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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Good Ordinary Time

All true, beautiful, good and useful works of art – both (so-called) high art and folk art, become worthy of passing between generations only when the artist expresses – not a vision of herself, but of common and timeless humanity. Once and future humanity is expressed in a common voice, which the accumulating generations discern, understand and pass on. In that regard the simplest nursery rhyme is often more potent – more alive – than the latest time-laden, time-frozen, fame-endowing arts-prize winner. Fame gives identity. Identity trivialises art.
The finest artistry is shamanic – a personality, with complex name and possessions sheds both by rite of passage to become simple humankind – Everyman. In that state, the pen begins to flow…
What is good ordinary time? It is lived experience. Proper artistry discovers and becomes not a personality but the species herself – in a renewed and of course, utterly contemporary sensuality. Inherited and bequeathed moral patterns both undermine and transcend the tyranny of time – the brutality of Iron Age chariot, offshore bank account and other pernicious and hopefully – soon to be ridiculous ephemera. The central form of every work of art is its moral form. Even in a simple chair – function, elegance and the growth of the wood which supplied the tree combine as a moral story – of what is fitting – of how our lives can happily endure.
What is extra-ordinary time? It is unsustainable experience. It is in contemporary licence to live as others cannot – in both time and space – by our descendants and by our neighbours. It ignores what is fitting in time and space. It defies the common humanity of ancestors and descendants. It says to viewers, listeners and readers of a contemporary piece, bring yourself – interpret as you choose – I have no binding moral – both past and future are dead.
Today, living in extra-ordinary time, we’ve decided – we’ve consciously chosen – to end settled future human times, because of the time-pressing importance of grasping some pleasurable and extra-ordinary time of our own. That is a simple truth. Move with the times, we say – this is the twenty first century. Actually, what we say is, “Forget what you see, or, at any rate, don’t look.”
Again, where is good ordinary time? In the palpable evidence of climate change – in the hole in the Earth, from which I’ve taken my materials – in the outraged cry of timeless Everyman at the sensual evidence of the cascading ecologies of living time – in all that is lovely about the sights, sounds and scents of an ordinary progression of days, nights and seasons.
Though it’s man-made, climate change is not ephemeral. It lives in deep and recurring stories of hubris and nemesis; of forbidden fruit; of bells tolling from sunken towers… Oh Everyman!
Here is Kevin Anderson speaking of his constant brushes with extra-ordinary time –
“There is a very clear understanding amongst virtually all of the academics I engage with, whether directly on projects or simply through discussions following seminars etc. that “growth” is sacrosanct. Economics trumps physics – and given, from a funding and career perspective, it is unwise to suggest that our scientific conclusions beg questions of the ‘immutable economic logic’ of modern society, we find ways of reconciling the two. Not by fiddling data but typically by adopting expedient assumptions – from the ubiquitous use of BECCS and very early global peaks in emissions through to using increasingly low probabilities of meeting 2°C and recourse to magical build rates and technical utopias. Perhaps most disturbing of all – the more we reluctantly subscribe to such expediency the more we begin to forget we’re doing so reluctantly, and the more the rhetoric becomes the only ‘reality’ – very Orwellian!” – Rambling thoughts on 1.5 Celsius, economic growth and academic freedom, Kevin Anderson
Yes – the more we reluctantly subscribe to such expediency the more we begin to forget we’re doing so reluctantly, and the more the rhetoric becomes the only ‘reality’ – with no ear for the passage of the ordinary and proper time which we witness in the mutations of space, or for the knowledge, as we receive those surprises, that we too are Everyman, who can search for the good, true, beautiful and useful.
The more we reluctantly subscribe to the expediency that gross domestic product is more imperative than the collapsing ecosystems on which all production depends – so the more we subscribe to the notion that though economic collapse is inevitable – it is in the future – and the future is abstract – and that when the future arrives, the future (our own impoverished children) will take care of it.
It’s an old tragedy that economic well-being, measured by spending (GDP) will blossom as war, flood, storm, drought and fire remove capital assets – including the lives of citizens. Costs of rescue operations, funeral and hospital services and a surge of rebuilding bring a resurgence of spending. Actually, in all developed economies, the same is happening now and un-noted. Assets shrink, while spending increases. No one measures assets, or the natural ground eroding beneath our feet.
We can measure the effect in the atmosphere – as spending increases – biomass and biodiversity shrink – and atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, just as GDP swells in the bank. GDP is exactly proportional to increasing atmospheric CO.2 – and to decreasing terrestrial assets – the inhaling breath of the Earth. GDP measures unhappiness.
The roll of good ordinary artistry is to sing the passages of good ordinary time which brings before us the current and passing mutations of currently-diminishing space. It can sing the species – their songs, scents and sights and it can sing of once and future homo sapiens. If an artist finds nuance in the self-permitted pleasures of a holiday flight balanced by the refreshment it brings to her artistry – or similarly a climate scientist – her flight to a climate conferences, balanced against her self-importance as a messenger – she argues against the species and against Everyman. She lives with the property (land, status and intellectual) narcissi – whose re-assurance is not terrestrial evidence, but the mirror. The mirror shows no children; no ecology; no economy – only the justified identity, behind a legal enclosure.
To homo sapiens, the species, and to the good ordinary artistry that speaks for her, that identity is no less than the devil. I am devilish. My friends and I move between good and evil. I regularly do wrong. There is no nuance in that. It cannot be balanced by a contrary right. We can forgive, but It is done. At night I sit and listen to the song of Everyman. Where beauty chimes with truth the tears come – or if we remain in mind and supress the heart – we shake with wild laughter. Open both and we laugh through the tears.
For a dramatist, today is the most epic of all human times – which is why no dramatist can face it. But what of Everyman? What of good ordinary time? Good ordinary footsteps will find good ordinary ground. All are capable of them. There could be a fashion for it. The sensual rewards are immense, for instance, that blackbird singing in that apple tree and then, you and I dear friends, sitting together with some good ordinary wine. Narcissus, the muse of nearly all contemporary art, is lost in labyrinthine images of himself and explorations of so-called profound fears that ordinary gusts of wind may, at any time, disintegrate the reflection.
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More on Status Enclosure and Climate Change

