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

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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A Challenge – Four Critical Questions About Burning Biomass

“When short-term biomass is burned, such as annual crops, the amount of carbon generated can be taken up quickly by the growing of new plants. But when the biomass comes from wood and trees, not only can the regrowing and thus the recapture of carbon take years or decades, but also, the carbon equation must take into consideration carbon the trees would have naturally stored if left untouched.” Earth Institute, Columbia University

The hypothesis that “carbon generated (by burnt biomass) can be quickly taken up by the growing of new plants” has been accepted without question. It was proposed once upon a time by a naked physicist. It is now the consensus. Although it is usual for a hypothesis to receive both scrutiny and testing, I can find no evidence, anywhere at all, that this hypothesis has been either questioned, or tested. Yet it is central to the IPCC and the Paris Accord.

I propose that it is a fallacy, which (applied) will contribute to the destruction of human cultures.

The Earth Institute and others calculate other critical influences, such as land use change, arable techniques, regrowth time and so on, but the consensus holds firmly to the Naked Physicist’s central fallacy.

Any farmer or gardener has the means to refute the hypothesis.

If we grow a crop in season one, returning no biomass to the soil, then the harvest in season two will be smaller. Harvest in season three will be considerably smaller – in season four, five six – it will tend towards the negligible. As soil fauna (soil carbon) shrinks, so the crop shrinks, along with both its leaf area and photosynthetic power.

We can maintain cropping and photosynthesis by importing biomass from a neighbouring cycle. (such as local sewage for a local willow coppice) In doing so, we transfer our problem elsewhere. (We diminish a food cycle to feed an energy cycle) The problem remains.

Of course, some assume the import of manufactured fertilisers (from finite holes in the ground). Artificial fertilisers will continue to shrink soil biomass. Their problems, (run-off and gasification) are also noted by IPCC.

Four questions –

1 – Can anyone defend the Naked Physicist’s hypothesis?

2 – Has the hypothesis been tested?

3 – Why have we accepted the solution of a physicist, when the problem was never in the physicist’s realm?

4 – Who is/was the Naked Physicist?

***

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To Monopoly, Reasoned Argument is Lost Amongst Meaningless Cries of Sea Birds

Our species evolves as a social species. Singular identities are presented as parts in the whole. Mistakes; failures; wrong-doings evoke inherited suffusions of diminishment and shame. Similarly, a calculated wrong-doing by another may cut us to the soul.

Something has gone terribly wrong with eusocial evolution. Societies are currently behaving very badly indeed. There is a consensus to behave badly. Societies are behaving so badly that soon, what is accepted as civilised life will not be possible. Why has humanity chosen self-destruction?

Individuals can see this, but society does not.

How has this happened? Why are we not all so suffused with shame that the consensus changes? Most have knowledge to see that resources are pillaged, soils are degraded and that man-induced climate change is accelerating beyond man’s recall. We do care for our children, yet by what we do, it seems that we’ve no care at all.

Such struck attitudes – maintained causes – are common in history, but never have humanity’s physical and biological effects so dramatically massed against such a struck and plain stupid indifference to their causes.

Let’s consider seriously-struck attitudes – or perhaps simply – seriousness. I think we can see it in both humans and other animals. We become necessarily serious to pull ourselves together to do what we dislike, or in removing fear to act bravely. We also become serious to protect status and reject what might erode it (such as reasoned argument). Seriousness is the means by which we clear our throats, deepen our voices and protect our position. It is a thought removing state.

We’ve seen the wild life documentary in which serious, rival, herd animals face each other – oblivious to the pride creeping closer for the kill. We see serious rival politicians face each other – as climate change, resource depletion and loss of both mass and diversity of species creep closer for the kill.

***

I think there are two languages – the serious language of state and status and then the curious, convivial language of the goings on of life – of success and failure – comedy and tragedy – remorse and delight – the language of tools.

There is a perversity of human behaviour, which is unique to our times – to the Oil Age. Once upon a time, and in every time, but for our own, cultures were created, maintained and discussed in the language of tools. Anyone seeking or maintaining status could adopt a serious, thought removing attitude in the language of state, but that had no effect on the culture – It could not, because culturing requires thought. Historically the powerful have had no part at all in solving the problems of growing crops, weaving fabrics, building houses, roads, ships, cooking food… To do so would require them to shed the language of state and to adopt the curious, vivacious, vulnerable, doubtful, diffident language of conversation – of tools.

Earlier land enclosures had bled the vitality of economies. The idleness of enclosure accumulated the wealth of economic activity in which it had no part. In my terms, the language of state asked increasing rent from those who enhanced state/property values by the ingenuity of the language of tools. As enclosures spread, so the rich grew richer and the poor, poorer. Nevertheless, those who spoke in the language of tools continued to create the culture, which the powerful enjoyed. Knowledge was inherited and bequeathed and techniques were developed. Land had been enclosed by violence. We cannot argue with violence. Prudently avoiding violence, we revert to a state of them and us. They live in the great house. We have both the pleasure and the drudgery of creating the culture.

Them and us has been the state of things in the developed world, since at least the Late Bronze Age. Of course, anyone can stand on dignity in the language of state – a mother to an errant son – a craftsman to a lazy apprentice. In changed circumstance anyone can become them, just as some of them have become us. For instance, one of us, Oliver Cromwell, became one of them, Lord Protector of the New Commonwealth. As the poets note, them and us are levelled by mortality.

We can see that using violence to change the status quo, means maintaining a new status by violence. On the other hand, mother, father, daughter, son… easily escape their high horses by returning to the familiar, affectionate language of us – of tools.

I’ve been distracted. Let’s resume – the perversity of human behaviour which is unique to our times.

The perversity is this – oil power has become so attractive to the powerful that – the language of state has enclosed the language of tools. To be sure, we continue to chatter together in the language of tools, but the tools themselves have been removed from our hands.

From land enclosure (the gathering of rent from production) the powers have moved to enclose production itself. Now, tools are applied from within monopolies and from behind intellectual property enclosures – without intelligence, diffidence, doubt, curiosity, conviviality, delight… They are applied seriously as the status quo, by the serious status quo.

Just as violence is deaf to reason (the purpose of violence is often to remove reason), so enclosure (ownership) is also deaf to reason. Property is patrolled to defend established ownership and not to listen to the chattering of us at the fence line. Property gives right to irresponsibility (home as castle). It has no need for the intelligence of senses, or to consider the effects of its causes.

Humanity, the species, is moving blindly towards the destruction of what she is creating, by what she is creating – in spite of the beautifully expressed chatter from us at the fence line. We converse with each other, but to the monopolies, we are a noise – a sea bird colony at nesting time…

Resource depletion, wild, impossible consumption and climate change are not denied, but unheard – lost in the noise. Our lobbying of monopolies and their tamed, dependant political parties and national governments is just the crying of sea birds. Elegant solutions to the economic drainage of enclosure are also lost in the noise. Yes. A land value tax to fund a citizen’s dividend would return funds from what has idly drained economic activity to what may regenerate it. It also would perform an act of social justice – the inheritors of stolen common would contribute some reparation. Tom Paine wrote Agrarian Justice in 1797. Few don’t see its truth and its efficacy. But a controlling monopoly never has and never will agree to be taxed. Only violence can stimulate a monopoly to respond. Russian and Chinese revolutions answered injustice with violence, but as we’ve witnessed they remained in violence, beyond reason, deaf to the language of tools, while providing no answers at all.

As G K Chesterton noted, Capitalism is the state run by big business, while communism is big business run by the state.

***

I vote in UK elections with a deep sadness. If I vote for the least-worst party likely to be elected, then I endorse the power of a certain shading of monopoly. Yet, with regards to climate change, if I vote for that least-worst future, then future humanity (a tall order) will have a slightly easier task of maintaining her culture. I don’t choose that path. Since I live in Wales, my vote has been for Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales). It is a socialist and also a green party and has a voice in Welsh government, though very little in Westminster. More recently, my vote has been simpler. I vote Green. The voice of the Green Party is entirely merged in the cries of those sea birds.

