Fannie, Freddie, Subsistence Farming and You

Sharon September 9th, 2008

“More than at any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Woody Allen

By now we know that bailing out the mortgage mess to the tune of…we don’t know how much but it will most likely be measured in trillions…is our lot in life.  While I hope we have been complaining about this to our representatives (if only for pro forma’s sake so that we can tell our grandkids “yes, I complained when they sold you and your future down the river”) it looks like it won’t do us much good. 

If you want to know why we aren’t going to be doing a massive build out of wind generators and solar panels so that we can all keep our cars going, our houses heated, etc… this is a good part of why (ok, we weren’t going to do it anyway, but now we’ve decided what stupidity we’ll allot the money to).  Instead, we’ve chosen to hook taxpayers to bail out companies.  Meanwhile, this is unlikely to stop the fact that we’re losing the equivalent of China’s GDP annually in real estate values - or the financial collapse we are rapidly sinking into.  And in a sense, it almost doesn’t seem to matter whether the US ends up defaulting on the enormous promises it is making, or whether it pays them - we’re hosed either way.  Because our ability to adapt in the future depends on not just real dollars, but credit - either way, we’ve mortgaged our future past redemption.   We are likely to drop into a period of severe Depression and financial instability, and on the other side is a life with less energy, less wealth and a whole host of other “lesses” that make up our new normal.

We talked here quite a bit recently about what we might do to make money after our new normal begins to emerge, and John Michael Greer, whose new book _The Long Descent_ was one of the best books I’ve read this year, has offered his own take on the future job market.  I agree with nearly everything he says - nearly everything. And churlish as it is to disagree with someone on the smallest point, who you agree with on every large particular, I’m going to take the time to meditate on at least one of his observations that I don’t quite agree with, because it is something that I think quite does matter in our future.  Greer writes,

Prophecy is a risky business at the best of times, but it’s worth hazarding some guesses about the jobs that will fill the post-petroleum job ads here in America over the next generation or so, through the years of the Great Recession and the disintegration of America’s overseas empire. Farmers are among the most likely candidates for the top of the list. By this I don’t mean subsistence farmers in rural ecovillages – their time is much further in the future, if it ever comes at all. Rather, market farmers tilling what is now suburban acreage to feed the dwindling cities, and rural farmers producing grains and other bulk crops for foreign exchange, will likely be in high demand, along with support professions such as agronomists.

Those who know me well can perhaps guess the bit I’m going to argue with - the observation that subsistence farmers will probably not be needed in this future, or not for a long time yet.  Now it is quite possible that the emphasis here should, in fact, be on the rural “ecovillages” and that I’m misunderstanding Greer’s point.  I’m actually in complete agreement with Greer’s many statements that ecovillages are extremely unlikely to be the dominant - or even a significantly useful - component of future community modelling.  I say this not to criticize those who live in ecovillages, but because as Greer himself has observed, they are simply expensive, involving a lot of economic self-sorting that is increasingly unlikely (if you prefer, you may say that we just spent the money we might have spent on ecovillage infrastructure instead of wind turbines ;-)), and a model unavailable to all but the rich.  Ecovillages also involve discarding the enormous build-out of housing we have just used our wealth for (many, many millions of units more than a society that doesn’t require so much personal space and doesn’t have so much money) and demand lots of credit, which is unlikely to be available.  It simply isn’t going to happen.

But “subsistence farmers” and “rural ecovillages” don’t really necessarily go together anyway, except in a small corner of peak oil rhetoric. If I have any difference with Greer’s overarching analysis, it is simply that I don’t see one thing that Greer describes in his book - communities of people discussing peak oil and climate change who are starkly divided between pure techno-optimist, and flat apocalyptic absolutist, with Greer as one of the lone voices in the middle speaking for the balanced perspective.  Variations on Greer’s perspective seem to me to be the norm in the peak oil and climate change communities - or at least the ones that I hang around in, and have been hanging around in for the last five years.  There is a largish minority (but definitively a minority) of people who imagine a blinding apocalypse, including in this subset a smallish minority who imagine the apocalypse leading to all of us in our ecovillage, and a worldwide majority of people who are mostly too ignorant of the realities to be anything other than techno-optimists while a small minority of these actually know something about peak oil and climate change but retain that perspective.   But the mainsteam of those who are peak oil and climate change  aware seem neither to assume the ecovillage outcome nor the apocalypse, but that they will go on at some varying lower level.  So while it may be a tiny bit unfair, I’m going to call “ecovillage” the least important part of his sentence, and move on to the question of whether the future will involve a lot of us working as subsistence farmers.

Greer is certainly right that market farmers and grain farmers, particularly those growing for export will be a major factor in the US.  As we all know, the US is tremendously energy dependent on a host of nations - and we are economically dependent on them too.  The bailout of Fannie and Freddie to a large degree served to reassure our foreign asset holders that they will be paid (well, maybe…eventually…maybe).  Many of the nations we depend upon economically and for energy supplies are nations that are quite vulnerable to food insecurity for a host of reasons - and in many cases, are seeing that vulnerability exposed, and experiencing internal conflict over it.

Most of the Mid-East oil producing nations, especially Saudi Arabia, are in extremely poor food producing situations - ones that will only worsen with climate change.  Readers of this blog (or the news) will recall that Saudi Arabia has determined to stop producing staple grains entirely, because of the demands upon their desalinated water, and the projections of climate change.  In addition, many of the oil producing regions of Africa are now already experiencing difficulty feeding themselves due to climate change, while China depends heavily on imported food, and holds a good bit of America’s bad paper.

And the US, whatever else its limitations, remains the single largest food exporter in the world.  While it is a mistake to believe the old saw “America feeds the world” - most of America’s grains go to feed not the world’s people, but livestock in affluent countries, it is true that American grain production will be essential to its future economy.  Canada and Russia, exporters of both food and energy, are potentially better positioned for the future, but America’s ability to trade grain for some measure of energy will almost certainly be essential to our future economy.  It may well be the case that often, Americans will not be able to afford their own grain, an irony entirely recognizable to many, many of the nations upon whom globalization was thrust upon.  We shall have to see if the new globalization appeals to us.  With the dismantling of our manufacturing base and the petering out of many of our natural resources, we can expect grain farming for export (or potentially, but much less likely, for biofuel production - more on this in a later post) to be a major feature of the future. 

It was unlikely that I would disagree much with Greer’s vision of market farms created in the suburbs to feed the surrounding cities.  But I do disagree a little bit. It is certainly true that there will be some of this, and that in sprawled out cities that cover a large land base, it is quite possible that urban and suburban farming may provide a large portion of vegetables and livestock for the cities.   In cities that experience a rapid decline, the result may be similar - indeed, urban Detroit is already seeing houses torn down the resurgence of the prairie inside the city - a city that can feed itself with internal resources and a small amount of nearby ones is likely potentially promising.  

