Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
Fungi use long networks of filamentous threads to absorb their food called mycelia, as a network of threads they lack the ability to digest food internally so they produce a huge range of compounds which it uses to break down living and dead material. These compounds and the resilient nature of fungi mean that they are ideally suited for use in bioremediation cleaning up chemicals and other damage that humans have wrought on the environment. Naturally fungi break up wood and other plant material into simple molecules easily used by other organisms thus building up the soil layer and speeding the recycling of nutrients through the ecosystem.
A particularly stunning example of the possible uses for mushrooms is illustrated by the use of oyster mushrooms to break up oil. As part of a competitive trial 5 piles of soil were soil were soaked in oil and then different remediation techniques were used including bacterial, chemical and fungal to attempt to get rid of the oil. Four weeks later when the covers were pulled off the fungal trial it was covered in large healthy oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms had broken the carbon chains in the oil and had gassed off the carbon as carbon dioxide ridding the soil of 95% of the oil in it. The mushrooms were also safe to eat. As the mushrooms rotted away after 8 weeks flies were attracted - these ate the remanants and spread the mushrooms spores. The flys presence attracted insects which brought in birds which then brought in seeds creating an oasis of life.
Similar processes to those above allow fungi to destroy other carbon based chemicals including pesticides such as roundup and ddt. As fungi have evolved to break down materials in their surroundings and can produce a raft of useful compounds for this purpose they are uniquely placed to help heal our scarred landscapes. I havnt found much reference to using fungi in books but paul stamets website and books are probably a good place to start http://www.fungi.com/mycotech/mycova.html
Myco filtration is the purposeful straining of water through fungal mats to rid the water of pollutants or harmful bacteria. Paul stamets a key researcher in fungi has proven that mushroom beds can be used effectively to filter and rid water of E. coli. Another fungi has been proven to completely inhibit the parasite that causes malaria.
The intelligence of fungi should not be underestimated as a team of japanese researchers who put a slime mould into a maze found out
A group of Japanese researchers recently demonstrated the existence of what they
called "cellular intelligence." They put a slime mold into a maze and gave
it two food sources. The slime mold split itself and chose the shortest distance
possible, navigating throughout the maze as directly as possible to
both food sources.
This is perhaps not as suprising as it may seem as fungal mats have a similar layout to the brain or perhaps the internet and fungi are hundreds of millions of years old. Life without fungi would be impossible underestimating their potential in a post carbon (pun intended) world would be a mistake.
Much info gained from http://foodandfarming.bioneers.org/node/14
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Their are an estimated 1 - 2 million species of fungi with every spadeful of healthy soil home to thousands of different types. Agricultural soils can be almost bare of any type of biological life with regular cultivation and a wide range of pesticides and fungicides killing of all the components of a healthy soil. At the extreme end of this is the use of soil fumigants such as methyl bromide (used in strawberry cultivation amongst other things) which leave the soil sterile, this lack of any life leaves domesticated plants wide open to attack and struggling without their required symbiotic fungi.
Fungi have traditionally played a major role in indigenous cultures with many viewing them as sacred entities, used as food, medicine and religous use. The connection between man and fungi is highlighted by the neolithic man frozen in a glacier 5000 years ago he had on him birch bark fungus used for its antibiotic properties a hat made out of a fungi and a container made out of a fungi used to transport ebers of fire. Fungi are also widely throughout history for alcohol and more recently bread.
What we know of as mushrooms are the reproductive bodies of often fast fungal networks. The mushrooms appear during wet conditions when their spores contained on the underside of the mushroom are able to spread and find ideal conditions to grow. Fungi appear uniquely adapted to cope with natural and unatural disturbances quickly moving into and utilising nutrients after slips fires etc. They then provide a base for other organisms to move in and to colonize the area - more about their unique abilitys in a later post.
Mushroom growing in a mulched onion bed
How the Hopi grow corn in an arid landscape.
The area the hopi grow their corn in has an average of 20.5 - 29.5cm of precipitation a year (auckland has 125cm a year). This rainfall comes in 2 short bursts of snow in winter and what falls as downpours during thunder storms in late summer. This pattern of precipitation arrives at unfortunate times as winter is too cold to grow anything and in summer the rain is too intense to percolate into the soil.
To get around the harsh climate the Hopi plant corn in arroyos which are a sandy loamdeposited by flash floods covered by a layer of sand. Below this topsoil is an impermeable layer of shale which water cannot move through. Winter snowmelt flows down these arroyos and is trapped by the shale. During spring the sand forms a crust which prevents the winter snowmelt from evaporating.
The Hopi plant the corn during late spring 18 - 25cm deep holes which gives the seeds enough moisture to germinate and develop until the intense summer rains begin. To best use the summer rains a system of dams and ditches are built protecting the corn from flash floods and spreading the floods into a sheet allowing slowing it and allowing it to enter the soil. This management provides enough moisture for the corn to mature and deposits new soil every year. The newly deposited soil also produces a hard crust protecting the moisture from the summer rains from evaporation.
