ground and then begin again – first-footing into new times – not with last year’s embers, but with the last durable; the last possible embers to ignite a future without fossil fuels.
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Look – here’s where we traded, once upon a time – from ports on every mile of coastline – the last cutters, schooners, brigs… – pinnacle of thousands of years of evolutionary marine architecture. Coal evoked new designs, which have been short-lived – scarcely-tried – just a hundred and a score years old, because they embarked to a backwater of no return. If we retrace our steps to 1914, when the last schooner was built in Porthmadog, we shall know where to begin with sea trade. Those futuristic-looking aerofoils on today’s (ill-fated) oil designs are futile – a reluctance to change how we live – just like solar panels in a retail park, or organic produce in a super market. To be sure, we have new knowledge of aerofoils and hull design from amateur racing dinghies and keel boats. But still, we begin in 1914 when there remained a fragmented, but still working sail-trade. Then we can adapt what we’ve found with the advantages of that new knowledge. In 1914, living canal and river networks flowed to the sea. Coastal communities were also connected to each other by sea. That shore-hopping trade has vanished today. What’s more boats of fifty to two hundred tons, had recently been built in small ports and on beaches all around Britain by the communities which financed, sailed and traded with them – without advice from corporation, government or bank. Yes, by 1914 we find sail’s twilight years. That’s why I alight there, in a time still depicted by remembered anecdotes within modern families and communities, yet when the total domination of fossil fuel had not yet been completed.
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It seems to me, that our schooner may be a paradigm for everything. Let’s keep 1914 as a destination, (conveniently forgetting the contemporary idiocies of the powers). The same acreage of arable land was easily farmed without either coal or oil. We had the steam plough at some headlands and a few small towing tractors, but their influence was insignificant. Traction was largely man, horse, ox and wind powered. Major cities were ringed with market gardens…
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Let’s consider crop yield – in 1914 average UK wheat yield was 1.01 tons per acre and in 2017, 3.36 tons per acre (Defra). It is a mistake to think that massive increase is derived from a similar increase in artificial fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and growth regulators. Since modern organic farmers often achieve 3 tons per acre (we have done so ourselves on an upland farm), we can see that the greatest contribution to yield has been selective, in-line, plant breeding – an advantage I propose to keep as I step forwards from 1914.
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In any case, true yield is output, minus input – so that when we subtract the massive inputs of today, (their finite material, mass, manufacture, and distribution) we end with a yield which is probably much like that of 1914. When was peak phosphate? Of course, organic yield depends on a proper rotation – so reducing it (if we add that increased acreage). However, organic methods must maintain an optimum mass of soil fauna (biomass), while continuous cropping continually reduces it. We must add the negative of lost soil fauna to those inputs – or we can say, lost soil fauna is equivalent to lost acreage. So, as we retrace our arable steps to 1914, using modern seed varieties, we begin with the considerable advantage of a possible 3 tons per acre in rotated fields, which can continue growing that same yield from that same fertility. Small birds will continue their songs and Summer air will be loud with flies, bugs and bees. Of course, those regenerative courses in arable rotation will provide other good things – if we like eggs, milk, butter, cream, meat… However, in the UK much of today’s and 1914’s permanent pasturelands will prove more beneficial, to both economy and ecology (and photosynthesis) as forest.
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Today, in 2018 futile inputs are destroying the ecosystems on which all cultures depend. They are also shrinking soil biomass – that is the capacity to grow future crops. If we shrink soil biomass, we shrink all the connections of a web in which Man is one very small part. For instance, soil fauna and atmospheric CO.2 are intimately connected…
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Starting from 1914 and stepping into the future, we’ll find an abundance of market gardens and orchards close to cities and towns. Their labour requirement can be almost entirely human, with horse and cart to auction and street market – or in the case of London – barge along Thames, or Lea – along which the night soils are discretely returned! The market garden model is a better one than the field-scale vegetables and seasonal slave-labour of today. Our eco-modernist is polemical with population. I also – egalitarian, involved, ingenious (oil has no ingenuity) people will re-populate the land!
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The horse will need her share of acreage but (along with forestation) will happily replace a part of that surfeit of sheep and cattle.
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My nostalgia is circumspect. By 1914, enclosure and dispossession were complete. The dispossessed had migrated to the factory gate, or to the New World, or had been starved and evaporated from the map of Earth. Sheep had replaced people in marginal lands and uplands, the mass slaughter of innocent young men was about to begin and only wealthy men held right to the ballot. Women over thirty would have to wait until 1918 to hold voting rights along with men over twenty-one who had paid less than £10 annual rent. Six out of seven males, and all women, held no voting rights in UK (then called Great Britain) until 1918.
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I bequeath no virtues to our journey’s beginning but suggest that from 1914 a road to the future is possible – cyclic infrastructures, though decayed, are in place for revival.
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Coal-fired suburbia was already spreading along rail routes from major cities. Yet for all but the suburban office worker, both work and pleasure were within easy walking distance. The trades congregated in town and village centres. Local produce appeared in season, mostly by horse and cart, in grocers, green grocers and butchers’ shops and in street markets and fairs. The majority of those businesses were family run and many of them descended though generations of skill and cultural tradition. Those businesses and those cultural traditions and the network of connections between them, were the economy. Neither government, nor corporation had much part in it – only to fill the tea caddy, collect taxes (for war) and deny the vote to most. Church and chapel, meeting house, theatre, concert hall, pub and tea-room made other connections. Though on occasion, authority passed by on his high, dark horse, to the prudent doffing of caps, while land agent and factor swept in for the gathering of rent, they played no part in production. Their business was violence and consumption.