But consider this – Only sea birds have the answers. Solutions can only be found amongst the languages of tools.

Also consider this – The control of tools (of creating cultures) by amoral monopoly is (as I’ve said) a very brief perversity of human behaviour.

I began with the question, why are we not all so consumed with shame that the consensus changes?

There is no law to prevent me from behaving better – from stepping out from that brief, suicidal perversity of ring road, retail park, suburbia and holiday flight – into the very ordinary relief of a life lived by laws of inherited humanity, physics and of nature. We can step out from amoral enclosure, back onto the moral common – all the while chattering amongst the voices of sea birds. We do so in the sanctity of home. We can do so in a new sanctity of work.

As we’ve explored in previous articles that stepping meets many obstacles on its road, such as entrapments of poverty and existing infrastructures of employment, distribution and so on. But it is our birth-right – one denied by oil-enclosure – to pick up tools and study how to use them – to participate in the creation of cultures. Historically cultural activity has been invisible. The chronicles describe war and aristocratic inter-marriage. The builders of the finest mosques or cathedrals have passed unnoticed. One or two are mentioned in the account books of power, but none for their techniques – only for providing power’s status-giving possessions.

This writer’s journey is mapped to integrate the cropping of a farm into the ecology of its terrain and then, by means of street markets, to integrate those crops in a durable and to be hoped, convivial economic community. It is a very ordinary journey that has far from succeeded yet. The infrastructures for its success are decayed, but still present – villages, towns, workshops, market squares… It is an ordinary journey, which replicates those taken over thousands of years and in most places in the world. Of course, I am highly privileged to begin with some land. I am also fortunate to be surrounded by the thoughtful advice and economic activity of sea birds, past and present. To the powers it is all just noise – the very same noise that once built towns, harbours and cathedrals.

The sea birds are nesting.

***

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Biomass is a Common

The mass of life is composed of countless interconnections. It flows between species and between generations of each species. Nevertheless, all those flows are tributaries to a final optimum Major Sea of Earth’s biomass.

Let’s consider a human community (house-hold/parish/village/town/city/nation state/world) as a communal biomass flowing between generations. Let’s also consider that communal biomass flowing through its living terrain – from species to species – increasing in speed, or diminishing in speed – sometimes sequestered in a dry plain of motionless, lifeless physics – but for our purpose, always ending, in a final, optimum mass – the Minor Sea of those particular community inter-connections.

Here’s a thing, which it may be wise to keep in mind – no one knows what life is.

Here’s another – Once upon a time, there was no life on Earth and it shall be so again.

Here’s yet another for those who falsely equate carbon cycles with life cycles – After all life has gone, carbon, or the energy derived from it, will always remain.

Carbon and life cannot be inter-changed for the purpose of climate (atmospheric CO2) calculations.

The central consideration for atmospheric CO.2 projections is not the mass of carbon. It is the mass of life.

This leads me to some other very simple propositions.

1 – If we bury life in a “carbon sump” or in an “embedded carbon structure” then we have diminished a life cycle. We have not taken carbon from the atmosphere and sequestered it in terrestrial mass. Rather, we have diminished the power of life to regenerate. We have weakened photosynthetic carbon capture and some linear solar energy. In the process we have increased atmospheric CO.2 and diminished the mass of life.

It is plain that if we bury all life, we end all photosynthesis. A carbon sump is one stepping stone (metaphor well chosen) towards the same.

2 – If we burn life, we diminish life (as in a carbon sump) and we also release combustion gas, to the same degree as fossil fuel. It follows that burning biomass has a greater CO.2 effect than burning fossil fuels.

3 – Life has expanded to an optimum mass, despite its gradual (occasionally sudden) sequestration in peat bogs, coal gas and oil reserves and other fossil rocks (calcium & so on). Atmospheric CO.2 has been more or less Gaia regulated, despite those sequestrations, and despite volcano and forest fire. Nevertheless, points 1 and 2 remain true. It follows that the linear solar contribution gives leeway for both some “embedded structure” and for some biomass burning.

Of course we need timber for building houses. Sunlight provides leeway for growing timber trees. It also provides a little leeway for some domestic heating. Only within that leeway can we call properly-managed forestry, “renewable forestry”.

Bear in mind that even within that leeway, our wood chip boilers and woodstoves have slightly greater CO.2 effect than fossil fuels. It follows that within that leeway, we’d do better to burn coal, gas and oil, while managing agriculture and forestry for maximum, optimum, photosynthetic biomass.

This writer thinks that the unexpected rapidity of climate change has been caused by the academic consensus that non-land-use-change biomass burning can be entered in carbon budgets as carbon neutral. Had the consensus given the burning of timber and arable crops the same CO.2 effect as fossil fuels, then I propose that climate predictions would be far less optimistic than at present.

***

Burning either biomass, or fossil mass within that more or less safe counter-balancing solar leeway presents a social problem. That burning must be at “pre-industrial” levels and I suspect at less than that. UN figures put world population for years 2015 at 7.349 billion, for 1800 at 1 billion and for 1600 at 580 million.

By 1600 in the UK, forest cover had been stripped to far less than today because of a rapacious demand for house and ship timbers and for domestic fuel. By 1680 coal had prevented economic collapse.

Today, we can hope that electricity will arrive to prevent current economic collapse. Most accept the folly of burning fossil fuels to produce that electricity. Plainly, burning biomass to that end, must be the pinnacle of folly.

But also, consider this – my benign Ash-scented woodstove – with timber from “sustainable” local woods, or hedge-rows, makes my house-hold one of privilege. If I claim the privilege, then I remove that privilege from others. If I claim to live within the solar leeway, then I have enclosed a common by my right to deny that solar leeway to others. Imagining that the world population in 1600 was largely “pre-industrial”, I tentatively project that only 1 in 3 house-holds in the world can be permitted a domestic coal, or wood stove today. (imagining a house-hold of 4)

That figure of 1 in 3 families holds only if we burn nothing at all for both transport and electricity generation. In any case, there is wildly insufficient acreage in the UK to grow biomass for the current population’s domestic heating. 1 in 3 for the world, may prove closer to 1 in 30 households for the population density of the UK.

Our problem is not burning fossil fuels, but burning any kind of fuel. Our problem is burning.

We have wind, water, solar and (if we think we can trust an amoral monopoly supply) nuclear sources for electricity generation. Then, as we’ve explored in previous articles, direct traction from wind and water for factories and work-shops. We can remove energy demands of transport by removing the need for transport – that is by living as we’ve always lived until very recent history – with both work and pleasure but a step, or cycle ride from our doors – and then we can have a vibrant international and far more egalitarian trade by sail power. There is hope. Living within our ecological means returns economic choices to the ingenuity and dexterity of citizenship – technologies and tools may be devised less behind intellectual property walls and more in quiet garden sheds, fields and work-shops. Attempts to green current ways of life (supplied by irresponsive, irresponsible monopolies) are roads to climate chaos and despair.

***

Plainly, biomass is a common. It is the primary common. Moreover, the greatest mass of bio lies in that thin layer of top soil on which all economies depend and which some, including this writer, have enclosed as their own and called fenced property.

Plainly, since the greatest city is only ever an emergent property of the efficiencies of fields, if we can grow enough food, then all the rest can follow. Economic biomass, including mass of humanity, food, and materials (timber, paper, fabrics and so on) flows back and forth, between species and between the generations of species we call an ecology.

Let’s consider some fields.

Regulating the speed of life is the whole art of husbandry. It is also the whole art of durable settlements. Crops flow into a biomass of people and must flow out again to the fields which produced those crops. Shorter & smaller cycles flow through gardens and allotments. The whole agricultural metabolism of towns, fields, gardens and the cultural techniques to connect them is complex, evolved and evolving. The trial and error of husbandry, cuisine, transport and emerging trades are what we call an agriculture.

Gazing across a patchwork of fields, I can see that speed presented in the deepening or paling green of rotations. The colours reveal the velocity of life as it travels between species – the deeper the green, the faster the flow and so the increase of biomass.

Lazily copied from A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2014.

