Telling numbers, missing stories

Almost half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s raging wildfires with fears entire species may have been wiped out. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been lost since September with the figure likely to continue to soar. Devastating fires have ripped through the states of Victoria and New South Wales in the past couple of days alone,“

Zoe Drewitt wrote on Jan 2nd 2020 in an articleon Metro online.

pic: Pexels, free to use
They are estimting the vertebrates only, I guess. The staggering numbers don’t mean much, though, in the face of each and every death being a tragedy of its own. Imagine your pet and multiply the heartache half a billion times, coming from the Australia wildfires alone.
Add to this, among others 300 million cattle, 440 million goats, 540 million sheep, 1500 million pigs, and 45000 million chickens slaughtered every year for human consumption, which does neither include the wholesale destruction of wildlife in the name of progress, nor the victims of global warming all over the globe.
The body count you never hear about might be in the -trillions- per year.
Again, each and every one a tragedy both for the victims and for those left behind.
As we the civilized begin to understand that plants, forests, rivers and soils, as well, are conscious sentient intelligent beings we become hard-pressed to rethink our attitude towards our own place in the Universe and towards non-human life on Earth.
I’m not saying that death as such or feeding on another being were in themselves somehow inacceptable. My point here is the industrial scale on which it’s happening, the exploitative manner, the huge collateral suffering and killing (such as these wildfires, or the slashing of the Amazon forests), and, worst of all, our complete indifference towards it all.
If this is the price of civilization – and indeed it is – then it needs to be taken down and abolished forever.

Everything

On leaving the village shop I pay my purchase with fiat currency. Fiat currency is the kind of money that comes into existence through debt, which means, an interest was attached to it that was owed to the central bank issuing the money. Someone had to work for it, to create a value that enabled them to pay this interest; it is the reason why civilized humans of this time and age pillage the planet. I don’t know what they did for the money I just spent. Perhaps they strip-mined the Deccan, or they razed some old-growth forest in Assam. I will never know. I understand, though, that the form in which the shop keeper receives my dough – as bits and bites via an online network connected to a bank – required massive infrastructure investments, from rare earths for computer parts, to copper in the wires, to cement for the buildings the bank and the network components are housed in – just to name a few of incredibly many raw materials needed to enable me to go shopping in this place or any other. One key component in our deal is electricity, the energy required to run the shop computer, the network hubs, and the bank computer; electricity is also needed for the transmission of the transaction signals. Think of nuclear reactors (uranium strip-mines, forever-radiating waste), coal-powered plants (more strip-mines, carbon dioxide), or “renewable” energy plants (yet more mines for silicates and rare earths, petroleum for the plastic parts, plastering of hillsides and plains with rotors and solar panels, ruining of river valleys with dams). And, on a side note, I know that,

if there were no computers, the process of engaging in war would be much more drawn out, with a lot more time for human beings to change their minds or seek alternatives. It is only because computers do exist that a virtually automatic, instant worldwide war, involving total annihilation, even enters the realm of possibility. [Jerry Mander: In the Absence of the Sacred]

Being constantly aware of details like these, I sigh as I walk out through the shop’s front door. I used to buy a lot of sweets and crunchy stuff before I decided to reduce my dependence on money and to prevent the production of plastic garbage. I buy only bread and spreads. The bread comes in a compostable paper wrapping, which is a rather revolutionary feat in a world gone crazy for petroleum-containing plastic packaging. But paper has issues of its own, from the consumption of forest ecologies to the poisonous chemicals needed to produce the stuff, and a lot of those chemicals end up in rivers and aquifers – or in your compost pile. Perhaps the paper is

made of 150-year-old Engelmann spruce and Cariboo fir from British Columbia. Cooked into pulp in a stew of sodium sulfide. Bleached with chlorine dioxides that exhale deadly dioxins. Printed with petroleum-based resins from California, carbon-black from oil drilled in the Gulf of Mexico, colored inks produced in the industrial suburbs of Seattle. Delivered in a van fueled by gasoline from Saudi Arabia. Bound by a petroleum-based rubber band made in Hong Kong. Sheathed in a polyethylene bag from New Jersey. [Chellis Glendinning: Off the Map]

by Maggie’s Camera on flickr.com (cc by-nd 2.0 generic)

The spreads – peanut butter, mixed fruits jam, and chocolate cream – come in glass jars. The glass itself is recyclable, but its production and recycling requires high amounts of fossil fuels. The lids are made of composite layers of rubber, tin, and paint; hard to separate, if at all possible. The peanuts have been harvested from a degraded landscape denuded from all kind of vegetation but hectares of monocrops. They are local, though, meaning, I save pollution from transportation, and receive only the poisonous industrial chemicals residing in soil, air, and water just about everywhere on the planet. Same goes for the jam and the chocolate spread. The latter is nagging my conscience a little more, since I don’t know what the fatty ingredients consist of, the chocolate comes from one or two far-away continents, and has likely been produced by grossly underpaid wage slaves and children. Let’s also not talk about the sugar in there, a legal drug that I have become addicted to already when drinking my first sweetened tea as a baby.

