Spending and Selling Ideas into Reality

Yes. Let’s stop spending, or enacting polemical ideas into reality. A corporation exists on two plains – one is a polemical idea – an advertisement – the other is the many small purchases, which create its reality. A corporation is a sold fantasy, which becomes actual by my spending. Has anyone ever seen a corporation? Yes, you may say, they are very real – you receive real wages for real work done. You are a real cog in its wheel and your work-place is a highly visible concrete and glass structure. I say, that you too have been spent into existence and what’s more, you could just as easily be unspent and in search of a new identity – hopefully inside the true physics of soil, forests, fields, rivers, seas, workshops and people.
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Currently successful political parties are those which lobby for and disperse that same corporate advertisement. Votes follow the money and money follows the votes – those many small purchases and votes, which make a reality. Softly and silently (I apologise to the poet) commercial corporations are sliding into government. Most politicians angle their profiles, so that they, in the same way, will be personally spent and balloted into power.
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Politics and consumerism have become so entwined that the ballot has become little more than another consumer-choice – a consumer choice within the same corporate supply.
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Here in the UK there is only one large political group, which stands on more or less physical ground – that surrounding Jeremy Corbyn. Just about every newspaper, radio/television station and political party is utterly focused on destroying it. If they don’t destroy it, they may be un-spent from existence by the contrary power of reality. You ask, What of the Green Party? I say, it has very recently levitated into what it sees as the advantageous world of corporate European power. Rest in Peace.
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How can something, which has no existence, become physical by the power of money? Well, many things do, such as class structures in which real money is extracted from the real economy of the real household to finance my absolutely abstract class status as dentist, GP, solicitor, architect… That extraction could be called rent and it could be called extortion. All enclosures do the same. They extract rent for money, land, status, or ideas and weaken real economic activity – that is the real goings on of people and the land.
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Actually, instead of spending an abstract corporate polemic into reality, why not find a reality and describe, extol the value of its existence. Why not extol existence into existence? Then, why not un-spend a corporation into abstraction again? It is easy to spot politicians who have been bought into existence. They speak like robots – or puppets on a mysterious string. Often, coming from nowhere, they suddenly appear on every front page, fulfilling, of course someone else’s purpose. Here in the UK, one of those chosen in that way, is the well-groomed Liberal Democratic Party leader, Jo Swinson. I suspect the puppeteer is the media baron Rupert Murdoch.
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But it is not only the corporate fantasy that is sold into reality. On “our” side of the argument much that is doctrine, is repeated so much that it can mutate into a consenting hypothesis. That such hypotheses are untested is forgotten in the passionate noise of the original doctrinal polemic. In the battlefield we grow to encourage and protect our comrades in arms.
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Then, an untested hypothesis can be used to create further chapters to the doctrine – with reference “to the science” – quietly forgetting that the science has never existed.
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Gunnar Rungren has an excellent article, currently on the resilience.org site, which unpicks the polemic that “Small farms produce 70% of the world’s food” They don’t. It doesn’t help either our argument, or our task that they should produce all the world’s food, by manipulating figures to show that they already produce 70%. The claim originates from a report by the ETC Groups in 2009, Who Will Feed Us? Now, most of the small farmers and growers I speak to, have that figure indelibly imprinted as a motivational slogan.
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I’ve come across that same brick wall – that line of shouldered arms and have been labelled both schismatic and also of having “no peer review”. Pointing out that the doctrine in question similarly has no peer review and has never been tested, will have no effect, because the doctrine has become sacred and I have become schismatic.
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This particular doctrine is the foundation for sequestration calculations of the IPCC, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 and almost all academic publications besides. No one can show me where and how it has been tested and I’m fairly sure that it never has been tested. I think that the hypothesis, now mutated from an original doctrine, whose source seems untraceable, is possibly (I think extremely likely to be) the cause of the vastly underestimated rate of climate change.
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Here it is as given to me by one of the authors of Zero Carbon Britain 2030 in response to my inquiry –
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“If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO2 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.”
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That is to say, we can burn a crop, turning its living, energetic mass into dead gas, small ashes and powerful energy and then wonderfully as virgin birth, green shoots will rise from somehow immortal, yet still living soil to spread their leaves and photosynthesise as before. Soil is proposed to be as the cauldron of Ceridwen – though we regularly devour the contents, it will never be empty.
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That the doctrine is unbelievable probably gives potency to the belief.
