Sunday, November 27, 2016

Giving Thanks is a Revolutionary Act

"We think there’s an outside chance that humans may possess the collective will and presence of mind to do what must be done, and to do it quickly, even if it means radically altering, even abolishing, industrial civilization."


  At The Farm we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day with only slightly more gratitude than other days. We shared a large covered-dish potluck in the Great Hall, part of our still-under-construction EcoHostel. We welcomed back our younger brothers and sisters who were up at Standing Rock helping in whatever way The Farm can. We sent blessings to those who had gone up to take their place.

It is not a little ironic that USAnians take a national holiday to celebrate the lifesaving generosity of indigenous peoples towards the Pilgrims while simultaneously unleashing water cannons, pepper spray and dogs on those same peoples as they try to protect our shared patrimony, in this case a river that affects the lives of 40 million people. We bless the sacred water that makes our life possible, here, as well as there.

Two years have passed since we produced a video mashup for a winter Indiegogo campaign, our last big crowdfunding effort. It was a trifle dour, we admit, but as the Earth tilts its Northern Hemisphere away from the sun and daylight gets scarcer, the plant-world moves underground, and we bundle from the cold, it is easy to fall into thoughts of contraction and decline.

Being overstretched from recent efforts, we could use some serious donations again right now, but we find that there would be no point in trying to revise or update that short video, because it is just as true today as it was then, the US election notwithstanding.



Since we made that mashup, we went to the Paris climate conference and watched as the world finally agreed to take some baby steps in the right direction, which we, after Paul Hawken, now call “drawdown” — as in taking carbon out the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil.

The 4 per 1000 initiative (the French government’s campaign — 4 grams increase of soil carbon per year in every kilogram of farmed earth) remains the best game in town, whether your town is Paris, Marrakech, or in 2017, Bonn. It would, in the French government's theory (supported by IPCC's notion of a "carbon budget" but called into question by the latest report cards from the Tyndall Centre and others) be enough to hold climate change at 1.5 degrees, if universally adopted.

That 2014 COP-20 proposal, “Soil for food security and climate” became part of the “Lima-Paris Action Agenda” and then, two weeks ago at COP-22, the “Global Climate Action Agenda,” but the word 'soil' only made it once into the Marrakech Action Proclamation at the end of COP-22, and that was in reference to the venue being "on African soil." The word 'agriculture' was completely absent.

However, if you read the outcome document liberally to assume the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), or the UN's pledge system, constitutes the action agenda at present, then there may still be some hope.

While the 4 per 1000 initiative gained no new additions to the 37 nations who endorsed in Paris, many NDPs are starting to reflect the realization that putting carbon back in the ground might be a cheap way to meet their goals. This includes the United States, which last May issued a “Climate Smart” agriculture and forestry plan. The word 'biochar' does not appear in that 60-page plan. Pyrolysis is only mentioned in the context of a way to reduce methane from concentrated animal farming wastes. This is the US-DUH, remember?

The influence of heroic biochar researcher Hans Peter Schmidt was evident at the margins of the event, where Swiss biotech company Zaluvida Corporate AG  pitched for venture capital from business leaders to support its natural solution to reduce methane emissions in cows, Mootral(TM). Mootral is a feed supplement made from biochar infused with garlic and citric extract. Just 10 grams a day reduces bovine flatulence 30 percent while increasing weight gain and lactose production. According to the literature handed out by Zaluvida, feeding every cow a daily dose of Mootral would be the same as taking 200 million cars off the road. An antibiotic version is scheduled for release next year after it receives patent approval.

Last Christmas we produced The Paris Agreement: The Best Chance We Have To Save The Only Planet We’ve Got, a short book telling our eyewitness account of the treaty’s creation, including most of the new evidence as of that date, and making for the first time a copy of the actual treaty available on Amazon.com or in any bookstore.

This year we redoubled our efforts in those places where we think we might do the most good. We went to the Dominican Republic to advise a three-village ecodistrict of El Valle that will draw down massive amounts of carbon while raising the standards of living of its rural peoples. The El Valle model shows that environmental enhancement and economic development are not adversaries for limited funds, but co-engines of the new, carbon-smart economy.

