What can we take with us and what must we leave behind in the enclosures?
How much of the common remains? – I shall suggest that it is very much more than most people imagine.
EVACUATION OF THE ENCLOSURES
Hard as it is, these are things we must leave behind – aviation, the family car, all cultural activity related to fire, ideas of suburbia, ideas of dependency…
We will take with us much that does not appear in GDP figures – money-less activities, strong family morals and we shall alight in many still existing, though much shrunken commons – hard infrastructures of towns, villages, market squares, church, mosque, synagogue, temple, meeting house, pubs, cafes… and soft infrastructures of skill, ingenuity, moral probity – that which makes the ethics of the trades. All of these things will also lead to happiness.
Even today, inside the enclosures, we behave more by inherited and bequeathed family values, than by laws of the land and corporate demands. I think the potency of that money-less economy is massive. Without it, all economies would collapse.
Also consider that those inherited family values extend into both friendship groups and to common interest clubs and societies. It is taboo to charge interest to a friend in financial difficulty, just as it is so between family members. We would also not do the same to our walking, archaeological, music society, local football club and so on.
Consider the household –
There, a true economy survives in rationing of both chores and pleasures and of fair shares of what we can have and what we can do. Any true economy is made essentially, by commonly-agreed rationing and in fair shares of what we can do. Of course, all economies are made in the present moment and by what people do. All else – targets, dispensations and so on, provide an illusion that something has been done, while forgetting that it is in the present moment, that all must be done.
Only in the household do children learn the ethics of what will will drive them – and on reaching parenthood, bequeath them in turn.
In short, in evacuating the enclosures, we leave behind a world of limp, unhappy dependency, to enter a world of happy trade relationships, convivial population centres and liberating personal responsibility. The common is a place of ingenuity, dexterity and intelligence of the natural world, into which we must find our place. We can find that response nowhere else – as I say, where a hand, or tool touches its materials, comes a spark of truth – for better and for worse.
This was written by my friend, David-Van Edwards,Master Lute-Maker
‘Twas Covid, and the slithy Gove
Did sneer and semble on the Beeb:
All flimsy were the Dido moves
And money-bags did greed.
“Beware the Eton toffs my son!
The claws that grab, the laws that catch!
Beware the Priti bird, and shun
The famous right backscratch!”
He took his virtual sword in hand:
Long time the fearful foe he sought -
So rested he by the Covid tree
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in pressive mood he stood,
The Eton toff, with tangled mane
Came waffling through the verbal wood,
And blustered as it came!
Set to! And with precise attack
The virtual blade cut through the slack!
He left it dead, and with it said
He went triumphant back.
“And hast thou slain the Eton toff?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
But Covid and the slithy Gove
Still sneer and semble on the Beeb:
Still flimsy are the Dido moves
And money-bags do greed.
Yes. Cultures are what people do. The future is created by present actions – for better and for worse. Targets, achievements, status… can change nothing. Today’s part of the benign future of our imagination, will become deffered for that day – while the malign will accelerate. It follows that the greatest force for the fruition of our imagined benign future is firstly our personal moral probity ( which directs of actions) and secondly that of fellow citizens. Such morals are what maintains the common. The purpose of all enclosures is to remove the moral and to replace it with rights to amoral property, which is usually irresponsible (home as castle} and can charge rent. These enclosures include rent-gathering land property, rent-gathering money property (interest is rent) and rent-gathering information property. Idle rent is entirely parasitic on true economic activity. It diminishes, intelligence-gathering, ingenuity, dexterity, probity and not least, of course – happiness.
But there is one major and utterly pernicious enclosure, for which I can find no direct evidence in contemporary literature – other than vague references to monopoly. I call it status enclosure. This is the facility for enclosed professions to charge massive rents to use their “services”. These services are often required by law as intermediaries to legal requirements of citizens.
I include, medical practice, dentistry, pharmaceuticals, every aspect of the law, architecture, planning consultancy, all forms of enclosed consultancy… I may take my £10/hour income to pay for the, at least £300/hour, of “professional” advice. The common says that £10/hour of that is wage, while £290/hour is idle and utterly destructive rent.
Had we paid attention to just three of our ancestors who understood the perils of modernity (there are many, many more) we could have rumbled the destruction that was to come and is now firmly residing amongst us. Plainly, this enclosure is embodied in what we may safely call, the new middle class. That middle class – not corporation, or government – is the major obstacle to action on both our divorce from nature and action on climate change. In the UK it is embodied in the power of professional advice, peer-review/career review and in the return of the New Labour Party and its completely-enclosed, highly-dangerous leader, “Sir” Keir Starmer.
