Let’s Get Serious

OK, let’s get real.

On the downward slope of a collapsing civilisation that can see its pinnacle of endeavour and achievement fading away in the rear view mirror, there is very little scope or opportunity for finding or enjoying good news of any real value.

Since my claim is that the world, including you and me, is now on that downward slope, made obvious by all the loosely held parts gradually and increasingly falling off the old global economic jalopy until one day it falls apart completely and we all end up scraping our bare and tattered arses along the bumpy road surface at the bottom of the hill, I think it is time for me to issue a challenge.

Here is the challenge. Find me a piece of good news about anything that is important (that doesn’t mean anything like having a selfie go viral or aunty Nellie giving birth to quads). By important I mean things that pertain to vital aspects of life and for the general good of the world at large.

Because I am aware that a lot of people will experience a level of difficulty, anxiety, and perhaps even open panic should they choose to take up this challenge and the deep thought and consideration that it involves, it is perfectly all right to ‘call a friend’ to help or indeed to seek medical or psychiatric assistance if necessary.

To be considered valid, all answers must briefly state the problem involved, be specific about the ‘good news’ item, and preferably include a related web link.

All answers will be given due consideration and respect but I reserve the right to shoot down in flames any suggestion that is flimsy, incorrect (blatantly or otherwise), or belongs in la-la-land not the real world.

Also, because I do not expect to receive any correct and valid answers to this challenge, no prizes are being offered other than the brief internal glow that could be expected to accompany any item that gets my tick of approval. In any case, I think it extremely unlikely for there to possibly be a winner.

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Get Serious

  1. OK, here goes.

    “By important I mean things that pertain to vital aspects of life and for the general good of the world at large.”

    Vital aspect of life = food. Industrial farming can’t be maintained without oil and must end.

    Good news (for me anyway):

    1. The spread of permaculture….helping people in Third World countries to be self-sufficient, likewise those of us in First World countries.
    2. The increase in the number of organic farmers.
    3. The increase in farmer’s markets, encouraging people to eat locally and fresh and (preferably) food produced organically.

    There you are, you got 3 for the price of 1. Do your worst 😉

    Now, I know the change is happening slowly and may not save humanity from crashing and burning. We will just have to wait and see. At least it’s happening, which means an increase in awareness that it needs to happen.

    • OK Bev, thanks for contributing. I really don’t know why I put myself in positions like this, but I do believe that anyone who is prepared to take a stand on vital issues (especially in the electronic media arena where it is so easy to get away with quick one-liners) should also be prepared to be able to back up their position with viable arguments. Not that anyone really cares.

      The fact that yours has been the only response so far, even though I was careful to attach a wide variety of tags to the post, with the hope of drawing other people in, sort of but not entirely goes to prove my point that people generally can be led to believe anything because it is too much effort, too stressful, or too distressing to have to form an opinion of their own, to look beyond their immediate everyday concerns. And that means that the powerful of the world are entirely free to push along and bulldoze their way into steering progress in whatever direction they care to take it. Even downhill or over the cliff to the global dumpster at the end of the road.

      So…

      I realise that you will not necessarily agree with all of the points I make below, but they are my take on the subject, although they cannot reflect all of my thinking due to restrictions of time and space.

      Food is most definitely a vital aspect of life and one that I know you are very familiar with. Food is also one of the essential humanity support resources that is at extreme risk from the sort of things I am talking about here. I say ‘things’ because the course of progress that humanity has chosen to take up to this point places huge risk to the sufficient continued supply of that commodity from a number of directions simultaneously. Risks that should we continue on our current path materially unaltered for much longer will see, that is ‘we’ will see, the unfolding of a sizable humanitarian disaster of shortage and starvation. By ‘unfolding disaster’ I mean in addition to the billion or so souls who are already underfed and malnourished globally, and by ‘much longer’ I mean potentially from this year onwards.

