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The Seneca Cliff According to H.P. Lovecraft

The Seneca Cliff According to H.P. Lovecraft

It is strange how sometimes fiction manages to catch human feelings and ideas in ways that are not easy to articulate in terms of facts and models. H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) has been one of the world masters of the horror genre, managing to flesh out some of our deep fears.

We can read Lovecraft’s story “The Doom that Came to Sarnath” as an allegory of our times. The prosperous and shiny city of Sarnath had a dark origin, the violence against the previous inhabitants of the region. And the whole drama unfolds with all the characters mentioned in the story aware that they’ll have to face some kind of retribution for what they did and, yet, refusing to admit it. And the retribution came to Sarnath in a form not unlike what the Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca had noted when he said that “growth is sluggish, but the way to ruin is rapid,” the Seneca Cliff.

In our case, we know what we did to the Earth’s ecosystem. We know about the greenhouse gases, we know about the slaughter of other species, we know about the pillaging of the Earth’s resources. We know all that but, like the inhabitants of Sarnath, we refuse to admit it. What kind of retribution can we expect in the future?

It is curious how the knowledge of the horror we did to our planet takes the shape of the tales of the horror genre. It is something modern, the ancient just didn’t have it. Think of Dante Alighieri: his Comedy is all about ghosts, but there is no horror anywhere in modern terms. Think of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there is a ghost, a skeleton, a dark castle, but no horror elements. Why?

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Which species are we sure we can survive without?” Revisited

“Which species are we sure we can survive without?” Revisited

Two years ago I asked the question in the title of this piece. Now comes a wide-ranging study that suggests we are about to test that question in a major way.

The study predicts that at the current rate of loss of insect species, 40 percent could be gone “in the next few decades.” What is particularly alarming is that this “could trigger wide-ranging cascading effects within several of the world’s ecosystems.” That means that many other life-forms including other animals and plants could find themselves without what they need to survive in this dangerous game of musical chairs orchestrated by humans. Might we be one of those species?

Insects do much of the crop pollination necessary for food production. A list of crops pollinated by bees is quite long. Humans could survive without these foods, but the nutrition and variety in our diets would be severely limited. And yet there is a greater problem. Outside of agriculture 80 to 95 percent of plant species require animal pollination. Since those plants are the base of every food chain, catastrophic declines in insect populations could lead to a collapse of existing ecosystems. The exact scope and effects of such a collapse cannot be fully anticipated. But it is doubtful humans would be unharmed.

Human civilization uses an enormous amount of free ecoservices, that is, services provided by nature including the purification of water, the formation of soil, the regulation of climate, and energy resources such as hydropower and biomass. However one values these services, the value is enormous. If humans had to pay for these services, that is, if we had to set up mechanical and chemical substitutes, we would never able to afford it. But, we probably wouldn’t be able to set up substitute systems that work as precisely and effectively as nature’s.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The world-changing potential of hot composting

The world-changing potential of hot composting

As long as there have been humans, we have taken the parts of plants we don’t eat and thrown them back onto the soil again, knowing it would turn back into soil to create more plants. Until we modern people came along, that is. 

Now we take our food and seal it away in plastic, so that the only bacteria that can work on them are anoxic bacteria that generate methane – a greenhouse gas about 35 times worse than carbon dioxide. The least we can do, obviously, is to throw compostables into the compost, let the proper critters munch away, and let it alchemically turn into soil again.
Ordinary composting, however, has some disadvantages that every gardener knows well. One can’t simply add bones or meat – and some gardeners even avoid eggshells – for fear of attracting vermin. Also, plants that have gone to seed cannot be added, or the resulting soil will be peppered with the beginning of next year’s weeds. You can’t add diseased plants, or the diseases might remain in the resulting soil, ready to infect next year’s crops. Also, it takes a long time, and one loses much of the kitchen waste volume in the process of rotting down.

Imagine, then, a new kind of composting, one that avoids all these problems at once – no more weed seeds, no more disease, no more vermin. Imagine being able to compost almost everything, and keep the majority of the biomass. Imagine, finally, that it only takes a few weeks.