Anyway, one has to eat. When I was born I have been one of about 3.7 billion hungry mouths. Today I share the planet with more than double this amount, 99.99% of which belong to the same culture: global industrial civilization.

So I cycle home, carrying my purchase in a certified-organic cotton bag. That the shop doesn’t provide plastic carriers any longer helps them cater to the image of ‘green’ business. Yet, as a matter of fact, you cannot trust the certificate because the providing agency needs to create surplus which means, they need to satisfy their customers… and you can’t keep your customers happy when you ruin their businesses by attesting them bad practice. One lesson from AAA ratings for defaulting crap papers could have been, to take a closer look at all kinds of certificates, from safety guarantees for electric devices to organic labels for food. The more convenient path, though, is to confide in the neat-looking logo on the package, lest you would inspect the global supply chain leading from resources extraction through materials processing to assembly, packaging, transportation, and sales systems. I prefer to have a life. That means, I buy as little as possible, and when I do I don’t give a bleeding damn about what the label says; it’s a lie anyway. Which brings me back to the cotton bag I carried along: at least part of the cotton is genetically modified, Glyphosate-treated stuff, with a high likeliness of having been grown in a place where one or more farmers have killed themselves because they couldn’t repay their loans after the chemically annihilated fields refused to produce as much as the Frankenseed company promised. But at least I may reuse the bag a few more times before its weak seams sloppily tailored in a Bangladeshi sweatshop disintegrate and I have to buy a new one.

Once you start looking a little closer at how you live, what you use and who you interact with, you will notice without effort that exactly everything contributes to polluting the planet, to the destruction of habitat for all life forms including humans, and to causing the disintegration of communities, violence, death, extreme injustice, spiritual impoverishment, and decrease in human capacities. This is not because you were especially focusing on negative aspects, or that I was a defeatist, nihilistic, miserable-minded cynic. What you see is real. Do not, for one second, believe in human ingenuity being able to create a techno-fix for it. The “Digital age,” for instance, will not result in a well-informed unified activists front prevailing over the destructive power of the Megamachine. Jerry Mander writes,

This society upholds a fierce technological idealism. We believe we can get the best from a given technology without falling into worst-case scenarios of the sort described above. We maintain this idealism despite the fact that we have no evidence of technology ever being used at an optimal level, or even being sensibly controlled. This is certainly true of automobiles, which have virtually destroyed the natural world; and of television, which creates a common mental denominator; and of electrical energy generation, which is vastly overdeveloped to the detriment of the planet.

and:

What is romantic is to believe that technological evolution will ever live up to its own advertising, or that technology itself can liberate us from the problems it has created. [Jerry Mander: In the Absence of the Sacred]

I find both Mander’s and my own considerations echoed in another paragraph from Glendinning’s book “Off the Map” in which she reflects,

This white linen shirt. Constructed in a sweatshop in Indonesia. Or Lithuania. Or Saipan. Everything of this world. Shoes made of Brazilian cattle whose grazing lands were once rain forest. Eggs on the plate: they come courtesy of hens buckling in boxes not twice the size of their bodies, shot up with antibiotics and hormones. These petrochemical lawn chairs. Earl Grey tea. Everything. The raw materials of our lives mean one thing as we obtain them glistening at the mall, via the Internet, in mail-order catalogs, as gifts from friends. They mean something else in the naked sober world of their origin. They are literally made of the oppression, pain, grief, sacrifice imposed by the global economy.

Or I could have opened Derrick Jensen’s “The Myth of Human Supremacy” at pages 178/9 where I find a similar notion expressed by an author who is “just” sitting in a wooden house, on a winter day, with a computer on, snacking from a plastic bag of cashews. I trust you to play through the implications of that by yourself.