The local Hopi corn variety is a short variety so it does not blow over in high winds and it has a deep tap root to access moisture deep in the soil.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Over summer I and a friend have been lucky enough to have been given a field to grow corn squash and beans on over summer, this association known as the three sisters is a traditional polyculture of symbiotic species. I will post from time to time as to how the plot is progressing and with information on how we use the harvests initial ideas include weaving the corn husks and making corn flour and beer. We are growing three heritage varieties of corn and various squash and pumpkin.
The nutritional value of blue corn with blue corn having 30% more protein than regular corn. Hopi corn also grows taller than sweet crorn with heights of ten feet high not uncommon in ideal circumstances. The cobs of hopi corn are known to grow to up to a foot long.
The young hopi corn are highly supposed to be really good to eat lightly steamed boiled or grilled. The ground cornmeal has a sweet distinctive taste and is highly distinctive.
The hopi blue corn we are growning is an open pollinated variety that has been a staple of indigenou americans for thousands of years. In hopi culture corn is dried on the rooftops of houses and then ground by women in large groups as part of a social bonding process. The dried corn are dried using a mano (smaller stone tool) and matate (large stone on which the grain is placed) with the mano rolled over the grain. These day a grinder is used for grinding most corn with corn still ground by hand for ceremonial occasions.
The hopi society is made up of villages divided into clans with a chief who is a spiritual leader. Families live together in large single rooms and houses are handed down from mother to daughter with men moving out to live with their mother or sister after a divorce. Each clan is responsible for different ceremonys.
Hopi are dryland farmers and traditionally corn, squash and beans formed the basis of the diet. Each clan has several tracts in several locations in case some failed due to a lack of rain. In pre european times rain dances were used to ensure the success of crops but hopi farmers are finding that the rains no longer come as they once did. Farmers often spend long periods of time singing to their plants to ensure they grow well. up to 24 varieties of corn are grown by hopi mainly differentiated by coulour.
Hopi corn is typically planted by groups of men who plant a hosts field in corn in a day and are then fed by the host and his wife. Some fields are planted by individual men. Corn is sorted by colour during harvest and stored near the household.
The hopi peoples were visited on 1540 by some of francisco coronados men, missions were established in 1629 but were destroyed during a revolt in 1680 after this the pueblos in the foothills were abandoned and villages were built on the mesa for defence. During the 18th and 19th century navajo raids were common and the hopi were eventually "pacified" by the US army in the late 19th century
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Our current food producing systems are built on a constant supply of cheap oil, oil is used to make our fertilisers pesticides and herbicides, power our machines on the farm and to transport our food around New Zealand and around the world. The fertilisers are particularly dependant on oil and without these fertilisers most of the current food producing regions will be left useless. This use of oil to grow food means that we are putting tens or hundreds of times more energy into growing our food than we are getting out of it. Without oil we would have to use human or animal labour so we would have to get out as much or more energy from our food than we put in.
The huge amount of cheap energy that fossil fuels have unlocked have allowed humans to be taken out of the equation when it comes to food production. Evidence of this is shown by the dissapearance of the small farm and the proportion of the labour force directly involved in food production which is now only a small percentage of the population.
Internationally the main threats to agriculture as we know it are
Depletion of underground aquifers which provide water for irrigation such as in canterbry.
Peak oil or other disruptions to our oil supply which would significantly limit our ability to produce food.
Ongoing climate change which would change rainfall patterns and frost patterns.
Erosion and salinisation.
Centralised food production and distribution systems which are highly fragile and unable to deal with disruption.
Any persistant disruption in a major cereal producing region such as Australia, America or the rice producing regions of Asia would significantly raise food prices internationally. Combine several of these disruptions and you would have a situation where much of the world would be unable to get food at a reasonable price.
The truly terrifying fact behind these disruptions is that no matter what happens we will be unable to produce food as we currently do soon because virtually all our food producing land is being eroded or is suffering from salination. Our entire food production system will not last beyond the end of cheap fuels and even if these last indefinetly the land we grow on land will be so degraded food production will be impossible on the levels needed to sustain our population.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
These are very rough pictures of the future and focus on food because thats what im most familiar with.
In the short to mid term future the price of oil will skyrocket due to varying factors, terrorism, peak oil, growing demand etc. This will greatly increase the cost of transporting and producing food, touching every aspect of society and thrusting us into a long term energy decline.
In the mid term future most of the worlds current grain baskets such as the US will become grain importers due to climactic disruption, salinisation, topsoil loss, increased pest and disease problems etc.
Western civilisation in the mid to longer term will begin to seriously decay due to an inability to maintain our current high level of organisation (both social and physical). This will result in fragmented distribution systems and nation states which are unable to combat guerrilla warfare and quasi civillian resistance groups.
These three predictions are by no means defeinitve but i believe that we will see all of them occur in my lifetime
During 2010 the price of oil doubles then doubles again due to peak oil and an American invasion of Iran, this coincides with continuing drought in Australia and the american wheat belt. Over the next decade the world begins to undergo a financial and energy crash which is tied to major food shortages. New Zealand while well placed to survive both of these undergoes a major shift in lifestyle as food and transport become hard to come by.