Much of environmental and also left-wing conversation has been led into a class war. We must educate the uneducated – enlighten the darkened – civilize the barbarian.
Yet that whole landscape (& social-scape) is a delusion. Actually, the so-called, educated middle-class is the largest contributor to both climate change and inequality in both wealth and opportunity. The equation is direct – the more we spend – the more we consume – the more we cause climate change. And then again – the more we spend – the less another can spend – and so the more we become the barbarian who undermines the culture.
The first step to mitigate both resource depletion and climate change is to shrink our needs. The first step towards a more egalitarian society, in which all can happily participate, is also to shrink our needs. The proper question to ask in that process is, what is happiness? Let’s re-educate ourselves by that question. For most of us, at home, there’s so much to change and change utterly, that shaking the lapels of climate change deniers is a waste of fast-diminishing time.
What is happiness? Even the most defensive must know that it is not in property, or achievement – it is in what we see, smell, taste, touch hear… – in what we do. And which of those sensory things most evokes happiness? Presence of family, friends, food, scents, sights and sounds of nature…? None of those things should be denied to anyone. Of course, inequality can remove the possibility of even such simple things.
It’s well to remember that our behaviour today is not yet palpable in effect. Inertia in ocean, ice cap and in the swell of ecological vibrations means that all is worse than we can currently sense. This year’s storms were built from last year’s consumption. Next year’s storms have already been created by what I did yesterday. Similarly, the warbler in the hedge who so delights me with his song, may be gone from the Earth in a season by the way I currently live – diminishing lovely complexity towards the lifelessness of mere elements. The balance of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been achieved by a massively complex, balancing and re-balancing of all living things.
It’s fair to say (physics says it) that our problem is not the climate change deniers, it is the self-satisfaction of the climate knowledgeable middle-class. The care, ingenuity, dexterity and complex responsiveness of the trades have been enclosed and boarded up – just like those boarded-up town centres – once the hub of a wider community of trades and husbandries. There is now no one to respond to the natural physics – the ecologies on which all economies depend and are a part. Community has become blind. As laws of physics and biology unfurl, there is no one of professional status to note them. If professional has come to indicate status enclosure, then anyone, who wishes for a pleasant tomorrow, must understand – today calls for the time of the working amateur – of those who love – and who may eventually make a profession of it.
Today, the world’s leaders are gathered again to discuss measures to communally mitigate climate change. That is, the world’s middle classes – civil servants, politicians and climate scientists. In spite of regular gatherings over the years, since 1990 carbon emissions have continued to rise and are still rising. Nation states will present their targets and outcomes for what is convenient and simple – that is electricity generation – It will be easy to supply all current electricity needs with true renewable sources – for UK that means mostly wind – and it can be done quickly and cheaply. Future electricity demands (imagining current transport and heating needs supplied by electricity) are a different story. In short, those demands will not be met. Earth does not provide that much energy. At COP 23 a handful of true professionals will profess that to resolve impossible demands, we must remove those demands – that economies which consume too much must shrink their consumption. But that will not be discussed at a government level and that is why carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise.
Behind the lucrative enclosures, the title of professional has come to imply – one who is discrete, taciturn, guarded… I hope that new amatory professionals from every cast and class will begin to sing without restraint – to profess their common human souls. There’s a commonwealth to reclaim and fences to grub up – both a part of the pursuit of happiness. Living on less has been the central pursuit of just about every religion, or philosophy since human cultures grew complex. It could become fashionable – if we remove that fixed gaze on our properties, we can watch the world expand.
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HOW DESTRUCTIVE IS THE MIDDLE CLASS? – STATUS ENCLOSURE (and the voice of Edgar McGregor)

Firstly, I’ve no wish to define people by accidents of birth and then condemn them for the effects of those accidents – by accent, dress, or other filial habits. Whichever class we’ve been born into will remain as our original soil. Parenthood, love, loyalty and some behavioural codes, remain on that sacred ground. There’s nothing we can do about our entry into the world, or about our remaining gratitude for it. However, as adults (if we accept that rite of passage) we must look about at the wider world – our connections to and our effects within it.
I’d like you to consider that the current middle class is a defended enclosure by those whose income is largely composed of rent. Perhaps as powerful as land enclosure, I ask you to contemplate a modern enclosure – status property. I leave aside the historical middle class – the yeoman, guildsman, bourgeoisie… I think they may have passed away.
The negative effects of land enclosure are copiously documented by well-known economic philosophers, dating back at least as far as the Reformation (Thomas More). The negative effects of what I’ve chosen to call, status enclosure, as far as I can tell, are not documented at all.
Status enclosure is the means to a monopoly of services. Lawyer, dentist, GP, architect and so on have gained right of enclosure to impose a large rent for their very existence – not for what their labour may provide. Rates such as £250, or £300 per hour are commonly demanded from those who must seek their services. Rent payers may be earning less than £10 per hour. I propose that right for rent has created a new class division – so much so that the middle-class has become a class enclosure. It has accumulated wealth by demanding rent from those who have fast become poorer. The equation is direct. That a whole class has grown rich by gathering rents from another is a plainly shaky foundation for a stable future. It is now evident that rent payers have been bled so dry, that professionals have become anxious at the dry river beds of their once-seemingly perennial spring. The middle-class has bitten too hard on the hand that feeds it.
Another and highly significant element of both status property and land property is the right to behave as we choose behind the fence – home as castle – trespassers will be prosecuted – my qualifications speak for themselves – in the sanctity of the home… Enclosure defines a right to irresponsibility, whereas commons (now lost) had defined rights to responsibility. That right to responsibility provided a place in larger society and a self-respect. Commons, which once maintained both personal dignity and social well-being, (the common good) have become almost entirely enclosed into other peoples’ properties (both land and status). Loss of place and self-regard has fermented an ill-defined yearning which, in turn, has penned the following tragedy, containing spun characters such as Mr Immigrant, Mr Wastrel and so on. A more productive view may be comic (tragedies and comedies share identical plots).
Yes, it’s both tragic and comic that the super-rich (who own most newspapers and radio/television stations) have managed to stir an inevitable class resentment away from reason and justice and into a right-wing revolt. That is apparent in the Trump and extreme right wing Conservative Party victories and in Brexit. The middle class – often Blairite, or American Democratic (but still neoliberal) have been outraged by the folly of it all! The so-called working class has revolted. Yet, in truth, how can ordinary people not revolt? – They have no more space to breathe.
The comedy lies in a historically recurring banana skin – monarchy’s appeals to “the people” against the machinations of the barons. The modern comedy is evident in that same plot and so it seems that brutal history continues. New monarchies have emerged. Equally, they appeal to the people against a wily middle-class of civil servants, politicians, professional people and law makers. The oligarch, or billionaire is an individual – flesh and blood – Look – you and I are the same, says oligarch to crowd. Yes, says crowd to oligarch, we are the same. The laughter is of the mind. The same plot, felt with the heart, may easily break it.
Royalty (not the preserved and mostly harmless museum people) lives and the people love it. That’s the Daily Mail’s front page.
But recent disturbances originate with neither oligarch nor people. The oligarch has been opportunistic. They emerge from those nice status enclosures. Though oligarch stirs the people to pull down the fence, the problem began with the essential amorality of the middle-class. (decadence)
Those status enclosures had fenced out the responsibilities of the trades and they’d simultaneously fenced-off, or boarded-up the eyes and ears of the trades. Our boarded-up town centre is a metaphor for everything. There is no one to notice that resources have been pillaged and that climate change has probably accelerated beyond human recall. All we can hope, is for less destruction. Liberal minded subscribers to Friends of the Earth will still regularly jet to holiday and work destinations. They will mock climate change deniers, while merrily causing climate change. Behind the enclosure we can live a fiction that behind other enclosures appropriate specialists are beavering away at preventing climate change. They are not.
Here is seventeen-year-old Edgar McGregor with the truth about us all:
Dear Children of Planet Earth,
Driving, to me, is one of the coolest things I have ever done. It isn’t the power, it isn’t the responsibility, and it isn’t the mobility that has captivated my love. When I roll down the windows and I feel the wind on my face, it feels as if I am free from my everyday worries. The wind allows me, in addition to being free, to be hopeful for change, and, it is almost as if I feel like I can breathe once again. I feel as I am leaving something behind that I am disappointed in, as I am chasing after the sunset at a wicked pace. No other entity has a power on my mind like that. As I look in the rearview mirror, however, I see what I was disappointed in. I see adults. I see them fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing. I see nasty political fights, angry mobs, and corrupt leaders. I see divided countries, violence and war. Among those terrible things I see something that I treasure dearly. I see something I cannot go forward without. I see Earth. I then realize, on my adventure to success with a face full of freeing winds, I have left behind my home planet. In the same cage as those fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing adults is our very own Earth. They are using it to their advantage, and they are overusing its resources. It is the object that gives them life, and they have total disregard for it. It is almost as if they do not care whatsoever about it.

