Sunday, September 30, 2007

Some photos from Free Burma March

Here are some photos from a march held in solidarity with the burmese people who are undertaking mass protests against the military dictatorship ruling their country. Several people have been killed in the protests in Burma and monastrys have been raided, more on the march and more pics here

Friday, September 28, 2007

Positioning myself for an energy descent world

Lately I have been thinking more and more about one of the most common stereotypes environmentalists fall into – getting a bit of land and setting up a rural homestead. Unlike most environmentalists who come at this from the perspective that they will be lowering their overall environmental impact and taking responsibility for a patch of earth I am approaching it from a survivalist perspective. Auckland is far to spread out with too high a population to be able to continue without oil, I am also convinced that even with modest reductions in easily available energy Auckland will suffer from major food distribution issues. Living in a poor suburb means that we will be hit disproportionatly by any problems in food supply. As it is we have the most expensive supermarkets in the country according to at least one study and a large percentage of the population finds it difficult to get food. People outside the supermarket waiting for taxis or walking long distances with several children are already a familiar sight and there are increasing reports of trucks selling food door to door at double supermarket prices.

It is incredibly obvious that individualism is not a particularly wise strategy during times of resource scarcity, if you have an abundance of one particular resource say food for example and those around you do not have very much of that resource then you are probably not going to be able to hold onto that food for very long. A communal strategy would be of more benefit but the suggestion that I make my entire suburb productive in terms of food put forward by some of my friends is ludicrous, no matter how much work is put in to increasing the food producing capacity of the suburbs there is nowhere near enough land to produce very much. Also no one in the suburbs has the time or the will power to grow much food because of high working hours and cheap food prices.

If the decline in energy and food supply is gradual then a communal approach could work in the suburbs, neighbours could assist each other to grow food and community gardens could arise. I however think a rapid decline in food supply to certain areas is a very real possibility and problems with soil fertility and supplys of resources nessacary for large scale community food production will prevent a peaceful and rapid uptake of urban horticulture. Eventually the suburbs may be converted to food production but a period of major social upheaval perhaps lasting decades could take place in between.

Infill housing and developments where houses are only a few meters apart quickly dispel the idea that the suburbs could easily grow much of their own food. Entire areas such as botany downs have no real future, half or more of the houses must be removed if any real food production is to occur, completely new food distribution networks must be put in place and hundreds of thousands of people must get used to living without the motor car.

So given the problems facing suburbia I think everyone that takes the problems posed by declining global food production and a declining energy supply should make plans for things going nasty very quickly. For a start learning to eat things not currently seen as food such as weeds, possums and other so called “pests” is a prudent idea. Making friends with people that have land away from major centers could be good. Ideally owning land and putting in place climate change resistant semi wild food production strategys would be one of the best ways of ensuring that no matter what happens you have options. I am taking a shotgun approach learning a lot of skills which will be useful no matter what future is facing us and am looking at getting a base outside of suburbia in the mid term.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Spring Equinox

We had a successful seed planting session at St Columba community gardens today to celebrate the spring equinox. Also a very nice party sitting round the fire chatting in the backyard last night, thanks to everyone that helped organise and came to either event.

To find out about organic events in Auckland email
Mortgagee sales

Article from the guardian here
If this trend continues the stragegy outlined in the essay below may become very relevant very quickly to the united states.

In the first seven months of this year there were 13,600 repossessions in Cleveland compared to 7,000 for the whole of 2006 and 3,400 annually a decade ago. Business bankruptcies are up 71% on last year. Figures released by RealtyTrac yesterday showed that in Ohio foreclosures during August leapt by 138% to 17,793. Nationwide, the number of people losing their homes jumped by 115% to 243,947.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

An anarchist response to economic recession.

These are a few ideas that have gradually solidified over the last few months, I don’t really have many Ideas as to how specifically this strategy would work but think its something which would be useful to have a dialogue over.

Its fairly obvious that the control of land by those communitys living on it is vital for long term self sufficiency. To paraphrase derrick Jensen “community’s do not willingly destroy their landbase or allow others to destroy it” As well as being fundamental for long term sustainability the control of land is at the heart of the stranglehold capitalism has over the world. Without land to grow or gather food we become dependant on those who control the land to survive. Control of land by elites creates hierarchy and division of society. Those who own the land will often force an intensification of production above what is sustainable or desirable for those living on it and increased birth rates and land degradation results. Communities which are alienated from the land become disconnected from the affects of our actions.

I believe a movement around land control could be one of the major areas of success for left wing groups over the next few decades. Throughout the 90s and 00s the price of houses and rent has risen at a rate completely disproportionate to wages on the back of cheap credit and a perceived housing shortage. This has resulted in lifetime loans and rent prices so high it is a struggle to afford the other essentials of life. The crippling burden of house prices has covered all sectors of society with many in the middle and upper middle classes struggling to meet payments. There is an underlying level of resentment at the high cost of housing and accommodation this does not often spill over as long as wages continue to rise but added pressure from recession would significantly alter things.