In much more densely packed area, near large cities in the US, however, I think even with Greer’s projected “dwindling” (which I think is likely), the suburbs will be quite hard put to feed themselves.  Market gardening in these suburbs and many others (which, as I’ve observed before, in many places have population densities similar to large towns and smaller cities of a century ago) will likely focus on feeding themselves, and perhaps a few market gardens feeding the affluent.  But Westchester County and Long Island and Northern New Jersey  are likely to have enough difficulty supporting their own present populations without being able to support New York City as well, at least until major population shifts have occurred.  In other areas of the country, water is likely to be a determining factor for the ability of external suburbs to support large cities - Los Angeles, Tucson/Pheonix and some other cities are likely to find it difficult to find the water to irrigate crops on individual lots.  And while research keeps showing that well designed and efficient small scale production uses water much, much more efficiently than industrial agriculture, even inefficient agriculture in places where there is adequate rain is likely to be more successful than place mired in chronic drought.  Again, the simple project of feeding oneself and one’s neighbors is likely to take up what water can be found.  There will be some suburban market gardeners near every city, particularly those able to own or claim right to larger chunks of land.  But I suspect subsistence agriculture may well be the dominant feature of our future.

But by subsistence agriculture I do not mean “a household where everyone works as a full-time peasant.”  Worldwide, most farmers either have a second job or a resident or non-resident family member who brings in income.  Most American full-time farmers either have a second job or a spouse or other primary family member who brings in income another way.  In Mexico, it has long be common to send one or two male members of the household to America to produce enough income to support the family farm.  In poor nations around the world, daughters or sons (but often daughters) are sent off to the factories to subsidize the same.  And so it was in the US 100 years ago, when my great-great grandfather taught school during the winter terms, and 130 years ago when American homesteaders worked the railroads and took in laundry and other ventures to support their farm, and 160 years ago when girls from Maine and New Hampshire were sent down to the woolen mills in Lowell, MA.  That is, while not true of every period in history, in the industrial age, it has generally been necessary to have an industrial income or two in order to support the subsistence farm.  Like Greer, I think we are in the process of a gradual transition to a post-industrial age, and I think because that is true, the industrial economy model of agriculture (as distinct from industrial agriculture itself) will probably not go gently into that good night.

But that doesn’t mean that most households won’t need to subsistence farm, in addition to the other things they do.  And the reason I’m focusing on this is because I think that thinking carefully and correctly about this issue will be essential as we prepare ourselves for the future - what we prepare for will shape how well we adapt.  Recognizing that home-scale food production, probably as a generalist, producing easily grown staples, vegetables and any animal products we require is part of our future, rather than (for most of us, I am generalizing and there will be markets for larger scale market gardeners - many of them) specialized niche production helps us plan for our future.

There are two reasons I think that most of us will be doing subsistence agriculture.  The first is that the future is one that I suspect will be more or less contiguous with the one we live in now - the ability of ordinary people to afford to meet basic needs will be steadily and seriously eroded.  Even at the level of simple functional necessity, all of us have a large number of basic needs that require large quantities of energy and money to fulfill at this point.  Property taxes may well be reduced by reassessment, but they won’t go away.  Many of us may be able to make some move towards not needing supplemental heat, but we’re still going to need some, and we won’t be getting all the energy locally.  Medicine is likely to remain costly even if we reduce to an absolute minimum our usage of most pharmaceuticals.  As we struggle to replace our energy and cost intensive educational infrastructure, many people will want to try and keep the internet going, if only so our kids can have some form of schooling not provided by parents working long hours.  And some money is going to be wanted for things like beer, cigarettes, cosmetics, escapist video games and books - the things that make difficult times marginally tolerable for many people.

Of all the basic needs that we currently fill with cash, the easiest and quickest one to replace may well be food.  Most of America is built in a way that makes use (note, not “good” use) of America’s huge size - we divide up land with a generous hand compared to Europe or much of Asia.  And we have spent the last 60 years subdividing our land into private lots, with moderately useful buildings still 20-50 years from their projected natural demise.  Now some of them may become derelict or be abandoned, some may be bulldozed and turned back to farmland - but this too is energy intensive.  While the selling off of our previous buildout may be a lucrative business, the rule about driving the car off the lot applies - there is a significant amount of depreciation involved, and while as Greer argues, junkyarding and scavenging will almost certainly expand vastly, it is also extremely likely that as the crisis creeps up on us, we may realize that much of what we have quite literally cannot be replaced, and find that it is necessary to make use of it.  But what we have created is mostly homes on fairly small lots by the standards of many farms - that is, large market gardening, of the sort that produces enough income to fully support a family, will be tough in many of the suburbs closest to cities - 1/8 acre lots probably aren’t big enough to bring in a lot of money - but they are big enough to reduce outgoing costs. Some people will specialize in high value crops, but for most people, growing your own tomatoes in a cash-poor society is probably worth more than growing at truckload of them and bringing them into a cash poor city - unless cities remain the province of the affluent.  Larger lot homes tend to be in the exurbs, and while 1-5 acre lots are perfect for market gardening, they have the problem of transport costs to contend with - and there are plenty of consumers in the inner suburbs happy to take their potatoes, without payint to ship them all the way into the city.  My suspicion is that most near-city gardeners will probably be subsistence gardeners. 

Trees take a long time to mature to firewood size, and it is tough to dig coal out of your backyard.  Home electric generation is pricey, and while some of us can grow our own medicinal herbs, we may still want tetanus shots and antibiotics at times. Few of us will be weaving our own cloth on any scale for a long time, if ever - while we may need to produce small items that wear out easily, industrial cloth production long preceeded fossil fuels. 

 Food, on the other hand, is pretty doable to produce.  And given that one of the hallmarks of an economic collapse or even Depression is widespread unemployment - while the growth, energy intensive economy wants as many employees as possible - it seems likely that with only minor familial reorganizations beyond what is forced upon us by the economy, the opportunity to produce food will be there.  As houses are foreclosed upon, I’m already seeing reports that squatters simply move back in - often the previous residents.  And if they don’t do that, well, they newly evicted go consolidate with their extended family, meaning that a household that once consisted of an overworked couple and their child may now consist of the same overworked couple, their child, their overworked brother and his boyfriend, and her mother.  The odds of everyone achieving - or needing - full employment are small.  And the subsistence economy means that steady employment of everyone is not desirable.

 The other reason that subsistence farming is a corrollary of a point I mentioned above - because food for export or perhaps biofuel production is likely to be so economically valuable in the coming years, much of the food we’ve relied upon in the past is likely to be quite expensive.  Artificial fertility is likely to be very costly - and a worldwide conversion to organic agriculture, while necessary, is likely to be staggered and messy in actuality and to come with costs of its own.  Climate change is unlikely to help worldwide total grain yields - the net seems to be an overarching decline.  Energy costs for fuel and other inputs are likely to continue to rise - and most of all, demand for grains and other foods is likely to remain high.  The large class of new American poor may well find itself unable to buy much food in a society where most food is marked for export.  And while I suspect the US government may continue subsidies to quell unrest, that doesn’t necessarily mean most people will be eating the food they want or are used to.  Meat and fresh fruits and vegetables during off seasons may be well outside most people’s means.

Which means powerful incentives to use existing land to produce one’s own - while currently home grown often means spending a lot, the techniques used by poor people around the world for home food production, plus the incentive of higher prices, mean that homegrown rabbits fed on weeds, chickens fed mostly on kitchen scraps and grass, with some grain fed on the side, and grass fed small grazers like sheep or browsers like small goats may well be cheaper to produce at home than to purchase.  Using free urine and composted marginal road wastes to produce food at home may well be cheaper than buying it at the store.