Consider two fields which have been provided with an optimum allotment of wastes to maintain their fertility. If I return a larger share to field one, I’ll receive a high crop yield, but some of that waste will be mineralised by soil fauna and not taken up by the crop. Nutrients will be lost as gas to the air and as minerals to water courses.

Field two will receive a less than optimum biomass and the crop yield will fall.

Optimum crop yield for both fields – field one, plus field two will be lower than the total yield had wastes been divided equally.

We can see that story of two fields replicated across farms, parishes, regions and nation states. Human nature being what it is, some will appropriate more wastes than others – increasing their farm yield (& bank balance) but reducing the optimum yield (& bank balance) of the community as a whole.

That is a classic tale of the tragedy of the enclosures.

As uncertain weather patterns likely with climate change increase, so communities will become more anxious to achieve maximum, optimum food supply. To achieve that, wastes (sewage, green waste, food waste, processing bi-products and so on) must be divided strategically. They could be administered rather like water rights in Mediterranean communities, or the rotation of medieval strip fields.

The following is also copied from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Some commons to be restored into the fabric of my midsummer night’s dream– roads, market squares, harbours, soils, water, biomass….

But all other commons are as nothing compared to commons of biomass. Just as towns, roads and trades are emergent properties of agriculture, so agriculture emerges from the flows of biomass between species to and from human cultures.

Biomass cycles from field to city and back again. That flow is obviously a common and a common good if managed by good common law.

The cabbage I sell in the market place has common biomass, but also the value of being a cabbage.

So, I ask for a cabbage price to pay for the labour of producing it. To value a common is to enclose it. My valued cabbage is an enclosure valued at my labour value.

But the sewage and waste leaf produced from the cabbage must return to the common flow of biomass. Unless a biomass equivalent is returned to my field, I cannot grow as many cabbages in the future, because the fertility of my soil has been diminished by one cabbage.

So the common produces value (enclosed common), but common law asks for that value to be returned, so that the common can keep producing value and so that succeeding generations can continue to provide themselves with cabbages.

In effect I can as good as “own” a field without owning its soil, biomass, or water. These are commons to be protected.

It is accepted that commoners own the means to the responsibilities of the common.

***

This brings me to a current and highly unpleasant (dis-convivial) fashion amongst those who happen to have land property. It is the claim of carbon sequestration as virtue. Those who don’t own land property can claim no such virtue. This fashion is taken to extremes by those who are fortunate to control a grass paddock or two. They need do nothing in particular – just walk the boundaries and claim carbon dispensation – perhaps to set against, let’s say a holiday flight… Meanwhile, much of UK’s large grass acreage would provide better economic, ecologic and photosynthetic contributions in its natural state – that is as woodland.

Carbon property is as destructive as land enclosure – both command rent (or dispensation) without social return.

(I don’t like the term sequestration for soil fauna, whose biomass flows variably between plants and animals and back. It is appropriate for the stillness of fossil strata, peat bogs and embedded structures)

A few years ago, a grower claimed that his large inputs of compost removed enough atmospheric CO.2 to justify bi-annual holiday flights. He based a lecture tour on this assertion. He provided a composting site for local green waste and I’m sure, made very good compost and distributed much of it not for himself, but others. Nevertheless, in any enduring culture, that green waste should have been returned to a great many more fields and farms. The sequestration/holiday flight balance is nonsense.

I mention the above, because those sequestration claims have not been challenged. The suicidal claim by IPCC and the Paris Accord that burning arable and forest biomass can be accounted carbon neutral, remains similarly unchallenged.

These are no small errors. The correction is central to the maintenance of human cultures.

***

The consensus that non land use change biofuels are carbon neutral is challenged in greater depth in https://convivialeconomy.com/2016/07/05/ending-the-burning-beginning-the-growing/

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The Flimsy Ladder to Solid Ground- Part Two

Having arrived on Earth and become subject to her laws, I find it very hard to communicate with my friends and neighbours. Though we stand together on the same soil, nevertheless, we are subjects of very different realms. Theirs is the vast, but very simple realm of millions of anonymous, fossilised Summers. Mine is the complex and almost infinite variety of connections between many thousands of species, which make the whole. Each of my footsteps ripples its consequence through the familiar, then out into complex obscurity and back again. There’s a lot I don’t know about my own footsteps.

My friends and neighbours’ footsteps do the same, but to them, those ripples are scenic effects. To be sure, they like scenery – rivers, lakes, mountains, bird song, starry skies. However, the ripples which return are insignificant to them. They are restricted only by their purchasing power of fossil power and fossil power is very simple. To my friends, the replacement of fossil power by green power is also very simple. Living by fossil physics, they suggest that soon they’ll live, in a similar way, by green physics. For instance, because of their purchasing demands for re-cycled packaging, organic and fair-trade produce and so on, their favoured super markets will soon stock nothing but those things. Similarly, governments will note their electorate’s life-style preferences – including renewable energy. Thinking of the ballot box, governments will also move in a green direction.

When I point out that renewable energy is incapable of powering our way of life and that we must learn to live as most of us did only a century ago, they say I am negative, pessimistic, Luddite…

When I reply that a return to an ordinary pre-oil way of life may also prove a route to happiness, they note my rose-tinted nostalgia for the nasty brutish and short… They reply that we must improve civilisation’s achievements – not abandon them.

You may be curious about my stumbling efforts towards some sort of earthly settlement. If you stand in the New Green Super Market, then probably, you won’t.

***

Standing in the New Green Super Market will continue the rate of climate change and to diminish both the biodiversity and biomass of the species on which humanity must depend. Standing there, we demand too much consumption with too little return. Diminish the mass of other species and we diminish the mass of dependent humanity.

Standing in the New Green Super Market continues dependency on its amoral monopoly and shrinks the extent to which our lives can be moral lives. Being subject to that monopoly, we buy with diminished responsibility, so that our lives cannot be happy. Our effects, which should have been ours to value, have lost meaning.

Consider the words value and worth. They travel easily between ethics and weights and measures. They pass between things and our love for things – between scales of justice and my potato sack scales. Those meanings have evolved from a deep ancestry.

We’ve explored, in part one of this article, how fossil fuels had (in a sense) suspended history, well, I reckon fossil-fuel monopoly had in the process, also suspended the meaning of ethics and weights and measures. Worth and value live on the common. They wither by enclosure. Here’s another thing – the pursuit of mass consumption has suspended the pursuit of mass happiness.

***

I step down to Earth at just the point where fossilised time had over-lain the last of living time. About a century of cultural evolution has slept, sequestered beneath the weight of millions of photosynthetic years.

Bear in mind that I’ll not find social justice there – nor any lack of economic pillage by monopoly interests. I’ll also find ecological pillaging.

I’ve come because I may find ways of living without fossil fuels. Readers may question my choice of date – after all the coal-powered railway was ubiquitous and the steam ship had begun to out-pace sail-power. Even the poorest found heat by coal. I’m searching for a period in which life looked very much like our own, but in which ways of life without fossil fuels were not at all extra-ordinary. For instance, in those days, though the tractor was in evidence, farms were largely horse and man-powered. The tractor was treated as a team of horses. That time also remains in the living memory of very many, My mother told me that…

After all, for a hundred years, history has been suspended. I have a duty to begin where she grew cold, and to witness her warming.

Otherwise, I’d have alighted for the best bits of agrarian Thirteenth Century, or in the Bronze Age pre – 1500BC, after which idiotic warrior elites began the process of disruption.

Here’s my central and most significant observation: Everyone, without exception had only a short walk to work-place, shop, church, and pub. By church, please accept that I imply mosque, temple, chapel, meeting house…

Isolated farms could make provision for that isolation, and for the most part a village would not be far away. An isolated village would have shop, church, pub and work-shops – joiner, blacksmith and so on. Such settlements follow manorial and more ancient topographies – land and resources bring people – the better the resource, the more people.

The largest city provided a similar short walk from red brick terrace to factory gate. I’ve no intention to emulate the swan song of the pillage of empire, the 1914 -18 war, or to search earlier for a Bounderby factory, or a Gradgrind school. Where’s the rose tinting?

