Abundant Descent

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Free Online Permaculture Course

This course was generously and wisely and permaculture-ethically made free online to everyone with net access and the system to watch it.

Dr. Will Hooker 



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Biosphere 3?

Let`s talk solutions!
Do you know about Biosphere II? (Read here about what went wrong.) There is some muttering about living on Mars. There has been some muttering about underground bunkers for elite survival. Somebody built a seed bank deep underground. Some folk have hope that – since we can build self-sutaining(-ish) space stations, we can figure out how to survive the eco-pocalypse we have kicked off.
So…. What about a collective action to preserve current biodiversity through building biospheres here, on earth? Is this feasible? Desirable?
(For more information on such projects, you can check out this link about C.E.LS.S.  — Controlled Ecological Life Support System — which came to me via Logan Ray.)
The only possible *out* that remains, it seems to me, is to throw everything we have into designing isolated, partially buried biospheres.193px-Eden_project
By A1personage at en.wikipedia – Own workTransferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17254898
I say this because current conditions look like they are going to wipe out almost all plant life. Both on land and in the waters. Through a combination of extremely rapid climate change, chaotic weather, and toxins that are everywhere. Let us not forget the nukes, the radiation.
So how about Biosphere 3?
First, it should not depend on any inputs, and should be sustainable indefinitely. Think about what that means for the structure itself. Any structure. The longest standing human structures are not looking too airtight. Is it conceivable to build airtight domes that could be repaired without materials brought in from outside those domes? In perpetuity? For how long, then?
Second, best to make sure they do not rely on any form of power other than sunlight and muscle, eh? Because you are not going to be growing biofuels in domes. And you are not going to be mining rare earth minerals and bauxite in domes, either.
Biospheres that do not include the use of any electricity or fuels of any kind to maintain are not, to my knowledge a conception in anyone`s mind. except mine as it popped in there this morning. 🙂
Biospheres need to cycle nitrogen-oxygen-carbon without any energetic systems or external inputs.
Biospheres must be able to protect their plant and animal inhabitants not only from the extremes of weather, but from radioactive fallout and the toxins we have spread everywhere.
We do not have this technology. No one is working on it.
The last time we gave this a go, the experiment failed horribly – the humans could not get along, locked up and confined, and oxygen had to be imported.
Does glass or plastic exist now that could repel radiation?
And what if solar radiation management (SRM) is tried?  This would create a perpetual grey skies scenario. Should that be planned for?
What then if it isn`t deployed? The light conditions under an SRM regime are very different. clouds-cloudy-field-meadow
CR free image from Pexels
How could this be accounted for? Can we build anything that would bring in the sunlight, protect from radiation and work effectively under an SRM regime *and* without SRM?
Perhaps those folk working on the whole *escape to Mars* scheme are working on something like this. They had better be. But really, what are the chances they are planning as if external inputs and electricity won`t be available? Ever. And fuels won`t be available?
And, of course, such scheming violates utterly everything we know about what Nicole Foss calls *solution space*…In times of contraction – energetically, economically – huge endeavors like this biosphere idea are pure hopium. Governments & financial institutions and corporations juggling to prevent collapse are not in any position to fund such sci-fi ventures.
And almost no one recognizes the true level of risk. Without broad social consensus that NTHE was a very real risk, would anyone undertake such a survival project? And why is Elon Musk trying to get to Mars rather than do this, BTW?
And then there are the ethics.
Let us say a few wildcard governments and gazillionaires threw their weight-cash at this biosphere project…
Let us say they were successful ….
Who gets to go and live there… like a peasant farmer-ecologist-zoo keeper in these biospheres?
Who decides?

And who keeps everyone else out?

1280px-Circle_of_Juan_de_la_Corte_-_The_Burning_of_Jerusalem_by_Nebuchadnezzar’s_Army_-_Google_Art_Project (1)


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The Logical End of Barbarity

Thank you, Kenn Orphan. This needs saying.

Kenn Orphan

It’s true. Donald Trump is a frightening character to watch; and his ties to white nationalism and appeals to mob violence are downright chilling. But he has been successful, unwittingly or not, at one thing: lampooning the sham of the American political establishment. For decades the political landscape has been defined by the condescension of its aristocratic elite. And their apathy at growing income disparity and indifference to the suffering of common people are why he is so popular. But as the elite attempt to distance themselves from him it is worth considering some facts.