The combination of people having access to subdivided small parcels of land, under employment and high food costs means that subsistence food production will make sense in a way it has not in many years.  It has been a long time since Americans have fully understood that there is a distinction between “poor but we never felt poor” and “poor.”  But in the last Depression, and through much of history before that, and through much of the world at present, this is an enormously meaningful distinction - and the distinction is based primarily on the level of self-sufficiency of the people in question.  Those with access to land and food and shelter and heat tend to be of the “poor but we barely knew it” sort - those without access to those things tend to suffer the indignities and misery of being truly poor.  As more and more of us become poor, and are stripped of our formal economy incomes, the distinction between deep suffering and a little suffering will likely be one’s participation in the subsistence economy - not in ecovillages, but in the villages - and towns and cities and suburbs and what-have-you that we have now.

Sharon

57 Responses to “Fannie, Freddie, Subsistence Farming and You”

  1. […] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Fannie, Freddie, Subsistence Farming and You Those who know me well can perhaps guess the bit I’m going to argue with - the observation that subsistence farmers will probably not be needed in this future, or not for a long time yet. Now it is quite possible that the emphasis here should, in fact, be on the rural “ecovillages” and that I’m misunderstanding Greer’s point. I’m actually in complete agreement with Greer’s many statements that ecovillages are extremely unlikely to be the dominant - or even a significantly useful - component of future community modelling. I say this not to criticize those who live in ecovillages, but because as Greer himself has observed, they are simply expensive, involving a lot of economic self-sorting that is increasingly unlikely (if you prefer, you may say that we just spent the money we might have spent on ecovillage infrastructure instead of wind turbines ;-)), and a model unavailable to all but the rich. Ecovillages also involve discarding the enormous build-out of housing we have just used our wealth for (many, many millions of units more than a society that doesn’t require so much personal space and doesn’t have so much money) and demand lots of credit, which is unlikely to be available. It simply isn’t going to happen. […]

  2. Verdeon 09 Sep 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Sharon,

    While I agree with your idea on eco-villages, a point both of you seem to be missing is intentional communities. This is where my heart lies.

    I’ve looked into eco-villages which turn out to be small apartments at high prices with lots of rules. Oh, and at one of the places I looked has a list of “can you get along here” and it mentioned that you have to deal with all extroverts for neighbors. (no, thank you).

    But what about like-minded people intentionally living near one another to form community? People like the ones who read this site, or subscribe to the yahoo groups.

    I thinking broadly, but what about communities like the Amish, the Amana, or the Kabbutz? While these communities are sustained by the commonality of religion, in a new society, the possibility also exists to form such a group that allows for diversity of religion rather than the exclusivity - the reason for formation would be around ideals of life fundamentals (food, shelter, mutual respect).

    Even if religion were the defining point around which people gathered in subsets due to religous practices, dietary and dress restrictions, there still exists the possibility of a larger society goegraphically gathered under ideals of of life fundamentals made up of subgroups of religous. The key is still the value and respect of diversity rather than the seperateness of it, the gathered community meeting the needs of self-sufficiency, shared agraculture, care of the aged and infirmed, raising and educating children, and shared technology.

    There are ideal sizes of community, whether it is a school or the size of an Amish community. It is the size where peole can worship, can reach one another under their own power and share community owned resources.

    I pick on the Amish because they are an example in America that has lasted, is growing, and live low energy lifes without a lot of outside imput.

    Costly? You bet. Everyone would have to stake their lives on where they lived and in committment to formation of community.

  3. MEAon 09 Sep 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I think the problem will turn out to be the definations of substance farming.

    I can’t imagine a near future in which every bit of food the average family can’t scrape off whatever soil they have acess too won’t be vitially important.

    But I also can’t imagine that suddenly we all are producing everything thing we need off our own land either.

  4. Meadowlarkon 09 Sep 2008 at 12:12 pm

    MEA - Do you have a blog? You always have some really thought-provoking comments and I keep trying to figure out how to learn more.

    And I (hope) intentional communities will see a growth surge. We need SOMETHING, that’s for sure.

  5. Sharonon 09 Sep 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Well, subsistence farmers haven’t produced everything they needed for a long, long time - I don’t think the word means that one does. It means producing one’s primary, immediate needs - but not all of them.

    Verde, I am with you if we are using the term “intentional community” not to mean “a bunch of people building a new infrastructure that few can afford” but people pulling together naturally by self-selection, in extended family or community groups, brought together by religious or other powerful communal ties. But I don’t think I’d call that an “intentional community” personally. And I’d suspect even less common is the “unintentional community” - ie, the community of the people you live with who you didn’t pick. There will be some of both, and my belief is that while it is possible that non-religious communities will have some pull, it takes a large amount of self-deferral to an idea to make the sacrifices involved work. It can be done by anyone with a grand passion, but sustained grand passions require charismatic leaders and the idea of a greater good.

    Sharon

  6. Ailsa Ekon 09 Sep 2008 at 1:07 pm

    If “intentional communities” means cohousing, nope, it’s not going to save the world. It’s a lovely thing for the people with enough disposable income to get into it, but not much good to the rest of us.

  7. Hummingbirdon 09 Sep 2008 at 1:17 pm

    You might want to check out today’s PA book club discussion where various forms of religious communities organized for self sufficiency are being discussed.

  8. MEAon 09 Sep 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Meadowlark

    I do have an on-line article:

    http://henandharvest.com/?p=88

    And, yes, it seems I always have *something* to say.

  9. Verdeon 09 Sep 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Hummingbird, do you you have a link to the PA book club discussion? That sounds right up my ally.

    In Intentional Community, I specifically don’t mean co-housing with all its fees and rules. Intentional Community can be as tightly structured as a Kubbutz or a monastic community, or Hutterites. None of these are what I’m dreaming of.

    What I’m thinking about are people (we all have to live somewhere) who choose to live in proximity to one another in an agrarian lifestyle and linked by a specific belonging to a community. Each household is seperate, each chooses to be in community. Generally such a community is a worshiping community because of what Sharon has identified as that strong pull and defferal to an ideal.

    What if though, outside forces (economics being the biggie) provided the pressure needed for coheasion? Something along the lines of new Transition Towns, Old World village but with a greater intention of placing oneself in a certain location, with specific goals of low energy, low technology, plain lifestyle lived with and supported by one another.

    This is a community with it’s own kind of economy - not exclusionary of the economy around it - but with the focus being inward to supplying the needs of the community within the skill sets of the community. Kind of a harkening back to pre-industrial society though with the intention of ‘belonging’.

    Sharon talks about the neighborhood washing maching. That’s right along these lines. Say, I have a piece of equipment and I can let go of my need to own that equipment but rather make it available to the community (at a place where no body has to ask to use it and there is a sign up if there is pressure to its use) then I contribute to the community. If a group of people gatheres in proximity and adheares to these ideals interms of lifestyle…

    I’m going to blog about a lawnmower we sheltered in school as illustration. But first I have to get work done at the office.

  10. Hummingbirdon 09 Sep 2008 at 2:33 pm

    PA book club is right here on Sharon’s blog. Meets every Monday (more or less). Reading list can be found in older PABC posts.

  11. Verdeon 09 Sep 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Oh, of course! Thanks

  12. Rosaon 09 Sep 2008 at 2:45 pm

    If anybody wants to get a look at the broad range of intentional communities, check out the Fellowship of Intentional Communities at ic.org

    The communities I’ve visited have not been much bigger than big extended families (for instance, I have a friend from a very large family in a very small town. The majority of kids in the catholic school there were his first or second cousins - something like 15 kids per grade, K-12. Most intentional communities are much, much smaller than that.) I think when we talk about extending our households, building local community, and what have you, we’re talking about intentional community, right down to the advice that Chile should find new neighbors.