On top of exorbitant rent and mortgage payments the price of food and other neccesitys is rising and with wheat expected to increase in price by over 30% by the end of the year. Oil prices to are expected to continue to climb in price as supply struggles to meet demand, this will begin to affect every aspect of our lives. The affects of even modest drops in global production of a few percent would be strong enough to hurt everyone in western countries. A cool down in the American economy driven by energy shortages and slowing growth is likely to spread across the world over the next few years an new Zealand despite our status as a primary producer will not be exempt. The point is this, right now people are unable to meet the cost of their mortgages and as the global economy and supply of credit contracts this will only get worse.

The current situation in the US housing market paints a picture of what could happen across western countries. Much of the growth in the US economy over the past few decades has been driven by rising house prices. Home buyers were prepared to pay extortionate prices because they knew that however much they payed for their house the price would always be higher next year. Many home owners wanting to use the increased value of their house remortgaged once or even more using the cash to buy consumer goods, money which was effectively siphoned from USA to the nations producing the consumer goods. All of this was fine and rosy until large numbers of people unable to pay mortgages they could never afford began to default, taking down several very major finance companys. The added problem to this already grim picture is that many of the suburbs bought up by Americans will be unlivable without cheap oil and the houses will not be worth the land they are built on.

It is in response to this illogical and unworkable housing system that I see left wing groups and specifically anarchists offering a viable alternative to the system. As mainstream society is unable to meet mortgage repayments and banks attempt to take propertys off their inhabitants communitys could be organised to resist. Community led rent and mortgage strikes could be coordinated in the areas hardest hit by economic recession. A strategy of direct resistance against the banking system would create a loss of confidence in the economic system by the general public and would create the opportunity to foster community control over land management. Alternately anarchists could use the opportunity to find and develop some pretty cool squats, this however would be a waste of a very good opportunity to mobilise the public.

A logical extension of this strategy is increasing community agriculture driven by higher food prices and increasing unemployment. This would lower the dependence of communitys on the industrial agricultural system and strengthen community. Disputes between rich absentee land owners (such as developers or banks) and community gardeners would present another opportunity to radicalise the public. The increasing control of land by the people living on it and collective resistance against absentee land owners would provide an achievably way of moving towards an anarchist/communist way of living without having to hand over control to left wing political partys which would inevitably sell us out to maintain control and continued economic growth.

The above strategy of community control over land would tie in perfectly with a militant union based campaign for increasing workplace control. I do see many of our current industrys become redundant as oil supplys contract but peak oil and ongoing recession would present some very favourable opportunities for radicalisation and control of the means of production by workers.

I believe as anarchists we should look towards the problems posed by energy descent climate change and eventually deindustrialisation and see how we can best place ourselves for the future. Our economy and food production systems could change incredibly rapidly and there is a risk that reactionary right or left wing governments could be seen by the population as a means of reattaining economic prosperity. Being prepared and able to agitate effectively over the next few years could mean the difference between creeping government control or building community control.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Animal farm

I just watched the film adaptation of animal farm, I read the book a couple of years back but the film was far funnier than my memory of the book. It was really quite depressing watching the animals get sold out

It can be seen here on google video

The film adaptation of 1984 is also here online, this adaptation was far better than I was expecting, I would go so far as to say I think its an accurate portrayal of the book :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"They made us think we had won a victory"

An interesting take on the recent G8 protests, this user has some really stunning videos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Minimum security.

This is the best cartoon ever.

Resistance or Rewilding

Scout has a cool post here

Many argue over whether or not actions like blowing up a dam will bring civilization down or merely strengthen it. To wild humans, an argument like that makes no sense. Like arguing over whether or not the tree whose roots tear up the sidewalk will bring down civilization or strengthen it. Yes, the tree may get cut down and the street repaved. But civilization will never have the power to cut them all down, to repave all of those streets. A dandelion growing in a suburban lawn, a tree ripping apart the street, an earthquake tearing down buildings, and rewilding humans dismantling logging equipment seems as natural a process as taking out the trash feels to the civilized.
City Mall Occupation

Just found these two videso of the occupation of city mall in christchurch a few weeks back by high school students. The students are protesting the demolition of a popular youth space and the turning of a pedestrian only mall into a road. Fucking councils....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Horse manure
Locally (5 - 10mins drive) I have a near unlimited suppply of horse manure from a disabled riding center. The manure varies from fresh to about 5 years in age and is mixed with sawdust which I presume is bedding from the stables. Seeing that dad was home when I got up a few days ago I grabbed him headed to the stables. Once we got their I wandered round seeking permission from someone to use the manure but no one really seemed to care or know who was in charge so we just started shovelling it into sacks filling up the boot of our car. As we worked we discussed how ludicrous that such an enormous pile of manure (easily the size of a small house) sat lying round, and were both of the opinion that within a few years the pile would be gone, seized by gardeners kick started into action by rising food price. The two bootloads we got were quickly used up establishing my potatoe cages which I blogged about a few days ago, whilst I couldnt really be bothered going back for more I still lusted after the free organic matter.

