Our Habitation

How do we re-settle? By trial & error. But here are some thoughts. Every habitation must begin with some sort of understanding and some sort of a plan.
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Potatoes contain about 80% water
Carrots contain 90%
Cereals contain 15%
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A tonne of potatoes contains 200kg of nutrients
A tonne of carrots contains 100kg
A tonne of cereals contains 850 kg (dried in the field by sunshine)
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That is why cereals have founded towns and cities. They are very light for transport. A ship’s hold can carry 4.25 more of cereals than potatoes. Differing types of bread have been the staple of most cultures.
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Cereals and potatoes contain very similar nutrients.
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We would not be very well if we consumed a diet entirely of cereals. That has created a chronic (sometimes acute) sickness of the poor in many parts of the world. So, most fruit, roots and leaves are best grown close to home. Without engine oil, that thought is essential.
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There is much demonisation of cereals, but not much sign that people can resist a hot loaf, straight from the oven, a flat bread straight from the griddle, or hold back their pride in the local pasta. A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou…
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Cereals can be traded between regions, as scarcity and surplus demand. In my dreams (reality is very close) small sailing vessels of 500 tonnes (they are coming to fruition as we speak) will prove ideal (along with river/canal boats and barges) for that trade – or indeed, sometimes for that rescue mission. 2,000 tonne vessels will soon follow. That’s a lot of grain – bearing in mind our primary aim will be to localise. *
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Cereals are useful both in time and space (tonnage). They can be transported not only through scarcity and surplus of regions and neighbours, but also between scarcity and surplus of hard, or abundant times. They can be stored for years. They will remain central to our harvest festivals!
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I begin with a defence of cereals, because they give emergency leeway to otherwise localised food systems – of course, the bulk of our cereal crops will also be consumed locally – or within a town/mill/terrain relationship.
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Cuba successfully rode the oil blockade by diminishing the contribution of large collective farms and by encouraging citizens to both “grow their own” and to form small grower co-operatives – the organiponicos. At landfall, we can do the same – vegetable and fruit growing can weave into town – into private gardens and public spaces – derelict car parks for instance, or roadside avenues of fruit trees. Quite literally, hope can sprout from beneath paving stones. Meanwhile, market gardens, orchards and dairies can ring those towns, occupying, and revitalising the oil-desolation of retail park and ring road.
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The same will happen in Suburbia as it re-centralises into villages and small towns sat in a sea of biomass – what we currently separate as agriculture and horticulture.
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Is the distinction any use for our new adventure? I think not. As man-power replaces oil-power, all arable farmers will be forced into a more horticultural mindset. Mixed farmers will be forced into both a more horticultural and also, a more “dog and stick” mindset.
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Fields will shrink into the compass of man-power, with the additional advantage of attention to detail – the intelligence of many more senses. Large collective farms have not worked well in history. In private ownership, they’d become the now familiar colonial plantation owner and his hundreds – even thousands of slaves. In public ownership, they’d become institutionalised and wooden. Our new settlers will not stand for either. They’ll want to use their own senses and their own brains.
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With all this shrinking, you say, you are shrinking back in time and towards low yields and inefficiency. No, I say we are shrinking back into a world without fossil fuel and biofuels. We must put out the fires. We cannot have massive tractors and their massive machinery. We replace them with people – the ingenuity, dexterity and sensuality of very many people. To fully utilise people, it must be an egalitarian landfall.
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I’d say that most work done today is not only futile, it is destructive – insurance, banking, advertising, market research, manufacture of useless shiny things; of cars, trucks, aeroplanes. We scurry to destroy ourselves. Those many millions engaged in destruction can instead be engaged in useful production. Eventually, as the hard work of transition passes, people will have far, far more leisure time without oil, as they had with it.
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There will be work reviving canal and navigable river systems and small harbours all around the coastline. There will be work building the new sail-trading ships and smaller craft and there will be work on the farm and with rural housing – plus new tool-makers, weavers, millers…
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I say we cannot have fossil fuels, or biofuels, but anaerobic digestion is different. Fermentation is everywhere. It is essential to the continuation of life. It happens anyway. Harvesting gas is rather like hunter-gathering. We anaerobically ferment agricultural and household “waste” and use the gas. We exchange one gas for another and use the energy. CO.2 for methane seems a good idea.
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Tiny digestors may provide for the domestic stove. Farm digestors may provide for some small machinery. Neighbouring farms may share that machinery, for initial cultivation perhaps and what about a combine harvester – used for only 1 month every year – travelling between farms.
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I am talking low horse power. The scything, stooking, stacking and threshing could be done by hand. In difficult weathers the combine harvester can dash between rain-storms. It’s a pleasant thought.
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Another thought – ceramics and metal working (re-purposing) need considerable heat. The digestor may provide it. We shall only know if it can, by trial, error and rationing – that is by fair distribution. Bear in mind the end is to shrink our impact on both climate and ecology, so that we cannot grow crops for the digestor, we can only place it as a part of the cycles of use and return.
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How do we minimise our impact? My own remedy is to think of human cultures occupying glades in the larger forest, rather than the permacultural remedy of imitating the canopies and understories of the forest. I think we can grow a greater biomass in the glade – one that meets our needs in a smaller space, while around us, the wilds can expand. We’ll only learn by doing it. Certainly, my crop of wheat needs full sun. Why do I say remedy? – because our culture is currently very sick and will not survive.
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* https://ecoclipper.org/

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1 Response to Our Habitation

  1. Joshua Msika says:

    Oh, I like this one! Very aligned to my vision!

    Like

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