    And the image Sharon gives us of a suburban neighborhood where everyone grows their own food, extended families live together in what used to be single-family houses, kids go to school within walking distance and nobody can afford to drive…that’s a retrofitted ecovillage, right there. Especially if the houses have rainbarrels and families with no utilities get together in someone’s kitchen to cook together.

  13. Susan in NJon 09 Sep 2008 at 3:24 pm

    The recent book “Utopia New Jersey” is an interesting look at about a dozen New Jersey intentional communities formed in the late 1800’s through the early twentieth for various reasons — to solve the servant problem, flat tax politics, to save men without a place, to promote physical culture, to provide a farming environment for European Jews, to re-create Mother Russia, etc. How these communities were formed, their internal dynamics, why (most of them) disappeared and how they intersect with history, geography and famous folk of politics and literature, and what’s left today is really fascinating stuff if you are interested in utopias, this period of history, or NJ.

  14. Shaneon 09 Sep 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Ive just made the decision to have a solid stab at setting up a small business to guide people through the early stages of learning to grow their own vegetables. I was going to get a boring paper pushing public service job in the water or electricity infrastructure sector to give a secure form of income, but how secure is any job that you hate doing anyway? I am a bit conflicted here because I am the only one in my extended family who has this kind of opportunity to get a reasonable and secure income moving into a post peak world.

    The model is to supply good quality tools, fertility amendments, plants and seeds as part of a start up package (I’ll buy in bulk and as wholesale as possible from companies I already know well, then make a moderate mark up) and then return on a weekly/fortnightly basis to work with people for a few hours to show them what to focus on next and how to respond to the inevitable problems that arise. A more expensive option would be to do all the set up and maintenance for people and just show them how to harvest (targetting a higher end client).

    On the side I can find time to write a book about the approach (vegetable gardening in subtropical Australia) and redirect my own small property for seed and plant production to set up a small mail order catalogue (or distribute through the many local markets and agricultural supply shops/nurseries).

    I have decided to keep my current admin job but rearrange and cut down the hours so I only have to commute to the city ever second week. Everyone (my boss, family, land lady) all seem to be happy with the proposal. I have given myself 2 years to make a profit, and if I crash and burn I can always go back to paper pushing……

    Wish me luck!

  15. suze_ozon 09 Sep 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Oh shane I am most interested. I am finding it hard to start my own garden in subtropical Australia. I just can’t wrap my brain about where to start and then I am scared about the chemicals we put into our soil to reduce the risk of termites invading our home.

    I am also left wondering if other countries are aware of the flow on from the American economy. As a mortage owner I cringe with every problem as it almost always affects my economic status half a world away. But that is another story all together.

  16. Over the Topon 09 Sep 2008 at 11:15 pm

    There is no ‘frontier’ left for immigrants to look forward to ‘taming’ like they have done for centuries with this continent.

    It’s been ‘tamed’ and wasted and spent.

    It’s not going to be much of a place to look for a new beginning in.

    America is an ‘Old World’ in it’s own right.

    Much of the topsoil is gone, gone, gone.

    It takes a long time to create a foot of topsoil. Parts of the mid-west have lost 75% of the topsoil they had even two hundred years ago.

    That’s centuries of compost wasted.

    Who going to rebuild the soil?

    The military is going to seize on production farming as a vital part of ‘national defense’.

    Food as a weapon of sorts. No oil, no food. Pretty straight forward concept.

    Our only other export is lousy movies and weapons.

    Food is something ‘peasants’ can produce. Lousy movies and weapons, not so much.

    As long as there is some semblance of central government, large scale production farming will continue, if for no other reason than to feed the ‘legions.’

  17. Evaon 09 Sep 2008 at 11:40 pm

    And not all suburban lots will ever suited to growing - think slope, aspect, soils ……
    And ‘details’ like fencing & water supply need to be considered.

  18. Daharjaon 09 Sep 2008 at 11:52 pm

    When the FMFM ‘bailout’ was confirmed, all I could think was:

    Welcome to the third world, United States.

    After all, what else is this but one group with nothing but debt bailing out another group with nothing but debt. With both groups being pretty much the same people.

    Sounds like third world crooked poverty status to me.

  19. John Michael Greeron 10 Sep 2008 at 1:01 am

    Sharon,

    Well, I hate to quibble about a very well-written quibble, but yes, you misunderstood what I was saying. I’ve been suggesting since “The Archdruid Report” first appeared that in the future, most people will be growing at least some of their own food in their own gardens, so we’re in agreement on that. What I’m suggesting, rather, is that some form of the cash economy is likely to function much longer than many current models allow. (While it’s unquestionably true that the US is bankrupt and will have to default on its debts, I think you overestimate the long-term impact of a default; Russia defaulted on its debt in 1994, remember, and it took less than a year for the outside investments to start flowing in again.) As long as the cash economy remains in place, farming has to generate at least some cash income in order to cover taxes and other expenses, and that makes market farming a much more viable option in most areas. That was my point — and I certainly don’t want to discourage people from planting food crops in their backyards, seeing as I do that myself!

  20. irishdutchuncleon 10 Sep 2008 at 3:36 am

    as heavily armed as we american indivigualists are, i can’t see people permitting the export of their locally/personally grown foodstufs if the local populace is hungry. at least i hope we won’t follow the model of the potato genocide that was conducted against the catholics of ireland, here in america. the coming crash may expropriate many of us from land that we “own”, but there needs to be a “growers lein” against any crops, regardless of who ends up being the landlord.

  21. Sharonon 10 Sep 2008 at 6:49 am

    John, ignoring the question of a default (I think the question that arises is what reverberations default would have in other economies, and whether their would be incentives to reinvest), I apologize if I have misunderstood you. That said, however, I do think that there are more than aesthetic reasons to describe “growing food in your backyard” on the scale I’m discussing as subsistence farming - which makes your use of the terminology above a little more puzzling. Worldwide, the average subsistence farmer farms a space very similar to the average large-lot suburban house.

    And while I agree that people will need to pay the taxes, the history of farming in the US has been that through most industrial periods, it is easier to get cash enough to meet needs through other professions - particularly in cold climate farming where there is a winter quiet season - than through more growing. Most market farmers in the US live quite close to the bone now and depend on that income - and I’m not sure I see that changing. As enthusiastic as I am about agriculture, I would tend to encourage my readers to keep some non-agricultural economic job skills going - some may well make it quite successfully as a farmer. But most probably won’t without some household subsidy.

    I’m curious as to whether you disagree with me on this subject - if you do think that market farming will quickly transition to widely profitable and able to support a household in itself - and by what mechanism? If you do disagree, I’d be fascinated to see the distinction.

    Sharon

  22. Sharonon 10 Sep 2008 at 6:53 am

    Irishdutchuncle - I honestly don’t know. It depends on how “starving” people are - I can imagine enough calories to keep people quiet being redistributed, but as you say, people being largely excluded from high value crops that right now either take space from land that might grow grains or use grains as a primary calorie source. I think that political unrest is a factor - but we tolerate a surprisingly high percentage of US hunger already while exporting food - and many nations experiencing mass famine have been net exporters of food - the Sahel during the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s was exporting grain. So I don’t think it is impossible.

    Sharon

  23. Greenpaon 10 Sep 2008 at 10:30 am

    “Trees take a long time to mature to firewood size…”

    True, and not exactly true. Faggot.