In the case of Donald Trump, his rise is anything but shocking for those who have kept a keen eye on the trajectory of the collective psyche of the American elite.  He is the atrocious id to their inflated ego.  He has emerged from an ideology of exceptionalism that is firmly rooted in a narcissistic…

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Chaplin: Reboot

Charlie Chaplin`s speech, from The Great Dictator. Set to music so wonderfully by melodysheep, here.

From his perspective a lot seemed possible. Some of it has come or is coming to pass. The dictators died. Mussolini at the hands of his own people. Hitler, at his own hand. And new dictators have arisen, continue to arise. But that, along with the civilizations that spawned dictatorship, is coming to an end.


I got to thinking: How would I amend his speech, for our time?
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. (I would add women, and the transgendered. Because we live in times in which cis genderism and heterosexism are issues, excuses for hate and hateful speech, I would add the gay, the straight, the lesbian and the queer. Because we live in an age in which hate is most often and notably and with deadly force fomented against Muslims, I would definitely include them…and add people of all faiths,  and those of none.) We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. (I would say we must struggle to make room for everyone because the good earth has been stripped and mined and She is no longer rich. We have impoverished Her. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. She once was rich; She once could provide for everyone, every animal, plant, every micro-organism, every fungus. Can we make Her so again? What greater or more noble task could we set for ourselves in this time of mass extinction and catastrophic climate disruption?) The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. (Yes, and and almost certainly we have doomed our own species along with so many others. Can we not dedicate our last years, our final labours to creating peaceful abundance, rather than adding to the paroxysms of destruction and hate?)

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. (…and indeed, so has it come to pass. Not enough feeling and kindness, not enough courage for that path … but so long as we draw breath, we can behave otherwise.)

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. (Some of us, those with access to these trinkets. More so the internet. And these technologies have been used against us to convince us we are unworthy, ugly, smelly, too old, too fat, and that we can have happiness through consumption of all manner of useless, designed to be discarded products. They have divides us from our happiness and satisfaction and from one another and from all that lives, every bit as much, likely more than they have brought us together. And the aeroplane has brought death to millions, and is choking the skies, a leading factor in altering our once stable climate. For what? To move products more quickly. To move us more quickly. So the few can indulge in foreign travel, while we all pay the price. So that few can photograph themselves in exotic locations before the world goes to dust?) The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. (Apparently he was just grossly wrong about that.) Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. (Which continues and seems to have gotten worse. Torture has been normalized.)

To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. (Charlie could still believe industrial machinery and human progress were compatible. Some still believe this. Strange, isn`t it?) The hate of men will pass, (Yes, with the last of us, certainly, perhaps, if we are courageous and really lucky, and we work on it, before then.) and dictators die, (They did. They do. They will, again.) and the power they took from the people will return to the people. (This is almost a sure thing. With declining energy, declining productivity and declining ability to project power. One small blessing amidst the wreckage of collapse.) And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. ….. (Nice idea. But liberty requires deep cooperation and the willingness to cede some decision-making power to a collective of individuals who respect one another`s liberty. This has become a rarity.)

Soldiers! (People!) don’t give yourselves to brutes (the industrial death machine)– men who despise you (a system threatening your death and the death of all that lives) – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! (Thanks to Edward Bernays.) Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, (Who, quite frankly, ought not to be “treated like cattle“ either!) use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men (this truly omnicidal system)(which will make of you) machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! (Really this kind of speciesism is not called for! cattle are lovely.) You are men (people, even)! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! (Well, this is just patently untrue. people can get carried away with anger and blame and fall into hatred. We all can. We all must guard from it. It is always illogical and counter-productive. And it makes us prone to manipulation by demagogues.) Soldiers! (People!) Don’t fight for slavery (servitude is more appropriate)! Fight for liberty! (One thing the 20th century conclusively proved to me was that fighting for freedom and equality with guns, knives, or fists is just not possible. Not, certainly, in the mass movement, violent overthrow of the state sense, in any case. The state is always a problem, no matter who heads it. Unrepentant, repeat, bullies, however,  can and must be turfed out of communities that seek to be egalitarian and respectful. If necessary, by force.)