Often times when I talk to people, they use to respond, “O well, this means you cannot trust anybody, cannot believe anything written, cannot buy, eat, or touch anything.” And this is exactly my point. When it comes to our culture/ society/ economy, everything is tainted because everything has been created from matter violently ripped from the Earth, with no respect for ecosystems or living beings. Everything runs through a poisonous process of transportation, chemical treatment, packaging, insincere labeling, and finally trashing, all of which is performed by a planetary network of wage slaves who get alienated from the produce of their hands by division of labour, and who sell their lifetimes in exchange for fiat currency that creates more and more extreme social disparity. Everyone has become violently selfish from having to survive in a violent and greedy society, everyone’s traumatized, everyone has been turned into a zombie, or a jerk, or a victim.

Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom. [Michael Ellner]

“Don’t hate your oppressors;
they need liberation, just like you.”
 

In today’s world where every square inch of the Earth can feel the impact of our culture’s activity there is no escape from the Empire of Evil. There is no such thing as walking away, no such thing as dropping out. Our minds have been programmed for functioning in the context of this Empire. We are civilization, and civilization is who we are. You can’t walk away from yourself.

Does that mean we have to give up trying? I don’t believe so. Nature – and that includes humankind – possesses a tremendous capacity for self-healing. There is a real chance that once we brought down the physical manifestation of the system – or it collapsed on its own, which is more likely, given our current state of mind – the Planet, and humanity, will quickly bounce back to their former degree of aliveness. (Well, perhaps not.)
To unburden oneself from the acculturated need for things may not suffice to fully liberate the mind from its ties with our civilized upbringing. Independent of whether we’d be able to achieve anything tangible I see it as a morally necessary step, though, a step which also helps us reconnect with life how it truly was meant to be. We need to empathize with the sickness within ourselves, we also need to have patience with each other.

And maybe (just maybe) life still has a chance of blooming and spreading once again – after our sick culture has vanished from our minds and its practices are discontinued for good.

The Empire Express, 15 July 2017

Editorial

What transpires from many of the following items is the indication, the plea, the outcry, and even the demand for rising up before too long. The writers, speakers, and interviewees agree more or less in their view of the complete corruption of civilization’s institutions but they differ in what to do about it. The more despair is involved the more violence is being calculated into the equation. The more compassion rules the more the change becomes a matter of individual inner liberation.
Jensen, Hedges, Eisenstein, Adyashanti, and Macy each make solid points for their case. Some are giving a flaming speech, some are invoking kindness; all of them are asking, Will you be a part of the solution?

Ongoing Assault

Barbarians, that’s what the Elite calls the general population. A long read.
The uninhabitable Earth (annotated edition) – David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine, 20170714
Now that major magazines and newspapers are picking up on reporting from the climate front articles like this (first issued July 9th) come as less of a surprise. Still, there was an outcry both in the mainstream media, and the scientific press, not to talk about the dumbstruck ignorant population, about how someone dare painting such a dire picture (“climate change porn”) and thus found a “suicide cult”, without substantiation. On July 14th, five days later, the magazine issued an annotaded version which provided sources for the information given.
Though the threat of human extinction still looms at the comfortable distance of almost a century to go the description of the consequences of global warming in this long essay feel more realistic than most of what can be read elsewhere.
Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation.”
Ok, quoting this paragraph wasn’t fair of me. The extent and depth of what climate change will mean to us as a civilization and as a species has been covered as good as it gets. That is because the author has obviously done some research and also spoken to a number of scientists personally. If you’ve seen the piece about those four Australian concerned climatologists, this is your follow-up story, this is what they are scared about.
The old paradigm is crumbling, something new emerges. I am not entirely sure whether the author would agree with seeing ecosystems in terms of communities or if we have to take the word ‘system’ in its mechanistic sense in which humans still can ‘trigger’ desired events, but the general direction sounds fine.
Some very practical consequences of global warming: How is life changing in Alaska (and Canada and Siberia), what becomes of human settlements and infrastructure? Remote was yesterday.
Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA – Tom Secker & Matthew Alford, InsurgeIntelligence, 20170704
US military intelligence agencies have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows”
Imagine– Derrick Jensen, Tlaxcala, 20170703
Jensen straight forward in his critique of industrial civilization and people’s lack of imagination that stands in the way of overcoming it:
‘Imagine for a moment that we weren’t suffering from this lack of imagination. Imagine a public official saying not that he cannot imagine living without electricity, but that he cannot imagine living with it, that what he can’t imagine living without are polar bears.”
Humans in 2167: Internet implants and no sleep – Bryan Gaensler, Down To Earth, 20170630
From an author who is affiliated to the University of Toronto, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, comes a vision for the next 150 years that misses out on none of the classic memes of science fiction. Among the many excellent articles featured by Down To Earth this is one of incredible naiveté. Sorry for spoiling the party, but Earth is already going through the early stages of her sixth mass extinction to which humans are not exactly immune, while the future envisioned here simply extrapolates the destructive course of civilization into the next century as if there were infinite resources allowing for infinite growth on this finite planet. The article describes an impossible future that fails to amaze me with its dull promise of technological progress and a lifestyle that is completely devoid of meaning. I cannot find it “sad” at all that this “will never happen in the real world.”
Take it as a reminder that, despite the trillionfold pain afflicted to life’s community by visions like this, this is still the official story of Empire’s destiny and that, as long as you are dreaming of technological golden ages, you are literally asleep to what’s real.
There will be an extremely painful oil supply shortfall sometime between 2018 and 2020. It will be highly disruptive to our over-leveraged global financial system.”
The convergence of crises reaching its peak point.
Corrected satellite data show 30 percent increase in global warming – Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 20170630
Orbital mechanics and other overlooked factors influencing satellite observation led to a difference of 0.17°C in temperature measurements. The actual global average temperature thus amounts likely to around 1.7 to 2°C, depending on the baseline applied.
When ideas become a commodity public intellectuals like Chomsky have a hard time. On the other hand, though, hard times are the fertile ground on which ideas thrive organically. Out of all the confusion created by an overabundance of ratcatchers emerges a growing certainty;
What intellectuals need is the same as what everyone else needs: a society that prioritizes human flourishing over private profit, and strong political networks that guard public goods against the prophets of an atomized, high-tech future. However difficult that society may be to achieve, one thing about the present gives hope. We are finally getting clear about who its enemies are.”
Stop Fascism – Chris Hedges, 20170526
His Portland speech finds clear words for what civilization has done to the planet, calling for strong resistance to the madness which has taken over governments, corporations, and all of humanity’s institutions.

