Rebellion

Let’s resume – our course is towards a society in which both work and pleasure are walking distance from everyone’s door. Such a society, is stitched into folk memory. It is very easily understood. Only a hundred years ago, it was the normal for nearly everybody and it is still normal for billions of people outside Europe and North America.
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Much that is hateful in contemporary life is a direct result of road transport and the family car – scarring settled communities and driving people to the desolation of retail park and suburban ennui. Concreted ribbons of murderous (they do have intent) speed, force childhood games away from the natural world and into rootless electronic phantasy – adults too. To electrify such a world, will not change its evil and anyway a renewing Earth does not have anywhere near the capacity to produce such power.
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Any proposal for behaviours necessary to shrink the human greenhouse effect, must begin with the assumption that the bicycle and the sailing boat provide the limits to “technological advancement” in transport. If they don’t have that assumption, then they live in the twentieth century delusion that energy is infinite.
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Proposals for a transition back to that ancient and ordinary way of life must first pass through what we’ve got, to travel to where we must. Many are attempting the journey, but most of us are failing. We fail because we must embark not only individually, but also as a community.
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Meanwhile the very first step is to abandon aviation immediately and absolutely. That is easy, and comes with little social complication. Those who haven’t, are clearly not serious. Sadly, very many “environmental” campaigners, film-makers, writers and gurus, fly so often that they must be among the most destructive people on Earth. Let’s begin by forgetting them. They deserve no credence. They must have no understanding of green-house causes, or how could they bear to do it? Otherwise, they have differing reasons, such as narcissism, career prospects, diminished social conscience, or diminished sense of truth.
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You see, we have quickly and simply disposed of the bulk of the academic and political literature. Let’s not waste further time trawling through it.
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For myself as a farmer, and by means of street markets and farmers’ markets, I have attempted to connect with places where work and pleasure are walking distance from everyone’s door. But as town centres become increasingly desolate, so farmers’ markets also decline. Towns and their trades have declined, as oil-powered retail parks and super markets have expanded.
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Meanwhile, many of those who would otherwise seek my produce, are lured away from both their local town and from my market stall, by the ease of “ethical” internet shopping. Not only the now familiar super market delivery van, but also smaller couriers carrying organic box scheme orders, suck dry those older and more durable communities of trade and the trades; of pubs, shops, cafes, concert halls, theatres and libraries, which for centuries, and without oil, or coal have made up what we called, town. Of course, coal and timber have fed the domestic fireplace for some of those centuries. But that’s our central problem – the production of domestic heat. We’ll have no electrical energy to spare for transport.
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We have become deluded by both oil and the internet. There is no future for either of them. I use the internet to “post” this piece of writing. I hope, it is a posting in transition. If we live within Earthly means, then we cannot maintain the vast electrical energy needed for the internet. What’s more, wonderful as it is, it has not brought happiness. I speculate it has brought the opposite.
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But consider this – since internet shopping draws people away from centres for durable shopping, it cannot be a step of transition, rather it is a place awaiting evacuation. The same can be said of super markets stocking organic, or fair-trade goods – those goods are not a step of transition – rather thy await evacuation to something which is more truly on the road. The “virtue” of organic produce cannot be used, in the monk-pardoner manner, as dispensation for the vice of the super market – in which so much vice, mixed with an equal weight of virtue becomes indulged – leaving no stain on the character. Such moral accountancy leaves us heading to mass extinction of very many familiar species and to three degrees of warming fast. It leaves power in the hands of irresponsive, amoral and often immoral monopoly. Consumer choice for a greening of the super market will not change that trajectory.
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Similarly, an electric car does not change the trajectory. The good of electric does not balance the bad of the car. In any case we have insufficient non-destructive means to produce the electricity needed for either the car’s propulsion, or its manufacture. Domestic heat, light, refrigeration and cookery will use most of the electricity we can produce – and then we can hope for some leeway to produce ceramics and so on. It is foolish to seek ways to green existing transport, when the simple solution is to remove the need for most of it.
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It is a deep sadness that my own road to transition is crumbling around me. I have loyal customers, who I’ve known for twenty years and more and I am loyal to them. Like me, they grow older and dwindle by the ageing process. Younger people do not replace them. It is a false assumption that street markets are full of hipster dudes. They are not (at least not here in Wales). The great bulk of my sales are to retired people, who also like to cook – practical people who once held a trade, who garden – who hate pesticides – who are self-reliant – who have sheds full of tools – who fix things when they are broken – and are as far from hipsterism as can be imagined. They are from both the left and right of politics, but are connected by something deeper. I like them – to me, though most do not profess to be “green”, they are the vanguard of a true “climate movement”.
