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Permaculture and Money – Part 1

Permaculture and Money – Part 1

Cash, conflict and crisis: How is money connected to limited and violent beliefs, and how can we transcend these beliefs?

Permaculture design is about finding ways in which parts of a system can harmonise together, creating regenerative patterns and structures which can help us to develop as part of an interconnected whole(1). We can use permaculture design not only to help us to change physical systems such as in gardening, but also with less visible social structures. One of the most universal and destructive of these ‘invisible structures’ can be seen as the globalised, competition-driven economy, and more specifically, the concept of money which upholds it.

Back in 1949, physicist Albert Einstein said “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive” (2). Decades of environmental destruction, characterised by the perpetuation of a seeming disconnection between humans and nature, along with the current global “crisis” catalysed by people’s reaction to the Corona Virus, seem to show these words as more pertinent now than ever.

This article series will explore some ways in which money itself can be seen as the destructive element encouraging this disconnection. This part will look at some theories of how money, violence and psychology are closely inter-related, while subsequent parts will go into detail about alternative ways of using or relating to money, and some practical ways to achieve this in your own life.

Money & Mind

Many proponents of a moneyless society, such as Sacred Economics (3) author Charles Eisenstein and Moneyless Manifesto (4) author Mark Boyle, have theorised that money itself is perpetuating violent and destructive behaviour in human society (3, 4).  That is not to say that we should necessarily get rid of money, though there are many ideas for how we could do that (more about this in part 2).

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Fraying Food System May Be Our Next Crisis

Fraying Food System May Be Our Next Crisis

If you’re already overwhelmed with news of the pandemic and are coping with depression, read no further. However, if you’re a crisis responder by inclination or profession, you might start thinking food.

Experts who study what makes societies sustainable (or unsustainable) have been warning for decades that our modern food system is packed with ticking bombs. The ways we grow, process, package, and distribute food depend overwhelmingly on finite, depleting, and polluting fossil fuels. Industrial agriculture contributes to climate change, and results in soil erosion and salinization. Ammonia-based fertilizers create “dead zones” near river deltas while petrochemical pesticides and herbicides pollute air and water. Modern agriculture also contributes to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Monocrops—huge fields of genetically uniform corn and soybeans—are especially vulnerable to pests and diseases. Long supply chains make localities increasingly dependent on distant suppliers. The system tends to exploit low-wage workers. And food is often unequally distributed and even unhealthful, contributing to poor nutrition as well as diabetes and other diseases.

Whatever is unsustainable must, by definition, end at some point, and critics of our present food system say that a crisis is increasingly likely (just as public health professionals had long warned of the growing likelihood of a global pandemic).

And yet, year after year, decade after decade, crop yields have increased. The famine that ecologist Paul Ehrlich cautioned about in his 1968 book The Population Bomb never materialized. Indeed, our ability to feed an exponentially growing human population is frequently touted as a primary benefit of modern industrial agriculture and globalization.

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The Next Crisis: Food

The Next Crisis: Food

There’s a reason we’ve been urging folks to plant a garden

“Oh crap! Bermuda grass? In my garden space? The kind with underground runners that’s nearly impossible to eliminate except by digging up every single root and rhizome?”

For reasons I cannot fully explain I became absolutely inspired to “find a place” starting last September.

Today, my partner Evie and I are settling in to our new home. We closed on it on January 28th and it took a solid month to move things over from our former residence.

First things first, we set about correcting a decade’s worth of deferred maintenance. The furnace relay switch was quite dodgy, the gravel on the driveway was way past due for replenishment, the gutters leaked, and the apple trees were in desperate need of pruning.

Now that it’s April, I find myself every day — after my research and writing is done of course — out in the old garden space, digging new beds and turning over every square inch of the soil. Not because I want to, but because some misguided former owner thought planting Bermuda grass in the garden was a good idea.

This is the sort of grass that spreads to new horizons with meaty underground rhizomes that can spread ridiculously far from the parent plant. Arggh!

Oh, and the new chicken house, predator-proofed with hardware cloth on every possible entry point, had to be set up, too.

The list of needed improvements seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. An insurmountable pile of tasks that will be required to raise it to our high standards of creating a place of lasting beauty and abundance.