As middle New Zealand starts to experience rationing and shortages of food a decentralised food production network springs up with anarchists/activists involved in skill sharing with the large numbers of newly unemployed and actively planting perrenial fruiting species on vacant land throughout the citys. This at home food production naturally occurs as people get hungry and are naturally interested in growing their own food. Community gardens form a hub for seed and fruit trees and become hubs for education and resources.
Sanitation, electricity, food and water networks begin to fail as the state becomes unable to maintain them. The state, short of resources and finances is unable to invest in the rail network and to invest in low energy transport networks. Degrading infrastructure and suburbs that cannot produce food electricity or deal with sanitation are gradually emptied. Those that stay in the city unable to rely oncentralized infrastructure begin to develop ad hoc solutions. Things such as composting toilets become the norm as synthetic fertilisers are non existant and food production becomes highly important. Various water collection and storage technologys become essential especially with rainfall coming at unpredictable times.
With limited amounts of machinery and degraded soil in many places agroforestry systems such as food forests become widespread and eventually become the backbone of our food production networks. They also prove resilent to climate change as they are structured and work like real forests holding onto moisture and building up fertility. Climate change does hit pretty badly in places in New Zealand and dairying is sharply reduced - some land is abandoned but much is redistibuted to those leaving the city desperate for land.
Local government and citizen groups provide a quasi state solution with assemblages of people with common goals providing many services such as policing/justice, energy and water etc which are currently provided by the government. People come to realise that sustainability is key and new spiritualitys and belief systems arise which are not based on exploitative relations with the land and others.
Overall resources are used to facillitate a transfer to a low energy use society - this is driven from a local level by those who will be most affected by a energy collapse. Local communitys take control of food and infrastructure networks. Their is a slow migration from the city to the countryside and small farms once again become the mainstay of New Zealand agriculture. Local communitys develop and become self supporting as they are forced to.
Activists and left wing politico's see the energy descent coming and start working on projects that will be useful during and after the crash. Community gardens and guerrilla gardening are begun well before the energy descent. Rather than pressuring the government to sort things out activists support communitys during their struggles against those that would attempt to take resources or power during the collapse.
Dimmer picture - another vision of the future
As people begin to experience record high levels of unemployment and food shortages the country experiences a swing towards the right, rampant nationalism and racism are openly expressed by both the public and politicians. A highly right wing government is initially elected and rapidly cuts back on personal freedoms in the name of security, racism becomes ingrained in public policy. After failing to halt the slide into poverty New Zealand the government is overthrown in a peoples coup. The peoples unity government quickly falls apart without the loyalty of the military or the capital to maintain degraded distirbution networks.
New Zealand enters into a strategic pact with Australia and America and every attempt is made to continue our current consumption levels both of oil and other material goods. As part of our agreements with the states our army is placed on the front line in arab and african nations with significant oil reserves. Our coal supply is almost sole exported to members of this alliance. The kyoto protocol and all other such agreements are scrapped in favour of coal power generation, nuclear is also widely adopted.
While some people do start growing some of their own food it only produces a tiny amount of peoples daily requirements. When things get desperate this food is stolen by hungry neighbors and mobs of hungry unemployed start raiding those with resources. This isnt helped by attempts to prevent rioting by nationalising all resources.
By attempting to sustain growth we use up all those resources we could have used for a transition to a sustainable culture. Spiralling descent is added to by tropical diseases which start to sweep through a malnourished population. Eventually Auckland is sacked by rioting youth, abandoned and weeds are left to grow through the pavement as office towers collapse. Activists believing this is the long awaited moment attempt to take power and when successful inherit a crumbling nation, attempting to sort things out they start to use force widely. This backfires on the activists who are themselves shot in another coup
The country fragments into several warring factions with hundreds of thousands of boat people fleeing Australia and Asia forming raiding partys which move through the country looting and taking land.
Both the scenarios are just things to get people thinking, in reality neither and both of the above will happen. Their will be some really inspired change and some oppurtunistic looting. Which scenario occurs is largely up to the populace.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
International buy nothing day was marked by several members of the public today at st lukes mall. They handed out pamphlets asking people to "Live A Little and Buy Nothing" as well as offering free budgeting services. The day is the start of the official christmas shopping period and inside the mall santa was taking the stage along with a full show. Outside those marking buy nothing day talked to people about alternatives to buying christmas presents and the real impacts of our purchases. One family talked to us about how "they never buy christmas presents" and how for them "every day day was buy nothing day"
Handing out leaflets to motorists and passers by.
"If the world was to consume like the affluent West, we'd need 3 more planets worth of resources to sustain our lifestyles.A 1998 UNDP report points out that one child in a developed country will consume, waste and pollute the equivalent of more than 50 children in a developing country. "
Thursday, November 23, 2006
In the coolest news in weeks, don brash just announced he wil resign on monday. All of a sudden i feel a whole lot better. I also want to read Hagers book a hell of a lot more which he annouced at the press conference will now be released by giving Hager copys of the emails - so they wont be stolen. Brash claims that he was planning to resign for a long time and that hagers book was a mere coincidence - whatever the truth Hagers book is ensured commercial success. Im sure brash will be looked back on very negatively by historians and the general public alike. Cullen has described brashs foray into politics as a sad period in brashs life and says brash was never suited to politics.