Now, I used to love meteorology, the study of weather, with a passion. The wind was part of that deal, but so were the rains, thunderstorms, clouds, hurricanes, tornadoes, oceans, life and everything you can think of. As the years progressed, I watched as the weather started to change. I watched as my beaches collected trash. I watched as winters disappeared and summers lengthened. I watched as the ice caps melted, and hurricane after hurricane made landfall. I watched as wildfires devoured my beautiful mountains, while storms eroded my beaches. Maybe I should stop saying “my”….. These mountains and beaches, oceans and lands, jungles and deserts are not mine, but rather, they are ours. They are for the old, the young and they are for the unborn. It is our duty to protect them from the fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing adults. We must stand up to those who want to profit off of our planet.

Fellow teenagers and kids, it is our turn to solve this issue. Clearly, our parents cannot handle the one job they were given. We, the smartest species on the planet, failed at protecting our very own young. Any animal can do that, so why couldn’t they? We, however, refuse to do the same to our future children. If we fail, it is game over. We are the children Carl Sagan told them to protect the Earth for, and somehow, they told him no. They told him their bank accounts, vacations, and avocados were more important. They may have been too shy or scared to make this transition to a cleaner world, but we are not. Whether or not they will help us, support us, or care, we will fix this issue. We will set the first example for future worlds to look up to, to remind themselves that they too can unite their people to fix a common issue. We will take the dangerous roads. We will make the difficult decisions. We will make the necessary sacrifices. We will take the biggest step for mankind, and we will do all of that in the name of our own kids. They are our top priority. If our parents do not believe that you and I can change the world forever, all they have to do is just watch us.
Edgar McGregor’s rallying cry is to common humanity – beyond class and beyond enclosure. Europeans and Americans are distracted by a class war of their own making. Had liberal, middle-class values prevailed and elected a Hilary Clinton, or an Ed Milliband, then we’d still be blindly hurtling towards utterly degraded soils and catastrophic climate change. Nevertheless, it has become convenient to blame Trump, Brexit, or Theresa May and forget that our own trajectory was identical. The illusion created by status enclosure is that someone of status is in charge – we say, at £250 per hour it’s a gold-plated certainty. (Well, 25 to 1) But there is no one.

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THE GOOD ORDINARY WINE for Joshua Msika

I see one of the greatest follies of these times in the power of architects and the disempowerment of builders – what I call status enclosure. That enclosure acts like land enclosure by the extraction of rent without returning an economic/social contribution. It also severs the connection between tools and their effects. For instance, a farmer buys (with her own money) pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilisers and seeds as an integrated architectural package. She reads instruction (from the corporate architect) on the sides of the drums and sacks. She makes no attempt to understand what’s in the drums and sacks. She is told by the architect that in applying that system she’s become the “cutting edge of the industry”, I’m cutting edge, says the proud farmer – who has ceased to be a farmer and has become both the funder of and also the tool of a distant and careless architect.
Meanwhile, the truth of an agriculture’s dependent integration with ecological cycles, becomes lost. The connection is direct – between the application of a tool and natural reactions to it. Larger society is dependent on the sensual hand, heart, perception, ingenuity and loyalty of the farmer – but fields have been abandoned by the senses of people and occupied by the senseless (actually without senses) architectural tools of corporate monopoly.
There is a danger here of a battle between good and bad architects, in which we must naturally support the good. Naturally we cheer the good, but a good ecological design remains a senseless design. The presence of the (middle class) architect and a lack of the (working, peasant, yeoman – your choosing class) farmer remains the central problem.
Now, if we remove the architect from her enclosure and from her class system and replace her in a just and properly functioning society, she may have an equally (egalitarian) proper function. That function may be within either the scepticism of science, or the morals of philosophy – she can move between both at differing times. Also, our farmer may be a curious reader of the latest contributions to both science and philosophy and those contributions may broaden her facility to understand nature’s reaction to her own tools. If, because of that insight she adjusts her techniques, it remains a farmer’s, not an architect’s adjustment. All the contributions to a culture – musical, poetic, literary, philosophical, scientific – enrich it and also enrich it beyond the coercions of power. They add to commons of bequeathed humanity – also beyond the manipulation of power. That addition is the finest addition and it is to those commons that I appeal, to throw off the architects of power and to re-instate the arts of builders. In short, I appeal to the memory of ancestors and to those who’d have descendants. Today’s architecture is the briefest of perversities – riding the back of invading and fossil-fuelled monopoly.
Tomorrow, shrugging off enclosure, the architect and the farmer may converse happily on the common, but each with a clearly separated role – the farmer in the field – the architect on the page. On Winter nights, the farmer will love to turn those pages. On Summer days, the architect may wander, entranced – breast-high, among scents and sounds of (as days pass) green to golden fields of corn.
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What is ordinary is marvellous – ordinary sights, scents, tastes, sounds, breezes, days, seasons – complex beyond unravelling, but knit into culture like good ordinary wine…
Ordinary skill is the same – too complex to unravel but similarly knit into marvels of sea and soil.
Ordinary ways of life are now overlain and (for Europeans) nearly totaly abandoned by invading and extraordinary architectures impossible without fossil fuels – ring roads, retail/industrial parks, massive machinery, aviation, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, matricides…
I propose that most would lean back into those abandoned lives with a sigh – like a nice cup of tea and one’s favourite chair. We left it, as Marie Celeste for a new era – an architect’s vision, to which we contributed no part. To be sure, we’d left an ordinary mass of ordinary human folly, injustice… – find a wrong and it would be there. But since we had our trades – within those trades and with new knowledge contemporary to changed times, we could… dream on you say.
Nor will I engage in discussing merits of historical periods – follies of kings, bishops and factory gates – merits of trades, guilds and common fields… – as you’d expect.
Mine is a good ordinary vision of good ordinary wine. It is palpable in the elegance of those parish churches – the joy of mosques, temples, cathedrals – too complex an elegance for the pen of architect. The power behind the cathedral is a flaw – but consider this – that flaw is an enclosure – rather like the architect’s enclosure. It is not a flaw in the jewel. That musical eruption – Bach, Haydn, Mozart, even Beethoven was patronised by corrupt, self-serving powers, but that is no flaw in the jewel. Shakespeare politically prudent – surviving two bloody courts – bequeathed us jewels. Chaucer, the customs official… The border ballads – Thomas the Rhymer sung from folk memory amongst violent (or fearful) border reevers… sung like good ordinary wine.
Today, enclosure is pretty much complete. In truth, it completes the end of civilisation. The evidence is absolute – climate change, fast-depleting soil and utterly-mined resources. There is no one in charge to notice. Of course, there remain a few self-determined proper shops and trade’s people – just as there are a few independent minded farmers, but they are tiny islands in a vast sea. Enclosure (the tide of that sea) is the means to private property and rent – which lie outside social commons and apart from laws of physics, economics and nature. The last public services (they are commons) will soon be enclosed. Most already are so. Within their property, owners behave as they choose, without commons of restraint. They have no eyes, or ears. Consumer signals? No. Demanded and accepted consumer right within monopoly supply, gives a monopoly credence, but does not change it.
We can’t tell how the powers will behave as we reclaim commons, pick up our tools and attempt to live properly and ordinarily with each other. We do know that we follow an ordinary, and very well-trodden, course of history. Governments, kings and squires have forever manipulated, but skilled and ingenious house-holders and trades people have similarly forever (until very, very recently) managed the economy.
Where that pattern was interrupted, or weakened has been by land and resource enclosures. For instance, catastrophic land enclosure and the sack of monastic social systems at the Reformation dispossessed the skills of whole communities, which sought refuge where they could – in swelling cities, prostitution and other degradations. Nevertheless, the ordinary trades continued to manage the larger economy. Coal enclosure and its companion, the factory gate, later opened to receive still more of the dispossessed. So blind enclosure gained more effects just as European history “progressed”– that is – as further commons were swallowed into the enclosures of the architects. Even so, many continued self-determined trades and did so into living memory.
I think and hope that many from both left and right of politics would consider it a relief to sink into the comfort of a gently applauding ancestry. Of course, the applause is in our imagination, but that imagination narrates the unwinding tale of Everyman’s place – her identity; her terrain; her culture. Hey! Storytellers narrate, farmers farm, fiddlers tap my feet and shoemakers make shoes – and good, ordinary, proper architects design possibly-good permacultures – on the page – not on the land. The page is a wonderful thing and all may do better by opening the book.
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Which most forms an economy – government action, or my action?