Pearls Before Swine

Personality; not just for people anymore – Carl Safina, Huffington Post, 20160828
Humans have human minds. But believing that only humans have minds is like believing that because only humans have human skeletons, only humans have skeletons,” the Stanford professor says.
He is talking about insights gained from wildlife observation, and I concur because my experience with farm animals like goats, cows, and chickens completely matches Safina’s descriptions.
We usually see “elephants”—or “wolves” or “killer whales” or “chimps” or “ravens” and so on—as interchangeable representatives of their kind. But the instant we focus on individuals, we see an elephant named Echo with exceptional leadership qualities; we see wolf 755 struggling to survive the death of his mate and exile from his family; we see a lost and lonely killer whale named Luna who is humorous and stunningly gentle. We see individuality. It’s a fact of life. And it runs deep. Very deep […] Humans are not unique in having personalities, minds and feelings.”
I find it important to stress that individuality does not equal separateness of the individual from her environment. But that is a story for another day.
After one became three: working the work that is love – Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, 20160822
An autobiographical account of one human being’s place in the web of life that is not about living in the green. A love story that is rather enchanting than romantic, addressing climate change without counting carbon molecules.
Darcia Narvaez – Derrick Jensen, Resistance Radio, 20160228
An interview with the professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, IN, on child rearing in primitive and in civilized communities, and how the differences affect the moral development of human beings. To me this is one of the Wow! sources with regard to the human condition.
Grief and carbon reductionism– Charles Eisenstein, 20160203
Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific evidence-based predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of activism and energy that we are seeing now in Flint. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. And that requires experiencing grief. There is no other way.”

Ruminants and methane: not the fault of the animals – Alan Broughton, Green Left Weekly, 20160115

I suspected as much. Something must be done about greenhouse gas emissions. But bovines are an integral part of Earth’s life community. If there is any harm in what they are doing it is the result of our abusive relationship to them. This goes not only for ‘cow farts’ but also for goats as desert makers, and other myths. Our hysteria with finding someone to blame for Earth’s predicament is twisting the discussion and hurts those who have done least to bring it about: subsistence farmers and their symbiotic species.