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The rural poor had it harder, because they were more isolated and conspicuous to that violence. To keep a roof, one had to be deferential to the gentry. My partner’s great uncle was spotted taking a pheasant. He hid in a muck heap and with family help, made the passage from Liverpool to America – to escape the “justice” of an Australian penal colony. That was a story of many.
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There’s a problem with the telling of history… and so also with how we’d like to make history. Still today, books are written, documentaries made, and classrooms taught – how kings, politicians, treaties, wars, generals and strategic marriages steered the passages of time.
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We talk of fake news, but what if all our history lessons are fake? What if to attain that B.A. we must propagate the nonsense? What if our whole modern narrative is fake? What then, if people everywhere come to see the deception?
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What is true news? – events in the making of culture and with that news, the possibility of an exited renaissance. Culture is what people do in spite of the powers. Kings, lords, lairds, squires (for UK) and corporate executives do nothing but extract various forms of rent and non-distributive taxes. Culture is what people do who make things, grow things, maintain things, share and gossip about things – that is people who both physically and spiritually are the culture. Culture is a living, pulsing, evolving thing. Yet how food was grown; how houses, bridges, roads, canals, harbours, ships, cathedrals… were built – how scarcity and surplus were exchanged – is invisible to historians, but for footnotes. History has been the accumulated praise recitations of court bards. The cattle raid of Troy was made an epic adventure, in which even the gods participated. The shining walls of Ilium are celebrated as a symbol for a great, though soon to be fallen power. But they were not – they were made by the dexterity, ingenuity and complex social fabric of unrecorded generations of busy people. Hector and Achilles, like Napoleon and Wellington, could scarcely tie their shoe laces, let alone contribute to a culture. Ah – you say, but we all have roles and one role – one small part of the whole – is that of leader. Right, I concede (a little) – but where is the record of the larger part whose lives have been coerced and parasitized by our celebrated elites and then hidden from posterity’s view by their academic, journalistic, or bardic sycophants?
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The thing is, those history books lead us on another dead-end road. Because of them, we lobby governments, petition corporations and strike imitative, pugilistic attitudes. NGOs propose that to make history, we must behave like the history books and engage with the powers. But look at their shoe laces! Why seek to change what has, and can have, no creative power in the hope that it will mysteriously gain creativity by our instruction? We neglect our own parts in the evolution of culture by asking the powerful, who have not the means, (or attention span) to create a culture for us.
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The culture which created climate change was not created by leaders. It was created by ordinary people, who did not pay attention to how they were lead. Corporations and governments have not the skill to create climate change – to find and extract those sedimentary layers of fossilised lives – to devise pistons, cylinders, cranks and wheels – to understand compression and ignition – even to understand how money can be either put to work, or put to destruction… The powers have no thought of farming techniques, or of building ships to trade scarcity with surplus. They watch, preen and extract. Of course, there is fluidity – ordinary creative people can become extractive and powerful people can become creative – but nevertheless the pattern remains.
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If we make a community in the woods, the community will evolve leadership. Perhaps leadership is an essential part of human cultures – part of an inherited pattern of social behaviour. We have benign and malign leadership, so when we lobby the powers, we lobby for the benignity. But lobbying for social change is futile, since we, the lobbyists are the physics of the society that must change. Governance is abstract, people are real.
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Climate change, trashed resources and cascading ecosystems are real and have been caused by real, ordinary people. Only ordinary people can pull back from that destruction. Ordinary people can achieve what no government can achieve – the evaporation of the super market, the end of aviation and the death of the family car. Perhaps a pied piper (leader) can call us away, but unless we do walk away, nothing will happen.
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I say we recede into familiar community histories to the first sight of solid ground and then set out again from that original wrong turning to a dead-end road – which is where we stand now. We stand in super markets, jet the globe and polish our cars. Only we can stop doing so. We prevaricate to suggest that we must first ask the powers to ask (or compel) us to stop. We cut out personal guilt and paste it on the powers. But we (principally we) are guilty. It is comic to propose that governments should impose a carbon tax before we can stop burning it ourselves. It is tragic that we remain loyal to an entirely oil-powered super market to change it for the better by market signals, when our own town centre decays because of our absence. It is both tragic and comic to petition about that third runway, as we simultaneously book a business, or holiday flight.
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We created the super market, the airline and the family car – we built, maintained and paid for them – and we populate them – thronging a dead-end road. What can a leader do? She can do nothing.
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We must do everything, because we did everything. I own some shares in those four hundred and twelve parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
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Casino Anxiety

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

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

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