The new leader will be elected at the national caucus on monday but whoever it is and their are not many options will be severely tarnished by this whole affair.
John Key has just announced that he intends to stand for the position as leader of the national party though he says he does not know if he has the numbers to take the position. Key has spent 20 years in commerce but is a comparitive newcomer to politics. Whether he has the ability to lead the national party through this saga remains to be seen. Michael Cullen puts it nicely "The Labour Party relishes the prospect of having nearly two years to highlight Mr Key's inadequacies. We look forward to the next leader and the one after that,"
Hagers book should be available in bookstores from tomorrow morning as distibution has begun immediatly.
Video available at http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/488120/899755
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Nicky hager has written a new book called the Hollow Men regarding the deception the National party was part of leading up to and after the election. Its contents are supposed to be shocking, suprising and to reveal criminal activity on the part of the National party. It cannot be released due to the injunction regarding Don's emails gained on friday but im sure this will be the big news over the next few weeks and months. From the limited information available i think this could cause very serious damage to the national party. The links to lobby groups and right wing groups are especially concerning, Im just glad they have come to light.
Nicky Hager states in the forword and his press conference that those high in the national partys leadership were aware of what the Exclusive Bretheren were going to do and that Don Brash and John Key knew months before hand. Nicky Hager is saying that the national party lied on major matters and that key events such as the Orewa race speech were cynically planned. None of this comes as much of a suprise but having documentation leaked from insiders is particualrly pleasing.
Marilyn Waring " I would expect to see much of the evidence set out in the book reported to the Electoral Commission, Parliamentary Services, the police and the Auditor General" she also calls this book one of the best political thesis in New Zealand praising its research and quality of journalism.
At 350 pages and with 3 years research interviews and leaked documents this book will certainly be worth the legal battle.
More info here http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0611/S00368.htm
Monday, November 20, 2006
The victorian premier has just called anti G20 protesters who masked up cowards
"I thought the attacks were cowardly ... covering faces, covering identities,''
this while a specialist team taskforce Salver is set up to track down those involved in protests outside the G20 over the weekend. The team will be looking through footage taken by undercover officers over the weekend to attempt to identify and arrest those that were involved in active rather than passive opposition to the conference. This use of good quality video equipment, snatch squads plus new anti terrorism measures must shape our tactics in future.
The mainstream media is hailing the police as heroes who were simply defending themselves in the face of violence. 10 officers were injured in the protests the most serious of which is cuts, bruises and one broken wrist. Innacuracys regarding the level of violence, number of violent protesters and other details were also present. Mounted charges against the protesters recieved little mainstream media coverage as well as a violent attack on women and children singing and dancing in mueseum foyer. Their is a general sense that the violence on the part of the police on saturday evening and on sunday was pay back for the trashed police van and skirmish at a police barricade.
On a more positive note
"Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said protesters used guerilla tactics to test new crowd-control barriers and police resolve" she went on to say that the barriers were not wholly effective but will be used in future.
The protesters were also described as
"A small group of people intent on making their name heard, without identification, in a way that was obviously bold, obviously provocative and obviously against all those great principles we have of proper and peaceful protest,"
This statement sums up the protest fairly well and shows what those in authority want us to do - protest in a symbolic manner that does not cause any damage and that does not take any power off those in charge. The most serious activists appear to have been wearing white overall thingys and i would be curious as to whether this makes it easier to single out where they are moving to and who they are.
It appears the numbers of "violent" activists is less than 1-200 and that apart from a car that was locked down the only shutting down of the conference and surrounding area was done by the police. The use of smoke grenades and cornflour "slime bombs" by the activists is rather novel and their did appear to be a level of sophistication to those involved in the more serious activity.
"There is a hardcore militant and violent element among these protesters," Australian Treasurer Peter Costello, the G20 meeting's chairman
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Just 3 points on protest strategy
Who chooses the location?
One of the keys to winning your battle/protest is who gets to choose where the battle is fought, derrick jenson covers this well in endgame but i will attempt to summarise. If the state gets to choose the location eg around a conference and gets to put barriers, police etc around the location where conflict is to take place then we are immediatly at a huge disadvantage. If we turn up to this location and attempt to fight them here then we are playing into their hands and will have to have local superiority or better tactics to beat them. An example of this is gleneagles G8 summit, a location surrounded by hills, rivers and open country was chosen far from areas of dense concentration. Fences and high troop concentrations prevented activists from getting near the summit and helicopters could easily move troops to areas where their were breaches in the perimeter. Their were also seveveral thousand marines, police, riot police etc protecting the summit.
Activists can also shape territory to their own advantage, blockades, concentrations of activists and choosing where and when to have actions all shift the advantage to our side.
Having more or better trained units at a protest gives the balance of power to the activist, an example of this is the seattle G8 riots in 2001 here activists willing to use force blended with non violent activists and then "swarmed" on key locations via cell phone coordination. The actvists fought for a while and then dispersed back into the crowd before state forces could move to the area. Most of the time the state has local superiority this is aided by the fact we often tell them where we will be, this places control of the situation directly into the states hands.
Who chooses the tactics?