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say– Oliver Milman, The Guardian, 20151202

Less destructive forms of forestry and nurturing kinds of food creation could do a lot to stop or even reverse the trend. But ask yourself: Can that happen within a system that depends on economic growth? Does morality have a chance below the bottom line of profit? Will we apply technology to restore what we have pushed off-balance for the sake of better technology? Can we ever prefer the well-being of other beings over our own as long as we believe in our own superior importance?
The courage to see, the power to choose – Joanna Macy, Naropa University, 20141017
What if we could look the pain, the suffering, the fear in the eye? Are we able to overcome the paralysis that befell us and do something about the rampaging injustice and the destruction of the living world? A celebration of the joy of being alive – and the grief that brings it about.
The space race is over – Paul Kingsworth, Global Oneness Project, 20140501
What is to be done about this? The answer to this question, as so often, seems to me to be personal rather than political. There is no way to prevent this society from Romanticizing progress and technology, and there is no way to prevent it coming down hard on visions of human-scale and ecological development. It will continue to do this until its own intellectual framework, and probably its physical framework, collapses under its own weight […]
But what we can do, when presented with a vision which projects an ideal onto either the future or the past, is examine our own personal need to be deluded […]
This is the work of a lifetime, but perhaps in the end it is the only work.”
The essay could have been written in response to the above-listed article about humans in 2167 but it is three years older and it can be applied to anything we identify with, from apocalyptic warrior to space age hero.
Adyashanti: complete interview– Global Oneness Project, 2009
The interviewee describes how in the development of human consciousness, there comes a shift from a sense of a separate self toward the experience of unity. He points out that the fear of losing our individual identity keeps us from making this shift. I’d have named this piece “On fear,” though it might as well be called “On activism.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Last orders, please!”

Famous Last Words

Go shopping!

Apocalypting conservatively

I am aware that many of those who read my posts think that I overstate the severity of the global warming and that it doesn’t look all that bad. Let’s just pretend for one hour or so that you were right. Listen to the good professor in the embedded video who delivers a textbook speech on the ramifications of the IPCC / Paris Agreement scenario. There is no rogue mentality visible here, no revolutionary mind at work, no panic attack spilling over, yet the outlook, based on the – irresponsibly conservative – figures from the IPCC models, is devastating.
David S. Battisti’s Edinburgh lecture in short: The interior of the continents would heat up twice as much as the global average, leading to a 4°C rise in most grains-producing regions until mid-century.. This would result in massive losses in food production, 10% on average for every degree added. Due to plant physiology, higher temperature, and greater weather swings the mid-latitudes – the US and Europe, among others – would lose between 10% (in good years) and 100% of crops as compared to today. As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere skyrockets, massive ocean acidification will impact the marine food web in unpredictable manners.
With population rising to 9+ billion heads by mid-century, the loss of 1% of arable lands per year due to erosion etc., and the loss of crops due to climate change agricultural production has to double within the next 35 years. This is obviously not going to happen because there is not that much suitable land and that much water available, and, after three decades of research, genetic engineering still cannot provide suitable seeds.
One of the outstanding features of this lecture is the non-issue of mass starvation, population collapse, and the social, economic, and political turmoil this scenario will inescapably bring about. I find it incredible how learned folks tend to isolate items of interest and completely neglect their consequences. What exactly is the use of going through the exercise of modeling future developments and not inquiring into what they mean for our lives?
Consequently the students attending the talk seem to take the message with good humour, and so may you do. But think of it: this is the ultra-conservative outlook on a future that you and I, and certainly our children, would see. Take into account that the temperature has risen by roughly 1.5°C since the beginning of industrialization, and how that already impacts our weather. With an open ear you will hear phrases like “faster than expected”, “worse than foreseen” and “with unprecedented speed” all over the place when it comes to climate change. Is it really a good idea to disregard the more alarming voices among scientists who have reason to believe an abrupt multi-degree temperature rise is probable in less than a decade?
See also:
  • 2°C to Midnight; an essay on the inaccuracy of the IPCC’s climate models and the futility of the 2015 Paris agreement.
  • Deep into the Spiral: an outlook on the near future, based on more accurate figures than the IPCC’s.

Messing with habitat

The founder of our settlement provided a general idea of how the future city was supposed to look like. An architect came up with a few models one of which imitated the shape of a galaxy. Based on that, a layout for the city, the so-called masterplan has been drawn by our town planning group. Population development in the surrounding villages and land speculation are now massively interfering with said plan, but also an increasingly bold environmental movement within our community itself is making the realization of infrastructure according to the masterplan more difficult. Currently under discussion is, imposing a government-approved land use plan through the application of authority, but —