    :-) I bet that got your attention! The word, originally and non-offensively, denotes a bundle of small diameter wood, collected for either firewood or charcoal production.

    That system is going to be coming back. Species that adapt well to coppicing will be important- some can produce food as well, even at small diameters.

    But all of them do take time; so; plant now!

  24. Susanon 10 Sep 2008 at 11:33 am

    This post did it for me, I had been dithering about buying your book, hoping to find it in my library’s catalog…but now I’ve purchased both yours and Mr. Greer’s. Kunstler I’ll get from the library, they have all of his it seems.

  25. Josephon 10 Sep 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I am confused Sharon as to why you and others dont talk about the idea that people come together in ecovillages/intentional communities for spiritual purposes and to be as self-sustainable as possible AND grow food for sale to others. In other words, ecovillages and intentional commuities at this stage of the game can also be businesses, no?
    Also, is it not also true that commercial farms in the US are able to produce and export large amounts of food because of huge fossil fuel inputs, inputs that will increasingly become more and more expensive to the point that eventually large-scale food distribution over long distances will eventually collapse?
    Also, it seems it has become a taboo to mention climate tipping points and non-linear, catastrophic reconfigurations of the Gaian system that might just blow all these little plans of ours to smithereens.
    Greer has certainly been in the forefront as someone with a driving need to denigrate anyone bringing up the latest in climate change research as apocalyptic lunatics. Those in the know are quite worried about catastrophic tipping points that could cause rapid catastrophic changes. I mention this because you seem to me to be furthering this disingenuous strawman framing of people pointing to the possibility of rapid non-linear, catastrophic climate-change as apocalyptic lunatics instead of correctly identifying such people as some of the top climate scientists in the world.
    Peak Oil can be plotted as a linear function, but we are coming to see that climate change cannot - these are two different animals. And I think that people tend to want to believe in a Long Descent because they do not want to face the fact that we need to be making radical changes now, starting with a global level dialogue about stopping human reproduction and directly confronting the ego and religious resistances that are stopping what we need to do: completely redefine human existence away from this ridiculous ego-notion that we exist to fulfil ourselves with fun and pleasure and reproducing, and start to practice the mature, adult ego-transcending spirituality that recognizes earth as a spiritual school, not a playground for fulfilling the larval ego.

    Warm regards, Joseph

  26. texicalion 10 Sep 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Global level dialogue? Cessation of procreation? We can’t get people to agree that climate change might be a problem. Italy is freaking out because its population might decline. While I might agree with you, the chances of what you are describing actually happening are close to nil. Therefore, what you are describing is an intellectual exercise. For that matter trying to anticipate and adapt to a future world where the climate has tipped is also an intellectual exercise. What I appreciate about what Sharon and others like are doing, is that they provide concrete direction on how to adapt to the likely scenarios which can be adapted to, while recognizing the potential for the others. For a more coherent discussion of this check out the Transition Culture site: http://transitionculture.org/2008/09/05/wading-through-various-critiques-of-transition/

  27. Josephon 10 Sep 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I also mention all of this because we all know - deep down, but are afraid of admiting it - that humanity is operating at a pathetic level of immaturity, and is probably not going to be able to intelligently and cooperatively stop greenhouse gas emissions from going beyond the upper limits of the “safe zone” because of this immaturity. I hope I am wrong. The problem is, I do not see even the beginnings of the level of urgency needed.

    Our presidential election is a glaring example of this incredible level of immaturity that can only lead to disaster. Intelligent dialogue is almost impossible under these conditions.

    Beyond that, almost all of the best-case scenarios presented even 8 years ago have been proven wrong, and many of the worst-case scenarios have been proven much closer to the real situation.

    We now live in the Anthropocene Era, an unprecedented era in which the planets entire life-support system is becoming unstable and moving toward the chaotic, and this is a far bigger problem than peak oil.

  28. Josephon 10 Sep 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Well texicali,

    It doesnt matter if the chances of such a dialogue are nil, without that level of maturity, there is little hope. The ego-need to have children, the ego-need to *fulfil* oneself by reproducing simply must be ruthlessly challenged. We could start by stopping this ridiculous notion of glorifying *motherhood*. Having children is a form of ersartz immortality, and such a need arises from spiritual amnesia. This spiritual amnesia is propagated by conventional religions that keep people in an immature, chidish level of spirituality that is completely cut-off from higher, direct Realization of ones “supreme identity” - to borrow a phrase from Alan Watts - as Infinite Consciousness-Light.

    We have forgotten why we are here and who we are. We have come to actually believe that we are nothing more than domesticated primates seeking pleasure and/or “salvation”. We have gone native to the point that we have almost totally lost touch with the higher narrative or “story” about who we really are. Higher spiritual Realization would actually be the foundation of any truly New Dawn civilization, if such is still possible.

    We exist at a time where it is STILL taboo to talk about higher Realization without religious larvals trying to burn you at the stake, or cut your head off, for heresy! I hardly see how such an immature attitude is going to create anything but disaster, or how people that immature are going to be able to intelligently solve their problems. In fact, if you really look at it, it is almost impossible not to see it as literally existentially insane: the full range of the human spectrum of Consciousness is taboo! Talk about neurotic, and at times even pscychotic, repression. And what is being repressed is our natural Genius! We might just need that, dontcha think?

    Last, if you read me right, youll see that what I was criticizing is this vehement, insulting and totalizing denigration of people who point to non-linear climate change via cascading positive feedback loops as apocalyptic lunatics. Just plain sick of that. Warm regards, Joseph

  29. Meadowlarkon 10 Sep 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I actually don’t know or understand much of the “don’t have children” arguement. But I always want to ask those who espouse it “Aren’t you glad your parents didn’t agree!” Sorta like the baby onsie that say “Now that I’m safe, I’m pro-choice”.

    We all spout rhetoric until it affects us personally. Then we actually decide what we believe.

  30. Sololeumon 10 Sep 2008 at 6:28 pm

    But moving out into the rural landscape doen’t need to be expensive - I have friends whose total cash outlay for their cobb cottage is less than AUD $3,000..

    The structure is earth and energy!!!

    Let go of inappropriate IDEAS about where you can live - it has to be warm in winter (earth is good) and dry when it rains and keep out winds is a must for the first two.

    Somwhere to cook is a good idea but not compulsory - our friends have a second hand solid fuel range…

    Sololeum

  31. Sololeumon 10 Sep 2008 at 6:31 pm

    PLAYING DEVILS ADVOCATE…
    We will never get our act together for population control - so it will HAVE TO be left to the natural system - overshoot and starvation - and you girls out there will have to breed like buggery just so we can maintain community and some sort of survival..

  32. Fernon 10 Sep 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Joseph, how about telling us how your ecovillages/intentional community for spiritual purposes and to be as self-sustainable as possible AND grow food for sale to others is going? I’m not trying to be snide (altho’ I DO seem to have an innate talent for that). I’m just suggesting that no one is going to write about every other persons vision of the way ahead, so show us yours in action!

    As it happens, the area I’m working on moving to - where I already have others friends with land and some livestock in place - is Amish country, so I’ve been looking at that model myself.

    Fern

  33. Sharonon 11 Sep 2008 at 6:08 am

    Joseph, I agree with you that catastrophic climate change is possible - I actually think that catastrophic peak oil is possible, just not especially likely. I’ve written about the danger of both - and in at least one case, Greer has taken me to task for it ;-). My point here was that the *narrative understanding* of peak oil is different than Greer articulates. I don’t discuss the rate of collapse at all, actually.