Right now? It’s a barely-dented tapestry of a thousand projects. You might be unimpressed if you took stock of all that we haven’t tackled yet.

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Planting Seeds in Crisis

Planting Seeds in Crisis

Food and seed sovereignty in uncertain times

As governments of more and more countries introduce various kinds of lockdowns (1) during the ongoing virus “pandemic” (1), we appear to be experiencing what many would say is an unprecedented global “crisis” (see for example 2). This article will explore the opportunities inherent in such a situation, in particular with regard to food and seed sovereignty and, ultimately, the sovereignty of our own lives.

What is crisis?

There are many theories about the origins of the Coronavirus and the curiously strong grip its presence has on media and governments worldwide (3, 4, 5). For example, that the virus was made possible by factory farming (3) or our current mistreatment of farm animals (4). Or the theory postulated right here on Permaculture News by Nirmala Nair that perhaps it could be “a symptom of dwindling microbial biota – a result of the past 50 years of accelerated industrial food production, processing and movement of food around the world?” (5)

Regardless of the actual origin, at any time, the influence of media and government propaganda is something to be aware of. This seems a particularly important moment to be aware of news and actions aimed at inducing emotions such as fear and panic, and to provide a counterpoint of calm, reflection on wider issues, and compassion.

With this in mind, let’s look at the etymology of the word ‘crisis’. Though often used in a negative context, we can see that the roots of this word come from the Greek for “decide, judge” (6). A time of crisis, therefore, can be seen as a time for making decisions – for becoming aware of the choices we face as a species and a planet and to decide on a course of action. Though decisions could be scary to some, this time can be seen as an opportunity for us to decide, individually and socially, how we actually wish to be living our lives.

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The New Normal: Cascading and Multilayered Crises

The New Normal: Cascading and Multilayered Crises

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

– Antonio Gramsci

The Pandemic & Public Health Crisis

On January 20th, 2020, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 infection took place in the United States. Since then, over 240,000 Americans have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, with over 6,000 dying as a result of the pandemic. The New York Times suggests that the actual numbers are likely 6-10 times higher than is being currently reported.

According to studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and those who smoke, are at high-risk of severe illness or death if they contract the virus. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of Americans.

Several days ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated that anywhere between 100,000-240,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by the end of August, and that’s if “we do everything perfectly,” as the good doctor put it. Since no one actually believes that the United States will conduct the response in a “perfect” manner, we can assume those numbers are low.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume they’re correct. For some perspective, 116,708 Americans died in World War I (1914-1918). Roughly 416,800 Americans died in World War II (1941-1945). Over 40,000 Americans died in the Korean War (1950-1953). And 70,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War (1965-1975).

Perhaps we throw around large numbers too often, or maybe there’s simply no way to humanize 240,000 lives — regardless, we cannot allow the U.S. government to normalize gross numbers of fatalities, especially as a result of a completely preventable pandemic. Remember, this isn’t a ‘Natural Disaster’ — this is a ‘Man Made Disaster,’ and it should be treated as such. Yes, Trump is responsible, but he’s not the only one. In fact, individuals aren’t the problem. The entire Neoliberal Capitalist project is to blame.

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Rabobank: “There Will Be Attempts To Go Back To Normal After This Crisis, But It Will Be Impossible”

Rabobank: “There Will Be Attempts To Go Back To Normal After This Crisis, But It Will Be Impossible”

The Grand National-ists

The weekend’s world-famous UK horse race, the Grand National, was won by Potters Corner, trained in Wales and ridden by Jack Tudor, at 18-1. That’s a little unusual – but not as much as the fact that this was all a virtual race run on a computer because the actual Grand National was cancelled for the first time since WW2 due to COVID-19.

I mention this because there is a lot of Grand National-ism about at the moment due to this virus. After all, Germany accused (then apparently retracted, to far less attention) claims of ”piracy” as 200,000 face masks in Bangkok destined for it ended up in the US instead: this is normally called “gazumping” in the UK, and in healthier times is seen as perfectly natural – which says something about how we used to operate. The US is also refusing to send medical gear to Canada. Germany itself had of course previously refused to send ventilators and masks to Italy when asked, and France requisitioned private-sector stocks weeks ago. Meanwhile, China has placed strict controls on the export of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, and virus test kits – which is a problem given it is still the world’s bulk producer – though the Czechs, Dutch, Spanish, and Turkish have all reportedly returned such gear for being faulty, and one news report alleges Pakistan received a shipment of masks clearly made of women’s underwear.