“There’s an issue which almost nobody writes about or talks about, and yet it’s perhaps more fundamental than any other issue at all, which is soil. Soil is the basis of human civilization. Soil is the basis of human existence. We do not exist without soil. Everything we eat, everything which contributes to our body mass comes from soil. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation we have 60 years of harvest left at current rates of soil loss and degradation. And this is a marginal issue. It doesn’t feature in politics, it doesn’t feature in debate, it’s not on the news. No one is talking about this, yet it’s the most fundamental issue of all […] the biggest bias is the bias against relevance. Those things that are objectively most relevant to our lives are marginalised while trivia is put in their space, is put front and center as the thing we ought to obsess about.” — George Monbiot, author of “How did we get into this mess? Politics, equality, nature” in an interview with Verso
A few days ago I had the privilege of getting a glimpse of the discussion around the NTDA* for our township here. The mail exchange I saw – I hope the authors are going to share it with a wider audience as well – left absolutely no doubt that forcing the masterplan into practice is a pretty bad idea.
Without going into the details of their convincing arguments I would like to point out that our physical bodies require physical habitat for their survival, habitat which allows for the growth of food, collection of water, and regulation of body temperature. Habitat is not the supermarket shelves most of us refer to for food, not the money we possess, not the technology we use, not the good books we read, nor the inspiring ideas and visions we derive from them. Habitat consists of the landbase with its shape, its hydrology, its soil, and its living organisms and their larger cultures and communities (what we call ecosystems). Habitat is what provides us with food, water, oxygen, shelter and literally everything else that is absolutely essential for our survival. The elements herein are not interchangeable, none of them dispensible, and one cannot manipulate any of the variables without affecting the whole habitat. You mess with it — you don’t eat, period.
Much of the future city’s area still looks like this.

Our founder centered the city around a banyan tree on top of a hill, and that led to massive reforestation of the local watershed, as the first settlers needed shade urgently. I don’t know whether the founder was aware of it — most pioneers certainly weren’t, and the advocates of the masterplan still aren’t — but the new ecosystem came into existence in exactly the right spot for most of our basic needs to get met — provided we respect what has developed over the last 50 years on this once barren plateau. Tremendous effort by thousands of people contributing countless hours of hard physical work went not only into the re-creation of this forest of several million wooden souls with its diverse fauna; the same is true for many of our farms as well, where committed people enabled natural processes to heal the wounds human ‘development’ had cut. Thanks to half a century of organic farming some places have built up not just inches but a foot and more of healthy, carbon-rich top soil.

To sacrifice these achievements in order to build paved roads, offices, factories, and houses in their place is not merely disrespecting of the creative energy of humans and non-humans alike — what kind of spirituality is this supposed to be? — it is highly destructive when it comes to habitat. As long as we dismiss the information and understandings painfully gained through the history of civilization we better dare not speak of higher consciousness. We cannot impose abstract visions on a real landscape and expect to have a habitat tomorrow. Global environmental degradation forbids us to trade habitat for development any longer without immediately endangering our very existence up here. The city on the hill would become home to the fool on the hill… a dead fool, for that matter.
It is our duty to act according to our best knowledge and our highest consciousness as a species. Knowing what we know about watersheds, climate change, aquifers, ecosystems and their degradation, and so forth, a new vision for our township is urgently needed, a vision that does not speak of imposition of structure — dead geometrical objects — upon a living ecosystem with its human and non-human community. What we need is the (re-) enactment of an understanding how to (re-) integrate the human sphere into the community of life. The brackets point out that historical precedence for non-separation does exist.
The galaxy model was never meant to constitute the ultimate word on the settlement’s shape. Our founder did not say, Repeat after me. Instead, we have been called to take advantage of new developments and pieces of knowledge as we proceed. We are supposed to work out the functioning of our society as we are walking forward — on the go, so to speak — and that certainly includes the physical manifestation of “the city at the service of truth”. Barring a direct lie, you cannot strive farther from truth than dwelling in architectural dreams that are denying the significance of habitat and that have no connection with what-is: ground reality, empirical reality, the reality of the land.

Genocide: Plants ran away screaming

Ah, yes, I saw you guys grimacing over my last entry, joking about how I don’t respect the rights and feelings of the plants. Let me tell you – I do!
I am alive, therefore I eat; like all other life forms on Earth. But in doing so, I choose to have the least impact possible. I eat as little as necessary and I avoid concentration camp crops, currently even shifting to 100% home grown… you know, where the plants are running free 🙂 Given you treat them with dignity, as fellow beings as opposed to an industrial product, none of those plants has to suffer a miserable life or die. They naturally reproduce by offering their fruits, feed soil creatures with their “droppings”, or go through a cycle of manifestations like grain, salad, and potato. Receiving these plants’ gifts means meeting their needs, not ripping them off, literally.