WHAT SPOILS ECONOMIES?

Firstly, their size – do they exceed the limits of their ecological supply. That is – is the mass and diversity of an economic terrain maintained? Does the economy cycle within its terrestrial limits?

Does UK’s economy exceed its ecological limits? Yes – by a prodigious mass – by depleted soils and crashing biodiversity and biomass. Future generations will have increasingly less on which to survive. Nevertheless, UK’s economy measured by GDP (spending – not assets) continues to grow, while the resources, which supply it, continue to diminish. Chaos is prewritten in the system. 

Secondly by their atmospheric carbon (life) balance – Does carbon burnt, or bio-chemically released (from both living and dead sources) exceed the mass of carbon returned to living systems?

Does UK’s economy emit more than is returned? Yes – again prodigiously and increasingly so. Aviation, shipping and outsourced manufacturing are not even entered in UK’s carbon budget. Within half a decade, very high emitters, such as the average UK citizen will have made many of Earth’s regions uninhabitable. They will (mirroring the manufacturing of their personal goods) have shed to others, many of those effects. Nevertheless, UK’s own economy (within decades) will also be shattered by rising seas, high winds, rainfall, catastrophic floods and failed harvests.

Thirdly by rent for idle enclosures – such as land property, intellectual property and status property.

The destruction caused by land properties are well documented (Adam Smith, Tom Paine, J S Mill, Henry George…) but status enclosure less so. All monopolies have similar effects. Status property allows rent to be charged for status, far beyond wages for contributed work (lawyer, GP, dentist, banker, consultant and so on).

Enclosure is the principle and it may be argued, alongside usury, the only source of wealth for the rich and of poverty for the poor. It drains the economically active and sustains the economically inactive. If I take my £4 an hour to pay a solicitor’s £250 per hour, then my economy is wrecked. The larger economy is similarly wrecked. Because the work done by the solicitor has the same economic value as my £4 per hour – the excess (£246 per hour) is extortion.

Differing forms of enclosure are symptoms of a decadence, which has been the primal cause of the collapse of most civilisations. It can be deduced from the above that enclosure has been the means by which hierarchical class systems are imposed and maintained. Class is an enclosure.

Does UK’s economy support such parasitism? Yes – It protects and encourages it. Poverty and wealth (the twins) increase in tandem, largely because of land and status enclosure.

Fourthly by inappropriate taxation – that is taxes which discourage economic contribution and also fail as tools to discourage malpractice such as rent, usury, casino trade in shares and bonds and ecological pillage.

VAT currently cuts the value of UK wages, which ordinary people spend for services and hard goods by 20% and has very little effect on the rich.

Proposed carbon taxes act like VAT and also have almost no effect on the rich (high emitters) and a large one, on the poor (lower emitters). However, a carbon tax extracted at source can redistribute revenue towards the common good – towards renewables, or towards other common goals (or towards basic income).

Tax should be seen as a just contribution for inclusion in larger society (income tax, tithes) and also as restorative justice (land value tax) which returns wealth from idle (historically violent) enclosure and back to the common wealth. The simplest and most just way to return land value tax to the community is by a citizens’ dividend or universal basic income.

With regards to mal-economic behaviour, the market (tax signals) will not supply a satisfactory answer, although some specific behaviours, by specific people, or activities, can be targeted.

For instance, carbon tax (in which the rich buy licensed indulgencies to transfer their effects to the poor) have small effects on those who create most damage. It may be argued that the poor benefit by such taxes when they are spent into infrastructure projects, but they emphatically do not benefit from the unchanged climate changing behaviour of the high carbon emitters.

The greatest effect on carbon emissions will lie in changing the behaviour of the rich. As Kevin Anderson tells us, 10% of the global population are responsible for 50% of CO.2 emissions. If those 10% cut their personal emissions to no more than that of the average EU citizen, then global emissions will fall by 30%. Even so, it’s well to remember that we also need a dramatic shift in that current average European lifestyle to avoid economically catastrophic climate change. That shift must begin immediately. What we do today will have atmospheric greenhouse effects, which will remain for about ten thousand years.

Kevin Anderson again brings us down to Earth, “Twenty-seven years after the first IPCC report, emissions this year (2017) will be 60% higher than in 1990”. Remember, our personal holiday flights and the manufacture of our imported personal household tools (from cars to vacuum cleaners and also their shipping) are not counted as UK emissions in official budgets – even though they emphatically are so. Budgets, such as UK’s are fraudulent. True – the manufacture appears in other budgets (such as China’s), but shipping and aviation do not.

No-one needs to fly, and so a heavy aviation tax will help to restrict flights with little impact on the poor – to the benefit of all – both in spent revenue and mitigated climate change. So, some specific behaviours (financial transaction tax and so on) can be targeted for taxation, while those commonly necessary, not.