On saturday at the community garden I got to talking as I worked with a few people and mentioned my score of free horse manure. The others were interested and I got a call last night from one of them asking whether I might be interested in getting some more. In return for helping with the shovelling I got one trailerload which I piled up the front and she got a load which she is using to establish some garden beds. I've read a bit online about horse manure and it looks fairly useful, its supposed to have heaps of weed seed in when fresh and the nutrient content isnt particularly dense. The sawdust will take some nitrogen from the soil and the manure will supply some so as with most manures thorough composting is probably the best way of dealing with things.

Im concerned about antibiotics and worming medications in any farm manure but the fact that the pile was full of worms and had abundant weed growth on top allayed some of my fears. Its not ideal to be constantly bringing organic matter onto the site but if it allows for higher crops and improves the fertility of the system then things should be ok. My compost should be beautiful in a few months time anyway :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pics of the garden

Its nice to be on holidays, I built another garden bed today up the front today, I think overall I have more than doubled the growing area over last year. The soil is also way better than last year so hopefully we will get a bumper crop. I think the biggest mistake I made last year was not watering enough, I was working 6 or 7 days a week and by the time I got home didnt feel like working in the garden. Hopefully this summer should be quiet and allow plenty of time for gardening and working on some other outdooor skills. I plan to host and informal primitive/permaculture skills week probably in january for friends which should be fun.

This is one of the more fucked up ex-battery hens having a walk through the strawberry bed.

The peach tree and fire pit :)

The main garden beds and hot house also the typical suburban street next to me. I have no doubts that in a food shortage my lush garden and chickens will not be safe for long.
Civilisation is driven by available energy

The Archdruid Report has a great report here dispelling the myth that the so callled progress of our civilisation is driven by innovation.

Innovation is a necessary condition for the growth and survival of industrial society, in other words, but not a sufficient condition. If energy resources aren’t available in sufficient quality and quantity, innovation can make a successful society but it won’t make or maintain an industrial one. It’s worth suggesting that the maximum possible level of economic development in a society is defined by the abundance and concentration of energy resources available to that society. It’s equally possible, though this is rather more speculative, that the maximum possible technological level of an intelligent species anywhere in the universe is defined by the abundance and concentration of energy resources on the planet where that species evolves.
Photo monatge of NZ US partnersbip forum

This is my first time I have tried to use windows movie maker, hope you enjoy.

if the embedding does not work it can be seen here

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Thomas Malthus

From time to time I'm accused of being a combination of Mao, Polpot and Hitler lusting after a malthusian die off. Well this culture is doing a better job than I or anyelse ever could to kill off the planet and the people living on it and frankly it doesnt need my help. The fact I spend all my time working towards ensuring the survival of as many people as possible though alternative agriculture is often ignored when overconsumption is mentioned. So it was a relief when I came across this article here which rebuts the arguments put forward by Malthus specifically that individual control of land will stop it from being destroyed. The article argues that communitys dependant on a certain place to survive will not willingly destroy their land base and it is instead the capitalist system which results in the greates destruction of land.

This however is an argument for community control not state run socialist control of land. I hold as much contempt for socialist governments attempting to wrest control of land and resources from the communitys living on them as I hold for capitalist companys and governments that try to steal land from those living upon it.

A brief extract from the article

What I'm trying to say here is that the vulgar error made by modern Malthusians is to assume that the human story hasn't in fact been about dealing with this problem of the carrying capacity, if you want to put it that way, of particular patches of land. There's a word for it. It's called stinting. Commoners have "use-rights" - say, to pasture animals, to take fodder, to gather firewood, to harvest fruits and berries and nuts - but only if you live there, and only certain amounts, depending on the ecological, historical knowledge of the local community about what would stretch it too far. Action informed by local knowledge, typically, is not going to cause ecocide. I'm not saying ecological destruction hasn't occurred in the human past - the deforestation of the coastal areas around the Mediterranean sea is a classic case, caused by centuries of Imperial Roman overfarming - but it tends to be by non-locals and elites. Let's call it the state. The major culprit in modern times is capitalist farming in private hands.