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The tragedy is that the hypothesis is tested season by season by millions – even billions of farmers, growers and gardeners and by scores of agricultural research bodies, which publish crop yield figures. Yet, specialist monopolies are so sure of the sanctity of their enclosures that such simple truth is forbidden entry. After all, careers would be on the line and the credibility of researchers and university departments seeking funding would be shredded by the winds of ordinary common sense. Well, Amen, I say. Professional status enclosure, not only wrecks economies by rent, but it also monopolises truth and so spreads unchallenged delusion. Peer review has mutated to career review, in the same way that doctrine can mutate to hypothesis.
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Here’s some simple truth – a truth at the finger-tips of every farmer and gardener –
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In addition to the gas released from burning a crop for energy (about the same as from burning coal), we also create the following negative effects.
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1 – If we grow a crop, burn it, and so make no biomass return to the soil, then the following seasons crop will be smaller, because the biomass of soil fauna will be similarly smaller.
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2 – Reduced crop yield means reduced photosynthesis, so that the linear contribution of sunlight to the otherwise cyclic nature of life in our garden will be similarly reduced. Atmospheric CO.2 will increase in consequence.
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3 – We could import minerals (fertilisers) from a consequently emptying hole on the ground and so maintain crop yield, but still, soil biomass would decrease. Furthermore, it would decrease more rapidly than in point 1, because artificially-increased plant biomass would “mine” the natural mineralisation of soil fermentation and so further diminish soil fauna/biomass (sequestration).
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(I leave aside the negative effects on soil fauna – biomass and diversity, of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, growth regulators, genetic manipulation and of other effects of fertilisers themselves)
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4 – If we take biomass from our garden and bury it deep – sequestered from the cycles of life – that is, sequestered like coal, oil and gas – then, similarly to point 1, we will diminish soil life, stunt regrowth and shrink photosynthesis. Consequently, we will increase atmospheric CO.2 . Gas, which would have been drawn down by an optimum photosynthesis, will remain in the atmosphere. The same applies to “embedded structures”, such as timber buildings.
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5 – Removing biomass without a return of biomass, slows both the speed and energy of a cycle, while also of course, shrinking its biomass. Speed and energy are often missing from carbon-cycle models. We can observe changing speed by the deepening, or paling green of foliage. Imagine watching the flow of biomass in the same way that we watch the flow of water in a river. The volume in front of us remains the same, until we consider time – litres per second – and energy – driven at 32ft per second sq. We must also consider the speed of flow and energy in biomass. Life is energetic and so is the contribution of sunlight.
The linear contribution of sunlight is dependent on the gathering power and mass of life cycles.
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To continue my (imperfect) analogy, if we remove a mass of water from the river, the water will slow, as the smaller mass spreads more quietly between its unchanged banks.
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If we remove biomass from a field, life will slow as it spreads more quietly across its unchanged acreage.
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Regrowth will slow. Photosynthesis will slow. More time will be needed to achieve the same yield from both sunlight and plant mass. Days and seasons have absolute limits. Time, as the philosophers say, waits for no biomass.
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Actually, crop-yield teaches all we need to know about manipulated organic cycles. To test the IPCC hypothesis, we can go to the great mass of research into crop yields. Otherwise we can record the goings on of our gardens. A simple record is enough.
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5 – IPCC and almost all others propose that carbon sumps and embedded structures remove CO.2 from the atmosphere. That delusion is a part of almost all climate models.
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They also propose that burnt biomass from an unchanged cropping system (“non land-use change”) is Carbon neutral. Moreover, it is proposed that if emitted carbon is captured and stored, (CCS) we can achieve the miracle of negative emissions. That delusion is also part of almost all climate models.
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6 – Burnt biomass with CCS at proposed rates will very soon strip most forests from the Earth, while turning fertile soils towards desert. Burnt coal with CCS would leave those forests and soils to live and breathe.
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Coal and biomass burning emit more or less the same quantity of greenhouse gases, but biomass burning also shrinks both carbon sequestration and the regeneration of biomass. It follows that burning coal is very much safer than burning biomass. If we consider a transition to “zero carbon” (it must be rapid), then first, we must stop burning biofuels, then coal, then oil, then gas. *
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I don’t recommend burning coal.
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Biofuel crops for transport fuels – oil seeds, sugar cane and so on, have the same ill effect.
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I do not apologise for repeating the above, which I’ve put regularly in print, in various forms since 2005.
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* Anaerobic fermentation from “wastes” provides useful gas – especially for domestic use, while also returning biomass “digestate” to the soil. Fermentation happens anyway and everywhere and whatever we do. With AD we gather methane (mostly), burn it and release CO.2 But, I don’t think we have the acreage for AD crops to displace food crops, since we must do all we can to reduce that area, and so let the wilds expand.
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2 Responses to Spending and Selling Ideas into Reality