In March we taught the tenth annual permaculture course at Maya Mountain Research Farm in Belize. Maya Mountain is significant to us because it has it all: starting with poor soils and hilly terrain that had been in corn and cattle too long, Christopher Nesbitt transformed it into one of the best examples of integrated agroforestry and carbon drawdown on the planet, with aquaponics, biochar and some of the best permaculture design that we can point to. The more students from all over the world we can run through that place every February, the better.

Back at The Farm we provided another season of permaculture courses, apprenticeships and natural building through the Ecovillage Training Center, now in its 22nd year. We hosted the annual Kids to the Country summer camp for city kids. From there we bounced to Mexico to advise a massive 3-ecovillage development called Puertas del Cielo that, like the project in the Dominican Republic transforms the way humans construct their built environment. The master plan is being developed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the Danish architects who designed the new World Trade Center in lower Manhattan and the Google complex in Silicon Valley. This is good news for ecovillage design.

In the fall we put together a team to go after the MacArthur Foundation’s 100 and Change prize. Our proposal is, after the fashion of  El Valle or Puertas, to transform the lives of 100 million farmers with biochar, B-corp cooperatives, and climate ecoforestry.


From there we flew to Corvallis, Oregon and the NorthAmerican Biochar Symposium and a meeting of the U.S. Biochar Initiative. Biochar holds the key to unlocking our climate predicament. Like the first Thanksgiving, it was a gift to us from the landlords, who learned how to make biochar-rich soils 8000 years before the Columbian Encounter, in the process building rich, deep, living soils where none had ever existed.

Then we flew to China and for a month to teach introductory courses in permaculture and natural building in the rural interior. We certified thirty new permaculture teachers. We spoke at first the inauguration of the Asian Biochar Institute in Nanjing and then the Second International Sunshine Ecovillage Forum in Hangzhou. China plans to start 100 ecovillages in the next 5 years. They now have no shortage of permaculture teachers.

After a quick stop at The Farm to change wardrobe, we crossed the ocean again, this time at the invitation of the Secretariat of the British Commonwealth, to join with many esteemed colleagues pulled together to talk about regenerative design strategies for reversing climate change. Some of the speakers who appear in our climate mash video were there with us. The suite of tools we offered should by now be familiar: biochar, agroforestry, permaculture, community stakeholder empowerment; ecovillage; cooperative microenterprise; and a closed-loop, circular economy based on building real security for an uncertain future.

After England we went to Africa, to the Marrakech UN climate summit — COP22 — on which we reported last week. We were present with a delegation of 20 GEN folk: Kosha Joubert and Tom Feeney (Global EcovillageNetwork HQ in Scotland), Sarah Queblatin (Philippines), Joshua Konkankoh and Sonita Mbah (Cameroon), Trinto Mugango (DRC), Ousmane Pame (Senegal), Linda Kabaira (Zimbabwe), Sa’ad Dagher (Palestine), Vita de Waal (Geneva), Macaco Tamerice (Damanhurian Federation), Tim Clarke (UK), Michael Farelly  (Tanzania), Margarita Zethelius (Colombia), Rob Wheeler, Ethan Hirsch Tauber and Marian Zeitlin (USA) and Alfonso Flaquer and Fanny van Hal from GEN Europe.

GEN had a booth in the Blue Zone (where the governments meet) and hosted 4 side events and one Press Conference there along with 6 side events and one workshop, in the Green Zone (area of Civil Society) and a daily webinar. We had a beautiful array of well designed materials to share thanks to Camila, our designer from Colombia, and to Tom, Sarah, Mena, Yael and the HQ team.

We managed to sign an MOU with Morocco for the implementation of government sponsored ecovillages, starting in the most Northern region. We also negotiated MOU’s with Mauritania and Senegal, and ICLEI Africa. We made meaningful links with interested governments in 22 countries and with the Green Belt Movement, African Development Bank and British Commonwealth. We found out about existing ecovillage networks in Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh that were not yet linked to GEN and now can’t wait to connect. Many individual projects present are also now keen to become part of  our network.

We have some friends, Guy McPherson and Pauline Schneider, who are  currently touring New Zealand, speaking about the existential threat posed by climate change and what people should be doing. We always enjoy listening to Guy, and don’t have much to disagree with him about. He is correct that most climate scientists are too silo’ed to see the bigger picture and that there is no getting away from the simple fact that industrial civilization is a heat engine. While any one of the threats — sea level rise, methane outgassing, ice melt, droughts and superstorms — is enough to scare anyone, it is only when you sum them — or multiply them against each other — that they become truly horrific.