Anyway, here are three of my ancestors, who also say what I mean to say – Adam Smith, Ivan Illich and David Fleming. Of course, there are many, many more stretching into pre-history.
Here are some simple behavioural rules –
1 – It is futile to lobby for green, or egalitarian improvements to enclosed systems, such as corporate provision. In doing so, we give credence to the system, and we may lengthen its life. Corporations will be very happy to provide for the green consumer – wherever the money lies. But they cannot relinquish dependent consumerism, nor of course, their amoral corporate rights. The problem we face is not how to green existing enclosures, or corporate supply, it is the destructive nature which is intrinsic to the amorality of both corporation and enclosure – it is how to regain responsibility for our actions.
2 – Both corporations and governments are abstract ideas. They cannot exist without the very many small purchases and personal ballot papers which make them reality. I spend and vote them into being. They are my creation and so they are my responsibility.
The answer is plain – de-spend the corporation and re-spend the moral probity of proper shops and trades’ people who still survive in our villages and town centres. Re-spend conviviality. Re- spend the moral and physical common.
Many green activists and nearly all academics are busy lobbying governments and corporations to act on climate heating and while action is urgent, they target the wrong source. The true source is ourselves, and of the collapse of personal morality into dependence on the non-existent morality of others. Cultures are always (as I say) the sum of what people do. They are not things (nouns), they are the living present (verbs).
Anyway, those academics are dangerously deluded. We should (I mean the morality embodied in the word, should), give them no ear. Challenge the supply side, they say. Maintain the enclosure, respect and income intrinsic to my doctorate!
No! we should reply, challenge the demand side – that is ourselves. We are the source of everything, for better and for worse. Currently, we have chosen, at least for human cultures – a lifeless planet.
If we remove that academic noise, which is most of the dangerous noise – at least on climate heating – probably less for ecology – we will be left, firstly with sensual evidence of the present (the only physical truth and the only place and time, where action produces reaction) and secondly with the entirely human views of genuine academics. For me, these include people such a Kevin Anderson and James Hansen. Yes, they have real names and their actions are founded on their own learnt and inherited morality – not on career, peer-respect, wage, or intellectual property.
Below is a related salutary lesson.
3 – A salutary lesson
Consider the climate change activist, or academic, who jets from podium to climate change summit to podium again.
Firstly, her knowledge should have made it impossible for her conscience to board the jet aeroplane in the first place.
Secondly, those places are merely publicity machines. No one will have time, while there, or space, to truly understand her paper.
Thirdly, everyone interested must first download her paper, on-line. She had no need to stir from home, nor had other attendees. The summit itself could have been created as a web site for contributions and responses.
Fourthly, her reason for attendance can only be for increased standing with her peers. Lobbying for peer-review, which is of course, actually, career review and for increased status in the eyes of all.
This means that she regards her status and influence to be greater than her utterly pernicious behaviour in a personal and massive increase in green-house gases. As we’ve seen, status achieves nothing, but to differ action. Present action and only inthe present creates everything – from both a personal extent and to a mass extent. If we think her a role model, then it would be wise to instantly forget her. We may be sure that her scientific papers will be riddled with career-related compromise.
Her true influence will be, not to the accumulation of knowledge, but to a rosy future for jet aeroplanes.
4 – I have some personal soft-spots. Here are two –
Vandana Shiva – For very many years, Vandana has fought for Indian communities – for the return of their
commons in self-determination, in tools and in seeds and against the pillage by the colonial empires of Monsanto, Gates and their subservient nation states. Her consumption of jet fuel must be massive.
Greta Thunberg – Greta’s message is the best message – she calls on adults to at last, behave properly and to lead their children into a time and space of safety. Of course she would never have met heads of government, UN officials, or prominent jet-setting activists, such as Naomi Klein, without some very shady Gates-like green new deal-pursuing intervention. I think she is innocent of it. Similarly, her “Stick to the science,” is trusting and innocent.
Extinction Rebellion, utterly to the contrary, calls on corporations to behave, so that we can remain dependent on their benign provision. The true message should have been firstly, to their members and secondly to a wider body-politic. Many members are from the destructive middle-class “enlightenment” which is currently causing such lack of action on both climate heating and ecology – they are the professions to which we differ and also pay massive debilitating rents.