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! (I actually think this kind of spiritual claim can be backed up by science. Whatever created the universe, whatever force, however we care to personify it – or not – is certainly in every one, in every thing, living or not.) You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. (Yeah, but let`s stop doing that, eh? Most of them have added to the problem.) The power to create happiness! (Yes, the power to love, to feel joy, appreciation, friendship, to nourish life, enrich soils, plant trees, protect diverse species, move water across the landscape slowly, so it has time to sink in and recharge shallow aquifers… We can do lots of things to aid life while feeding ourselves and our families and communities … and to simply enjoy being alive. The power to design pleasant, abundant, restorative systems for living. The power to make art and music and really cool solar dehydrators. The power to think and act and speak with compassion, with wisdom. There is still time and opportunity for all of that and more.) You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. (Yup! Life is a wonderful adventure, when you have relearned how to notice.)

mossy trees SSP

Then – in the name of democracy (fuck democracy-in the name of All Life)- let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to (choose meaningful) work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. (Well, I am not sure giving youth too much of a future remains possible. But, at least in the short term, we can care for one another and do what we can to make life more possible for all life on earth.) By the promise of these things, brutes (not to mention the well-intentioned bunglers) have risen to power. But they lie! (Often to themselves, as well.) They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! (As true now as then…and good people have risen to power on such empty promises, too. And failed to deliver. Most political promises are simply un-keepable or else you wouldn`t want them kept!)

Dictators free themselves (Really, I am not sure about this. They certainly do seem desperate to hold onto power once they get it…they do seem to get pretty miserable and paranoid though the longer it lasts.)  but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers (A VERY good idea, especially with 60 million humans on the move and more expected every year.)– to do away with greed, (Yeah, who needs it. A trail of broken promises that money was going to make us happy. An excess of leisure seems to make most people rather miserable and lost and sometimes nasty, too.) with hate and intolerance. (Actually, I am a big fan of embracing radical respect, which is the step beyond mere *tolerance* of differences. Bullying and abuse, cruelty and scapegoating, however, do not deserve tolerance.) Let us fight for a world of reason, (Now why does he go for the old *reason* bugaboo…when he was earlier telling us to get in touch with our feelings? The enlightenment, the great Age of Reason led us precisely to the edge of extinction. Calm contemplation and logic have their place, but only when reason is used consciously with deep emotional introspection and compassion is valued highly.)  a world where science (See comment on Age of Reason directly above. Sad, is it not, how the scientific method became a corrupt religion?) and progress (Yeah. In the early 20th century a lot got hitched to the *progress* narrative, didn`t it? And we haven`t quite worked ourselves out of that tangle, yet.) will lead to all men’s (people`s) happiness . Soldiers! (People!) in the name of democracy, (Democracy was a false promise, never kept, unkeepable in current conditions. How about in the name of All Life, instead?) let us all unite!

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Who has a “right” to inhabit the land?