      That said, I could spend a lot of time explaining the ‘risks’, but some are already well known and others could be easily uncovered by anyone concerned enough to look. So, to keep this short, let’s carry on with discussing the three good news items that you mentioned, all of which I can agree with as being good and helpful at a certain level, especially to the likes of you and I, but ‘game changers’ on a global scale? Realistically, I don’t think so.

      1. The Spread of Permaculture

      I have never worn the rose coloured eyewear that many ‘Permies’ who see this as a panacea for all the world’s troubles do.

      At its basic level it is a useful set of tools, knowledge, and ideas for alternative living that has general relevance now for the few who wish to obtain for themselves a level of self-reliance in preparation for leaner times following the collapse of currently prevalent support systems (which was my own main driver for learning about it), and which will most likely come into its own after the illusory benefits that those lifestyle support props offer have flittered away into the ether as soon as the props themselves return to dust.

      At any other level, Permaculture is merely just another business model designed for living within the current civilisation, and only a little removed from a Ponzi type scheme. Designed as a means of raising funds through the ‘teaching’ of a principled and ethical way of living, in harmony with nature, to others in order for the teacher to be able to set up their own Permaculture lifestyle, it relies on the old pyramid model of being able to find and enthuse a group or groups of others to do the same and keep buying the same set of tools and using the same model themselves. I didn’t personally buy into that but took from the knowledge and reference material provided what I needed for my own life. I realise that this definition could be taken as being a rather cynical viewpoint but, viewed dispassionately, it is not far from the truth.
      To me the term ‘Urban Permaculture’ is just an oxymoron coined to draw in or enfranchise the masses of our culture who live in cities now to be part of the Permaculture concept. I do not believe that the alternative lifestyle that is at the heart of Permaculture can be sustained in an urban environment. This to my mind tends to water down the powerful intrinsic message of Permaculture. Nature and cities cannot co-exist harmoniously.

      Permaculture has been around for almost 40 years now, and has for the whole of that period remained only a fringe concept. There are many reasons for that of course, none of which take into account the merits of the system, but my feeling is that it will until the current way of things passes away always remain ‘fringe’. The prominent proponents of Permaculture are continually looking for that major breakthrough that would see the idea take off virally, but that hasn’t happened. There are no large scale success stories to promote the idea and essentially, that is not what Permaculture is all about. If Permaculture is to make any inroads at all, it will be at small local or personal levels.
      So, I never expect to see some worldwide news story about the arrival of Permaculture and its ability to affect the way the mass of humanity lives globally, supplanting industrial agriculture. I just can’t see that happening. There is nothing wrong with the principles, ethics and way of life that Permaculture espouses, but it is not what people generally want to hear. For now.

      2. The increase in the number of organic farmers.

      Now this is a potential goer. A viable replacement for industrial farming. But achieving the necessary changeover worldwide faces considerable challenges, not least of which from the powerful lobbies of the current kings of the land, the big pharmaceutical corporations and the giant food processing and retailing businesses. It is also not something that could be done gradually, by stealth. It would take an immense global decision to alter the basic method of food production. A highly risky prospect for anyone in authority to consider being associated with.

      Many studies have shown that organic farming can provide the necessary food production without all of the dangers and external costs associated with industrial agriculture. Here is one from the Worldwatch Institute: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060 which begins with the hackle raising statement “The only people who think organic farming can feed the world are delusional hippies, hysterical moms, and self-righteous organic farmers. Right?” and then goes on to show that is not right.

      Leaving aside the fact that the current average food shopper prefers the convenience of pre-packaged supermarket foods no matter how they were produced, and even though there is a growing realisation that such practices are not in the general interests of health and wellbeing, even if alternative naturally organic grown fresh foods were available at the right price, what are the facts on current supply of such food stocks?

      That is difficult to establish, but this quote from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_farming gives an idea of the scale of things “As of 2011, approximately 37,000,000 hectares (91,000,000 acres) worldwide were farmed organically, representing approximately 0.9 percent of total world farmland.” OK, let’s assume that things have progressed a little since 2011 and that now 1% or even 2% of productive food land is now farmed organically. Do you see the problem?