    As for the rest, like Fern, I’d like to see such a model enacted, before I get all behind it. I agree that our society radically undervalues religious thought of all kinds.

    I have to say, I think your account of why people reproduce is unbalanced - yes, immaturity and immortality are tied together in their, but they are substantially secondary to other reasons. I’d strongly recommend you read Vandana Shiva’s account in _Ecofeminism_ which explores the degree to which our current population is a symptom of our ecological crisis, rather than its root cause. I am obviously somewhat suspect on this subject, but tossing back our reproductive behavior on private immaturity seems wrong - as long as growth capitalism demands endless growth, it demands endless growth in workers as well. Shiva’s analysis traces relatively stable populations in relationship to imperialism, and their growth tracks precisely with empire. The peak oil narrative is “food equals babies” - a kind of Freudian simplified orality narrative - this is an account that requires more complexity than we have been giving it, or frankly, I think you are giving it. I realize that since I’m heavily implicated in this motherhood business, you may well disregard this, but I think we need to rethink what we “know” about population.

    Sharon

  34. Rebeccaon 11 Sep 2008 at 8:14 am

    One of the things that worries me is what is going to happen to all those people in LA, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc when they can’t get food from afar? You can’t grow food in those areas (at least not enough), not without massive inputs of water that won’t be possible.

    So, they will have to leave, or starve. Where are they going to go? Who is going to take in that many people?

  35. Greenpaon 11 Sep 2008 at 8:29 am

    Rebecca- you’ve put your finger on the Imperial Mammoth in the room.

    Nobody likes talking about it, because nobody has a good answer to the question- and pretty much all the possibilities are not nice.

    My own real guess- ALL the scenarios you can imagine; and a few we cannot; will be actualized and played out somewhere around the world; from the best, to the worst.

    Which is not a good scenario.

  36. Sharonon 11 Sep 2008 at 8:42 am

    I more or less agree with Greenpa - there’s going to be a massive migration, and I suspect it is going to reverse the migrations of the last few decades, even given the added costs of heating, as people move from West to East (Go East Young Man!?) and South to North for reliable rains and more consistent climates. And I think it will be bad in many ways. There is likely to be some good sides - rural areas and small cities that were depopulated will be repeopled, and that may only be good - but overall, that migration is unlikely to proceed easily or smoothly.

    Sharon

  37. David Samson 11 Sep 2008 at 8:46 am

    I have read all your blogs for sometime without ever commenting because generally find them very worthwhile. I am a retired vegetable specialist here in Tennessee and was once the first statewide coordinator of the Tennessee Master Gardener Program. I have two comments with regard to the above posting.
    First, don’t under estimate the importance of a “cash crop” to the small subsistence farmer. My grandfather, for example, kept far more chickens than he needed and sold eggs all over the community. There are literally thousands of other potential “cash crops” which, incidentally, need not be sold for cash but can be used to barter or trade. Secondly, think about value added items. The farmers in southwest Pennsylvania once turned grain into whisky. Whisky from quite a few bushels of grain could be moved to market in a wagon or on a packmule. I am not advocating we all make whisky, it’s the idea of adding value to the crop and incerasing the ease of transporting it that is important

  38. Sharonon 11 Sep 2008 at 9:44 am

    Hi David - Thanks for the input - I agree with you that cash crops are important, and often can be done on even small lots - I know someone whose family members literally got rich producing dill, a high value herb, in Moscow during the collapse - they did this on 1/8 acre lot in Moscow. I do think that in the absence of an economy that supports high value crops (say, one where there aren’t a lot of restaurants that can afford to pay $15 lb for basil), one comes back to either growing the same old cash crops as all your neighbors, or the ones for which demand never falls - and for which it rises in tough times. Most of those require only a moderat amount of processing - ie, whiskey, tobacco, pot, opiates… It is no accident that farmers all over the country have been trying to get off tobacco for decades, and finding it very hard to find an alternative that pays the bills. I do think your point is extremely well taken, however. Gotta get the parts to my still cleaned out…;-).

    Sharon

  39. Evaon 11 Sep 2008 at 10:50 am

    What’s new with: “ALL the scenarios you can imagine; and a few we cannot; will be actualized and played out somewhere around the world; from the best, to the worst.”

    All of the worst scenarios are already being played out now somewhere in the real world and have been forever. Its just including the American southwest that makes them novel, real, and scary to the readers or this blog. For many people in the world this is the only reality they know.

  40. Veganon 11 Sep 2008 at 11:41 am

    Yes, there will be migrations, although perhaps not massive migrations. People who can afford it will move from the South to the North and from the West to the Northeast. Sadly, the poor will probably be stuck wherever they are. I seriously doubt that our overwhelmed and nonaltruistic government will evacuate the masses from vulnerable regions when oceans start rising or when drought and heat make living unbearable.

    My family and I plan to move to rural Vermont. After much research we have concluded that in a future world dominated by catastrophic climate change, non-coastal New England will probably be one of the most survivable regions in the US. We plan to build a tiny, extremely well insulated home that when needed will be heated by wood. Still we worry about surprises that might be brought to northern regions by catastrophic climate change. For example, Vermont has experienced two very unprecedented wet summers (2007 and 2008) causing floods and crop losses in Northcentral VT. Could this be caused by Arctic ice melting? We can only speculate and hope that this will not be a new pattern. We are cognizant that most likely no area or people will escape the suffering and death delivered by future climate change.

    It is not easy to relocate from one region of the country to another. We are financially well established in South FL — no debt, no mortgage, my husband (second generation Floridian) has a stable (for now) professional job. Yet, we have always felt alienated from the predominant right-wing community/govt. of our town and welcome the progressiveness of Vt. We fear a bit the zone 4 cold climate of northern VT since we’ve little experience with cold climates (lived 6 years in northern VA area). We’ll miss the proximity to the warm sea where we grew up and where we have returned to and where our children grew up. We will also miss the excitement of waiting for the fury of Mother Earth in the form of a hurricane (sorry if you think I’m crazy) :). Yeah, it’s almost a spiritual experience to wait for and go through a hurricane.

    I hope we’ll be welcomed in VT and that people will be kind and compassionate and realize that we are climate change refugees. We have met the nicest folks and friendliest people in VT already.

    Thought you guys might want to hear from someone who will move from the South to the North. :)

    Paz!

  41. Rebeccaon 11 Sep 2008 at 11:51 am

    Vegan, I am also considering moving from the south to the northeast or northwest. But I am NOT well off and the prospect is daunting. I would love to live in Vermont but don’t think I could afford it. I haven’t researched rural NY state or some other places yet.

  42. Veganon 11 Sep 2008 at 11:57 am

    Rebecca, check out the Potsdam, NY area. Initially we thought of relocating there. It’s more affordable than VT. Best wishes!

  43. Fernon 11 Sep 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Most of the folks in the desert southwest US I’ve ’spoken with’ - well, read online comments from - think that they will be saved by solar power. They feel that suddenly there will be mature technology and built infrastructure (and apparently ‘just enough’ petroleum) to build massive amounts of solar collectors. The power from those will pump water from never-depleted aquafers, power their air conditioning, run machinery to plant/harvest/preserve their food, etc. Oh, they also throw in solar desert grown algae-based petroleum, as a mature industry with complete infrastructure.