  1. Joshua Msika says:

    I agree with points 1 to 3 and the rest generally. I have a small quibble with point 4:

    “If we take biomass from our garden and bury it deep – sequestered from the cycles of life – that is, sequestered like coal, oil and gas – then, similarly to point 1, we will diminish soil life, stunt regrowth and shrink photosynthesis. Consequently, we will increase atmospheric CO.2 . Gas, which would have been drawn down by an optimum photosynthesis, will remain in the atmosphere. The same applies to “embedded structures”, such as timber buildings.”

    The first few sentences are fine, it’s the last one that provoked me. Yes, photosynthesis produces biomass which can then do more photosynthesis. But this reduces the bio-mass to a shapeless, structureless mass. This is probably true for the majority of the world’s biomass: the phytoplankton of our oceans grows, reproduces and dies in an endless amorphous cycle. On land however, the structure and shape of the created biomass is arguably just as important in determining future photosynthesis as the pure amount (mass) of it.

    The most familiar and intuitive example is the tree who invests a significant proportion of her (why not assign personhood?) photosynthesis into essentially lifeless lignin, biomass that is incapable of further photosynthesis. Instead, the lignin provides structure. This in turn provides a scaffold for future (increased) photosynthesis as well as providing resistance to the wind, thereby moderating extremes of temperature and humidity within and beyond the reach of her branches, again increasing future photosynthesis.

    The less intuitive example is the same tree casting her leaf and twig litter onto the forest floor. While this is ultimately valuable as a food source for fungi and other soil organisms, powering the cycles of weathering that will provide her with the nutrients she needs (for further photosynthesis), it also fulfils a vital function as habitat. The countless creatures that live in the litter possibly value it more as a shelter from wind, rain, frost, heat, dryness than as a food source – valuing it for its structure, as well as its metabolic potential. The weathering and nutrient cycling that she needs would probably not happen (or not happen quite so effectively) if she was only feeding the soil food web with sugars from her roots. Energy is not enough to live on.

    Birds nest in the tree, using her twigs and leaves to build a shelter for their young that again moderates the external climate. They fulfil a role, regulating populations of herbivorous insects and disseminating the tree’s seeds far and wide to spread the forest – and thereby increase future photosynthesis.

    Grasses, which I think you know more intimately than I, are possibly more focused on the energetic cycle, but their spent roots and stalks also provide structure to the mineral soil, which would otherwise bake dry and wash away. Anyway, you get the drift, but maybe not yet my point.