Yes, I might not be able to avoid their suffering in every given moment, but the key phrase here is dignity. It is the least, yet the most basic thing, we can offer them in return for their services to us. When we don’t hold life, including plant life, precious, we’re mindlessly going to kill it off. Look around you. See something like that? Today, almost 50% of the food in the Western world gets thrown away. Half. That’s the lives of carrots and cows, grass and geese, wasted.

And wouldn’t you know that feeding on animals not only leads to countless cruelties against animals, it adds an innumerable amount of plant suffering to it. Depending on the kind of stock you breed, from minimal 3 up to 15 plant calories have to be fed to the stock in order to get one meat calory. No one knows to how many plant lives that translates. As long as there are edible plants available you can’t justify eating meat, no matter how you put it.

Treating all beings with dignity won’t buy them a new life, but it guarantees that we do neither overconsume nor torture. Instead, we care for having them fulfill their appropriate role, their purpose in the community of life.
Before we eat, The Mother says, let us thank all those who helped bringing the meal to our dishes: The farmers, the drivers, the cooks; and make sure to be grateful to the life forms our meal consists of. The Christians’ saying the grace reflects a piece of that wisdom of caretaking. Native Americans knew it all along, and so did mankind from its earliest days: Thanks for offering yourself to me.

For all those still mocking on the sensitivity of green beings, here’s one for you:
The Secret Life of Plants

Kentucky Fried Children

Looking for something you can do?

Go vegan. Now.
It is a small step, yet a great way of showing empathy with our fellow creatures, reducing impact on the world significantly, and living more healthily.

The one-straw revolution

Do-nothing farming, also known as natural farming, Fukuoka farming, and The Fukuoka method, is an alternative permaculture farming method to chemical or traditional farming. It reduces human intervention to an absolute minimum, allowing nature to do the work. As odd as it may seem, do-nothing farming is able to produce at least as much food per acre as any other method, without tilling, nursing, pruning, planting in tidy rows, or using machinery, fertilizers, compost and pesticides.

The One-Straw Revolution

The method became widely known through the book The One-Straw Revolution, originally published in 1975, by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008), a Japanese microbiologist who tested spiritual insights on his father’s farm.

He began his career as a soil scientist specializing in plant pathology. In 1938, he began to doubt the wisdom of modern agricultural science. He eventually quit his job as a research scientist, and returned to his family’s farm on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan to grow organic fruits, vegetables and grain. From that point on he devoted his life to developing a unique small scale organic farming system that does not require weeding, pesticides, fertilizers, or tilling.

The One Straw Revolution has been translated into many languages and usually sold for the net cost price. Fukuoka shared his knowledge with everyone interested and allowed people to volunteer on his farm for days, months or even years.

Idea

Origins

Going through a crisis at the age of 25, Fukuoka had a revelation: “In this world there is nothing at all.” There was no reason to worry about life because he suddenly realized that “all the concepts to which he had been clinging were empty fabrications. All his agonies disappeared like dreams and illusions, a something one might call ‘true nature’ stood revealed.”[1]

This insight, and the observation of a rice plant growing wildly on an uncultivated piece of land lead him to the notion of do-nothing. But having ruined his father’s tangerine garden that way, his first important lesson in natural farming was that one can’t change agricultural techniques abruptly. Trees that have been cultivated cannot adapt to neglect. Newly-planted untouched plants can, he found out. They seem to somehow remember their natural offspring which required no cultivation whatsoever. Human intervention weakens plants, so they get addicted to pruning, fertilizing, plowing, additional watering and pesticides.

During the following years, Masanobu Fukuoka developed, by observing nature and trial, simple methods for a natural way of doing agriculture.

A Way of Life

Fukuoka insisted that natural farming was not just a method but a way of life based on simplicity and oneness with the Earth. Ideally, all people would become farmers. He predicted that a large-scale change in consciousness would lead to the fall of governments and whole economies, for a human being, independent of external food supply, would be no more prey to manipulation, power games and consumerism. He wanted man to reexamine his relationship with nature in its entirety. That would be a revolution triggered by straw. But it requires that people shift to seasonal, regional and vegetarian diet rather than consume exotic and/or protein-rich food.