Of course, many members have personally abandoned air-travel, the family car… – while Greta sports a massive CO.2 budget.
Lastly, I’m afraid that I must slay a very sacred cow
For the most part, the so called, UK economy is composed not of economic activity, but of a monetarist casino. The true economy is probably but 10% of the whole – leaving the casino 90%. I draw that figure out of a hat. I’m sorry that my deteriorating health makes me unable to pursue the true figures – which once upon a time I’d have loved to do, or at least to guess, since much of the casino is deliberately hidden.
My sacred cows are steady-state, circular, de-growth and doughnut economists, who all propose de-growth of the casino and not at all the re-growth of a true and small economy on the common, which is its true habitation.
Now, those economists would be very welcome on the common, though I doubt they’d be much practical help. As I say, truth is found in reactions to actions – where a tool touches its materials comes a spark of truth – for both better and for worse. Only that relationship can build moral and physical commons for good behaviour. It enters the ancestral store. They could be useful in devising monetary systems, in which money is strictly controlled to be but a tool of exchange, so that money as property is outlawed.
Since economics is but one branch (the stoutest) of moral philosophy, those economists are acting utterly irresponsibly in proposing de-growth of the casino, when (being economists) they must know the consequence – immediate casino collapse and so also collapse of every section of the true economy. Business will fold. Unemployment will soar to near 100%. Tax revenue will crash and so social infrastructures will disappear. There will be no social security and no maintenance of hard infrastructures.
Read David Fleming. He will endorse the above.
There is but one place that an economy can survive. That is the common. The transition movement had it right from the beginning. Only there, can we build communities resilient enough to withstand casino collapse. It will collapse anyway. Our task is to build that common. Most of the infrastructures for that common survive awaiting re-occupation. It is our absence that makes them so week. It is our bad behaviour. Only on the common can we find our true relationship to the countless other species with which we share our habitation.
It is a deep tragedy that academics such as Kate Raworth (who is adored by most of the green and egalitarian movements) should be drawing so many into false hope for the status quo and into delaying proper, morally guided and beneficent action.
The next part will be on evacuating the enclosures and on settling the common. Which tools can we carry with us? Which must we leave behind?
I’ve said all that I want to say. Yet, I notice that everyone else is the same. So here I re-iterate the themes of my book, beginning with life-cycles. Later re-iterations will include more of human behaviours in relation to energy consumption and commons of good behaviour – that is, of benign human energy and of malign – how we must evacuate the enclosures to re-settle the common.
Current modelling by IPCC and just about everyone else, propose that life cycles are carbon cycles and that life can be thought of as “sequestered” in soil.
Firstly, carbon cannot cycle – it is lifeless – only that which has energy (acceleration) and velocity, can cycle. The linear contribution of photosynthetic sunlight, is limited by the mass, acceleration and velocity of life. The linear is limited by the cyclic. We cannot define what life is, but for our purposes, we may think of it as acceleration due to life, just as we think of acceleration due to direct gravity, or to temperature difference, or to the Moon’s gravitational pull on sea water.
Of course, burnt lifeless carbon, such as coal, oil, gas and the heartwood of trees, enters and influences cycles by acceleration due to combustion. The energy is not fossil fuels, it is fire.
Secondly, we cannot think of life as “sequestered”. The biomass of soil is not a still, quiet mass. It is fluid – in mass, energy and velocity and in exchanges between them. All life is dependent on fermentation. The fermentation of soil-life cannot be separated from growth of plants and animals – nor from the gases due to fermentation, which end as atmospheric gases. They are one, whole system. “Sequester” it and kill it.
We can think of coal, oil and gas as sequestered – also the heartwood of already fallen trees. Best to leave them where they lie…
Burnt timber (usually wood-chip) emits more , or less the same as coal, while also reducing the mass and energy of photosynthetic life. It follows that burning biomass is considerably more dangerous than burning coal. Please do not burn coal. It is too late for a planned energy descent, but if we’d time, first we’d end biomass burning, then coal, then oil, then gas. We do not have time – all must be instant.
2 – Carbon Neutrality
IPCC propose that the burning of biomass from a system that is not otherwise changed (non land use change) is “carbon neutral “. That is – CO.2 emitted by fire will be replenished as “carbon” by future photosynthesis. One of the lead authors of Zero Carbon Britain supplied me (I think in 2005) with the following as justification for burning biofuels in aviation (albeit a reduced-capacity aviation).