    What’s the lesson for us here? That we humans can also benefit from the structural properties of biomass. Indeed, we may have more right to biomass as structure than to biomass as energy. Building shelters from wood and/or straw, removing them temporarily from the green flow you describe in order to moderate the extremes of the climate we live in, is just doing the same as the birds and the soil organisms do. Hedgehogs too, and beavers (my totem). But this entails a reciprocal responsibility: we must, by the way we live, contribute to increased future photosynthesis. Building wooden ships is also allowed, if in the long run we can increase future photosynthesis (globally, not just regionally).

    Yes, biomass is a flow of energy, but it has shape and structure and this is important. Future photosynthesis depends as much on the structure of today’s biomass as on its quantity. To forget this is to fall into the same trap as the blind modellers.

    Of the above I am sure. Of the following I am less sure, but still relatively confident. That if we must burn wood, we should char it and burn only its gases (as Ed Revill explains best). This then allows it to be returned to the soil to fulfil its structural role. There is no metabolic energy left in it, but that does not mean it has no value to the soil. Biochar provides shelter for bacteria, adsorption surfaces for nutrients that would otherwise leach away, soil pores for air and water. Ash provides nutrients only, without structure or energy.

    That sends me off on another track: nutrients, energy and structure. Ash and artificial fertilisers only provide nutrients. Anaerobic digestate and pure dung provide some energy and some nutrients. Compost or manure (dung with straw) provide nutrients and a bit of structure. Woodchips or straw mulch provide energy and structure. Biochar provides structure. Of the three, I would argue nutrients are the least important. They are in the environment anyway and can be acquired if there is enough energy. Energy is critical, without it nothing goes. But soil can’t live on energy alone, otherwise, we could just douse our fields in sugar water. Structure is also necessary. Or maybe enough energy can create structure? A whole new area of thought…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bryncocyn says:

    Ha! Yes. We end in the same place as the last correspondence – in the heartwood – the structural heartwood that holds up both a timber building and a forest. I always return to my own behaviour – to my activity as a professional disrupter of the flow of life, which is, as you say, held up by my own structural bones. I disrupt soil, which is held up by its structural humus. All my focus as a farmer, is the maintenance of the mass and diversity of life in my field. The return of straw, woody-ish stems of green manure and so on are essential to the structures through which the energy and mass of life can flow.

    My argument is with those who promote embedded structures as carbon sinks which prevent that carbon from returning to the atmosphere. I think the notion is false, yet you will find it in every carbon footprint calculator. To build my house, I fell a tree, or two and extract useful heartwood – that is wood “sequestered” from the cycles of life cycles either in the forest, or in my house – as you say. However, I will probably burn the “waste” bark, twigs and leaves – that is the life. I could (and should) chip them and return them to the forest floor.

    If we produce biochar on the massive scale proposed by many, we remove structural mass from the forest floor and replace it in our farms and gardens to the undoubted benefit of human harvests. But what of the forest floor?

    “Energy is critical, without it nothing goes” – so life is critical – the cyclic energy of life gathers linear sunlight in surplus and lays down bones, heartwood and humus. It lays down great cruck frame buildings and humble fence posts. It lays down fossils. It simply does it. Life does it.

    But agriculture (I mean our whole culture) disrupts to such a degree, that our focus must be on minimising disruption – that is both in liberating the forest, as much as we culturally can, and in shrinking our disruptive settlement as much as we can – both in size and by better techniques, which learn to imitate and integrate with natural cycles. I don’t believe any “modern life style” can be carbon neutral.

    My moral argument is with myself – I don’t like the dispensations and indulgencies which have become commonplace in green thinking. Ways of life/farming/gardening are frequently justified, not by studying our personal effects, but by following the latest esoteric dispensation found on resilience.org and so on.

    Hey – and considering smelting with structural/not living charcoal – why not try coal? It would leave a little more forest to both structuralise and to live and breathe. Then, just how much smelting/re-purposing can we do – with either coal and charcoal not a lot – definitely a cottage industry. Poor humanity.

    What’s my grudge with resilience.org? – they refuse to publish my regular (to the point of boredom) criticisms (always have done) of the consensus on carbon cycles. I have no peer review. In consequence, I may be obsessed.

    Like

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