What makes hot composting work is bacteria; instead of the usual variety of bacteria that breaks down over several months, hot composters find the right balance of materials – more on this in a moment — to attract aerobic, heat-generating bacteria. Then, they oxygenate the soil by turning the compost regularly, and making sure the compost has enough mass – at least 1.5 metres on each side — to retain the heat it generates.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster

Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster

Book cover

It took homo sapiens some 200,000 years to reach the first billion by about 1800. In just the 10 years separating the first and second edition of Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster, the human population increased by the same amount putting increased pressure on an already crowded planet. In the past decade the global use of resources spiked upwards, greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase, income and wealth inequality rose to the highest levels in half a century, the global financial system almost crashed, and mammal, bird and insect populations declined markedly because of increased deforestation and industrialized agriculture. So, while material living standards of the poorest rose, mostly in China, which is something to celebrate, there are many reasons to be deeply concerned about what lies ahead. Humanity’s grossly unequal ecological footprints greatly exceed the Earth’s regenerative biocapacity and it is doubtful whether the planet can support the continued economic growth to which virtually all of the world’s governments are committed.  Can we do better?

The opening chapters of this updated, revised, and expanded second edition Managing without Growth tell how the recent idea of economic growth emerged from the idea of progress, itself only a few hundred years old. There are many reasons for questioning growth as a key economic policy objective supported in the book based on extensive data as well as on conceptual and methodological considerations.  Critical attention is given to the commodification of nature through monetization. ‘Natural’ capital captures the spirit of the times, but it can hardly be said to capture the spirit of nature.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

18 Organic Farms Changing the World

organic farms changing the world

18 Organic Farms Changing the World

Organic farms work daily to solve the puzzle of sustainable agriculture while providing their local communities and markets with fresh nutritional foods. 

Organic foods have no chemical additives or pesticides. They are also free from flavor enhancers, sweeteners, and preservatives. In most cases, organic and minimally processed foods are more nutritious than their mainstream process alternatives. They generally have more beta-carotene, polyphenols, antioxidants (to fight cancer), flavonoids (to fight heart disease), fatty acids, and minerals.

When it comes to sustainability, organic farms have many questions to answer:

  • How do they reduce their carbon emissions?
  • How do they conserve water and slow the rapid depletion of groundwater?
  • How do they save plants from pests and vermin on a large scale without using pesticides and chemicals?
  • How do they farm while nourishing the land and not eroding topsoil?
  • How do they provide economic sustainability and social sustainability, such as fair wages and healthy working environments, to employees?

Each of the farms listed below have found a way to answer these questions as they take control of their food production.

How Farms Prioritize Education

Many organic farms prioritize outreach, community engagement, and education. Farms host community events or hold classes for adults as well as children to learn anything from gardening to cooking. Many farms seek to empower individuals to grow their own food and plant their own gardens. Organic farms also offer free resources such as their favorite recipes for cooking with natural ingredients.

Farmsharing and Community-Supported Agriculture

Many local farms use community supported agriculture (CSA) programs or farmshares to connect with local community members. Members support the farm upfront and are rewarded with the best fresh produce or meat cuts. This allows farmers to plan ahead with their seasonal demand and minimize potential risk and waste. If you’re interested in a CSA or farmshare, you can use LocalHarvest to find one local to you.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Eating at Home vs. Eating Out

Eating at Home vs. Eating Out

eating at home vs eating out

Table of Contents

While many restaurants and fast food outlets offer us convincing marketing statements that they offer healthy and nutritional food, studies frequently find that this isn’t the case. The sugar and sodium content of most processed foods cause them to be serious threats to our health. These are also the same qualities which allow these foods to become addictive.

It’s not just fast food, either. The restaurant industry encourages overconsumption and indulgence in foods that we know to be unhealthy for our bodies. Nor is restaurant food as healthy for us as what we would make at home. At the same time, the cost of eating out puts a large strain on many of our food budgets.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Sometimes the Best Solution Is To Leave Things As They Are

Sometimes the Best Solution Is To Leave Things As They Are

We must distinguish between the oft-lauded creative destruction of what is obsolete and destruction in pursuit of fleeting fashion.

I recently received an insightful email from a reader who had come across my archives of free-lance articles and essays on home and urban design. I wrote dozens of articles for S.F. Bay Area newspapers from 1988 to 2006, and a handful are listed here.

The one the reader is responding to is Best Remodel Might Be None At All (2006). Here are the reader’s comments:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the articles you penned for the SF Examiner that you’ve linked to on your website, these being written close to two decades ago.