Rationing, (rather than tax) once accepted, can become a commonly accepted rule of personal good behaviour. It can become a tool for justice – the good life. Beyond it is selfishness and greed. People become happy by choosing the good.

 Rationing applied during and after the 1939 – 45 war was commonly accepted as management of limited resources. Rich and poor agreed to the same diet. Today, we need carbon rationing so that rich and poor share the same limits. Useful proposals are by David Fleming (Energy and the Common Purpose) and by Cap and Share as proposed by Feasta. It is commonplace to assert that facing climate change we must stand on a “war footing”.

Of course, bad behaviour can also be regulated by law. For instance, given our energy restraints, it’s hard to see how any aviation can continue. We can make air traffic illegal. Theft of the future should become illegal. A commonly accepted “should” will make an easily accepted law.

Meanwhile, tax as a market signal is a poor implement – it seldom changes the economically malicious behaviours of the rich. However, tax given as a contribution to the common wealth can still be extracted from bad behaviour, while it will also be given good-heartedly by most and spent properly, can contribute to the common good.

 Does current UK taxation discourage positive economic activity and also encourage malpractice? Yes. Does it promote catastrophic climate change? Yes.

 

HOW DO WE MAKE AND MAINTAIN AN ECONOMY AND ESCAPE A DESPOILED ECONOMY?

It can be seen that government legislation is a poor and often blunt instrument. Economies are made and maintained by the behaviours of everyone within them. Central to balancing the economy as a whole, is the balancing of my own life and that life is guided more by parents, ancestors, neighbours, friends, employers, employment and so on, than it is by government legislation. Historically, in most cultures personal behaviour has been guided more by the moral commons of folk memory and religion and less by those in power. In recent times, guidance and restraints of inherited commons of behaviour have become diluted and dispersed. It has become accepted to rail at the folly of governance, while maintaining (along with our peers) a blindness to the folly of our own lives. For instance, the happiest solution to the non-existence of carbon rationing is personal restraint. After all, looking from space at our lovely Earth, what do we see? People here and there, doing this and that. Where are governments and corporations? – Nowhere – because they don’t exist – they are abstractions – ideas in our heads, coercing bad behaviour. Citizens, one by one, cause climate change. Governments have not the physics to do so. A hypothetical good government can suggest what good behaviour is and then legislate for it, but even so, the good behaviour obtained, can only be achieved by citizens. Citizens hold the tools of either destruction or redemption.

We can also devise the abstract ideal state. I think Utopia is useful – it cuts what we have down to size, but nevertheless, economics (good, or bad housekeeping) always begins at home. All the rest (politics, political theory, social theory…) is useful, but is always secondary. I cause climate change. How do I stop causing it? I remove a settled future from my own children. How do I restore it? Other people have other circumstance and other solutions – some (though I doubt there are many in UK) may not need to change at all.

Since within just a few decades, the effects of how I and my friends are living will utterly wreck the lives of our own children, first things must come first. What can I change? There is a lot. In what ways are governments and existing social normalities assisting, hindering, or preventing that change? How I react to and lobby government is significant, but given the urgent and dramatic cultural change necessary to mitigate climate change and ecological cascades, it remains secondary to an internal lobbying of myself.

For instance, every developed country’s economy must shrink and shrink dramatically. How on Earth do we achieve that dramatic shrinkage without dramatic collapse? (current markets depend on growth) Governments can ration commodities, ban ecologically destructive activities and tax bad behaviours. If those government directions are accepted by its citizens, then those citizens will be happy to act as government intends. Nevertheless, the existing monetary system will cascade – companies will fold, unemployment will soar and tax revenue will wither – leaving insufficient funds for unemployment relief, medical care and hard infrastructure maintenance. Lawlessness and government/social collapse is probable.

Since not one government of any developed economy is showing the smallest inclination to change its pursuit of the fantasy of growth (the problem is too great for any politician to face), the remedy remains within the uncoerced good behaviour of citizens – beginning with myself. Economies can thrive within economies. Those islands in the flood – disconnected from cascading casinos, but connected to ancestral commons of good economic/ecologic behaviour, can swell as their attraction grows. Cloud Cuckoo Land? Probably. But it remains the only possible land.

I don’t visualise isolated ecovillages, because I see the islands everywhere – waiting for re-occupation. The hard structures of pre-fossil-fuelled ways of life remain in abundance. They are bypassed, derelict and misused but they remain both physically and spiritually – deep in inherited understanding. Towns, villages, fields, woods, harbours, rivers, canals, wind/water mills, market squares, workshops, trades, skills, cuisines, festivals and pleasures. Different terrains have different cultures, which remain in folk memory. The moral commons, which are unique to each culture are essential to the re-settlement of those cultures. Tread softly, Architectural/Cultural Design, for you tread on those dreams. Of course, people are fragmented and dispersed, but perhaps many recent political disturbances are misused yearnings for those same lost dreams. Polarised left and right can actually come together on a lost common.

If, as this writer repetitively asserts – cultures are what we do, not what we’ve achieved or possess, then a ferment of activity could herald a renaissance – a rich culture with small physical demands.

Here is Lee Hoinacki – We lived in a world largely devoid of packages, of commodities, of nouns. We actively affected and made the substance and the rhythms of our daily lives; it was a life of verbs.

That life of verbs – of individual contributions to a culture, which together make the whole is what beckons me. The complexity and sheer number of verbs are more powerful than any single mass of nouns which government or corporation (as a verb) could coerce from its people, or those people could amass as property. Those verbs have emerged from the past and generate a future. My role as progenitor is mine. Confucius says, happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want – to which I add – happiness is not in what I have, but in what I do. Even though my contribution is (as my reader might say) to Cloud Cuckoo Land, if that land is the only possible land, fail or not, I can remain happy – and happiness is contagious. Of course, though failure is very possible, it is not inevitable.

However, the trajectory of every developed economy is towards catastrophic ecological cascade and wildly accelerating carbon emissions. Total failure of current government policies and also of those who work to merely improve those policies – is utterly inevitable. Cloud Cuckoo Land is possible. The current consensus is not.

Let’s build islands from pre-oil cultural roots and meet other people also building islands until, who knows? – the flood recedes and we can quietly walk the lands between.

