Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting to 350 with a $2 Pocket Knife


In September we attended the Tenth International Permaculture Conference in Amman, Jordan, and met a fellow who became one of the surprise hits at the event. His name is Tony Rinaudo and he works for World Vision in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. Had we known about Tony and what he has been doing when we wrote The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, he would have gotten a full chapter to himself. His work is that remarkable. 

His full talk at the conference was captured to HD video by Craig Mackintosh and is available for free viewing at the Permaculture Research Institute's website. His method is very simple, mostly involving walking through arid landscapes while looking down at his feet. In most places he finds small remnant stubbles of tree stumps with living roots, nibbled away by goats but still alive. Bending down with his pocket knife, he clears the area immediately around, prunes the dead material away, creates a water pocket and exposes the green wood. Voila! Protected from goats, the old tree sprouts new growth — no nursery stock and watering systems required. FMNR has now spread to over 5,000,000 hectares with an estimated 200 million fully revived  trees in Niger, at the edge of the Sahara Desert, and it has recently been introduced into Senegal, Mali, Chad, Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia and Myanmar. Here is the description of his method, written by Tony himself in 2008.

The Development of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration

by Tony Rinaudo,
Natural Resource Management Advisor, Integration Team,
World Vision Australia. Originally published on Leisa

Children helping to source firewood
Photo: Author

Conventional methods of reforestation in Africa have often failed. Even community-based projects with individual or community nurseries struggle to keep up the momentum once project funding ends. The obstacles working against reforestation are enormous. But a new method of reforestation called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) could change this situation. It has already done so in the Republic of Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, where more than 3 million hectares have been re-vegetated using this method. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration involves selecting and pruning stems regenerating from stumps of previously felled, but still living trees. Sustainability is a key feature of the programme which requires very little investment by either government or NGOs to keep it going. The story in Niger can offer valuable insights and lessons for other nations.

The situation in Niger

The almost total destruction of trees and shrubs in the agricultural zone of Niger between the 1950s and 1980s had devastating consequences. Deforestation worsened the adverse effects of recurring drought, strong winds, high temperatures, infertile soils and pests and diseases on crops and livestock. Combined with rapid population growth and poverty, these problems contributed to chronic hunger and periodic acute famine. Back in 1981, the whole country was in a state of severe environmental degradation, an already harsh land turning to desert, and a people under stress. More and more time was spent gathering poorer and poorer quality firewood and building materials. Women had to walk for miles for fuel such as small sticks and millet stalks. Cooking fuel was so scarce that cattle and even goat manure was used. This further reduced the amount of fodder available for livestock and manure being returned to the land. Under cover of dark, people would even dig up the roots of the few remaining protected trees. Without protection from trees, crops were hit by 60 – 70 km/hour winds, and were stressed by higher temperatures and lower humidity. Sand blasting and burial during wind storms damaged crops. Farmers often had to replant crops up to eight times in a single season. Insect attack on crops was extreme. Natural pest predators such as insect eating birds, reptiles, amphibians and beneficial insects had disappeared along with the trees.

Conventional approaches

The severe famine of the mid 1970s led to a global response. Stopping desertification became a top priority. Conventional methods of raising exotic tree species in nurseries were used: planting out, watering, protecting and weeding. However, despite investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours labour, there was little overall impact. Conventional approaches to reforestation faced insurmountable problems, being costly and labour intensive. Even in the nursery, frogs, locusts, termites and birds destroyed seedlings. Once planted out, drought, sand blasting, pests, competition from weeds and destruction by people and animals negated efforts. Low levels of community ownership and the lack of individual or village level replicability meant that no spontaneous, indigenous re-vegetation movement arose out of these intense efforts. Meanwhile, established indigenous trees continued to disappear at an alarming rate. National forestry laws took tree ownership and responsibility for care of trees out of the hands of the people. Even though ineffective and uneconomic, reforestation through conventional tree planting seemed to be the only way to address desertification at the time.

Discovering Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration

In 1983, the typical rural landscapes in the Maradi Department in the south of Niger, were still windswept and with few trees. It was apparent that even if the Maradi Integrated Development Project, which I managed, had a large budget, plenty of staff and time, the methods being employed would not make a significant impact on this problem. Then one day I understood that what appeared to be desert shrubs were actually trees which were re-sprouting from tree stumps, felled during land clearing. In that moment of inspiration I realised that there was a vast, underground forest present all along and that it was unnecessary to plant trees at all. All that was needed was to convince farmers to change the way they prepared their fields. The method of reforestation that developed is called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). Each year, live tree stumps sprout multiple shoots. In practising FMNR the farmer selects the stumps she wants to leave and decides how many shoots are wanted per stump. Excess shoots are then cut and side branches trimmed to half way up the stems. A good farmer will return regularly for touch up prunings and thereby stimulate faster growth rates.