Especially noteworthy was your response to the homeowner inquiring about a kitchen remodel where you recommended that the best course of action might be no course of action. This was an wonderful response and it caught my attention because it belies the common sales oriented suggestions generally offered by those writing about remodeling, and especially about kitchens. Usually you see writers busy extolling the gutting and replacement of a kitchen with wild zeal talking about how wonderful it will be to pour coffee or to butter toast once the kitchen area has been refurbished… and how in the sheer pleasure of a new kitchen you might even choose to drink two cups of coffee just for the fun of it!

In the old craftsman style house or bungalow it would mean new plumbing and upgrading the electrical wiring to go with new appliances and new cabinetry.

In the era when that house was constructed the cabinets were typically built on site, matching the cabinetry to the design and work flow of the kitchen.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism: Averting the Fast-Track to Armageddon?

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism: Averting the Fast-Track to Armageddon?

Image source

US National Security Advisor John Bolton has more or less admitted that the ongoing destabilisation of Venezuela is about grabbing its oil. He recently stated:

We’re looking at the oil assets… We’re in conversation with major American companies now… It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

The US’s hand-picked supposed leader-in-waiting, Juan Guaido, aims to facilitate the processand usher in a programme of ‘mass privatisation’ and ‘hyper-capitalism’ at the behest of his coup-instigating masters in Washington, thereby destroying the socialist revolution spearheaded by the late Hugo Chavez and returning to a capitalist oligarch-controlled economic system.

One might wonder who is Bolton, or anyone in the US, to dictate and engineer what the future of another sovereign state should be. But this is what the US has been doing across the globe for decades. Its bloody imperialism, destabilisations, coups, assassinations, invasions and military interventions have been extensively documented by William Blum.

Of course, although oil is key to the current analysis of events in Venezuela, there is also the geopolitical subtext of debt, loans and Russian investment and leverage within the country. At the same time, it must be understood that US-led capitalism is experiencing a crisis of over-production: when this occurs capital needs to expand into or create new markets and this entails making countries like Venezuela bow to US hegemony and open up its economy.

For US capitalism, however, oil is certainly king. Its prosperity is maintained by oil with the dollar serving as the world reserve currency. Demand for the greenback is guaranteed as most international trade (especially and significantly oil) is carried out using the dollar. And those who move off it are usually targeted by the US (Venezuela being a case in point).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Civil Asset Forfeiture Can Be Lethal – Death by Police is Rising When they Enter the Wrong Home

Civil Asset Forfeiture Can Be Lethal – Death by Police is Rising When they Enter the Wrong Home 

The end of the Venetian Empire, otherwise known as the Republic of Venice, traditionally was a sovereign state and maritime republic in northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. As is the case with ALL Republics as we have today, they descend into oligarchies and during the process they enter the final stage of their death by not just turning against their own people, but the people divide into groups as we see today and they become increasingly hostile toward one another – i.e. Democrats v Republicans.

Today, we are witnessing since the Kavanaugh hearings that unsubstantiated allegations are being hurled at now from both sides targeting anyone in a political office. We have the black-face scandals going on in Virginia to governors being accused by women of various sexual assaults decades ago. In the case of Venice, they set up the network of boxes known as the Mouth of Truth where people could drop anonymous allegations against anyone and they would be presumed to be guilty as is taking place today. The accused person would be even tortured until they confessed just so they would be granted a more painless death. After all, the mere allegation was proof of guilt. Indeed, Edward Gibbon wrote of the Roman Emperor Commodus: Suspicion was equivalent to proof; trial to condemnation (Book 1, Chapter 4)Government always descends into such corruption. That is just a fact of history.

In Venice, one would be taken to the Doge’s Palace upon a mere allegation and then to prison. Later, the prisoner would cross what is known as the Bridge of Sighs or Sorrows after that was constructed for easy access to the prison.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The U.S. Faces A Catastrophic Food Supply Crisis In America As Farmers Struggle

The U.S. Faces A Catastrophic Food Supply Crisis In America As Farmers Struggle

American farmers are battling several issues when it comes to producing our food.  Regulated low prices, tariffs, and the inability to export have all cut into the salaries of farmers.  They are officially in crisis mode, just like the United States’ food supply.