So the hope in my picture is very great. We can live much as we do today and without providing fuel, materials and infrastructure for domestic and commuter transport, while also finding, if we can manage it, the considerable economic advantage of reclaiming commons and shoving off monopolies.

Current and past monopolies survive by idly charging rent to the same ingenuity and dexterity, which increases their value.

My route from here to there, or from now to then (bearing in mind that now is sequestered in fossil time) will be one of many trials and errors.

Even so, the Green Super Market route is impossible. We don’t, and never will, have the energy to power centralised distribution, suburbia and so on. Bearing in mind the rapidity of climate change, we have no more time to waste in lingering there.

My flimsy ladder provides the only route.

***

How do we – re-centre suburbia – find/devise useful contributory work a step from our doors – find ways for perhaps a million families (UK) to migrate to the countryside – plant and grow an abundance of trees for boat-building and housing and still have enough land in food production – develop co-operative infrastructures of market-places, energy-generation, finance, administration and law – find the skills and desire for these things – have the diplomacy, eloquence and perhaps last-resort-violence to shove off the suicidal influences of current political, media, and corporate powers?

It is impossible. If we accept that it is impossible, then we are content that our children’s lives and for most of us, our own lives, will soon become nasty, brutish and short. Few dispute that climate change has the brutish powers of flood, desert, famine, storm. Few dispute that governments are insufficiently bold to guide the right course.

It is possible. Governments do not make a culture. People do, one by one. Had we simply looked for a route to happiness, then we may easily have chosen this one. It was partially visible in many places a hundred years ago. There are more enduring stories about such a life, than all the mass-produced pulp fictions of recent times and meanwhile all the great religions would endorse and applaud it. Moreover, it is ordinary and easily understood.

It is possible. If it becomes deeply fashionable, then it could happen faster than we think possible. Fashion enables social animals to turn on a five-pence. Fashion has made strange things plausible – such as ridiculously impractical high-heeled shoes.

***

My own journey towards the revival of sleeping history is one of many compromises. Some are a part of the journey – meandering backwards may make forward motion eventually possible. Each choice on my road is a moral choice. If I’ve no choice, then my morality remains uncompromised.

I travel towards an economy in which work and pleasure are a walk, or cycle ride from my door. I travel with my farm’s produce by diesel power towards a farmers’ market, more distant than my local market town. In the past, for many years, I’d attempted to sell my produce in the local town – but as the town decayed, so my takings dwindled to near-enough nothing. To keep my farm afloat, I’d no choice but to stop trading there. My moral says that our farm’s produce enlivens that more-distant town and contributes to seeding the idea of farmers’ markets. In time, my plan must be to return to my local town, while producers more local to my more lucrative market, will take my place there. That is a sad, but necessary backwards meander.

Even though super market distribution systems can be more fuel-efficient than my ageing white van, they preserve a perennial anachronism, while my white van is intent on a destination, where I scrap the van (& diesel) altogether.

Likewise, another farmer intent on the same, may be forced to allow his surplus into the super market. His morality is intact if his intent is to enliven busy market towns, proper shops and market squares – self-determined by the ingenuity and dexterity of people who live there – and to eventually withdraw his produce from the super market.

Similarly, a shopper with small means, who has nothing but super markets nearby, may be forced inside – in a backwards meander that waits for proper shops to appear.

On the other hand, a shopper, with means, who diminishes his local town/village/corner shop by shopping in a super market, has no moral leg to stand on. A farmer, who is deliberately-geared to the commodity/super market is similarly legless.

Readers must forgive me for returning to the Soil Association, which deliberately (with intent) certifies super-marketed produce as organic. As I mentioned in part one of this article, she provides dispensation for the “bad” of the super market by providing the “good” of organic produce. She encourages a migration from what can endure towards what cannot.

A proper moral meandering course – one in step with the association’s founders – would have the organic logo as a kind of way-mark towards organic systems. We would find it in proper shops, market squares and so on. To continue the monk pardoner analogy, we’d wear it as a pilgrim’s cockle shell for our hats. Where it was not evident, we’d ask why? And then – How can we rectify that? We’d take the least-worst road (the meander) until a better one appeared.

The use of a local currency asks the same. If a community is missing a necessary trade’s person, then my ineffective local currency will provoke me to ask – How can I encourage that trade inside my currency community? The opportunity may even suggest that I learn the trade myself…

My use of the word organic applies to all economic activity and allows all the meanders and wrong turnings that I describe. Organic – Method or system, designed to replicate the cyclic behaviour of organisms. Since we will never understand every complexity of organic cycles, organic methods must adapt as we learn from mistakes. Don’t forget – Cultures are methods of settlement – not states to be preserved. If economies are to sit within the ecologies which must sustain them, then they must be organic economies.

Pursuit of a greening of contemporary super market masses is a pursuit of rapidly diminishing returns. If it succeeds, then climate change will very soon undo that success. If it fails… Of course it must fail. That super market mass is made up of people. One by one they may prefer the conviviality of citizenship.

***

Even though work and pleasure are just a step from the door, a lot of energy must to be found for other things. Produce must be imported to village, town and city and wastes must be exported back to the fields again. Urban market gardens are convivial, colourful and practical, but most produce will still be drawn from a larger terrain. Scarcity and surplus must sometimes be traded between communities to mutual advantage. Then materials for construction and so on will need transport. All these things need energy.

We need sufficient energy for that transport, for some machinery and for domestic light and heat. Few will have the convenience of a passivhaus and the trees we’ll need for housing and boat-building will not yet have grown.

Make-do and mend brings people together – particularly when the road to a better future is commonly accepted and visibly in place.

Plainly electricity generated by sun, wind and water is our central hope, combined with anaerobic digestion of food, crop, animal and human wastes. AD uses natural fermentation to produce methane. All those wastes must eventually ferment, aerobically or anaerobically – in the soil, or otherwise. We gather the gas. Burnt methane releases the less harmful CO.2 while the material is returned to feed soil life for subsequent crops.

Burning biomass will not be possible. A soil diet of gas and ashes will produce annually reducing crop yields. Burning biomass replicates the pillage of once fertile Rome, or the blowing fields of Oklahoma…

There is a major contribution to my dreamed economy, which we currently neglect – Direct traction by wind and water – We gain the advantage of wind for transport (sail trade) and for machinery (wind pumps and mills). Larger machinery has long been powered by the mill race. Electricity may not always prove the best option. What’s more, local ingenuity can provide all those things.

All I describe are organic methods – those which sit within natural cycles or natural physics.

Many of those technologies provide an advantage which is missing from today’s economies.

I have not explored the complexities, or histories of social systems, that is for another tale – in which we reclaim commons, shove off enclosures and gain the liberty to do what’s right. Though that tale is old as the hills and what’s more – though people in every age have dreamed it and no one has achieved it yet – tumbling oil monopolies may just allow the liberty for something like it to happen – and to allow a future story teller to narrate – Once upon a time, there was a great city, nestled by the shore and connected to its surrounding fields by…

***

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ON FLIMSY LADDERS, or Flimsy Ain’t Nothing. Flimsy is All.

We float above living Earth in a life supplied by fossilised life.  Amoral monopolies controlled by careless elites, manipulate how we work, play and endorse those monopolies by their marketing arms – the political parties. Meanwhile, we levitate above laws of nature – and above the beauties of nature – one species apart from all the other species– aloof from touch, sight, scent, sound…

It is plain that laws of nature must bring the whole levitation down. Some are building ladders to descend before solid ground and culture collide at destructive speed.

Those flimsy ladders appear even flimsier beside the vast structures they are deigned to evacuate. In short they look ridiculous.

Here’s a thought. Those ladders seem ridiculous, because they seem human.

Here’s another – That vast monopolistic structure of political party, media, oil, pharmaceutical, chemical, construction corporations and so on, manifest in suburbia, retail park, cheap holiday flights, desolate town centres and deserted fields, –

should seem ridiculous because it seems inhuman.