 

***

 

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The Tyranny of Enlightenment (revised)

Pursuit of further knowledge of the causes of climate change can grow a false sense of urgency – an urgency to become enlightened, which distracts from the true urgency – which is the moral question, – What should I do?
My way of life has become so destructive, that pleasurable distractions of the latest research papers are a waste of fast-diminishing time. The clock is approaching midnight.
Without further enlightenment, we know that we must stop burning both fossilised biomass and living biomass. Further accumulation of knowledge does not help with the question, what should I do? We know that our fossil fuelled way of life is impossible. We cannot improve, or green it. It must be abandoned.
Fossil-fuelled ways of life are wrong. Burning things is wrong and the ways of life which depend on burning things are wrong – that is suburbia (commuter culture), ring roads, retail parks, super markets, air-travel, fossil-powered agriculture, the family car…
Discovering which ways of life are right will be a matter of trial and error – both personal and communal – but we can begin by transition towards the pre-fossil-fuelled ways of life of communities which lived in the same terrain – within the same coastlines and with more or less the same cultural histories. Those ways of life are much like our own in every deeper sense. Many are nostalgic for them. They are a part of our inherited, intrinsic moral being. Fossil-fuelled ways of life have not yet evolved that moral commons. They are only a hundred, or sometimes two hundred years old and exist in our yet half-formed extrinsic (and rather coerced) being.
To live within ecological means also means asserting lost sovereignties – in reclaiming commons and denying enclosures. Consumer dependency on an amoral and unguided monopolistic supply (however green) will end in human chaos.
Cloud Cuckoo Land is to believe that the way we live today can be powered by renewable energy, by yet unthought ingenuities and by a more enlightened agriculture – what we might call the new green super market – entirely agroecological; entirely electric; entirely re-cycled… That is the future pursued by many environmental NGOs, such as the Soil Association, Sustainable Food Trust and so on.
Earth does not provide that much energy.
***

WE DON’T NEED FURTHER KNOWLEDGE. WE NEED A MORAL AWAKENING

The notion that economics (good or bad housekeeping) is a branch of moral philosophy has only become obscure in the last century. Previously, it had been an assumption.
Societies are held together by common beliefs. Good and bad behaviour – effective and ineffective tools are knit into those commons. Economics is the study of human causes and effects. Every action and every application of a tool has an effect and so also a moral. Let’s consider soil – a common to
pass through generations – Are we succeeding or failing in our duty? – What of agricultural tools and their ecological effects? These are supremely moral questions. They cut us to the heart, and also ferment in the head.
What are the social effects of monetary systems and the manipulation of money systems? We learn techniques and tools by pragmatic trial and error – just as we do with the tool of money – but the effects of those tools always end with questions of justice, injustice, value, worth…. Of course, the words value and worth travel easily between aesthetics, scales of justice and weights and measures.
With regards to climate change, our primary questions are, what should I do, and what should my community do? The search for knowledge is a pleasure, but we already know enough to act effectively. The questions are, what is right and what is wrong?
When we speak of right and wrong we engage with both the head and heart. We become included, or excluded from the good life. We hate to be excluded – the remedy for exclusion is better behaviour. The remedy for climate chaos – for ecocide – is better behaviour. Ecocide is not only foolish – it is wrong.
How do we know good from bad behaviour? – by inherited commons, which have been traditionally bequeathed in religions; in songs and tales; parental guidance; in gossip. They’ve been expounded from soap boxes; inscribed on tablets of stone; in customs – in commons of soil-use, water-use and their just distribution in space (between neighbours) and in time (between generations).
What happens, when we have no inheritance, or can see that custom is out of touch with changed times? We begin to create one by our pragmatic footsteps. We become the myth. It is our responsibility to be mythic. If we fail or not, in gaining such meaning, we can be happy.
For inhabitants of the so called developing world, change will be less dramatic. It will answer the question – Do we need to live as foolishly as our developed neighbours? Having answered correctly, people will more easily look about them to consider their energy use, soils and so on.

***
THE PROBLEM IS NOT LACK OF KNOWLEDGE. IT IS THE GREAT FORGETTING OF WHAT WE KNOW.

This is not in praise of ignorance. Knowledge is a pleasure. Latest research papers are a pleasure. The mistake is to think they will be useful.
We can be distracted from acting properly by an urgency to accumulate “information” – gathered from others and not from experience. We become exited by proposals for new technologies which may resolve our currently bad behaviour. Hoped futures (forward thinking!) will save the present! Bad behaviour can remain unchanged because our gaze is fixed on a dispensatory future. Actually, though the future is always fictitious, it is most accurately, though always partially, predictable by present actions. The truest futurist vision is contained in the legacy we bequeath by present action – choosing a future by our behaviour. New generations must cope with our effects.
Good conversation re-enforces and binds community – it entertains and adds to the store of knowledge and conviviality – like good food and wine. But the real question remains – What shall I do next? What is right and what is wrong?
Small wrongs; great wrongs are all wrongs. But some wrongs are different – those done with intent are different from those done without. All intentional wrongs have the same quality – theft, murder, tax avoidance, usury, anthropogenic climate change, ecocide… Nevertheless, custom gives many intentional wrongs permission to continue.
Choosing to remove a settled future from children, by boarding a jet aeroplane is a great wrong. Since few don’t understand anthropogenic climate change, it remains a great wrong, committed with intent (possibly infanticide). Custom agrees it is wrong. Yet, since most do it – custom also agrees to a communal forgetting.
So, our problem is not of insufficient knowledge, but of the customs of either forgetting or remembering. Our solution is to build a consensus to remember.
Nearly everyone agrees that ecocide and cultural causes of climate change are wrong. Yet nearly everyone has formed a consensus to forget that agreement.
So, educating the already educated (which is nearly everyone) will prove fruitless. It will change nothing.
Al Gore’s inconvenient truths will remain half-sleeping, while climate change accelerates.
The solution is deeper – As Richard Heinberg has recently pointed out, the remedy is a moral awakening.
I say, it is a communal suffusion of shame.
The truth is that for economies such as Ireland’s and UK’s, everything – our whole way of living is wrong. So, it has also become convenient to forget the whole and to tinker with distractions of the particular.
Here are some distractions – aids to forgetfulness, which as a farmer, are close to home for me.

First – Sequestration dispensation for grassland distracts from the economic, ecologic and atmospheric urgency for trees.

The enlightening ideas of Allan Savory distract many who control grasslands to find a new virtue in continuing as before – perhaps changing only intervals between grazing!
Let’s consider land use – that is, let’s consider what we do to land – Is it right or wrong?
A community needs optimum acreages of woodland, grassland, cereals, fruit, vegetables… for its needs and for future needs.
Just about all of UK’s acreage, which is fit for agriculture, is (has been) natural woodland, with glades. If we were to consider greatest photosynthetic biomass and restoration of climatic balance, then we’d instantly replant the lot with trees. Allan Savory’s grassland is in UK’s case, unnatural grassland and will not produce the same biomass – or resilient biodiversity as woodland. If we consider relative economic (that is social) contribution, then woodland again provides what is essential and increasingly scarce, whereas grassland provides what is inessential and currently abundant.
I assume that our culture asks land for vegetables, fruit and cereals and that animals for milk, meat and eggs can be beneficially integrated both in rotations and under fruit trees and so on. Currently, we consume massive amounts of meat, while also having an acute and potentially catastrophic, shortage of timber. The Drax power stations alone annually consume three times the total (for all uses) annual production of UK timber. That illustrates our carelessness. Even though we must stop burning biomass, we remain with vastly insufficient forestry managed for timber – for housebuilding and so on.
It’s true that as we stop growing cereal and pulses for “feed-lot” farms, we will release land to grow staple cereals and pulses, and also hugely reduce meat production – but the question remains, what is the best use for my beef/sheep field? Three questions –
1 – Thriving ecology – meat or trees?
2 – Climate change – photosynthetic grass, or photosynthetic trees?
3 – Economy – meat or timber?
Which is right and which is wrong? Field by field, it’s a choice – there is no nuance.
As a community, field by field, we must somehow balance the needs of the whole. An economy which most happily fits its ecology will achieve optimum success.