In the protest movement our tactics are shaped far more by public opinion than their actual effectiveness, this is another way the state gains an advantage over us. Violence from the state aimed at protesters is accepted and often condoned by the protest movement and blame is often shifted to those activists who feel this violence. Violence aimed at the state on the other hand is almost universally opposed by activists. This results in a situation where the police are willing and looking for an excuse to use violence and activists are unwilling or unable to fight back. Through strict nonviolence on our part we reinforce the states monopoly on violence and allow them to choose what tactics are used.
These three factors location, number of forces and tactics often result in a situation where we are fighting on their ground against more or better trained forces using tactics which put them at an advantage. If activists are serious about winning we must start thinking outside the box and start planning for success.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Training for domesticity
Studies of almost all domesticated animals show that brain size decreases in comparison with wild animals. This is because a large intelligent brain finds it hard to deal with enclosed spaces large numbers of people around them and the noises and stresses that go with living in a domesticated environment. It is a small step to take this from animals such as dogs and lab rats to humans. Indeed studies have shown that brain size has decreased in so called “civilised” people and that brain structure and function may have been permanantly changed by living in a domesticated environment.
The kinds of traits that would help humans survive in the wild do not help in a civilized environment. Take instant decision making and hyperactivity – in the wild these may have proved incredibly useful to a hunter or someone surrounded by a changing wild landscape, in the office school or farm though these traits are labeled “disorders” and are treated as problems. This is because to live in a city or go to work you need to be submissive passive and able to ignore large amounts of stressful events.
Think about how you would train an animal to be well behaved, quiet and submissive. Commands such as sit, teaching them to be quiet by yelling at them if they make noise and rewarding them if they are quiet. Teaching them to give up all the wild free parts about them such as barking hunting and doing what they want. These are all things which are taught to us through schools our parents and those in authority, being told to “sit” and rewarded for “good behaviour” are all things which are part of domesticating and destroying the things which make humans human and are part of creating a person that will do what is is told.
Like a glassy eyed zoo animal spending hours sitting and stareing at nothing we sit and stare blankly at tvs, computers or just off into the distance. These are signs that we like that zoo animal have been broken. That we like that zoo animal have become shadows of our wild self. Anyone in our society that does not submit to this domestication is drugged like an animal that refuses to do what it is told or thrown into prison or asylums.
Like a lab rat taught to pull levers for less and less rewards until it does it for no reward we sit in class rooms filling out pages of meaningless symbols or sitting in an office working for a faceless corporation doing work which has no meaning to us we like the lab rat have been trained to push levers for a reward which we then attempt to use to buy some of the freedom we have been denied.
Over one quarter of our population suffers from depression and many more regularly take sleeping pills, alcohol, marijuana or dozens of other drugs and techniques to attempt to quiet internal anxiety about the numbing boredom and emptiness of our current lives. Having been domesticated we have lost any excitement meaning or risk in our lives and are now merely shadows of our wild selves. Living in citys and interacting with hundreds of people daily we must constantly supress the urge to fear or distrust those around us creating a constant strain and tension that permeates our lives.
It is only by learning to become passive and obedient, only by learning to be quiet and well behaved that we can deal with what has come to be expected of us.
And why did we make this trade? Who asked us if we wanted to be taught to submit constantly? And why do we keep pushing levers or forms until we die? Well we as individuals were never asked and the cultures and races we are from were never asked indeed entire races would not accept this loss of freedom and they were either literally beaten into submission or exterminated for this refusal This domestication is a vital part of keeping civilisation running and to keep people from quitting their jobs or walking out of their schools.
We must come to accept that there is no reward that can make up for this loss of freedom, that domesticated reality is only a shadow of what we as people we could be. It is only through rejecting this culture of submission and domestication that we can hope to ever get anywhere, we must not trade a paycheck, tick in a schoolbook or drugs for the chance to live a wild life. Rejecting civilisation and embracing the wild is an important step to a real, meaningful life.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
The drinking age is going to stay the same!!!! New Zealand politicians have seen sense and decided that the problem may well be a cultural one not a legal one. Changing the drinking age was never going to change our culture and may have made it worse. Facing their generations drinking problems and setting responsible examples of drinking patterns is what is needed not legislation that eliminates the freedoms of adults. The primary source of alcohol for underage drinking is parents changing the age was never going to have changed much.
I hope the coming review on underage drinking does not use teenagers as scapegoats for a wider problem. I hope alcohol advertising is banned and that some of the bottle stores on every corner in mangere where i live are closed.
Im normally not partocularly interested in what goes on in the US "democratic" system but i am buoyed by the democrats victory. Perhaps this points to a larger number of people disillusioned with right wing politics and philosophys? Unfortunately both the democrats and republicans will pursue oil and resources wherever they are found. Both believe in infinite growth and both are proud proponents of capitalism.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The first crops to be domesticated were all crops of edible seeds, wheat, barley, peas, lentils, chickpeas, bitter vetch and flax these crops were easy to domesticate and grew quickly – selection for plants with larger heads or heads that stood upright would quickly bring about the changes in the domesticated varietys we see today also sowing and harvesting at on etime would have promoted uniformity with only plants that were mature at harvesting surviving. these are crops which naturally grow thickly and with a high energy payoff in return for the amount of work put in. these crops would have allowed yields up to 100 times higher per area unit than hunter gathering. .