Here’s yet another – Until humanity understands her flimsiness as a single part (and not necessarily an essential part) of all the species which together make the whole of singular, finite Earth, she’ll not find an enduring home.

It follows that flimsy ladders are the only ladders.

Those ladders are also a source-book of comedy and tragedy. Every plot a dramatist could find is embodied in the flimsiness of ladders. Each broken rung is a source for the design of better rungs.

Methods are revealed inside our mistakes. Without the mistakes we don’t find the methods.

It will be helpful to have some sort of a common vision of the cultural settlement we’ll begin at the foot of the ladder. Also, to achieve optimum success, our economy – our house-keeping – must sit nicely inside the ecology, which feeds it. In short, our study of economics is an adventure in moral philosophy. It asks, how can we achieve social happiness? That common vision will not be found in thin air. Cultures evolve from a deeper ancestry than visionaries of the perfect society can replicate.

But I propose that when we step flimsily and perhaps clumsily down to Earth, we’ll find something more potent than the massive fossil-powered structures we’ve left behind. We’ll find the resumption of history. We can pick up (for better and for worse) our inheritance and then consider firstly, how to maintain it and then how to pass it on. Resuming the ordinary course of cultural history may evoke a great social sigh of relief – a sigh of ordinary happiness.

The extra-ordinary photosynthetic power of those many millions of fossilised Summers had interrupted the ordinary course of history.

We’ll find ourselves in the relaxed position of asking, not what marvellous exploits can we achieve today, but what is ordinary? How can we be ordinary again?

After all, oil monopoly has also interrupted the course of eusocial human evolution. We are anxious. We are uprooted from simple ethics. Those ethics are an ancient inheritance – a common, which the new monopolies have enclosed. We don’t ask ourselves what is right or wrong in our economy, because its infrastructures are pre-packed – pre-provided.

Many today, who ridicule the flimsiness of ladders, ask the wrong question. They ask, where are the extra-ordinary green solutions to power extra-ordinary ways of life? To them it is ridiculous to ask otherwise – and also ridiculous to question the virtue of that “achieved” way of living. Yet their (our) way of life is only a couple of generations old and has not been powered by human ingenuity, but by wildly increasing consumption of coal, gas and oil. Remove the oil and we remove the way of life. In a sense, oil was procured from outside time in the form of fossilised years. So in that sense, oil ended both history and proper consideration of physical space. I know that most people applaud the end of history and ridicule what they’d call the whimsy of my driving by the rear view mirror. Most people believe (religiously) that they live by extra-ordinary technologies. They don’t. Our extra-ordinary lives are powered very simply and brutally by mining, felling and burning. We burn things. From coal, gas, oil, we are turning terribly and stupidly to burning biomass – the life of which we are a part.

Climate change (along with laws of ecology and physics) will shortly and ordinarily, end the oil adventure in ways too nasty for my pen – Pen? Key board? The faithful of today’s cargo cult of progress wait without action, believing that a messianic future will wash technological redemption on her tide. An ocean of future innovation laps at the shore of the present bearing a marvellous flotsam of consumer choices. The flotsam may be green flotsam – hydroponic cities of glass and the evolution of species edited to fit human needs in the ingenuity of a splice.

At last, at the foot of my ladder, I step out from the strata of fossilised years, and back into the movement of life, time and history. There, I’ll find that the future cannot redeem the present. On the contrary, the future will be a consequence of the present. My descendants will inherit whatever it is that I’m about to do.

***

At the foot of my ladder, it seems to me that I must find the point where history was suspended by fossilised life – and then set my small shoulder to the wheel, in the hope that history will creak into motion again.

I reckon our economy (my house-keeping) must be powered by what I can find in exchange for what I can return – the cyclic contributions. Of course cyclic contributions are life cycles. Man is but a single species among the many which make the whole. Some things I can take, because they keep on giving – the linear contributions – such as sunlight, gravity, wind… Other things, such as metals can be taken only by leaving empty holes in the ground.

Then of course, I have history lessons. History lessons are just as suspect as those who write them. Nevertheless, they are variably useful and also an essential cultural connection to an ancestry from which we’ve received our lives.

Here’s my founding proposition. Of course I may adjust it as I learn this and that. Anyway, here goes…

Efforts to live within our means will fail unless we arrange to live in settlements, such as towns and villages in which work-places are just walking, or cycling distance from our doors.

Attempts to green current infrastructures of suburbia, distant work-places, centralised procurement/distribution and so on, will fail. No renewable energy can power those things.

Towns – gatherings of workshops – have evolved around market squares, market halls, or harbours, followed by inns, churches, mosques, temples, libraries, theatres, concert halls, parliament buildings…

There is no need in such a settlement to call on the family car. Transport to consider is the routine import of produce and materials from surrounding terrains and also the export of wastes and manufactured tools in return. Then we’ll have the sometimes pleasurable, sometimes expedient exchange of scarcity and surplus between neighbouring and sometimes more distant communities.

A town and its terrain are one. They are called an agriculture. A town and its terrain are a life cycle.

Considering larger cities, it is notable that until the arrival of the railway, all were settled by navigable river, estuary, or the sea. Such will be the case for us too…

It follows that we must populate such settlements and evacuate the impossible and energy demanding systems of suburbia, ring road, super market and retail/business park. We can re-centre suburbia into towns and villages. Coupled with that – in a movement which reverses the violent and depraved rural dispossession of land enclosure, very many people must migrate (return) to the countryside. That not only integrates economy (people) into ecology (land), but also steps towards social justice.

All this is a return to ordinary history. It is not at all an extra-ordinary thing. However, the scale of the evacuation of oil and coal systems must be massive. It will probably be the most epic of all human adventures. Every effort to improve, or green our current monopolies, by working within them, will make that adventure much more difficult.

An epic adventure – a mass social movement – on a flimsy ladder.

The stuff of legend.

For instance, an internet box scheme for well-produced organic produce means that the organic producer, who is part of town centre revival, has lost customers, and the town a valuable inter-connection. Similarly, organic produce in a super market, improves the super market, but leads shoppers away from what can, towards what cannot endure. It erodes the quality, colour, conviviality and possible future of the town.

All we do must be towards revitalising towns and villages, repopulating farming and woodland communities (perhaps ten-fold?) and re-centring suburbia into new towns, or villages. If work-places are a short walk from home, (as always in history) then living within energy means becomes suddenly possible. Such communities will have similarly short walks to shop, pub, theatre, library, temple…

No renewable energy can power the economy of the developed world. The following are impossible – suburbia, commercial aviation, the family car, large container shipping, super markets, industrial agriculture… Attempts to green those things delays adoption of what is truly possible. They will continue to deplete resources and to accelerate climate change.

My reader may keep this central proposition in mind – Those things are a brief perversity of human behaviour.

A return to ordinary behaviour may be evoke a communal sigh of relief – a convivial relaxation – a lifted anxiety – opportunity, not for amoral leaders of great monopolies, but for the moral probity of us all…

***

Villages, towns and cities are emergent properties of fields. Together, they form an agriculture. We have lived in that way for four thousand years. The techniques of today’s farmers are now impossible, as are the emergent properties of their farms. From the compass of oil-power, we shrink to the compass of man, horse and electric power. Fields will shrink to a human-scale. Machinery will also shrink to a size that can be manufactured by the ingenuity of people we know by name in village and market town workshops.

Even today, horticulture demands a large labour force, relative to its mechanisation and so horticultural and orchardist transformation will be easy. Fruit and veg are a large part of our diet. However, cereals are central to enduring settlements, because they can be stored from good years into bad years and being very light (85% dry-matter) can be exchanged between regions more easily than any other food. (They travel well in both space and time!) Of course, only a hundred years ago cereals were produced by horse, ox and man-power. We can do so again. (Tractor use was then a novelty). But there may be a case (climate change) for a specially-reserved, judiciously-used internal combustion engine – a museum piece from the Oil Age. Bear in mind that this writer considers biofuels to be more pernicious than oil-fuels. However anaerobic digestion is a case aside, since “digestate” is returned to the soil to maintain fertility. Such gas will have many, but limited (specially reserved) uses – domestic and industrial. One use may be the gas-powered combine harvester.