Fukuoka saw an opportunity that people could live in harmony with each other and with nature: “Natural farming is not simply a way of growing crops; it is the cultivation and perfection of human beings”[2], he said. “Most people do not yet understand the distinction between organic gardening and natural farming. Both scientific agriculture and organic farming are basically scientific in their approach. The boundary between the two is not clear.”[3]

While nature is the real expert in growing stuff, Fukuoka says, man’s intellect has distorted this wisdom. Modern science, along with industry and government, is leading man ever further away from the community of life. We seem to be “so steeped in science that a method of farming which discards science altogether will not be digested.”[4]

Method

Despite the catching phrase “do-nothing” there still is some work to do, of course. But it points out that many agricultural practices, which generally are regarded as essential and indispensable, can be left out, which results in a significant reduction of effort, money and time to be invested.

The method, originally developed for Japanese conditions, got successfully adapted to other places around the world. In India, for example, natural farming is often referred to as Rishi Kheshi.

Green Manure only

Fukuoka mixed seeds of white clover with rice or winter grain. A ground cover of white clover will grow under the grain plants to provide nitrogen and keep weed plants from overpowering the crop. Weeds are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to rot on the surface so the nutrients they contain are returned to the soil.

Ducks are let into the grain plot, to eat slugs and other pests. They leave just a little bit of manure.

No prepared compost or chemical fertilizer must be applied.

Seed Balls

In order to protect seeds from being eaten by birds, they have to be dampened a bit, then wrapped in a layer of clay powder, compost, and sometimes manure. The seeds necessary for 1/4 acre can be prepared within a few hours. The result is a denser crop of smaller but highly productive and stronger plants.

Little or no Tillage

The seeds get brought out on the surface of the untilled earth to grow. Tillage is usually unnecessary if the ground is not too hard. Plowing severely disturbs insects and worms which keep the earth fertile.

Mulching

The ground has to stay covered all the time. The clover does that during the growing season.

Shortly after the harvest, the complete straw is scattered loosely (not straight!) in thick layers as mulch. The straw decomposts until the next harvest time, giving back all the taken-out nutrients from the previous crop.

Fukuoka used short-stemmed grains which had a spike to halm weight ratio of 1:1

Crop Rotation

By observation of natural processes, Fukuoka learned about the optimal moment for seeding, and also which plants best complement with each other. He only intervened when necessary.

Regarding grain, he brought out rice and winter grain in rotation. Each grain crop is sown two weeks before the previous one is harvested. This is done by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop(!) During the harvest, the new shoots get trampled down, of course, but they recover quickly and begin to sprout.

This sort of double crop rotation can be done over and over on the exact same spot, without ever depleting the soil. Mulching by clover and straw even enriched its fertility over the years.

Minimal Irrigation

Fukuoka seeded rice directly on the spot where it finally got harvested, without transplanting from a nursery field and without the use of paddy fields. With very little irrigation and just one week of water standing in the field, the do-nothing method saves enormeous amounts of water and labour (i.e. transplanting, min. four times of weeding a year, flooding) and thereby avoids overly methane production.

Natural Pests Regulation

Instead of trying to root out pests, natural farming lets nature have its way. The insect population in and above the ground is much higher than in plowed and sprayed fields. Predators like mice, birds and spiders are allowed to roam. The species control each other and keep balanced. Plagues appear rarely and never mean the loss of whole crops.

No Pruning

Trees and bushes never get pruned. Branches and twigs arrange themselves so they each get the optimum of sunlight. An already pruned tree has to be withdrawn carefully over at least two years before it adapts to do-nothing farming. A wide range of grass species on the ground and mixing various tree species keeps the orchard healthy.

Scattering and Mixing

Vegetables can be grown wherever there is a small unused piece of land, preferrably among fruit trees to enrich the soil. Varieties should be brought out mixed with each other on the already existing vegetation cover.

Results

Fukuoka’s labor resulted in an equal or higher amount in crops than traditional and chemical farming in the same area, while the fertility of the soil constantly increased over the years and natural balance was kept. This balance self-regulated pests so there have been little to no losses in crops. With an average of about one hour of work per day, Fukuoka was able to get as much grain from a quarter acre of land as needed to feed a family of five. Costs reduced to almost zero, as no fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, heavy machines or food had to be bought to run the farm.

Literature

* Masanobu Fukuoka: The One Straw Revolution – The Natural Way of Farming.
* Masanobu Fukuoka: The Road Back to Nature
* Masanobu Fukuoka: The Natural Way of Farming – The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy

References

1. ↑ http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/MasanobuFukuoka.htm
2. ↑ http://www.onestrawrevolution.net
3. ↑ Masanobu Fukuoka: The Road Back to Nature p.363
4. ↑ http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyFukuokaMas.htm