Despite this reality, the blame is laid at the door of the world's commoners. Take for example Garrett Hardin's famous 1968 essay, "The tragedy of the commons", published in the journal Science. This was an enormously influential text by a Texan zoologist, based on no sociological research whatsoever, and in profound ignorance of the actual history of commoning. Hardin asserted that all common resources (such as pasture, a favorite example) will inevitably end in ruin because of over-exploitation by selfish individuals. Hardin's fable was taken up by the gathering forces of neo-liberal reaction in the 1970s, and his essay became the "scientific" foundation of World Bank and IMF policies, viz. enclosure of commons and privatization of public property. The plausibility of Hardin's Malthusian claims doesn’t survive a moment's scrutiny. Ask yourself - was the disaster of the Dust Bowl a tragedy of the commons or of capitalist agriculture under private ownership?

But the historical facts are irrelevant. The case is an ideological one, and Hardin was holding up a mirror to modern homo economicus. The message is clear: we must never treat the earth as a "common treasury". We must be ruthless and greedy or else we will perish.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Planting Potatoes
Potatoes are something I try and grow every year, heavy producers they are very rewarding. Last year I grew a 200 square meter plot of Maori potatoes at Unitec, this year I will just be growing a few square meters in my back yard.
Richard digging trenches for the sprouted potaoes, they will then be mounded up as the potatoes grow. This can be back breaking work and not particularly fun in the hot summer sun, harvesting as well can be torturous when done alone.
I dont know if I mentioned digging these rows is torturous!
Richard from Unitec was nice enough to give me a bag of mixed varieties of maori potatoes. These reddish or purple varieties have an interesting sweet flavour and varied shapes. They command an incredibly high price in organic stores and up market supermarkets. A heavy yield is not guaranteed partially due to problems with seed potatoes and variety. The size of potatoe is also much smaller than the commercial varieties commonly grown.
Tearing up the path for soil, In order to get enough soil to grow the potatoes I am lowering the path by about a foot, the soil is relatively rich due to leaves and mulch used for the path. This will make the beds more raised and allow me to use the path area to compost a thick layer of sawdust over the next few years which I will then add to garden beds.

I am growing the potatoes in cages made out of chicken wire I got out of the inorganic, these are made into circles then put on top of what was once lawn. I got about 25 sacks of aged horse manure free from a disabled riding club in Mangere bridge which I have mixed with soil and am growing the potatoes in. I will use hay from the chicken enclosure to mound the potatoes up to encourage heavier yields. The enclosure will keep the straw and soil from falling out. I am anticipating the soil will be very rich and suitable to add to garden beds once the potatoes are harvested.

Potatoes planted with straw on the side to keep soil in. I am using an old mat to cover the grass.

Maori potatoes planted out across the soil and horse manure. The potatoes are have sprouts which are about 2 - 10cm long which is a bit long.

Potatoes planted and Kauri sawdust I also got today put down for instant paths.

Putting a potatoe cage in.

Me adding some horse manure

Walking through the garden with sawdust billowing round.

Monday, September 10, 2007

No Free Trade Deal With USA !

These are a few of the images I took at todays protest against a free trade deal with the united state. Several top officials from the US governement and senior management from several US based multinations were in Auckland today for free trade talks. The corporate media have given the conference very little coverage and focused on minor details such as one of the diplomats wive's coming to New Zealand to work on sheep farms in the 70's.

The protest today was one of the most full on protest I have been on for a long time with around 100 protesters facing 50+ cops. The confrontation resulted in three arrests and some coverage in the media.

Some of the images are pretty :)

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Its well and truly spring, I spent much of the day working in the garden in a T shirt and bare feet, I’m normally pretty sensitive to cold so for me to be in a T shirt means it must be warm. It was the first time I have had the time or energy to work outside for weeks if not months and it really reminded me how much I actually enjoy gardening. Its not only the planting and harvesting of plants but the building, pruning design and dozens of other skills which all come into play. The food forest part of the garden is beginning to look really good with many of the seedlings I planted a year or two ago now a metre or two high, the garden is thriving with all the organic matter I have added. The soil around almost the entire property has gone from being poorly drained and clayey to rich spongy and black.

The borage self seeds around the place and brings in bee’s constantly as well as being a good addition to salads and teas. These kind of hardy self seeding plants are what I want to increasingly move towards in the gardens I am involved in.
This chicken escaped from the run two days ago and after a desperate search was found eating silverbeet in a neighbours yard. To thank the kids for not chasing it round I invited about 10 of them over to feed the flock. They named this one scaper.

These are various hardwood cuttings I am rooting in pumice.

The flowering daikons (a type of radish) at the front of this photo have roots at least 1.5m deep and weighing 5+ kg, I add them whenever I am making stir frys and they have a nice sour taste. I am hoping they will self seed everywhere as the chooks love eating the leaves almost as much as silverbeet. The chookhouse is to be attatched to the rear of the hot house to provide Co2 and heat.