In terms of medicine, there is also a struggle to access virus testing chemical reagents – Israel has had to scale back its testing as Germany has nationalised one of the chemical producers and South Korea has been forced to close one of its plants due to the virus itself.

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After the crisis, what kind of world do we want? Post-apocalyptic novels hold lessons — and warnings

After the crisis, what kind of world do we want? Post-apocalyptic novels hold lessons — and warnings

‘Art gives me hope. Will we take those values, that hope, and use them to imagine a better collective future?’

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road.(Dimension Films)

I had planned to write a totally different column this month. I had the idea, the books. I’d started doing the research. Due to COVID-19 forcing me and so many others to stay at home and inside, I had the time.

But, also due to COVID-19, I didn’t have the inclination to continue doing any of it. For over a week now I’ve felt paralyzed, as though I’ve been watching my friends and family members move through a slow motion horror movie. I imagine a lot of people have felt that way over the past few days, weeks and/or months, depending on how deep into this global pandemic they are. With each passing day it has become clearer that life as we’d once known it is ending before our very eyes. Each day I’ve scrolled mindlessly through social media, waiting for the latest news story that might give some sort of discernible shape to our increasingly uncertain collective future.

There have been daily news conferences and updates. There has been emergency legislation introduced and passed. There have been restrictions on how many people can gather in one place, which businesses are allowed to remain open, and how they must operate if they do. It’s suggested that everyone stay in their homes, provided they have homes; that if you do have to go outside, you remain a certain distance away from others.

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Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF

Customers waited in line at a Costco in Burbank last week to buy water and other supplies for fear that COVID-19 would spread and force people to stay indoors.
Image result for nothing to fear but fear itself coronavirus

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt – March 4, 1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke these words during his first inauguration at the depths of the Great Depression in 1933. The narrative taught in government schools is how FDR’s words invigorated the nation and inspired the people to show courage in the face of adversity. His terminology was that of a general leading his troops into battle.

What is not taught in government schools or proclaimed by the propaganda spewing fake news media were the dictatorial type actions taken by FDR over the next month after his “inspirational” speech. He was the first Democrat president to not let a crisis go to waste. The day after his inauguration, Roosevelt assembled a special session of Congress to declare a four-day bank holiday, and on March 9 signed the Emergency Banking Act.

What the American people should have feared was the government taking control of every aspect of their lives and threatening them with imprisonment if their dictums were not followed. On March 6, taking advantage of a wartime statute that had not been repealed, he issued Presidential Proclamation 2039 that forbade the hoarding ‘of gold or silver coin or bullion or currency’, under penalty of $10,000 and/or up to five to ten years imprisonment.”

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Spirits in the Material World

SPIRITS IN THE MATERIAL WORLD

Image result for spirits in the material world

There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution 

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

As I was driving home from work last week, an almost forty-year-old song began emanating from my radio. I’ve always appreciated the music of The Police, but was never a huge fan. Spirits in the Material World was a relatively minor hit from their 1981 Ghost in the Machine multi-platinum album. I’ve probably heard it hundreds of times over the last four decades, but the lyrics struck me as particularly apropos at the end of a week where lunatic left-wing politicians staged a battle royale of ineptitude, invective, and idiotic solutions, in front of a perplexed public in a Vegas casino. Sting wrote the lyrics to this song in 1981 at the outset of the Reagan presidency. It is less than 3 minutes in length, but says much about humanity and the world we inhabit.

The interpretation of Sting’s (Gordon Sumner) lyrics depends upon your position in the generational kaleidoscope of history. As a boomer, Sting came of age during the 1960s and 70s. He was thirty years old in 1981 as the Second Turning (Awakening) was winding down and Reagan’s Morning in America was about to launch the Third Turning (Unraveling) in 1984.

His passionate idealism and search for spiritual solutions to the problems of the day had not been extinguished. The raging inflation of the 1970s had led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Cold War was at its coldest. Politicians had been discredited as criminal (Nixon) or incompetent (Carter). Sting and many others of his generation had lost faith in the political system. His viewpoint fit perfectly into the Strauss and Howe assessment of our last Awakening period (1964 – 1984).