***

Second – True cost accounting of bad economic behaviour by enclosing priceless commons as valued capital.
This fallacy proposes that the market can provide a solution to environmental pillage. Well, Adam Smith’s market could have done so, but of course, his capitalism has not yet been applied and as far as I can tell, has never existed anywhere in the world. Capitalism cannot function without common rules of behaviour – that is without a robust, culturally-evolved commons. Those commons are designed to maintain sources of capital to pass between people in both time and space – that is, fairly distributed both between neighbours and between generations.
Capital is enclosed common and is amoral – it bears no behavioural directions. Commons are moral directions attached not to things – resources, such as soil, water and so on – but to our use of those things as capital. Some commons define purely social behaviours – and are maintained by tradition and sometimes (theft of capital, murder…) by law. Capital and common are conjoined – each exists, because of the other.
The thing is, commons define what is right and what is wrong. Environmental pillage by an amoral market is wrong. It will not be made right by bringing new capital values into that market, such as the future cost of that pillage. On the contrary, in the process, traders gain new capital costs to manipulate in the casino. What’s more, even true cost accountants (to remain credible to other accountants) have vastly underestimated those capital costs. The priceless is difficult to price.
Environmental pillage is wrong. Adam Smith’s capitalism would make it wrong. True cost accountants should promote proper capitalism – it is well documented. Instead, they endorse an amoral market without moral restraint, or cultural tradition.
Established commons can often become law – as in rotation of strip fields, or distribution of waterrights/irrigation controls. In recent times laws of property (land enclosure) have overwhelmed many such laws of commons.
That should be our battle ground – not in entering new capital values (private properties) into an amoral casino – but in returning morality to our actions – the return of commons – for our neighbours – for our descendants – Pillage may be defeated – sometimes perhaps by common justice/law, but most powerfully and always by shame.

***

Third – What we may call the new green supermarket
The new green super market is the greatest of the great forgetting. It marks the decision to remain on the Titanic and rearrange the deck chairs.
We’ll hit the iceberg even though by our petitions and purchase signals, every item in the aisles has become organic, fairly-traded and in re-cycled packaging. Greening the super market gives it credence and endorsement and at the same time, diminishes and impoverishes the smaller, more numerous vessels, which may still remain afloat – that is, if they hold a proper economic/ecologic course. Greening the impossible evokes a forgetfulness that it remains impossible. Some green NGOs perform that useful obscurity. The organic “movement” has been notoriously helpful with deck chairs. In endorsing the Titanic, it has helped to evacuate potentially resilient proper shops and market squares. Nice produce in unpleasant markets focuses on the nice and forgets the unpleasant – It’s nice to do so. (and positive, I’m told)
Let’s remember.
Living within ecological means dictates abandoning the fossil-fuelled Titanic. Life boats of transition can set a course towards the point where she first embarked. That is, a socially interconnected network of fields, villages and towns, which asks for some transport for goods, but not for people. Towns are congregations of houses, markets, workshops, proper shops, fairs and pleasures – all of which can be easily reached on foot and by the same pair of feet. Feet are perfectly designed for people. Feet can both work and holiday. They can walk side by side, happily form a crowd and – a civilization.
Having solved the problem of transport for people by such a happy – almost effortless solution, we can more easily wrestle with the remaining problems of transport for goods. Crops must somehow migrate from field to village, town, or city. I don’t think they can travel to suburbia. That’s why people congregate. Suburbia is fossil-fuelled. It is a deck chair.
Wastes must cycle back to fields – along with the products of those workshops.
The connection of field and town is a problem we’ve yet to solve. With current populations, the energy required outruns history and can be only partially solved in the Havana manner by urban market gardens, personal allotments and by peripheral rings of market gardens.
Oversized cities are deck chairs, but some cities may survive happily by harbour and navigable river, or by a network of canals. I think that sea trade will prove essential for resilience – for trading not only scarcity and surplus – but also cross-cultural pleasures. Without question, pragmatic laws of
physics show that sea trade must be sail trade. Currently derelict harbour towns – scattered along every mile of coastline, will regain their function and their people.
City and suburbia are our greatest problems – but ones which may (at least partially) be knit to our greatest solution. The wildest injustice of late and post medieval times has been the brutality of land enclosure, which led to famine, mass migration and swelling hopelessness of poverty, dependency, prostitution… – in short, slavery and city slums. Today, many in cities dream of escape from that same dependency, but cannot see a way.
There can be a mass migration of human ingenuity, dexterity and hopefully – happiness back to coast and countryside – fields can shrink from monopolistic fossil power to diverse, curious, ingenious and dextrous man-power – coastal community will revive with boat-builders, sail-traders… We can reverse the enclosures.
This is madness you say – You are nostalgically driving by the rear-view mirror. We have the knowledge to green our way of life – wind power is already cheaper than oil…
I say, consider the ice-berg.
Step into lifeboats (of transition) and head for shore. Those turbines will be useful for a more fitting way of life.
We’ve travelled too wildly, blindly and too far. Almost everyone already knows that truth. But we’ve communally agreed to forget it. The first evidence of solid ground will be found at the point where we embarked.
We may resume properly at that point – one which anyone can understand – morally, spiritually and analytically. Actually, transition towards that end can never end – the steps will continue, because truths of natural physics are perennially illusive. They escape the permaculture designer. They beckon us. After all, a central economic problem of the Titanic was one of too many architects (perma-preconception) and not enough builders (pragmatism). Every house-holder; every trade’s person is better qualified to seek better behaviour by their own curiosity, in their own illusive terrains, than all the expertise of IPCC and the Paris Accord.
It is ordinary. It is simple. It is universal. On passage, we may be surprised by a dove with a twig of olive. We may not. Tacking across head-winds in a steep swell, happiness remains (succeed or not) in what we do.
Complexity is the web of Titanic entanglement. How do we divest familiar, but decadent garments of oil – work, wages, lack of wages, irony, sarcasm, inveiglement, the latest “interesting” research…? Can we bear to be known as a wagging finger, which spoils the deck party?
But there’ a greater shame than that – and a greater joy.