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Our small farm (89 acres) produces vegetables of every kind, soft fruit, apples, apple juice, beef and lamb – all of which are sold on our market stalls. We also grow some cereals. Increasingly, we return from market with unsold produce. That cannot continue. We are hollowed out at the same rate that town centres are hollowed out and as, I speculate, a true climate movement is being hollowed out.
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If I said, opportunistically – town centres are dead, we must follow the new crowd to the internet – by courier, drive-to distribution “hub” and electronic money, I would also be saying – fuck transition to vivacious and convivial centres, I’ll go where the new crowd go. I think that new crowd are heading for oblivion, albeit, peer-reviewed oblivion.
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Many of my organic, agroecological, perma-cultural friends are following the money. Once a friend set up a box scheme on rented, well-chosen and good land, using amateur gardening skills. Within three or four years, having had large “rural development” grants for machinery and promotion, she became both stressed and bored and sold the business and machinery for mere money – the community’s tax money. Instead she took an English literature course. My son met her husband a year or so later, and he asked, are you still doing that? We’ve moved on ages ago… Yes, I’m afraid we are still rooted in our fields – as Thomas Hardy noted, though dynasties pass. I must add that I love the true amateur – that is, one who loves. I hope we are amatory on the farm. Certainly, it cannot be abandoned without breaking the heart.
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I support the school strike for climate – it is a marvellous thing. Moral children ask immoral adults to act morally. About extinction rebellion – I have sympathy, but also have doubts. Adults demand that other adults behave properly. But are those who demand it of others, also demanding it of themselves? Are they truly adult? Extinction Rebellion could be much like consumerism in which dependants demand changes to the provisions they receive from government and corporation, but are determined to remain in that dependent childhood. If they remain in dependent childhood, then god help the children.
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If those in the rebellion are also attempting to change the ways that they live and work – if they are also rebelling against themselves – then a demand that government and corporation remove obstacles from that path is productive and genuine. Many in the movement are doing just that, but a very high proportion are not. Others are demanding a greening of their work and play places – which is a consumerist demand and also a lucrative opportunity for established corporate wealth to mop up new markets and to collect government moneys in green new deals perhaps. A greening of the status quo is a revolution of sorts, but it does not solve our problem, which is the status quo itself. Our revolution must be firstly against ourselves – our ways of life – our own status quo, then secondly against obstacles to that transformation – corporate monopoly, status monopoly, money monopoly, information monopoly and the consenting politics, which props up and enables all those things.
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One small thing – Greta Thunberg advises us to follow the science – she means of climate change. I love Greta, but she should be very careful in scientific company. Science does not mean truth. I think the peer review system is now so rotten; so interconnected with career prospects, university guidelines, funding complications, commerce and power, that I think it can also mean a very large dose of delusion and careerist lies. The science on “our” side of the argument can be equally suspect. Just as Albert Einstein returned to Newton to test relativity, so we must return to solid ground; to trial and error; to our own experience, to test the latest scientific papers. The value of science is its detachment from both pre-conception and post-conception. It lets new light into personal per-ception of things, but it cannot instruct us how to act. That is for skill, dexterity, pragmatism – for trades’ people to decide, perhaps using that new scientific illumination, but combined with old understanding and the perennial moral of what it means to be human.
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Irish poets, learn your trade – sing whatever is well made – scorn the sort now growing up – all out of shape from toe to top – their un-remembering hearts and heads – base products of base beds… sang W B Yeats, and so should we.
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If we are not rooted in our trades and culturing, we have nothing to give. When the trades rise up against the monopolies, then we can have a true rebellion. When baker, weaver, carpenter, farmer, sailor, brewer, stone mason, forester… rise up by methods which thrive without oil and biofuels (without fire, or very limited fire) then we can truly have the revolution, which the children ask of us. Culture is not what we demand, but what we do. Much of our now terrible predicament has been caused by monopoly – by unskilled “professional people” – by architects instructing and distorting the skills of builders, by “research bodies”, or pesticide manufacturers instructing and distorting the skills of farmers, by peer-reviewed ignorance instructing and distorting us all.
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So, our revolt is an ancient one – against the enclosures. Why do we revolt? – for love and gratitude – for the gift of life and for our children, parents, friends, neighbours – and for the near infinite variety of interconnected dependencies of awesome species for awesome species – and for the knowledge we can have at our finger tips, which those in power have lost.

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