“If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO.2 and water) are released. There is then no net gain or loss of CO.2, which is why biological fuels are considered to be carbon neutral.”
Just about every carbon footprint calculator and climate related institute uses the above hypothesis for its modelling. The hypothesis has never been tested – nor has it been formally peer-reviewed, though it is effectively peer-reviewed within the models it empowers. It is naked doctrine, to which all contrary thought is schism.
That no one at all, but for myself, has challenged such a plainly ridiculous hypothesis, is utterly shocking to me. Doubly shocking – patiently gathered, truly-scientific data is gathered, to be placed in that model and so is made equally ridiculous. The doctrine alone explains the wildly optimistic predictions of IPCC, ZCB2030 and just about everyone else, who calls themselves a “scientist”.
The doctrine proposes that if we burn clear-felled forest, coppice, or arable crop (non land-use change), then atmospheric balance will also remain unchanged – soil fertility (biomass/vitality) will remain unchanged – energetic biomass will remain unchanged and photosynthetic leaf and grass areas will remain unchanged. It proposes that with carbon capture and storage, we can achieve negative emissions. Those false negative emissions are a part of nearly all climatic models. Along with sumps (more later), they are what creates the fiction of net emissions, by which we can continue to burn fossil fuels, in the monk-pardoner manner, by the future dispensation of future CCS. CCS is a cargo cult in which the beaches of the present, receive the gifts of the Gods of the Future. The opposite is the case – the present creates the future.
Every farmer and gardener can quickly refute the hypothesis, which proposes that we can crop continuously with no return of biomass, or minerals to the soil, but for gas and if they are lucky, ashes. Why are we so subservient to “scientific” authority?
If we grow a crop, turn it into gas, ashes and energy, then plainly, soil mass and energy will shrink, subsequent re-growth will shrink and leaf and grass blade area presented for photosynthesis will also shrink. We can import biomass from a neighbouring cycle, only by similarly diminishing the energy, velocity and mass of that cycle. Inefficiencies of exchange will mean that the sum of the two cycles will become less than the original sum of the two. Not even an atmospheric physicist would treat his allotment so badly.
Declining fertility is not a straight line – it is parabolic – accelerating to Oklahoma, or to the pillaged soils of Rome, or to the abused arable fields of East Anglia.
The hypothesis legitimises a massive decline of Earth’s biomass, energy and photosynthetic power and the acceleration of our passage to a life-less planet.
Here are some true sumps, which we must leave untouched, to rest quietly in their strata – coal, oil and gas. They are truly sequestered. No dispensation, or foot-print indulgence can justify their combustion. We must extinguish our fires.
However, biomass, velocity and energy cannot be sequestered. Bio-Matter, energy and velocity are fluid, and exchangeable – appearing in soil life, mineralisation, plant and animal life, and atmospheric gases.
“Embedded carbon” resting in timber-framed buildings and so on, is but a small part of carbon budgeting, but nevertheless it represents a fallacy that may later extend to James Lovelock’s carbon sumps, in which large amounts of biomass are locked away from their necessary fermentation – removing, it is proposed, large amounts of CO.2 from the atmosphere.
The opposite will be the case – vital photosynthetic biomass will be removed from life-cycles. The mass and energy of those cycles will shrink, photosynthetic carbon “draw down” will shrink. Atmospheric green-house gases will increase, while life on Earth will decrease, just as lifelessness increases. A lifeless planet will become closer. Beware the physicist.
Why is the felled heartwood of a tree not to be considered as a sump? Well, that heartwood will have accumulated, perhaps over centuries and although it plays no part in the current regenerative life of soil, cambium and leaf, nevertheless it remains essential to their life – maintaining the vast structure, which enables them to thrive. If we fell the tree, we fell the lot. I do think we need timber, but we cannot add the heartwood as a carbon sump for our dispensation culture. Accidentally fallen trees can be thought of as sumps of sorts – so definitely not for burning. However their mass is far, far smaller than our cultural needs for timber – no dispensation there.
Drawing down carbon
Many organic, biodynamic, agro-ecological and regenerative farmers, claim that they can continue to “draw down” atmospheric carbon continuously, in spite of the finite capacity of their soils, limits of temperature, rainfall and so on. Many claim continuous “draw down”, by importing copious amounts of biomass from “elsewhere” so creating greater biomass, while giving not a damn about that consequently impoverished elsewhere.
Green Hubris is everywhere – awaiting its Nemesis.