Modern technologies can be maintained only if they settle within ordinary laws of natural physics and society.

Again this writer is at odds with most, because he proposes that international trade will prove to be the least of our problems. People have traded over long distances since the Neolithic. Sea trade was ubiquitous by the Bronze Age. Sail technology has been refined over thousands of years. Again, as with towns and villages, we simply resume at the point where coal, or oil began. Nothing fits laws of physics better than sail-trade.

Similarly, nothing answers inland transport needs better than canal and navigable river – the placement of many inland towns is evidence of that knowledge.

However, boat-building faces the same problems it faced in the Nineteenth Century – an acute shortage of timber. Livestock will integrate well in arable crop rotations, but much pasture currently exclusively dedicated to livestock would be far more productive in its natural state – that is as forest. Moreover, much woodland which has been recently planted using environmental grant money, has not been managed for timber. There is no reason that biodiversity cannot be maintained, while also considering trees for house and boat-building. There is currently a rather unpleasant fashion among land-owners to boast of the carbon sequestered beneath their extensive pastures. They are wrong about both the carbon and the contribution of pasture to enduring economies. Grazing animals turn inedible grass into milk, butter, cheese, meat, wool, hides… That is a wonderful contribution to both our culture and its economy, but the currently vast acres of grass are excessive. Much of that pasture is natural woodland. We must find the acreage that integrates best in the whole – the whole of both economy and ecology.

Trees grow very slowly. That is more reason to act quickly. They are central to our new, but ordinary (old as the hills) economy.

That brings me to the word “organic”. Here’s my usage of the term: Organic – to describe a method, or tool which replicates the cyclic behaviour of organisms.

The term has no meaning when describing a pack of food on a shelf. It can describe only a method of production.

Plainly, if it is to sit within the ecology which sustains it, our new economy must use organic methods.

Because they are designed to fit within natural physics, organic methods will always produce the highest crop yield.

Plainly in anyone’s book, crop yield will be output minus input? Yet today’s agricultural journals and ag department do not subtract input from output in their yield calculations. Do they consider vast inputs of oil, fertiliser, pesticide, fungicide, herbicide and so on to have no real biology or physics – no mass for measurement? Is the Green Revolution such a sacred idea that it transcends a sublunary measure? That must be so. In truth, the vast oil-powered levitation above natural physics, (The transubstantiation, from which we descend by our flimsy ladders) is a wild and unreasonable cult, with which there is no reasoning…

There is an unequal split and I think, a tragic split, in the green movement – the larger part of which seeks to engage with that cult, in hope of making it a little greener. The much smaller part (perhaps ridiculously small) is my part – the flimsy ladder part. We may converse with the cult as we pass, but ours is a step by step transition to physical ground.

Much of the green movement swells the crowd of earthly pillage by hoping to reduce the pillage a bit. For instance, it says that by licensing more organic produce in a super market, we achieve “the good” of more organically-farmed fields. They propose that since the super market is a vast market, hopes of vast organic acreages lie in that super market. In consequence it provides the dispensation of an “organic good” to those who may question the virtue of the super market.

The organic logo (the sign of the Monks Pardoner) sells organic virtue for the sin of the loss of the organically-evolved town and village centres, which my flimsy ladder is attempting to reach.

The tale of the Soil Association is the salutary tale of those who seek, through commercial/political marketing to extend their influence, while neglecting whatever it was is they were formed to represent. The same process, led by Tony Blair, destroyed the purpose of the Labour Party

Meanwhile, it is largely unnoticed that organic systems produce the highest, sustainable yields and remain the best guide to settle economies nicely within their terrains. Agroecology, a clumsier term, has been seized by academics to distance themselves from the New Organic commerce.

Anyway a variety of social movements and fashions may begin the flimsy descent very much together – social justice movements, commons movements, transition town movements, permaculture movements, land reform movements, agroecology and biodynamic movements, climate change activists… and a smattering of my rag-tag part of the old organic movement.

New Organic, like New Labour is working against every one of those movements.

Similarly, let’s leave those air-freighted, jet-fuelled, climate-changing, climate change evangelists to their podiums and book signings. No-one who boards a commercial aeroplane can be serious about the climate change. Those people present their eloquence – their self-importance – as dispensation for the very great harm they cause by flying. Flaunted hubris cancels its own nemesis! Bear in mind the attitude we seek must be one of diffidence, humility, fragility, contrition… as we ferret out ways to understand the natural physics in which our organic house-keeping must settle.

This writer keeps a restorative mantra for repetition. He could place it as a refrain beneath every paragraph.

Governments and corporations are abstractions. Only people exist. No one can change the balance of the atmosphere with a thought. Governments and corporations have not caused climate change. People are the physics and people are specifically physical – one by one. People are the application which causes climate change. One by one we cause climate change. Only one by one can we restore some sort of balance.

Cultures are not states to be protected. They are methods – and those methods are also applied one by one.

It is true, we are coerced, enticed and often forced to cause climate change, but nevertheless we have caused it. Of course, those coercive forces in media, corporation, government, think tank, university and so on are also applied one by one by people employed in those monopolies.

Personal ingenuity, dexterity and most importantly, moral probity have been enclosed. Personal behaviour is enclosed.

In reclaiming the consequence of our actions, we reclaim commons and shove off enclosure. The utter futility of attempts to change an amoral monopoly by a morally persuasive thought must be apparent from the above. No one there is listening.

Reclaiming consequence reveals a fascinating world of natural physics and social interaction.

Fascinated is the thing. From fascination we turn to love – belonging – affection. Consequence travels forever through complexity of space around us and through time into the future. Those ripples are ours. Our place; our time for our place; our particular devotion may uncover a seemingly infinite variety of connections with specific influences in fungi, bacteria, plant, invertebrate, animal, mineral… all in the compass of a single workshop or a few fields. Reclaiming consequence not only reclaims our place on Earth, but is a road to happiness. We prodigals of the Oil Age may return to an ancient familiarity, passing buried memories on the road – a loved hollowed oak of childhood, familiar birds singing across buzzing of Summer flies and finally, the creak of the garden gate falling to.

Wendell Berry has a lovely essay currently on the resilience.org web site. He takes his title from E M Forster’s Howards End – It All Turns on Affection. Read that. He probably says it better than I can. I share his love for E M Forster. Read him. His short story, The Machine Stops (1909), perfectly describes 2016.

Meanwhile it all turns on what we do and we don’t know what to do without affection.  As oil-power shrinks to the compass of man power, so the world expands.   Only connect.  Flimsy ain’t nothing. Flimsiness is all.

***

 

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The Delightful Fall from Monopoly to Familiar Humanity

The end of fossil fuels requires that we shed what those fuels had once supplied. Commercial aviation, large container shipping, ring roads, motorways, retail parks, super markets, suburbia, the family car… No renewable energy source can supply those things.

No newspaper, television/radio station, or academic institution will tell us so.

If we don’t change how we live, then climate change will very soon change how we live in ways too wild to imagine. Here’s a choice – Choose to change by human methods, or have change chosen by inhuman laws – of physics and of nature.

We must stop being led by the BBC and the rest…

That very soon with regards to climate change has already begun and is accelerating.

Plainly, models for how we might live lie in periods of social history before the adoption of fossil fuelled tools. Don’t raise your eyebrow – the ways we live today are extra-ordinary and will be very brief. We must return to an ordinary way of life powered by ordinary laws of physics.

Attempts to green our current ways of consumption will prove impossible. How we live is impossible.

But how we might live is rooted in cultural memory. We’ve evolved from ancestral soil that waits for re-settlement. History was broken by fossil fuels. Now shattered histories are shards for re-assembly. I think that journey may evoke familiarity – in all senses of the word. I picture oil prodigals returning home to intriguing, half-forgotten landscapes. I picture a great social sigh of relief.