***

Fourth – A minor distraction – Bio Char
Of course, bio char is not a distraction for most people. It is of small significance. Nevertheless, it is illustrative of similar distractions, which can often lead to untruth – that is: apparent remedies for the particular, which can be pernicious to the whole – not seeing the wood for the trees. Cults of the liberty of the individual are prone to such distractions.
There is little doubt that bio char is useful for individuals – it helps maintain stable soil life for their particular plots.
Terra Preta soils of the Amazon Basin were maintained in extra-ordinary fertility by the use of charcoal. Communities generated similarly extra-ordinary quantities of waste biomass from hunting, fishing and gathering to supplement their agriculture. Their ingenious solution was to char it. Who knows? They may have used the generated heat. Had they simply fermented those wastes as we do today by compost, farm yard manure, or anaerobic digestion, then those surplus nutrients would have been lost to soil life.
Today we have no surplus. We’ve no peripheral lands for hunter-gathering. In fact, Titanic culture is creating a massive soil life deficit.
Charred biomass is much less than its original biomass – even if we propose that we’ve culturally integrated the generated heat. (unlikely)
Bio char, redistributed equably in let’s say, a town allotment, by charring all the gathered wastes of every allotment holder, will produce lower crop yields, than a system which had, as in European cultural tradition, fermented those wastes.
We can imagine a hierarchical kleptocracy (like today’s in UK, US and Russia) in which elites keep surpluses of biomass from city wastes for bio-charring their own lands, while fertility elsewhere withers. That is a classic (though futuristic!) tale of the enclosures.
In leaving the Titanic, we leave such monopolies and re-occupy commons – of soil, water, biomass, seed… Cults of the individual will not survive. We must depend on each other – look out for one another. Bio char is a small, but dangerous, individualist deck chair.
***
Cults of the individual cannot survive. Our predicament is of the tragedy of the enclosures. Private property, home as castle, consumer right granted in exchange for monopoly supply – have led to the sack of personal responsibility and so to the sack of the Earth. No-one remains on the bridge of the Titanic. Everyone is at the deck party – elites entertained at the captain’s table – others huddled in literary/scientific discussions – many others waiting tables and working the kitchens – the upwardly mobile (social mobility) in between – some even shattering glass ceilings…
Others, more earnestly send petitions to the bridge; to supermarket; to parliament – about climate change, inequality, icebergs…
But they speak to the void.
Truth is – climate change is caused by all of us, one by one. The solution is to stop causing it, one by one. There is nobody on the bridge, or in the super market/corporation/parliament to legislate for societal change. People one by one make a crowd. It is our duty to form one on solid ground and not on the deck of the Titanic. We, like most mammals exist as a flock of mutual dependencies.
The tragedy is that hurting the flock for personal gain is no longer a crime – many call it success – the success of the tragedy of enclosure; the sack of commons; the sack of Earth; the building of the Titanic.
***
The great forgetting of ancestors and descendants has us lost at sea in a kind of nagging unhappiness, which is actually suppressed, undefined shame. Our deepest being is the moral necessity to belong. We belong by doing the right things.
Speak for yourself, you say? I do. I am ashamed.
Shame and redemption are woven into our culture and survive from far older cultures – from long before agriculture. Those moral bindings are a part of eusocial evolution. It is no accident that the finest document we have on climate change is the Vatican’s encyclical on climate change. That is because it is unashamedly moral. Similarly, every great religious organisation has admirably followed suit – Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant – Methodist, Calvinist, Quaker…
Children have rights – adults, responsibility.
For how much longer, can I remain a child?
Native American, Maori and Aboriginal voices have powerfully and movingly defended the sanctity of their soils. Movingly, because at heart – even from the deck of the Titanic, we fully understand.
We fully understand.
***

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The Tyranny of Enlightenment

Pursuit of further knowledge of the causes of climate change can grow a false sense of urgency – an urgency to become enlightened, which distracts from the true urgency – which is the moral question, – What should I do?

My way of life has become so destructive, that the pleasurable distractions of latest research papers are a waste of fast-diminishing time. The clock is approaching midnight.

Further accumulation of knowledge does not help with the question, what should I do? Without further enlightenment, we know that we must stop burning both fossilised biomass and living biomass. Our fossil fuelled way of life is impossible.
Fossil-fuelled ways of life are wrong. Burning things is wrong and the ways of life which depend on burning things are wrong – that is suburbia (commuter culture), ring roads, retail parks, super markets, air-travel, fossil-powered agriculture, the family car…

Discovering which ways of life are right will be a matter of trial and error – both personal and communal – but we can begin by imitating the pre-fossil-fuelled ways of life of our historical communities – communities which lived in the same terrain – within the same coastlines and with more or less the same cultural histories. Those ways of life are much like our own in every deeper sense. Many are nostalgic for them. They are a part of our inherited, intrinsic moral being. Current ways of life, which we must abandon, have not yet evolved that moral commons. They are shallow, brash, only a hundred, or sometimes two hundred years old and exist in our yet half-formed extrinsic being.

For inhabitants of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the change must be dramatic. Firstly – a reversal of the enclosures, which lead to mass evacuation of the countryside and occupation of what often became city slums. Then we can re-centre suburbia with towns and villages. Factories and workshops must be in walking distance for those who work there. Town centres and villages can revive as a central gathering-place for both the trades and the pleasures – pubs, theatres, libraries, churches, temples, mosques, council/parliament buildings and so on.

That’s a tall order? – Cloud Cuckoo Land? It’s an order that we must face. It’s right. What’s more – It’s easily understood. Furthermore, many are already nostalgic for it. To say wearily, – It’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, is to say that it’s ridiculous to work for a civilised future.

To live within our ecological means also means asserting lost sovereignties – in reclaiming commons and denying enclosures. Consumer dependency on monopolistic supply (however green) will end in human chaos.

The true Cloud Cuckoo Land is to believe that the way we live today can be powered by renewable energy; by yet unthought ingenuities and by a more enlightened agriculture – what we might call the new green super market – entirely agroecological; entirely electric; entirely re-cycled… That is the future pursued by many environmental NGOs, such as the Soil Association, Sustainable Food Trust and so on.
Earth does not provide that much energy.

***

The notion that economics (good or bad housekeeping) is a branch of moral philosophy has only become obscure in the last century. Previously, it had been an assumption.
Societies are held together by common beliefs. Good and bad behaviour – effective and ineffective tools are knit into those commons. Economics is the study of human causes and effects. Every action and every application of a tool has an effect and so also a moral. Let’s consider soil – a common to pass through generations – Are we succeeding or failing in our duty? – What of agricultural tools and their effects? These are supremely moral questions. They cut us to the heart, and also ferment in the head.

What are the effects of monetary systems and the manipulation of money systems? We learn techniques and tools by pragmatic trial and error – just as we do with the tool of money – but the effects of those tools always end with questions of justice, injustice, value, worth…. Of course, the words value and worth travel easily between aesthetics, scales of justice and weights and measures.

With regards to climate change, our primary questions are, what should I do, and what should my community do? The search for knowledge is a pleasure, but we already know enough to act effectively. The questions are, what is right and what is wrong?
When we speak of right and wrong we engage with both the head and heart. We become included, or excluded from the good life. We hate to be excluded – the remedy for exclusion is better behaviour. The remedy for climate chaos – for ecocide – is better behaviour. Ecocide is not only economically foolish – it is wrong.

How do we discern good from bad behaviour? – by inherited laws of commons, which have been traditionally bequeathed in religions; in songs and tales; in gossip. They’ve been expounded from soap boxes; inscribed on tablets of stone; in customs – in commons of soil-use, water-use and their just distribution in space (between neighbours) and in time (between generations).

What happens, when we have a fragmentary inheritance? We can add to it and reconcile some fragments by our footsteps. We can become actors in the myth. It’s our responsibility to be mythic! If we fail or not, in gaining meaning by the intelligence of our senses, we become placed – if we belong in a landscape – in a social scape – we can be happy.

For inhabitants of the so called developing world, change will be less dramatic. It will answer the question – Do we need to live as foolishly as our developed neighbours?

 
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