For unknown reasons it appears that important crops such as corn and wheat were domesticated near simultaneously in different locations around the globe, a possible explantion for this is a shift the the earths climate which is thought to have occured over 10,000 years ago. Their is also a sliding scale in terms of agriculture with mant hunter gatherer groups raising some plants especially medicinal plants but this was almost always on a small scale and never with quite the same purpose as agriculture. A large amount of traditional agriculture also mirrored natural processes and did not completely reshape ecosystems as our current agricultural systems do.
The domestication of animals allowed for the accumulation and storage of wealth as animals could be transported from place to place and slaughtered as needed. This contrasted strongly with more hunter gatherer societys in which if food was not eaten quickly it perished. This accumulation of welath by some doubtlessly contributed to inequality as due to various factors some people had more than others.
Domestication of plants and animals combined with hierachy and ownership of propertyleads to the notion that humans can somehow have ownership over other living entities and the land around them. Private property owned by individuals and used for agriculture becomes something that one must have sole control over to ensure one eats and it must be defended to make sure all your hard work is not in vain.
Population growth is almost always inevitable in an agricultural society as the sedentary lifestyle allows one to have children frequently because you dont have to carry them around with you. More children also means more labourers and allows you to increase your food production level. The change in diet which agriculture brought about may also have increased the number of children that are born.
As the population increases agricultural communities tend to expand and displace surrounding hunter gatherer communities. This process has accelerated throughout the past ten thousand years placing us in a situation where our populations increase exponentially.
The rise of complex civilisations
Civilisation as posted on wikipedia is defined as a society where a large proportion of people live in citys and gain their food via agriculture. And with complex social hierachys and institutionalised governments. Civilisation arose through the food surplus agriculture provided and the complex organisational structures which typically arise in agricultural societys. Civilisations inevitably brings about complex alienation as people no longer rely on their surroundings for food instead having to fight nature for harvests. Added to this you have a large proportion of people which have no contact with how their food is produced and you have a society which comes to believe it is seperate from and above nature.
The complex social hierachys inevitably rely on domination and forcing those below you to do what you want. This process is almost impossible to avoid in a sophisticated society - for instance if your supervisor in charge of irrigation decides to take a few weeks off to go hunting then crops fail and people starve. Thus violence or symbolic violence is used to make sure people sustain this system.
As society quickly comes to rely on complicated distribution and production networks it becomes harder and harder to opt out or turn back. If people decided to stop doing what they are told and stop maintaining these systems people would starve and their would be enormous social disruption. Add to this that most people live in citys and have no experience relying on nature or growing their own food and you have a situation where people rely on a system of oppression and because of this they will defend it.
Bringing it down
If we accept that civilisation relies on the domination of humans and non humans then the next step is to look at how to reform or end it. I do not believe that civilisation can be reformed so i will focus on how to bring it down.
Currently over half the worlds population lives in cities, these are people with almost no experience of wild nature and with no substantial connection to their food or surroundings. They live cucooned in boxes relying on fake entertainment to replace real interations. Living in fragmented nuclear families we are insecure and desperate for a sense of place or community. Schooled since birth in hierachy our relationships, jobs and families are framed by oppression and domination.
To change things we need to wipe away 10,000 years of domestication and oppression, we need to make people reliant on their surroundings and help people experience the sacredness of wild nature. This can be done by gradually converting people one by one and by helping people increase their self reliance. This is something we can all do - starting in our own lives we need to take the time to reconect ourselves and to try and strip away our reliance on domination to gain food and in social relations.
I also believe that some people will need to be forced that so many people are so reliant on civilisation that they will fight and die to defend it. For these people we will need to destroy the complex networks of domination they rely on to survive. Dams need to be brought down, power stations need to be destroyed and animals inside factory farms need to be liberated - this will happen inevitably as our civilisation collapses due to overexplloitation of resources but the sooner it happens the better for the rest of those that share this planet with us.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Agriculture allows a greate amount of edible food to be produced from an area than hunter gathering which until recently fed everyone. Why agriculture came to be developed is a complex question as agriculture generally takes more work than hunter gathering but it is thought that climatic disruption may have played a role. The greater amount of food agriculture provided allowed for fast population growth and a surplus in food production allowed for the development of a class of people that were not directly involved in the process of growing food eg artisans and priests. This seperate class was part of the development of hierachy which we see today but more about that later.
The need to irrigate crops lead to massive irrigation projects (eg mesopotamia) these projects required a high level of social organising in construction, maintenace and to regulate the use of irrigation water. This required either a coming together of autonomous groups to work together or a form of government.
The other major development which is of critical importance is sedentary communities, previously in a hunter gatherer society one could not hoard much wealth as one was moving frequently, and due to the types of foods most prevalant eg wild animals and fleshy crops food storage was difficult. This movement and lack of fod storage made giving away excess food and wealth a logical strategy, and in these sorts of societys status is often gained by giving things away.