The truth is that soil capacity has limits – of shear volume. The best we can hope for is balance and that balance is rarely fully-achieved, because of human fallibility, extreme weathers and difficult cultivations/harvests. All agricultural systems will end as less efficient than the natural ecosystems they have replaced. Wild claims are made for UK grasslands, but they will always hold less biomass and bio-diversity than the forests (and yes, grassy glades) which they have replaced.
Human cultures sit firmly in the Fall. Our task is to behave as well as we can, while shrinking our effects, so that Paradise (the wilds) can expand.
Even so, those wilds can provide no dispensation to neighbouring human cultures, because they too will only end in balance. They will not draw down further carbon beyond that balance for the assistance of badly-behaved human cultures. Human cultures must remain responsible for their own effects.
In short, we must farm and garden well and we must put out our fires, which means no aviation, no massive shipping, no family car, no jolly wood burner, no suburbia, no commuter culture, no internet… Electricity supplies will be severely limited to domestic use, with (I hope) some for rationing elsewhere. Wind, tide and hydro all have limits – direct traction for mills and manufacturies, may well prove more efficient than turbine to electricity to machine. The elephant in the room is domestic heat. We’ve lived tens of thousands of years by the comfort and culture of fire and of the hearth – the heart of our story-telling. Passive housing will be necessary in the future, but is no help to the present. Solar voltaic? – I really don’t know.
Will we get there and avoid our own extinction? Reason says no. My heart – focused on Utopia, says yes.
The thing is, no government, institution or corporation can possibly achieve it. Only I can. Only you can. Cultures are made up, not of nouns – government, corporation and so on. They are made up of verbs – by what each citizen does. Nouns change nothing. Verbs can change everything.
I’m honoured that Lawrence Woodward has written this introduction to my new book.
Patrick Noble is a formidable thinker and writer. He is clear-sighted
and honest. He has vision and perspective, which may not be to
everyone’s taste but it is rooted in the experience of decades of
living and working on the land, in a harmonious relationship with
nature, within an area and its culture and therefore, it’s a vision
which cannot be ignored.
On the contrary, it demands attention because Patrick has worked
hard at thinking through and testing these experiences and honing
them into a body of work which is in part philosophical, in part a
penetrating analysis, in part a political manifesto; and as a whole, a
celebration of the rural, the artisanal, the natural, the independent
but communal ecosystem he believes the human spirit thrives in.
His writing is built around working “towards a Convivial Economy”.
This economy and society defy labelling. If you want to find
socialism there, you can; if you want to find Adam Smith’s idea of
“sweet commerce”, it’s there; so are elements of “the Green New
Deal” and Wendall Berry’s “agrarian values”, but none of them in a
manner which conforms to tick boxes. The shape, the form and the
relationship of them to each other and the whole, are moulded in a
way which is uniquely Noble.
Many of Berry’s themes are shared by Patrick but how they are
worked, drawn out and built on are very different. Patrick is a
working farmer who thinks and writes, not a professional writer
who has a farm. But the really important point, and difference, is
that Patrick’s thinking and writing and, from the beginning his
farming, is driven by the urgent need to find real practical solutions
to the social, economic, political and humanitarian crises caused by
living on a planet of finite and diminishing resources, where the
resources are running out, the planet is burning and where its
inhabitants seem pathologically incapable of change.
This book is about change. It’s about how change has to happen and
how farming, food, health, local economies and culture have to be at
the centre of that change. It is challenging – and not just to the
mainstream – it challenges the shallow thinking, the clichés, the hidden agendas and careerism of much of the green and alternative
But it is also uplifting, optimistic and readable. Ultimately, it makes
you feel that the right kind of change is possible and that the
convivial society and economy would be a good place to live in.
Lawrence Woodward, OBE
**** Lawrence Woodward is a director and co-founder of Beyond GM and Whole Health Agriculture. Having been a founder and director of the Organic Research Centre (ORC) for 30 years, Lawrence advises and speaks about the principles and methods of organic agriculture to a wide range of organisations. In 2001 he was awarded an O.B.E. for services to organic farming.
The new book will be released in early September. I’m honoured that Lawrence Woodward, who has been a central pillar to the true organic movement, has written the foreword.
It is published by the lovely Smokehouse Press and will be priced at £10 + postage and packing. I’ll put in a Paypal link, when the book is ready. Otherwise, it will be available from any good bookshop, but please avoid Amazon. Avoiding Amazon is a small part of walking home.