Oil had shattered cultural history, because oil monopoly had enclosed our part in it. Even now, many green and climate change activists lobby their monopoly to change, rather than consider how to change themselves. We salute the solar panels on the super market roof and delight in the increase (by consumer market signals) of organic, recycled and fair traded produce in the aisles…

By such voices, we swell, re-enforce and approve the enclosure.

The latest “science” won’t save us. We must act immediately and with the tools we have and can devise. One by one, we are the flesh and blood of current economic activity.

Governments, corporations academic and media institutions are abstractions. They don’t physically exist. They may coerce, entice, or compel us, one by one, to do this and that. But we are the corporate application. One by one we apply corporate and government desires. We are the life and physics. Without us, governments and corporations are ideas in the wind. We apply those thoughts one by one.

One by one, we commute from suburbia; take that holiday flight; swell the power and size of super markets, while diminishing the size of markets for proper shops, trades and market squares…

It is only one by one we can reject the holiday flight, revive our proper shops and begin to farm and trade more properly. Only one by one can we re-centre suburbia – creating familiar work places, such as market gardens and workshops of every kind, while ditching the commuter anxiety. One by one is the most personally empowering thought – one by one makes a crowd. How else?

One by one is no small thing. It is everything.

Of course, we can vote for the least-worst political party – the party, which hinders us the least. Yes. Solar panels on the supermarket roof are better than no solar panels. Yes. My organic super market purchase has maintained “the good” of some organically-managed fields. But that whole system of retail park, centralised distribution and wild consumption is impossible. It will collapse economies, because it will collapse the ecology in which all economies must sit. We must evacuate it.

We can also dream, like Tom Paine, of social justice – a citizen’s dividend funded by a land value tax. If we tax parasitic enclosure, then we can fund a convivial, ingenious, productive economy! We can end income tax and VAT which restrain and impoverish ingenuity and dexterity and we can tax idle monopoly. It is a perfect solution, which if realised, would truly solve a multitude of economic problems.

But governing monopoly never has, and never will, agree to be taxed.

We must somehow, step by step, evacuate those rentier infrastructures, which governing monopolies supply. The amorality, which is the right of enclosure, will be vigorously-maintained by right-holders, who will never defer to the ethical restraints they had brutally shed by the act of enclosure. Moral behaviour lives on the common.

Governments, corporations and media organisations, will do all they can to supress and ridicule the commons. Giving credence to governments, corporations and their media, gives credence to the ridicule.

So we must quietly reclaim the common and spread the joy of it, while also (why not?) spreading fashionable jokes about government, corporation and media. We do that by moral action; by shoving off the coercion of enclosure and by refusing the amoral rights conferred by property – including our own property. Our own property may include land, status, ideas, seeds…

Anyway, we must act immediately and not by professing the restorative justice of futuristic dreams. Our hearts can hold those dreams, but they live where religious impulse lives – in quiet eternity.

The future is a consequence of the present. If “evil” corporations and their tamed media organisations and political parties are mere abstractions applied through ourselves, then it is plain where that “evil” truly lies – It is in ourselves. Future restorative justice does nothing to mitigate present misbehaviour – just as hopes for redemptive advances in technology are helpless to assist either the present, or the presently-to-be-wrecked future economy.

Look – science can document climate change, but science has no place in the technologies we adapt, reject, or devise. That is the responsibility of those who use the tools. We cannot sit and wait for scientific revelation – as many do. In any case, the reaction and resistance of natural physics to tools, brings tool makers in some ways closer to the truth of natural physics – and more intimately so than the necessary scepticism of science can ever achieve. Science is a delight, but it cannot help us in what we do.

Science must cultivate innocence. Technology cultivates in the thick of experience.

By the steps of shedding fossil-fuels from our lives, we’ll find ourselves in a falling, fragmenting economy – descending towards an appropriate size – one fitting the landscapes we finally settle. We descend from the monolith towards variety and to behaviours specific to where they fall. Descent! Landscape! As our power shrinks, so the resources, delights and difficulties of landscape expand.

To grow food, we must study bacteria, fungi, plants, invertebrates, insects, animals, seasons, weather… We can’t blindly follow instruction on the sides of pesticide, or herbicide drum – or recommended application rates of “fertiliser” from the corporate brochure.

To travel, we’ll become aware of time, weather and the terrains and cultures through which we must pass. We must look about us. Just as a mother’s gaze imprints permanent bonds upon her child, so does landscape imprint a bond with those who live by it. I go too far? No. That imprint feeds delights; curiosities; rewards beyond the profligate bread and circus of corporate supply. That beyond includes beauty, truth, love – as well as thirty-two feet per second squared and an absolute finity of supply. Of course, the beyond includes a contrary and perennial death, despair… That’s why communities evolve the reconciliatory tragedy and comedy of verse, drama, music… Consider finity. It evokes sound, scent, colour, diversity, quantity, form, presence and loss and the complex languages to describe them.

That is why, without fossil fuels, we’ll have full employment and why, if we can find an economic fit for that ecologic finity, (there being little room to spare) idle monopoly will not find a home. Of course modern, post medieval history is a history of enclosures and no doubt, such history is likely to return, but for now…

Cloud Cuckoo Land? Yes. It is the only land. Utopia? Not at all. It is a place of many trials and many errors, but where with hope, cuckoos and their foster-parental willow warblers return each May. Where we live now – at the wheel of four hundred parts per million of carbon dioxide and rising, will soon be washed, or dried from beneath that corporate-dependent accelerator pedal.

You do know – don’t you? – That the Paris Accord was an accord of the monopolies to sort of green (a little bit) our currently-impossible ways of consumption to put at ease some expressed anxieties about our consumer choices? The market cannot bear consumer anxiety and it especially cannot bear too much reality.

***

 

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More on Monopoly, Rent & Resource Extraction, plus Inappropriate Scientific Peer Review

A social system which aims to settle its consumption of resources within the ecological renewal of those resources, must remove the parasitic effects of enclosure. Enclosure bleeds productivity without a returning productivity and so is destructive to good house-keeping. Rent (a modern or post medieval concept) is entirely idle and has thriven by parasitism of labour. Sustainable economies must be based on the passing on of commons – received from ancestors and passed to descendants. Meanwhile, the modern rentier economy travels crazily towards both denial of resources to descendants and yet to an assumed, idle rent gathering bequeathed to increasingly-wealthy family beneficiaries. In the manner to which we’ve grown accustomed…

De-growth towards an economy of maintainable size can begin by a step by step divestment from what fossil fuels had once supplied. A steady-state economy must eventually settle within a central moral common – within the rule of return. We must replenish as we consume.

So the first steps are easily-defined. Commercial air travel, large container-shipping, suburbia, ring roads, motorways, super markets, family cars, industrial agriculture… – are all impossible to maintain without fossil fuels. We must shed them from our lives.

Another first step must be removal of the parasitic effects of property enclosure – in land, ideas, seeds, money-creation and status. I suppose our favoured (none violent) route may be less to remove enclosures, and more (if we can) to ignore them.

Following steps can only be partially visible – a part of the errors and trials of actually taking the steps. Learning to live together is always complex – to farm; trade; travel within the limited physics of our supply needs co-operation. And we need agreement in what we build. That is where shared moral commons become central to all that we do.

Let’s get things straight. Properties give right to irresponsibility. Commons give right to responsibility.

Although the most pernicious, land property is not the only enclosure. Others include intellectual property, money creation and status. Status commands rent without return.

I may be forced to take my £4 per hour to pay a lawyer’s £250 per hour – She extracts rent for status – well, let’s say, £240 per hour, allowing £10 for labour. Of course, this transaction wrecks my economy. Medical practitioner, dentist and so on, do the same to a smaller extent – but at a still destructive £50 to £100 per hour.

Those who extract such rents, often compound the economic destruction by investing in land property – to bequeath down a family line of rent extraction and further economic destruction!

Plainly, the extraction of rent for status is immoral. Commons would define it so. A law of commons would make it illegal.

Let’s be proud, not of what we have, but of what we do. Cultures are methods, not states. States protect a perennial anachronism.

Methods always have contemporary effects and so must adjust to changing times. They are always moral, because actions always have consequence.