    Migration, sure. But late in the game. How many people have migrated from the US southeast due to the drought there the past few years - it gave forewarning of water problems and power problems to come, yet no one moved, even as some businesses had their workers on shorter shifts because of the water problems.

    I see migration coupled with at least ’some’ die-off. Think ‘Grapes of Wrath’ - the elderly couple died, the baby RoseOfSharon was carrying died. And the ex-preacher was killed. Four of the 11 folks who left the farm together, 36%. Think of what that number would be if there were Mutant Zombie Bikers! I’ve lost track, but I don’t THINK that Grapes of Wrath is on the reading list here - but it’s a fascinating look at migration from climate and economic change, and the changing power in the gender roles in the book is mighty interesting.

    Fern

  44. Evaon 11 Sep 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Vegan,
    And when you are happily settled in your cozy home and climate change is upon us - will you welcome yet more newcomers to Vermont as you hope to be welcomed? How many - in your neighborhood, in your yard, in your home?

  45. MEAon 11 Sep 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Vegan —

    If you are going to move, I suggest you do so ASAP. The clock is ticking faster than we like to think.

  46. texicalion 11 Sep 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Fern,
    good point with Grapes of Wrath. Someone mentioned that migration would be difficult/not possible for the poor. As shown in the Great Depression it is the poor who migrate, and they just show up somewhere. The more well off “relocate” and buy land and houses.

  47. Josephon 11 Sep 2008 at 2:09 pm

    In the (aspiring) ecovillage I lived in, the organization did not make its money from selling food, most of which was consumed, but did have a viable business. True, trying to balance business/ ecovillage/spiritual community is very difficult, but it can be done. My point is only that an ecovillage can also be a business

    Again, the reason for the difficulty is lack of spiritual maturity, or to put it another way, the difficulties people have of overcoming the damage done to them in social indoctrination in a spiritually degraded civilization, and thus being capable of creating mature human-spiritual culture or community. But of course, sheer survival necessity will probably change that in a hurry because people will be forced to grow up.

    Sharon, there is also the idea that the agricultural age diet/lifestyle jacked-up female fertitlity such that by the time we hit the Agricultural Age, we were already way down the (inevitable?) path toward Empire.

    Now, here is the thesis. If, maybe, humanity hadnt lost touch so completely with the sacred, with higher esoteric spirituality, and had humanity been able to make the higher, esoteric spiritual the foundation of civilization, we would then have been able to see that the right way to use industrial technology and our fossil fuel inheritance would have been for the purpose of creating the leisure time for all so that people would have the spare time to deeply engage in esoteric spiritual evolution.

    Fostering the unfolding of the inate spiritual Genius in the individual, aligning culture to that purpose, would result in an explosion of Consciousness-Intelligence and a quantum jump in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, balance and integrity of human beings. And again, since the relationship is dynamic, humans would create a planetary civilization that had the wisdom and maturity to regulate itself sustainably, especially when you consider that the esoteric spiritual process gives access to a multi-dimensional spectrum of Consciousness-Intelligence that contains knowledge about the creation, maintenance and renewal of the cosmic process. Sacred Science

    I mention this because many writers in the Peak Everything Awareness Movement (PEAM) point to the need for a “new narrative” about the purpose of human existence, so I just offered one, the “Earth-as-Spiritual-School” narrative. I offered it because I do not often see this one mentioned in the PEAM.

    I suspect that beings such as humans have arisen in billions of Gaian systems in billions of galaxies and that the experimental outcome is as varied as the idea that whatever can happen actually does happen somewhere, at some *time.* There is also, then, the possibility of either directed or random Panspermia, and/or the possibility that Gaian-DNA systems are generated by the higher planes of the consciousness-spectrum.

    There is then the possibility that legends of Atalntis are deep archetypal memories about possibile outcomes on Gaian systems. we are now entering a time of spiritual initiation along with climatic instability. Maybe the two are connected. warm regards, Joseph

  48. Fernon 11 Sep 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Joseph, just because I’m nosy - tis not any of my business: what religion, and maybe on-topic: why aren’t you living there now?

    See, when I read things like ‘the problem is lack of spiritual maturity’ as being the problem, I tend to wonder if the religion/spiritual path/whatever and I have some basic disagreements on why we incarnate, etc. Some of that is CERTAINLY off topic, but I’m …

    Fern the Nosy

  49. Susan in NJon 11 Sep 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Joseph — what’s your source on the agricultural age/female fertility comment? Just curious –

  50. Veganon 11 Sep 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Yes, Eva, I will welcome as many as show up. Ethnocentrism and regionalism are not conducive to the peace and harmony and the sense of community we so desperately need today and in the coming difficult years.

    Howard Zinn on his commencement address at Spelman College (May 15, 2005) said:

    “My hope is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out the national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this earth.”

  51. Veganon 11 Sep 2008 at 3:26 pm

    MEA, we’re working on moving ASAP. We agonize daily about when to finally move. It’s difficult to let go of my husband’s job when we’re not of retirement age yet, and jobs are so scarce in VT. We’re just middle class folk who happen to be debt free because of our frugal/simple lifestyle. We’ll probably end up with one foot in So. FL and one foot in VT as long as my husband has a job here. I just hope that the oceans won’t rise too soon or that a category 5 hurricane won’t hit So. FL. :)

  52. Josephon 11 Sep 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Sharon,

    Take it one step further and entertain the possibility that our ecological crisis is caused by our spiritual amnesia. The human being is structurally capable of incredibly vast potential far far FAR beyond what is presently conventionally and consensually defined as “adulthood”.

    The point is that our loss of our deepest spiritual identity is the cause of our Desire for fulfillment from things “outside” of ourselves, and thus greed and rapaciousness and etc.. I do not want to hurt anybody here; however, I feel that seeking fulfilment through having children is something that needs to be transcended. But again, sheer survival needs wil probably crush higher spirituality on any social-cultural level, so most of this may well be academic. So, at the least, some of what I have said may be useful for the reason I give to Fern below.

    Ones spiritual path should not, in other words, be determined by what does or does not occur on this paticular planet and this paticular lifetime, since incarnation goes on and on and……….

    Susan,

    I believe the original source for me is Chellis Glendinning, author of:

    http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no10/books_chellis.htm

    and I think this theory is also mentioned - maybe by her, I do not remember - in the documentary What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire.

    fern I suspect you are trying to set me up for a “gotcha-game” ;)

    I and many others left that ecovillage because the director had serious psychological problems that she would not face, despite the fact that we were all committed to help her as much as we could.

    Once again, it was immature ego - on her part - that was the cause of the problem. She had serious problems with domination and would not learn from others. This is a typical problem in western culture and I have run across it for decades.

    this does not, however, negate the validity of such ventures.

    As for the rest of it, it is now an established fact based on the experimental and experiential evidence from comparative esoteric spirituality, transpersonal psychology and psychedelic research that human potential is light-years beyond both conventional science and religion. Compared to what we can become, I would characterize the human race as literally fetal or larval.

    The general idea is that, with the possibility of billions, trillions of Gaian systems throughout the cosmos, that many evolutionary possibilities are…well…possible. If we bring in the idea of Nonlocal Mind (faster-than-light communication) and morphogenetic fields, there is the possibility of an intra-galactic Network of Gaian-DNA Consciousness-Intelligence, and that we all could actually be living many different lives in many different systems Now, or accessing “memories” about these lives and systems. Or, DNA could act as a transceiver through which we could tap into such memories, memories of DNAs aeonic migration across the Cosmos. Graham Hancock has a book out on this called Supernatural if i remember correctly.