“The farm economy’s in pretty tough shape,” said John Newton, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “When you look out on the horizon of things to come, you start to see some cracks.” Average farm income has fallen to near 15-year lows under president Donald Trump’s policies, and in some areas of the country, farm bankruptcies are soaring.  And with slightly higher interest rates, many don’t see borrowing more money as an option.  “A lot of farmers are going to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and have to date. But the longer the trade war goes on, the more that dynamic changes,” said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, according to Politico.

With no end to the disastrous trade war in sight, many farmers have traveled to Washington to share their plights with the president himself hoping that he’ll end the trade war that’s exacerbating an already precarious food crisis.  Farmers make up a fairly large chunk of president Trump’s base, and an unwillingness to put food production in the United States first could be detrimental for Trump reelection chances in 2020. It could also be the beginning of a catastrophic food shortage.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis warned back in November of rising Chapter 12 bankruptcies used by family farmers to restructure massive amounts of debt. The Fed said that the strain of low commodity prices “is starting to show up not just in bottom-line profitability, but in simple viability.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dreams Die Hard

Dreams Die Hard


Somewhere between the fevered Zzzz’s of American Dreaming and the blinding shock of being “woke,” there is a recognition that an awful lot about contemporary life is not working and can’t go on. At the bottom of this discontent is the mistaken notion that the unwind of modernity can be arrested or mitigated by “smart” and “green” this-and-that.

The disappointment over it will be epic when we discover that the laws of physics override the bright ideas of politicians. America has been blowing green smoke up its own ass for years, promoting oxymorons such as “green skyscrapers” and “clean energy,” but the truth is we’re not going to run WalMart, Suburbia, DisneyWorld, and the interstate highway system on any combination of wind, solar, geothermal, recycled Fry-Max, and dark matter. We’re just running too much stuff at too great a scale for too many people. We’ve blown through the capital already and replaced it with IOUs that will never be honored, and we’re caught in an entropy trap of diminishing returns from all the work-arounds we’re desperately trying.

For all that, there are actually some sound proposals in the mostly delusional matrix of the Green New Deal promoted by foxy front-person AOC.

  • Revoke corporate personhood by amending our Constitution to make clear that corporations are not persons and money is not speech. Right on, I say, though they have not quite articulated the argument which is that corporations, unlike persons, have no vested allegiance to the public interest, but rather a legal obligation solely to shareholders and their boards-of-directors.
  • Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions. A no-brainer.
  • Replace big money control of election campaigns with full public financing and free and equal access to the airwaves. Quite cheap and worth every penny.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism: Averting the Fast-Track to Armageddon?

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism: Averting the Fast-Track to Armageddon?

US National Security Advisor John Bolton has more or less admitted that the ongoing destabilisation of Venezuela is about grabbing its oil. He recently stated:

“We’re looking at the oil assets… We’re in conversation with major American companies now… It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

The US’s hand-picked supposed leader-in-waiting, Juan Guaido, aims to facilitate the process and usher in a programme of ‘mass privatisation’ and ‘hyper-capitalism’ at the behest of his coup-instigating masters in Washington, thereby destroying the socialist revolution spearheaded by the late Hugo Chavez and returning to a capitalist oligarch-controlled economic system.

One might wonder who is Bolton, or anyone in the US, to dictate and engineer what the future of another sovereign state should be. But this is what the US has been doing across the globe for decades. Its bloody imperialism, destabilisations, coups, assassinations, invasions and military interventions have been extensively documented by William Blum.

Of course, although oil is key to the current analysis of events in Venezuela, there is also the geopolitical subtext of debt, loans and Russian investment and leverage within the country. At the same time, it must be understood that US-led capitalism is experiencing a crisis of over-production: when this occurs capital needs to expand into or create new markets and this entails making countries like Venezuela bow to US hegemony and open up its economy.