The development of agriculture allowed for wealth to be hoarded through permanant communities villages and cities. For food to be stored through the use of domesticated animals and grains which stored well). For the development of a non labouring class through a food surplus. And agriculture often brought about a need for high level organisation for things like irrigation and for trade.
I would also argue that as well as the physical realities posted above Agriculture contributed to a spiritual alienation from the land with people switching from relying on the land to provide to fighting against it to provide food. This may be evidenced by religions such as christianity which place an emphasis on dominating and conquering the land.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Revolution aint enough.
A quick overview of the past ten thousand years.
Hunter Gatherers Civilisation is thought to be a least partially a product of agriculture with the conventional theory going something like this. Humans slowly started growing plants with seeds gathered nearby springing up around semi permanant settlements. Gradually people started planting seeds and started relying on these human planted crops for survival. This process may have taken many thousands of years and many groups of people got some way along the path of relying on human planted crops while others came to rely almost solely on these crops.
The modern kind of agriculture we are all familiar with is thought to have arisen 10,000-12,000 years ago. Things began to change humans gave up the lifestyle that had served them well for their entire existence and switched over to a new radically different way of life.
To fully appreciate the magnitude of these changes some background knowledge of our existence is in order.
For 99.6% of our existence we lived as hunter gatherers, as hunter gatherers we relied on the wild plants and animals in our surrounding environment, lived in fairly small bands not thought to be more than 100 people and lived a semi nomadic existence moving from place to place after food and as seasons and climates changed.
Living in small groups and not predating soley on one food source we had a fairly low impact on our environment – we drove few species extinct, had few major environmental disasters and certainly few toxic waste spills. We had a fairly constant population level with very little rapid growth even in productive areas. Population control was active - refraining from sex and abortion were both probably tools used to maintain a population suitable for the environment.
And contrary to the starving wretches we now think of as "primitive peoples" these hunter gatherers had a fairly high standard of life, one which was certainly not the “short brutish” lies spread by by philosophers and missionaries. For starters their diet was high in protein and with a wide mixed balance of minerals - it exceeds that of the modern man or womyn this was a result of the incredibly varied diet with for example between 3000 and 5000 plants gathered as food in North America.
"Work" hours were fairly few, in many cases no more than 2 or 3 hours a day; evidence of some anthropologists point to the fact they might not have even considered these few hours work at all. Life span was definitely longer than those agriculturalists that followed with bodys of early agriculturalists showing considerable stress from famine and the hard lifestyle necessary to survive as an agriculturalist. Study’s of remaining hunter gatherer groups show that hierarchy was probably limited with no one that was not involved in getting food and no full time rulers or priests.
As semi nomadic people it would have been impossible to build up any significant personal wealth and long term settlements were impossible in all but the most naturally productive regions, these two facts made private property and even the concept of private property non existent. Concepts of territory were firmly entrenched in these peoples minds though. Hunter gatherers are also less vulnerable to famine than agriculturalists as a wider food base buffers them from any failure of one crop. This is startlingly evident in the skeletons of hunter gatherers compared to agriculturalists with those of the agriculturalists showing signs of regular food shortage.
next the rise of agriculture
a block of queen st was closed for 2 hours yesterday after climate activists told the council they would be holding a street party on queen st. The party was attended by over 200 people with more coming and going as the afternoon went on. The police directed traffic and were incredibly well behaved. Music a trailer load of ice, stalls, speakers, chalk and dancing all kept the crowd entertained and kept people focused on the reason for the reclaim the streets - imminent climate change.
I was supprised by how well the day went and that the street had been closed off for us to have the event. Things went incredibly smothly and testified to the hard work a lot of people put into the event. The event got TV coverage and several News Papers were present at the event.
I hope this leads on to bigger and more targeted mass protests in future and inspires those there to start making changes in their own lives.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
In New Zealand and generally in left wing politics we have a culture of symbolic action, our events are generally reformist reactionary and pointless. In itself this is almost always negative sapping energy and empowering those we ask to do stuff for us. This culture of symbolism is so entrenched that real action is quashed attacked and those that do it are betrayed by their "comrades". At meetings of so called "activists" or "protesters" any idea which directly confronts and directly attacks the society we live under is opposed. We have come to rely on the police and the state to uphold our right to fight against the state. The reality is if we are not being opposed by the state we are living under then we are not being effective. The capitalist system we live under depends on on destroying the planet to survive. As New Zealanders we have one of the most resource intensive lifestyles on our planet. Our neighbors and politicians are part of the problem and it is up to us to educate and take action.
Our reformist action strengthens the system we live under, ending poverty in New Zealand with our current lifestyle is merely moving it oversease- poverty is a fundamental part of capitalism. Unless we are simplifying and changing our lifestyles we are not achieving anything much.
Our society is built on a cheap energy supply and for the nations we live in to give up cheap energy supplys such as oil and coal would cripple them. They will not do that willingly. If we truly believe that we need to cut carbon emissions we need to disable the systems that provide those energy supplys and we need to teach people the skills nessacary to live without cheap energy.
We must be willing to take all levels of action to fight against the state we live under. And those that want to write letters or go to select committes must be willing to support their brothers and sisters that are directly fighting the system. We cannot have those currently in the activist movement fighting against those involved in non symbolic direct action.