      I could go on but I have to cut this short. I would dearly love to see some news that tells me the days of industrial agriculture are over, where 75% of arable crops go to animal feedstock to feed the rich of the world (and if you eat meat more than once a week then you are included among the rich of the world), to be replaced by 100% organic growth. Sorry, I just can’t see that happening any time soon …but bring on the day.

      3. The Increase in Farmer’s Markets

      Farmer’s Markets have been a feature of food distribution and marketing since the first time an ancient food producer realised that he had grown more than his family could eat or store for later and found that he could use the excess to barter for other goods that he may require. An age old and time proven process that was working admirably, long before wholesale, retail and industrial transport and refrigeration were even thought about.

      They are the default method of food distribution around the world, except in industrialised, developed nations and, increasingly so in recent years only because of globalisation, in developing areas also.

      So, when we talk about the recent increase in farmer’s markets, we are considering change in a relatively small demographic against the background of rampant commercialisation of food distribution worldwide.

      For an idea of the economic impact on world food sales, see this Wikipedia article on the US (probably the largest growth sector for farmer’s markets) economy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_farmers%27_markets_on_economies_within_the_United_States It is rather insignificant really.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think Farmer’s Markets and even farm gate shops (where I obtain most of my fresh food) are a great idea. It is just a matter of scale, as it is with all three of these admirable concepts.

      So, again, I will not be holding my breath in anticipation of some news that Farmer’s Markets are about to solve the world’s food distribution problems. As much as I would like to see that, I am afraid that we are stuck with the business as usual supermarket situation for the masses. …unless of course, the masses have a sudden colossal change of attitude towards what they eat before change is no longer an option.

      Finally, I can’t leave the subject of food without saying something about Food Democracy, a subject worth dying for, or at least being arrested over protesting about. Those of us who care about what we eat are faced with growing rules, regulations and restrictions governing the choices we have or may continue to have. We need to fight to retain those liberties of choice. This excellent compilation of papers about that is good and enlightening reading: http://permaculture.org.au/files/Food-and-Democracy.pdf

      I am still open to submissions on ‘good news’ items if anyone else wants to have a go. Feel free.

      • I don’t see permaculture with rose-coloured glasses, although I accept there are many who do. I believe it is a good system to enable food to be grown, without chemicals, close to where it is consumed, which is what we’ll need when oil-powered transport is no more. However any food production system which enables more food to be provided than would be provided naturally (as in hunter-gatherer systems), can never be sustainable unless there are some controls on breeding and history has shown that humans have not been successful at controlling their numbers.

        I don’t agree with you that it is a Ponzi scheme and it certainly isn’t designed to raise ‘funds’, but yes, of course it’s a fringe system and will always be, while people have supermarkets to go to to obtain food. That will change as oil depletes and the way of life that it has provided changes. I don’t see permaculture as a solution, just a wayside stop on the way back to the only sustainable system (for humans and all other species), which is hunter-gathering.

        Permaculture is just another way of obtaining food, but it is still agriculture and any organism that can manipulate the environment to produce more food for itself will grow its numbers and then experience overpopulation and all the problems that come with it. Permaculture is not sustainable and I confess to being annoyed with those who waffle on about it being so, without really understanding what ‘sustainable’ means.

        To cut a long story short, we have the choice between a catastrophic crash or a managed decline. I prefer the latter and I think permaculture is one way we can work towards it.

      • Your comments are appreciated and lead me to want to make a few extra points. I don’t want to argue with you too much because I know your heart is in the right place and we share something of a similar vision of how the world is and the direction it is heading in.

        I do think though that you are selling the concept of Permaculture a little short by describing it as ‘a good system to enable food to be grown…’ and ‘just another way of obtaining food’. Permaculture is much more than that.

        It is meant to be a collection of principles and ethics for humans to live in harmony with, to work with, and to co-exist respectfully with the natural systems of the planet and each other, wherever on the planet you happen to be. I am sure that definition is not a complete one and could be challenged as such.