For US capitalism, however, oil is certainly king. Its prosperity is maintained by oil with the dollar serving as the world reserve currency. Demand for the greenback is guaranteed as most international trade (especially and significantly oil) is carried out using the dollar. And those who move off it are usually targeted by the US (Venezuela being a case in point).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Silver Linings in the Very Dark Cloud of Climate Catastrophe

SILVER LININGS IN THE VERY DARK CLOUD OF CLIMATE CATASTROPHE

We actually do not have all the time in the world, so I am going to be bold.  What you do after you finish reading this is your business and ultimately, that is exactly as it should be. We may all be facets of a larger Oneness, tiny sparks of the Divine dwelling in human form, but for the moment—allowing the potential truth of a larger connection–we are very clearly individuals, each with our own experience and outlook. We have our own ways of coping and to some extent, each of us charts a unique course through this life. We are often granted some choice about how we live and how we die, though most of us vastly prefer to focus on the former.  

Even there, we tend to let life happen, getting pulled from one urgency to another amusement without full consciousness of how we spend the time. “Where did the time go?” is a plaintive query, often-expressed. “Time flies!” When you are having fun, when you are busy, when you aren’t fully present.  Life happens to us  more often than most of us would like to admit.  But still, we can always meet it–our life—where we find it today and choose differently how we experience the flow of time, how we interact with the circumstances we have been given and crafted for ourselves.  Such is the beauty of being alive.

As for dying—it is arguably the biggest taboo in first world cultures.  Whereas nearly every shamanic tradition teaches students the imperative of carrying death close by at all times, we’re not so comfortable dealing with it in the West, and thus we lose out on a lot of life.  

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Qualitative systems thinking as a reflexive futures practice

Four Modes of Foresight (graphic from page 32 of review copy)

Qualitative systems thinking as a reflexive futures practice

Advanced praise for Anthony Hodgson’s forthcoming new book

I have the pleasure and the privilege to count Tony as a friend, a mentor and a colleague for more than a decade now. We connected over a UNITAR sustainability workshop in Scotland that I co-organized and facilitated which his wife attended. Their company name— Decision Integrity Ltd — sparked my curiosity. I did a bit of research and was amazed by the many parallels and connections I found to other key mentors of mine like Brian Goodwin and Henri Bortoft. Our first conversation was a four hour mind-melt at the end of which both of us were exhilarated and surprised at how time had past.

Tony invited me into the International Futures Forum in 2009. He gave me an opportunity to work with him in piloting early versions of the IFF World Game. In 2010 he hired me through his consultancy to do research and apply whole systems thinking and the IFF World Systems Model to two UK Foresight projects. In one of them we mapped the international dimension of climate change impact on 17 regions of the globe and how these would in turn affect the future of the UK. For the other, we tried to reveal systemic patterns and make visual sense out of the research a team of experts had done on migration and global environmental change.

Tony and I have also taught a three part workshop series on ‘Applied Systems Thinking’ together at Findhorn College, collaborated in various International Futures Forum project on ‘Transformative Resilience’, ‘The 3 HorizonsFramework’, and ‘Second Order Science and Policy’; and occasionally I joined a meeting or support efforts towards the creation of H3uni. In short, I have been richly gifted opportunities to learn from this remarkable wise elder.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

As the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live?”

As the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live?”

Patty Stringer hugs her neighbor of 20 years, Dee Johnson, as she says her final goodbyes at Johnson's home in Magalia, California, on December 3, 2018.

This is the first installment of a monthly series by Dahr Jamail and Barbara Cecil, entitled, “How, Then, Shall We Live? Finding Our Way and Peace of Heart Amidst Global Collapse.”Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.
—Izumi Shikibu

This commentary is the first of our series, “How, Then, Shall We Live?: Finding Our Way Amidst Global Collapse.” It is about the moonlight leaking between the roof planks of this ruined house.

It is not written to convince anyone of anything, or to get things back on track. It is not a survival manual. What we have to say is not written on the wavelength of fear.

Dahr has been on the front lines digging out the truth around climate disruption for nine years. Before that, he spent more than a year in Iraq reporting, unembedded, on how the US occupation of that country was impacting the Iraqi people. He has, more recently, had to digest staggering climate information ahead of the wave of the general public, fielding in himself a cavalcade of disbelief, grief, anger, hopelessness and desperation. He thus describes this commentary as “the inevitable conclusion of all my war, political, environmental and climate reportage.”

For 20 years Barbara’s work and writing has guided people through life-changing transitions, with an ear to a deeper sense of purpose and meaning behind chapters of life that are ending. Her understanding of what it takes to change, in fundamental ways, has been a setup for the mega transition necessary for us all as the world we have counted on dissolves.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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