Economies of scale, which create monocultures, are only efficient in man-hours. They are ecologically inefficient and poor in yield relative to resource-use. Don’t forget that crop yield is output minus input. We have large human populations and rapidly diminishing energy supplies. To pursue economies of scale, which shed readily-available and plentiful labour to replace it with rapidly diminishing fossil and mineral resources, is plainly futile.
It won’t be easy to achieve the radical social resettlement necessary – perhaps a twenty-fold increase in rural populations. An evacuation of city hinterlands and a re-centring of suburbia seem too complex to execute without autocracy – too radical to ask of others.
But we can dream by degrees – after the day job and sometimes, (as in my case, if we are very lucky) within it. This is why I hope for a folk movement – for a fashion as contagious as mobile phones, beetle-mania or high-healed shoes.
While I am in accord with the permaculture movement, I am wary of its notion of “design”, which places it inside a sort of post-modern ennui of ideas. Such futurism is a part of the lazy, esoteric chatter, which we must escape – from a world of architects to a world of builders.
Design must use formed ideas. I propose that the terrain my folk movement will fashionably settle may be too obscured by our initial ignorance for a design to begin with certainties. Its physics will be presented mischievously and not always nicely by Robin Goodfellow. However, both tragedy and comedy are sourcebooks for new tools. Given the folly of the casino we leave behind, I prefer a more humble and diffident approach to a new economy. We make settlements (of course) not with ideas, but with tools. The nature of those settlements is founded on an intrinsic, inherited ethics of commons – of the common good – of what is humane and inhumane. That we will fail both morally and physically is the delight of the human condition – the source of learning and also the reason we need each other and why we have formed social systems in the first place. That warm and comic muddle is surely more fitting for human nature than the architect’s ingenious “provision of space”. Permaculture designs for the future. Futurism can delay our first steps into the present.
Space – possibly the most unpleasantly-used word of post-modernity – an architect’s word for designer futility, designer brands, designer money and tritely-designed times.
Since I readily attack the folly of the ways we live now, I have been asked to be more specific about achieving something better. But the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are littered with tragedies caused by application of specific and limited ideas to a complex and diverse world. So I continue to attack the folly and also to be vague about a better world. My ideas will be as limited as another’s. Meanwhile, the folk movement waits for its actors. But tools and techniques have been and always will be devised without scientific explanation. They are the finger tips of humanity where she touches the physics of nature and so in some ways come closer to truth than science can ever achieve. Science may gather data from the footsteps of the tool maker – those reactions to actions. Tool-maker and scientist both apply reason – the one to technique, the other to knowledge. Both use tools of mathematics and language – Don’t forget that mathematics is a tool. It cannot project the truth of nature – but only how humanity has evolved to understand it. Physicists don’t depict patterns of nature – or of solar systems, but how passing experience has imprinted its useful patterning on the receptive brain.
What is my ism? – I suppose I’d be labelled anarchist – but I resist it.
I am not vague about the first steps I’d take towards agricultural distribution systems, which are and always have been the foundation of modern cultures. Subsequent steps are parts of an economic/ecologic/cultural complexity about which I’d be wise to be quiet – in a state of mind (like John Keats’s negative capability) which watches and listens.
An old image I have is of human society turning three times to imprint her form in a landscape, before settling to an ecological peace. Folly is our foundation, so we never achieve that perfect peace, but rise and turn again and again – in a fitful sleep.
Meanwhile, the manipulative brutality of the Western powers and in particular, USA and UK has equalled the blackest tales of history. Druidic miracles of something from nothing are presented by invading armies as birth-rights of the world’s children – born on militant flags of democratic right.
That the druidic doctrine is mad has been habitually forgotten. That Power has no care for doctrine, but finds it useful, is a universal law of history. It is why discourse with Power with regards to climate change and resource depletion has been unproductive. Power neither thinks, nor believes. That has never been its function.