    I mention all of this because perhaps, some will be able to use such information as a disinhibiting instruction to help jolt them out of spiritual amnesia, or in other words, remembering who they really are. If you do not resonate to this particular transmission, you are free to experiment with others, of course.

    Warm regards, Joseph

  53. Fernon 11 Sep 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Joseph,

    I’m not trying to get into a gotcha game, just trying to gather info. I’ve been in lots of groups that were born, lived, and died, and have learned a lot from looking at the process. Certainly one extreme type of group model (religious or not) includes a strong leader and no mechanism for replacement of that leader, while another extreme would be ‘total consensus’ of all needed to do anything, other extreme is to be ‘chaotic’ in structure, etc.

    Not all groups have a structure that allows for change in leadership even if it is necessary. That can be for any number of reasons - one person might own the land and therefore can’t be ousted, one person might be the ‘prophet’/druid/shaman/whatever (no slam on JMG there, I’m in another Druid organization that he’s also a part of), etc. Do you think that in your group a different structure that allowed for … uh … mutany [g] or replacement of the leader would have been an option if you were to try that again?

    I do suspect that you and I see spiritual goals differently - I’d like a group in which folks work towards spiritual advancement, but has a structure that accepts that we are not all perfect yet, for if we ARE all perfect humans there’s no reason for us to be incarnate as humans. We should move on other incarnations. Someday I hope to advance to an incarnation as a Cat in a Pagan home….

    Fern

  54. Sharonon 11 Sep 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Joseph, I’m not sure if we can blame agriculture or not - that’s a good question. As I understand it, the archaeological evidence for agriculture keeps getting pushed back substantially - that is, it seems likely that hunter-gatherers were managing plant placement in their environment long before we called it “agriculture” so I’m not sure there’s a clear line that one can point to. I’ve read Richard Manning, who makes this case (and I think you might be right, talks about it in What a Way to Go, although it is such a tedious movie that I’m not sure I can remember any given line) - but he draws the line between agriculture and hunter-gatherer societies much more starkly than is clear - and even after agriculture is solidly in evidence, there are instances of fairly stable, self-managed agricultural populations to stand with the “inevitable” empires. I think the answer is probably more complex than we fully understand - like so many things.

    I think your point about new possible narratives is interesting. I guess you’d have to persuade me that our loss of touch with the spiritual isn’t a side effect of empire and development, but an origin point, but I think that’s certainly possible. It is an interesting point.

    Sharon

  55. Shiraon 11 Sep 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Gies and Gies, in their excellent books on life in the Middle Ages, provide some useful metrics. A holding of 28-30 acres supported a full time farmer with at least one other productive adult and children.

    Half holdings required off farm work. Smallholders, who held less than a half holding, had to have an adult with a day job or work as laborers. Some had a trade. A typical small holding consisted of a cottage on a quarter acre arranged in a long, narrow lot, with outbuildings, garden, outhouse, a pen for animals and some fruit trees. The cottages were clustered in a village. The holding came with designated plow strips, for grains and legumes, in the communal open field and various rights to foraging, fishing, gathering deadfall, pasturing animals, etc. It also came with a long list of obligations and fees.

    Having another adult was a necessity, although that person might be a sibling or grown child. Serfs could be forced to marry if they did not have another adult. A full holding required working half of the time for the lord, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly to raise cash for fees. Smaller holdings required somewhat less time spent working for the lord. Gies and Gies tell us that even the smallest holdings had a complicated income that was included cash and subsistence crops, value added products and cash and goods for services.

    They also give us a clearer view of English feudalism, from the serfs’ view of largely self-organized and self-regulated villages whose primary interaction with the lord was through the reeve, a villager elected to insure that the lord got his due goods and services.

    The more things change.. We are still marking the day in May each year when we stop working for the federal government and begin to work for ourselves. I suspect if all the sales taxes and state fees were added in, we would find that we are still working about half our time for higher organizational echelons.

    A small property, whether a quarter acre or a farmlet, still requires at least one person with an off farm job or trade. And even a tiny property can produce some cash crops. Until the industrial revolution destroyed the market for women’s domestic products, women made their own cash income. Beer is always a good one, sewing, herbs, candles, mushrooms, babysitting, sell the butter from the cow and keep the goat’s milk to drink; as has been noted above, a myriad ways to generate a small cash stream.

    Shira in Bellingham

  56. Josephon 12 Sep 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Sharon, Fern,

    I mentioned the “earth-as-spiritual-school” narrative as a way of looking at our situation from a different pov than the one we normally “look through” in the Peak Everything Awareness Movement (P.E.A.M.).

    In other words, what if we are not humans having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings having human experiences? In other words, what if the ecological crisis we are experiencing on the physical plane is itself a reflection/result of our karma and our actions on some of the higher planes of existence?
    Part of the reason I am writing about such things is for the purpose of finding a “middle way” between the PEAM and the 2012 movement. In other words, even if we are not going to achieve a planetary spiritual renaissance as the 2012 movement hopes, I still cannot disregard that there is a spiritual aspect to what we are going through.

    In “dark night, early dawn: steps to a deep ecology of mind”, Christopher Bache suggests that we are heading into what we might call a Dark Night of the Collective Species Soul. The memories and visions reported in NDE research and psychic and psychedelic research concerning planetary upheavals and earth changes may be some kind of archetypal memories of such occurances here (see the book Forbidden Archaeology) or elswhere on Gaian systems throughout the Cosmos.

    If DNA can travel on asteroids in space, the possibility is that some of the DNA on this planet could have developed on other planets. We could have all lived through things like this crisis many times before, here and elswhere.

    Couple this with the research of people like Hancock (Supernatural) that shaman seem to be tapping into a DNA hypermedia database of esoteric knowledge and that civilization may have been “downloaded” from higher planes of existence, and the point is that there might just be much more going on here that we realize.

  57. Fernon 12 Sep 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Joseph,

    “what if we are not humans having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings having human experiences? In other words, what if the ecological crisis we are experiencing on the physical plane is itself a reflection/result of our karma and our actions on some of the higher planes of existence?”

    From my POV, if we are here to have a human experience - then the plan has to include, accept and EMBRACE us being human, and ‘flawed’ and falible, and an animal, take those things into account. Incarnation, like birth, is messy, painful, and chaotic. But even more than that, it sounds as if you see a split between spirit and flesh that I don’t see, but I could be misinterpreting your words.

    If what you mean by ‘what if the ecological crisis we are experiencing on the physical plane is itself a reflection/result of our karma and our actions on some of the higher planes of existence?’ that incarnation as human is a punishment, I don’t accept that. I don’t accept the ‘bean counter in the sky’ view of karma.

    I DO think that there is a spritual element to everything, mind you. I see the entire universe as the manifestation - not separate creation - of the Divine. We are made of God-stuff, and are kin to the Gods themselves, I’d say. But while we are incarnate as humans, I see our Dharma is to BE human, and to deny our flesh and blood humanity is to violate our Dharma and, as it were, build Bad Karma by not learning even the obvious lesson, while learning to be fully human, embracing that humanity, etc, builds Good Karma and makes for a new set of challenges and lessons in our next incarnation.

    Then again, I’m usually a heretic [g]. I also figure that it makes more sense to incarnate into ‘easy’ lives as new to human incarnation, and get progressively MORE, not LESS, challenging lives as we learn better how to be fully human.

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