I believe that the average person will not willingly give up their cars electricity and resource intensive lifestyle. They will not willingly stop their destructive practices just as the state will not dissolve itself willingly.
We live in a society that relies on violence to bring about submission. If we are presenting a threat the state will respond violently. Non violence as a tactic can be highly effective but it is not the be all and end all. Our planet and all live on this planet is being killed any any effective action is justified in response to this.
We will not stop climate change by signing petitions or partying we need to take down the system that we oppose because no one else will do it for us. If our actions are not effective we should not be pretending that they are. We must force this system to change
For tips and advice check out
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Last night a successful upbeat take back the night rally and march followed by discussion groups of both genders was held in Auckland city. The event began in Aotea square with food distributed to participants and those in the surrounding area by food no bombs, followed by speakers and a fundraising raffle for womens refuge. The speakers included a speaker from Auckland Anarcha Feminist Syndicate (the group organizing the event), a speaker from rape crisis who discussed the dismal statistics of conviction of rapists and the lack of support in our communities of womyn who have been victims of sexual abuse and violence. A group of home birth midwifes from Waiheke island who had participated in take back the night marches 30 years ago, spoke about the medical and patriarchal demonising of womyn who are taking control of their own bodies and pregnancies.
After the speeches, waiata and raffle the event moved onto Queen st with chants such as "2 4 6 8 no more date rape" and "whatever we wear, where ever we go, yes means yes, no means no". The march was lead by the women with men following carrying a men against gender violence banner. Soon after moving onto the road a unmarked police car started nudging the rear of the march and 2 more marked cars attempted to drive into the march to force us onto the footpath. Eventually 5 police cars and a paddy wagon blocked the march forced us onto a sidestreet with police pushing people back. The march then crossed the road and kept going this time on the foot path. Chants of "2 4 6 8 no more police rape” were used and those participating in the march refused to be intimidated by the high police presence. As the march went into Greys ave police cars parked in front and behind the march boxing participants in and then threatening to arrest them for blocking a fire station entrance. The march then continued down Greys ave on the foot path in single file in silence surrounded by aggressive police officers and at least 7 marked and unmarked police cars.
Once we reached Myers park the march then broke into discussion groups of those who identified as males and females with the mens group discussing sexism in our society and our responsibility as males to confront sexism in our daily lives. The male group was a powerful experience for all involved and regular meetings are going to be held to carry on the points brought up in the group and to take action to support and aid those combating sexism and patriarchy. The womens group was a social workshop with the purpose of empowering womyn to share their thoughts and feelings on contentious subjects in a safe womyn only environment ended with a loud drumming circle and lanterns.
During the march i was seperated from the group and searched under the pretext of the liquor ban present in the CBD I was forced to give my details under threat of arrest and the officer tried to confiscate my phone. When i asked questions about my rights I was told i would be arrested for obstruction a friend was also threated with arrest for watching my questioning. The officer threated that if he saw me taking photos again i would be arrested for harrasment and when i said i was taking photos because I thought the march was interesting he got angry and yelled that he had seen me before taking photos.
All in all a powerful night and a great experience for all involved.
Also posted on www.indymedia.org.nz
Friday, October 27, 2006
Labour are having a workshop on climate chage at their national convention this weekend at which they will be screening al gores an inconvienient truth. Unfortunately no time is being given for discussion or planning and no real steps are expected from the weekend regarding climate change.
Another issue in the news this morning is that a paper detailing the effects of climate change is to be presented to the british government next week. The guardian article (which is well worth reading here ) includes quotes such as that:
"Climate change could tilt the world's economy into the worst global recession
in recent history"
The report goes on to say that climate change could have similar economic effects to the great US depression or the two world wars. Regarding sea level rises the report says that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced.
another quote from the article regarding The IAEA
"The International Energy Agency predicts that $15 trillion (£8 trillion) of
investment in new energy sources will be required over the next 15 years. The massive investment programme that's ahead of us is an opportunity for us to move towards a zero carbon energy system. "
I have no illusions that either the labour party conference or this report will bring about any real action on climate change but I think that it indicates a growing public and government awareness of the issues around climate change. I believethat direct action with a focus on economic damage to those who are the biggest causes of climate chage will have some public and some government sympathy and if the direct action is significant and targeted that concerned members of the public can have a real impact.
The link between climate and food production is particularly worrying with global warming set to cause droughts, storms and disruption to almost all of our current agricultural systems. Im particularly concerned that planning is not being put inplace to create food production systems resilient enough to survive significant climatic disruption. Permaculture and Agroforestry need to be adopted on a widespread nature throughout New Zealand if we are to continue to produce a regular fod supply particularly in drought prone regions like canterbury.
It is positive that the huge economic damage and the hundreds of millions of lives that wll be disrupted or ended is being talked about but the kind of change needed to halt climate change would require an end to our current consumerist lifestyles. Because the changes needed are so great I believe that change must come from the grassroots and it must come from those that will be most effected by rising sea levels and falling economys. It is not just humans that are being affected by climatic disruption and action needs to be taken on behalf of the rest of the members of this planet urgently.