Image result for awakening strauss and howe

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Brace For A Global Crisis In 2020

Brace For A Global Crisis In 2020

Falling stocks

The year 2020 could emerge as the start of the era of relative global chaos or major upheaval. It is the era we have been anticipating, as the impact of core population decline meets economic dislocation, and security and structural uncertainty.

Changes in the fundamental sociological framework of global society, due to the end of the population growth cycle – and with it the end of the economic growth cycle based on expanding market size – were beginning to become evident by the beginning of 2020. It was apparent that 2020 was likely to see a major evolution in this transformation.

The three “inevitable” trends which had been promoted in recent decades – the “inevitable” rise of the People’s Republic of China; the “inevitable” decline of the United States of America; and the “inevitable” consolidation of the European Union into a strategic superpower — had all, by 2020, retreated into the swamps of vainglory.

A broad-brush landscape view of 2020 must include at least the following:

The People’s Republic of China and the BRI Framework:

The Communist Party of China (CPC) should be expected to face unprecedented challenge in 2020-21, not only for its control of the economy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but to its ability to project the PRC’s physical power in its immediate region, and across its suzerain empire, expressed through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) network of states.

The PRC economy has been faltering for several years, and growth in gross domestic product (GDP) figures have only been sustained by artificial construction transactions, which are now becoming unsustainable. It is now estimated that the PRC was in actual economic decline at a time, which will lead to a faltering in its foreign investment and loan capacity to sustain the BRI program.

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Prelude to Crisis

Prelude to Crisis

Simple Conceit
Radical Actions
Ballooning Balance Sheet
Merry Christmas and the Happiest New Year

Ignoring problems rarely solves them. You need to deal with them—not just the effects, but the underlying causes, or else they usually get worse. The older you get, the more you know that is true in almost every area of life.

In the developed world and especially the US, and even in China, our economic challenges are rapidly approaching that point. Things that would have been easily fixed a decade ago, or even five years ago, will soon be unsolvable by conventional means.

There is almost no willingness to face our top problems, specifically our rising debt. The economic challenges we face can’t continue, which is why I expect the Great Reset, a kind of worldwide do-over. It’s not the best choice but we are slowly ruling out all others.

Last week I talked about the political side of this. Our embrace of either crony capitalism or welfare statism is going to end very badly. Ideological positions have hardened to the point that compromise seems impossible.

Central bankers are politicians, in a sense, and in some ways far more powerful and dangerous than the elected ones. Some recent events provide a glimpse of where they’re taking us.

Hint: It’s nowhere good. And when you combine it with the fiscal shenanigans, it’s far worse.

Simple Conceit

Central banks weren’t always as responsibly irresponsible, as my friend Paul McCulley would say, as they are today. Walter Bagehot, one of the early editors of The Economist, wrote what came to be called Bagehot’s Dictum for central banks: As the lender of last resort, during a financial or liquidity crisis, the central bank should lend freely, at a high interest rate, on good securities.

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“Every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons” – Interview with Michel Bauwens

“Every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons” – Interview with Michel Bauwens

The commons are nothing new. Historically citizens always came together to pool resources and manage them collectively and autonomously. It is the responsibility of cities and states to identify, connect and support them. Today the commons appear as a choice of society in a world at the end of its lifespan. A society where economic and productive systems will finally be compatible with the major planetary balances.

We increasingly speak of commons. “Common goods”, “creative commons”, “commonalities”…  What exactly are the commons about?

Michel Bauwens: The commons are three things at the same time: a resource (shared), a community (which maintains them) and precise principles of autonomous governance (to regulate them). These are very concrete things, which do not exist naturally but are the result of alliances between several parties. “There is no commons without commoning”. Examples are renewable energy cooperatives,  shared mobility projects, entities of shared knowledge, food cooperatives… 

In fact, we all have and create commons without knowing it, and have always done so… following more or less intense cycles of mutualization.

In fact, we all have and create commons without knowing it, and have always done so… following more or less intense cycles of mutualization.

If commoning follows cycles, where are we today?