In contrast, states (enclosed monopolies) have a single, blind moral – focused to protect a central amorality. They are morally fervent for the protection of the amoral state. The evidence of that blindness surrounds us in the rapidly accelerating effects of a climate change that are invisible to the singular focus of governments and corporations.

Moreover, the increasing size of monopolies is apparent in the growing distance between rich and poor. Monopoly (enclosure) swells by extracting the wealth created by ordinary labour.

In the UK, we’ve seen signs of hope in the popularity of the MP, Jeremy Corbyn. I think we can say he stands for the commons.  We’ve also witnessed an opposite fervour from the monopolies to bring him down. This is not only from the billionaire-enclosed mainstream newspapers, but also from the supposedly impartial BBC and also from the strangely and newly “static” once left-wing newspaper, the Guardian. Both have been vitriolic.

To return to monopoly status, plainly, our rent extracting medical practitioner is not entirely parasitic. She may also be a hard-working moral being – so her role is complex. She lives, partly on a moral common and partly in an amoral enclosure. On the common she possesses the justified respect of the community of which she is a part and she also commands that aforementioned £10 per hour for her labour.

The common says that her rent demand above the £10 for her labour is immoral (anti-community). She can happily step out from the enclosure into the welcoming heart of the common. There, she’d find easy acceptance, happiness, but not what that rent could buy.

Not what that rent could buy – is at the heart of both community and of our current economic problem. It could be a marvellous slogan for the steady-state economy – Not what that rent could buy…

Had we not a rentier economy, would we have measured economic success by the sum of mere spending in GDP? Readers of this will be familiar with the folly of GDP as an economic guide. Such a sum indicates that natural disasters which may destroy homes and ordinary lives are a good thing – an economic stimulus. They appear in GDP as new surges in house building and repairs – and in funeral director’s bills. War and weapons manufactory are all very good for GDP. Yet disaster and war destroy assets and wreck lives. They create extreme unhappiness and collapse economies. Rent does the same in apparently gentler fashion – it shrinks assets and makes life difficult.

Have those who understand GDP’s stupidity as an economic indicator, also spotted that it is just the measure to be useful to the rent-setting of rentiers? Rent demands of status are part of a GDP-like carelessness and similarly pay no regard to the community’s economic well-being.

Commodification of food supply chains has assisted earlier land enclosure by sending many remaining, post- enclosure farmers to the city to seek what they can at the call-centre door – once at the factory gate. That cheap food also releases a higher proportion of wages for house rent, rentier energy supply and rentier consumer goods. Various enclosures manipulate towards increasing rent – seeking the optimum, maximum, bearable rent – blind to the economic pillage they cause.

Only the moral common can maintain a truly convivial economy and only the moral common can free ingenuity and dexterity to adapt cultural methods to the changing physics of supply. What’s more, only common ethics can regulate demand.

Life’s physics resists my tools, so that I come to a better understanding of both physics and tools…

Should I? Shouldn’t I? We ask those questions every minute of everyday life. They do not occur inside a monopoly. The only question inside a monopoly is – how can we best maintain the monopolistic state.

Meanwhile, it is not the monopoly which applies the monopolistic provision – It is we little people. For the most part, the last remaining farmers read instructions on the sides of pesticide and herbicide drums and do as they are told. They’ve no idea why. Many say, they are the “cutting edge” of their “industry” – applicants of the latest intellectual property. In any case, they add to GDP by their purchase of patented machinery, fertilisers and pesticides, and while being so few, become more aggressive in protecting the state of that rural way of life… It is true, their backs are to the wall.

The real economy has its back to the wall. Soon, climate change will wash much of what remains away. Climate change may even wash the rent away.

We’ll be struggling to reclaim commons then. It may be simpler to reclaim them now.

***

Everywhere, status foils our attempts to reclaim commons. Sometimes this is not to maintain the payment of rent, but to maintain influence.

I’ve personally encountered this in the academic world in which defended hypotheses have conferred a status to their proponents. Then, peer review gives to those ideas something like an intellectual property, but without the rental value.

It should be a scientific delight to argue the merits of a hypothesis. After all, every hypothesis has been proved to be wrong – nature is always more complex than the simplicity of our minds. Today’s peer-reviewed hypotheses will also be wrong. That is the virtue of the cultivated scepticism of science – knowledge of its perennial fallibility.

Professorships stand on past pronouncements and professors, being but little people (like all of us) defend their status from embarrassment, when they should have been delighted by a challenging thought.

Peer review, which could be a curious and helpful exchange of possibilities, has become a dangerous industry. I’ve written elsewhere of the now manipulated confusion between technology and science (The Music of Narcissus). Technologists contribute to the peer review system as though theirs is a science. Of course, and worse, most are commercial technologists. They often come from within the monopolistic interests of pharmaceutical, bio-technology and energy corporations and so on.

The intervention of such people is the intervention, to be blunt, of big money and rentier enclosure.

A genuine scientist, who holds to such and such a proposition may find it and his reputation (and the reputation of his institution) used by monopolies for their own ends. Research grants often flow from that direction. To have a hypothesis challenged, which may undermine the marketing of let’s say a certain herbicide, puts the human creature, our professor, under extreme and inhuman pressure.

A large chemical company will not attend to his protest that all hypotheses are fallible and will always be wrong in some way. They will not be curious about his notion that perhaps open-mindedness is the beauty of science in a world of brash stupidities… They will be even less pleased by his new position that perhaps a herbicide he’d once thought safe, should now be withdrawn from production.

In a sentence – The academic world, by its association with commerce, has been corrupted. Where necessary, it has been enclosed. Of course, many academics resist enclosure and it is possible that some institutions have done the same. Sometimes, to step back onto the common will enhance a reputation – and certainly that must be so among the truest of peers.

There is a hypothesis which has informed the climate calculations of the IPCC, the Paris Accord, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 (adopted as policy document for Welsh Government) and many others.

It says that we can burn a crop for a biomass boiler, return nothing to the soil at all and the following season’s crop yield will remain the same. Soil carbon will remain the same. Photosynthetic leaf area will be the same and in consequence, atmospheric CO.2 will remain unchanged having been absorbed in the same quantity of photosynthetic biomass.

That utter fantasy is defended tooth and nail by all academia. Had they read it, no farmer, or gardener would accept it. Yet nearly all farmers and gardeners do accept it because they have not read it. They assume that “the scientists” must be right. I write about this in the unpublished, End the Burning Begin the Growing.  My counter hypothesis is probably mistaken in some way, but I present it as a spur to further thought.  The truth is that, as a farmer, I know the IPCC calculations are not only wrong, but ridiculous.  Nothing can replace experience. https://convivialeconomy.com/2016/07/05/ending-the-burning-beginning-the-growing/  I think it is another tragedy of the enclosures.

This particular enclosure is (I propose) a tragedy of epic proportions. It is the cause of the unexpected rapidity of climate change.

I am a farmer without academic peers and yet I and my farming peers know that crop yield cannot be maintained without a return of sufficient biomass to the soil. We can guess, with a fair certainty, that an attempt to do so will result in diminished soil biomass (soil carbon), reduced crop yield (leaf carbon), reduced photosynthetic power, and so increased atmospheric CO.2. That is even before burning the crop. That results in a greater climate change effect than fossil fuels. Fossil fuels release more or less the same CO.2 as biomass fuels, but in their case, untouched biomass continues to live and breathe. In the case of the mentioned hypothesis, the true peer review would have been between farmers. Growing crops is a technology – an art – not a science. Science has stepped outside its area of exploration to a place where it has no experience – and to me, no credence. Science has stepped out from innocence (where it belongs) to experience, where in this case it is creating terrible havoc.

We’ve seen how technologists have been disrupting the true scientific community. Is this Science’s revenge – by disrupting the true technological community?

Outside a farmer’s knowledge of good husbandry, even a historian could easily point out the folly of the biomass burning hypothesis. Here’s the pillaged soils of Rome. There is Easter Island. Here’s the blowing dust of Oklahoma…

Anyway, this passage is written in despair.

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