Guy has concluded it is too late to do anything now, so lets all just buckle in and enjoy the ride. He puts human extinction at 18 months to ten years. We have that small disagreement.

In our humble opinion something like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle has to be included in the equation. Heisenberg theorized that in all wave-like systems the more you can say about position or some other single attribute the less you can know about momentum or some other attribute simply due to the matter-wave nature of all quantum objects. Applying that to the complex of factors that determine our future, the more we can say about a particular element — the certainty of financial collapse or ecological crisis, for instance — the less we can know about the timing of such things.

Like Kevin Anderson, Thomas Goreau, James Hansen and other scientists who do look at the whole picture, we have concluded that it may not be too late. We think there’s an outside chance that humans may possess the collective will and presence of mind to do what must be done, and to do it quickly, even if it means radically altering, even abolishing, industrial civilization in favor of Civilization 2.0. We had a taste of that when we went to China, and we tasted it again in London. Memory being linked to the olfactory senses, taste is not something one easily forgets.

While the meeting in Marrakech did not produce real progress the way Paris did a year before, Marrakech did what it had been planning to do — the Action Agenda — and did not lose ground. From what we could sense there, there has been a sea change in the international business community, and the political world may follow along for reasons of money or a sufficient supply of food, if for nothing else.

Are we too late? Maybe.

Should we stop trying to make a difference when we see a way to solve this that can actually work? We don’t think so.

That said, we could use some serious financial help about now. It is not like rural Mayan, African or Chinese permaculturists have money to pay for instruction. We have spent everything we have, everything we had saved. Nothing was held back. And now, when we have nothing left with which to keep going, we are depending entirely on the good will of our friends. Perhaps you would like to make us prove what we say, and to actually reverse climate change. Will you dare us to try?

Those viewing this on our web page can use the donation link in the right column. For everyone else, our PayPal account takes tax-deductible donations at ecovillage@thefarm.org, or you can write to us there for further instructions.

This holiday season, our heart is filled with gratitude and as we look around, we are overwhelmed with the opportunity for profound change. We'd get by with a little help from our friends. Thanks!


2 comments:

sulyncedar said...

Great read. Thanks for being so active Albert! Sent $200 to Plenty for Standing Rock and prayers with love and light daily.

Unknown said...

Beautiful piece Albert, thank you, I will share it, and will point out a critical component that I think needs to be better integrated into the effort. As you say funding is a problem and realistically that has a distinct possibility of getting worse due to the world's debt problem. As you say, "it means radically altering, even abolishing, industrial civilization in favor of Civilization 2.0." I completely agree and it also means we have to end the private creation and control of capital (money) in favor of the public creation and control of money in order to provide the kind of investment necessary becasue the debt-for-money system has reached its ecological limits to growth and is now devouring itself. Fortunately the American Monetary Institute has identified the problem/solution and the people of Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK, Germany and a dozen other nations have embraced it forming movements to reclaim the sovereign right of nations to create their own money and control their own economies for the benefit of their people, something that is currently denied the nations of the world's by the top 20 global banks of which the private banks who own "our" FED are a part. You told me that Steve Keen taught you all you needed to know about money but he has yet to come out in support of sovereign money systems, the only solution to funding solutions for the multiple crises upon us. The DAPL confrontation is a stark reminder of the violent system we are up against. Dante called Usury the "Anti-art, an extraordinarily efficient form of violence by which you do the most damage with the least effort." This doesn't seem likely to change unless the light of awareness exposes the private control of our money (thus everything else) and illuminates the solution that has so long been held at bay by the world-around private monopoly of our money. We can change this system from an Economics of Usury to an Economics of Care seamlessly if allowed. Like the way the heavy stone money of YAP is exchanged, we would be just changing the ownership of the money. We would be, for the first time in history, putting our money on a sound footing and establishing a Democracy. Any government that does not issue their own money, and none do, is controlled by those who do and regardless of what they call it, it is not democracy. That system has to change from private to public or we will continue to watch the nightmare unfold regardless of the many efforts around world that you point out are showing us where some serious public investment would really make a huge difference fast along with the economic localization/decentralization of the production of food, fuel, energy, housing etc. as Helena Norberg-Hodge (and you, me etc.) describes to put us on a path to thrival.

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