M. B. : There are long, civilizational cycles and short, economic cycles. Regarding the former, every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons. Because when class societies disintegrate, when resources are overexploited and run out, pooling resources makes more and more sense. Today, we face a global environmental crisis that is giving rise to a resurgence of the commons. Yesterday it was the end of the Roman Empire, the crisis in Japan in the 12th century or in China in the 15th century… 

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Fourth Turning Economics

Fourth Turning Economics

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe 

Image result for total global debt 2019

The quote above captures the current Fourth Turning perfectly, even though it was written more than a decade before the 2008 financial tsunami struck. With global debt now exceeding $250 trillion, up 60% since the Crisis began, and $13 trillion of sovereign debt with negative yields, it is clear to all rational thinking individuals the next financial crisis will make 2008 look like a walk in the park. We are approaching the eleventh anniversary of this crisis period, with possibly a decade to go before a resolution.

As I was thinking about what confluence of economic factors might ignite the next bloody phase of this Fourth Turning, I realized economic factors have been the underlying cause of all four Crisis periods in American history.

Debt levels in eurozone, G7, US and Germany

The specific details of each crisis change, but economic catalysts have initiated all previous Fourth Turnings and led ultimately to bloody conflict. There is nothing in the current dynamic of this Fourth Turning which argues against a similar outcome. The immense debt, stock and real estate bubbles, created by feckless central bankers, corrupt politicians, and spineless government apparatchiks, have set the stage for the greatest financial calamity in world history.

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State of the Globe: 13 Facts: why the next crisis is inevitable

State of the Globe: 13 Facts: why the next crisis is inevitable 

The order of the current problems laid down below is random. Hard to say which factor will be the next catalyst. Maybe all or several at the same time? Decide for yourself.

1. Unresolved political conflicts. Ask yourself: which conflicts have been finally resolved since the 2007 crisis? In the Middle East? In the Balkans? In the former Soviet Union? (in Ukraine, the proxy war of the EU against Russia?) In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya? In Sudan? There is no end to this list. The UNO, NATO, the international coalitions for the “defence of human rights” or interventions of the major powers for the defence of their own interests in a region (e.g. Russia and the USA in Syria) only bring more unrest and destabilization in the individual regions and cost the Western world pots of money. Aggressive foreign policy by the great powers and threats to geopolitics will continue to put a massive strain on the world’s economy and pose a risk to investors.

2. The most powerful countries in the world have been arming themselves for years. World military spending increased by 2.6 percent last year to around $1.82 trillion – a new high since 1988. The mainstream media, unlike in the sixties of the last century, are reluctant to talk about the new Cold War because they are fully engaged in creating the delusion of a united, peaceful humanity.

3. Since its inception, Marxism has been an ideology that has not inscribed itself as anything positive in the history of any country. Because of Marxist ideas, more than 100 million people died in Europe in the 20th century (according to the calculations of the French historian Stéphane Courtois).1)

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The Next Economic Crisis and the Looming Post-Multipolar System

 The Next Economic Crisis and the Looming Post-Multipolar System

The Impending Crisis

At one time, specifically during the post-World War 2 Bretton Woods era, it looked like as if the capitalist model could be indefinitely sustainable and avoid plunging the world into major world conflicts. That era began to come to an end during the stagflation crisis of the 1970s, and came to a complete end at the end of the Cold War which ushered in the era of the so-called “globalization” which took form of unbridled competition for markets and resources. At first this competition did not show many signs of trouble. There were many “emerging markets” created as a result of the collapse of the Soviet bloc into which Western corporations could expand. However, the law of diminishing returns being what it is, the initial rapid economic growth rates could not be sustained and attempts to goose it using extremely liberal central bank policies, to the point of zero and even negative interest rates, succeeded in inflating—and bursting—several financial “bubbles”. Even today’s US economy bears many hallmarks of such a bubble, and it is only one of many. Sooner or later the proverbial “black swan” event will unleash a veritable domino effect of popping bubbles and plunge the global economy into a crisis of a magnitude it has not seen since the 1930s. A crisis against which the leading world powers have few weapons to deploy, since they have expended their monetary and fiscal “firepower” on the 2008 crisis, to little avail. The low interest rates and high levels of national debt mean that the next big crisis will not be simply “more of the same.” It will fundamentally rearrange the global economy.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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