        To foster that concept, Permaculture documents a host of valuable tools and methods, specific to different climate needs and conditions that will aid in achieving the aims of its system of principles and ethics. None, and this is important to recognise, none of those tools and methods belong to the Permaculture concept. They are all borrowed from existing or past practices discovered by the itinerant founder(s) of Permaculture while travelling around the world specifically for that purpose.

        Co-existence with nature involves a whole lot of different aspects of living. Things such as shelter, supply of water and food, geology and topology of the land, weather, communal living, exchange of goods, labour, governance, etc., have to be considered. All of these things, and others I am sure, are part of the Permaculture concept. It is basically a way of life. In the past it would have been ‘the’ way of life. In these days, it is more of an ‘alternative’ way of life.

        It is unfortunate that broadly speaking, Permaculture has become known as simply a different way of growing food. Especially when Permaculture has brought nothing new to that aspect of living. Everything we think of as Permaculture gardening came from another already existing source of knowledge. I can’t offer proof of that but I believe it to be true. I agree that Permaculture has been the means of bringing all of those tools together for use in different environments.

        The whole aim of Permaculture is sustainability and, practiced appropriately, I have every confidence it can be. But, much as you say, in a world where unsustainable practices abound, little islands of sustainability offer no hope for longevity. Permaculture would have to be widespread to achieve that goal.

        So, I have no argument with, in fact I wholly approve of, Permaculture as a concept. It is the marketing of that concept that I have trouble with, and that was a concern for me from the start.

        The idea of charging exhorbitant fees for what is the only approved course on Permaculture, and for the focus of that course only to be directed towards generating Permaculture consultants and teachers (presumably as a means of propagating the concept), does not sit well with me. It is fine for people who want to follow that path, although that has not resulted in any massive growth and acceptance of the system it appears, but I suspect that the majority of people attending those courses, like myself, are doing so only to learn the concepts, tools and methodologies.

        This is where my charge of ‘Ponzi’ like behaviour comes in. The whole marketing system for Permaculture follows this pattern of courses producing consultants/teachers who are bound to follow the same pattern using the same methods and with the same set of tools/products/books, etc.

        I won’t go on any further, but as someone who has been on one of these courses, it would take a whole lot of convincing to alter my view on this.

  2. Just a couple of comments on what you said:

    “In the past it would have been ‘the’ way of life. In these days, it is more of an ‘alternative’ way of life.”

    Only because there are other ways possible now. People in an oil-less future will go back to that past way of life. It probably won’t even be called permaculture.

    ” ……little islands of sustainability offer no hope for longevity.”

    But isn’t that what individual tribes of hunter-gatherers were?

    “The whole marketing system for Permaculture follows this pattern of courses producing consultants/teachers who are bound to follow the same pattern using the same methods and with the same set of tools/products/books, etc.”

    Sounds very much like our present educational system. 🙂

    • You are right about the ‘little islands of sustainability’ of course and I am sure (it’s the only hope I can find to cling to) that in the end, or should that be ‘in the new beginning’, those ‘little islands’ will flourish again in a renewed sea of wild natural beauty at a time when there are nowhere near as many humans to spoil it and no means with which to spoil it ever again.

      I have to admit that I wasn’t thinking of the hunter-gatherers (little islands surrounded by an ocean of natural wilderness) when I made that statement. I was thinking more of some current little islands of sustainability surrounded and threatened by a sea of industrially devastated and agriculturally poisoned, rapidly depleting and parched wasteland. Just shows that we can never adequately describe what we are actually thinking with a few words.

      • I take heart from the knowledge that the earth will recover, although it may take a long time. Just look at how ‘weeds’ take over degraded land, re-making the conditions for a later succession of longer-lived plants and eventually forests. I remember seeing pictures of the abandoned areas of Detroit, with trees sprouting from derelict buildings and cracks in the pavement. Nature always bats last.

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