Is it logical to state that the first inhabitants of a territory are the original, right-infused “owners”? Especially given that most of the societies that had their lands overrun did not have any such notions of private property and ownership? This position is exactly that of the “I saw or grabbed it first, It’s mine!” school of thought that kindergartens everywhere attempt to convince small children is not fair: “We share our toys.”
The utility of this argument exists only in so far as it stamps out the much worse (and frankly predominant) position statement: “Might makes right.” This is the actual position of every colonial government. Spain said, “South America is mine.” France said, “North America is mine,” England says to France, “We will whoop your asses and now it is ours.” And some colonists from the US object to taxation and the long distance relationship with the Motherland that has become dysfunctional and they say, “Fuck off you redcoats, it is ours.”
And then their is the recourse to legalities and contract. “We made a deal.” Except the English, the Americans, the Canadians (etc.) never lived up to those deals. And for the Native populations those deals were about how to share occupation of the land – not what the colonizers decided they would be: legal smokescreens for Might Making Right. Manipulations.Ways to placate the Native populations when they were still larger and stronger and potentially able to stop the occupation. “Law and contract”..does not make right. Especially when the side with all the guns is making the laws. Treaties make for endless obfuscating, abuse, manipulating, attempts at cultural and physical genocide, placating, pretending to negotiate in good faith, paternalism, and unjust, unethical, ceaseless legalese wrangling. For generations. Hoping the problem will go away eventually?
And what about the fundamental ecological catastrophe? Can land claims be used to slow that juggernaut down? To an extent, treaty rights and the right to consultation have somewhat slowed that down in Canada. Notably, the pipelines. Yet here we have a new Prime Minister, talking up consultation with the Native inhabitants as the best way to get those pipelines built. I think he means bribery.
From anthropological and archaelogical studies we know a few things about the relationships humans and human societies (past and present) develop with the land and ecosystems they inhabit. We know that some humans, especially those practicing traditional hunting and gathering, nomadic, grazing & horticulture lifestyles in particular tend to act as members of the ecosystems they inhabit. Their spiritual beliefs reflect and reinforce cooperation and respect – with the members of their own tribe and with the living and non-living around them. We also know that a form of food procurement and settled habitation arose in some isolated areas all over the world. First it mainly arose in river deltas and flood plains. This is generally called agriculture. Daniel Quinn calls it “totalitarian agriculture.” This is where the private ownership of land seems to start. This is where the draining of ecosystems and hoarding of wealth and building of walled cities seems too start. This may be a sustainable way of life in a few ecosystems – the ones in which rivers flood nutrients back into the soil nearly every year, for example. Along the Nile, in the Indus valley, etc.
An unfortunate outcome of agriculture in these regions is the way human populations expand to meet the growing supply of grains (the most storeable of all food crops – therefore the most controllable). This has tended to lead to the desire to expand territories and obtain more land – fence it – kill or drive off the other humans living there – and the wildlife and plants deemed dangerous or useful or “weedy.” Also, this has led to the specialization of labour and to hierarchies developing: priestly classes, kings and soldiers. To make matters worse, it has led to “development” – metal smithing, trading, mercantalism, colonialism, capitalism and even industrialized communism.
Sometimes the “barbarians” outside the empire look at all that gold and grain wealth and domesticated animal flesh and think…I gotta get me some of that. Many times civilisations have clashed with one another: Persians and Greeks, English and Indians…producing “winners and losers”…The violence spreads, as per the Parable of the Violent Tribe.
Might makes right. In Reality, whatever spin is put on it, this is agricultural civilisation’s main operating principle.
So…what is the radical “solution?” What gets to the root of the problem? To stop the spread of violence is impossible. As long as empires could expand, they would. Violence is the strongest meme in times of expanding energy supplies. But as contraction occurs another meme gains ground, inevitably…because it is amenable to survival under such conditions. The meme is sharing. Cooperation. Get along, help one another out, make peace or die.
The root of the problem is an excess of resources & totalitarian agriculture (which is self-exterminating in most locations), and the resulting settlement – “civilisation” – violence for defense and expansion – private property – hierarchy – specialisation of labour – cities and fences and walls. (Here is an in depth discussion of the origins of warfare which takes an atypical and opposing POV, by refusing to differentiate between inter-tribal conflict and warfare. And here is a refutation of Pinker. )
The root of the solution is an unavoidable contraction of resources – especially energy – a renewed commitment to ecological restoration (because maintenance is not sufficient when so much has been destroyed) and a forward-looking return to horticulture (permaculture) and, I suspect, eventually to nomadism.
Here is my proposal:
Who has a “right” to inhabit any given landscape?
Any community of people who can demonstrate a commitment to regenerating the local ecosystem cooperatively with other humans and with the wild local systems.
Care, commitment, and competence make “right” in an era of catastrophic ecological collapse.
*See David Holmgren for details of his approach to the ethics of sustainability.
It won’t defeat violence and “Might makes right-ism.” Nothing we can think or that we control can. However, it provides an ideal to rally around as the complexity of global civilization and the biosphere collapse around us, and as resources become scarce.
This meme has the advantage of accommodating Dire Reality: of decreasing energy, of resource scarcity, and of the necessity of giving to the Earth more than we take, and of helping one another through this for our mutual benefit. Doubtless, as we descend, the spiritual notions of an animated, cooperative Nature deserving of our respect and gratitude will become more popular again.
And when the last human standing falls (may she live and rest in peace), may her bones feed a fertile soil and a still-living world.