The method is not new, it is simply a form of coppicing and pollarding, which has a history of over 1000 years in Europe. It was new, however, to many farmers in Niger who traditionally viewed trees on farmland as “weeds” which needed to be eliminated because they compete with food crops. There is no set system or hard and fast rules. Farmers are given guidelines but are free to choose the number of shoots per stump and the number of stumps per hectare that they leave, the time span between subsequent pruning and harvest of stems, and the method of pruning. 

FMNR in practice

1. FMNR depends on the existence of living tree stumps in the fields to be re-vegetated. New stems which can be selected and pruned for improved growth sprout from these stumps. Standard practice has been for farmers to slash this valuable re-growth each year in preparation for planting crops.

2. With a little attention, this growth can be turned into a valuable resource, without jeopardizing, but in fact, enhancing crop yields. Here, all stalks except one have been cut from the stump. Side branches have been pruned half way up the stem. This single stem will be left to grow into a valuable pole. The problem with this system is that when the stem is harvested, the land will have no tree cover and there will be no wood to harvest for some time.

3. Much more can be gained by selecting and pruning the best five or so stems and removing the remaining unwanted ones. In this way, when a farmer wants wood she can cut the stem(s) she wants and leave the rest to continue growing. These remaining stems will increase in size and value each year, and will continue to protect the environment and provide other useful materials and services such as fodder, humus, habitat for useful pest predators, and protection from the wind and shade. Each time one stem is harvested, a younger stem is selected to replace it.

Species used in this practice in Niger include: Strychnos spinosa, Balanites aegyptiaca, Boscia senegalensis, Ziziphus spp., Annona senegalensis, Poupartia birrea and Faidherbia albida. However, the important determinants of which species to use will be: whatever species are locally available with the ability to re-sprout after cutting, and the value local people place on those species.

Acceptance of this method was slow at first. A few people tried it but were ridiculed. Wood was a scarce and valuable commodity so their trees were stolen. A breakthrough came in 1984, when radio coverage of an international conference on deforestation in Maradi helped to increase awareness of the link between deforestation and the climate. This was followed by a Niger-wide severe drought and famine which reinforced this link in peoples’ minds. Through a “Food for Work” programme in Maradi Department, people in 95 villages were encouraged to give the method a try. For the first time ever, people in a whole district were leaving trees on their farms. Many were surprised that their crops grew better amongst the trees. All benefited from having extra wood for home use and for sale. Sadly, once the programme ended, over two thirds of the 500 000 trees protected in 1984 – 1985 were chopped down! However, district-wide exposure to the benefits of FMNR over a 12-month period was sufficient to introduce the concept and put to rest some fears about growing trees with crops. Gradually more and more farmers started protecting trees, and word spread from farmer to farmer until it became a standard practice. Over a twenty-year period, this new approach spread largely by word of mouth, until today three million hectares across Niger’s agricultural zone have been re-vegetated. This is a significant achievement by the people of Niger. The fact that this happened in one of the world’s poorest countries, with little investment in the forestry sector by either the government or NGOs, makes it doubly significant for countries facing similar problems. 


Reasons for the rapid spread

Aside from simplicity, early returns and low cost, other factors contributed to the rapid spread of FMNR. Introducing the method on a district-wide basis with a “Food for Work” programme eliminated much of the peer pressure that early innovators would normally have to endure. As villagers experimented, project staff who lived in the villages were supportive, teaching, encouraging and standing alongside farmers when disputes or theft of trees occurred. This support was crucial, particularly in the early days when there was much opposition to FMNR. As trees began to colonise the land again, excited government forestry agents nominated lead farmers and even project staff for regional and national awards. Often these nominees won prizes, lifting the profile of FMNR. As news began to spread, national and international NGOs, church and mission groups received training and began promoting the method across Niger.

During the development of farmer-managed natural regeneration, farmers did not own the trees on their own land. There was no incentive to protect trees and much of the destruction of that era was linked to this policy. After discussions with the head of the Maradi Forestry Department, project staff were able to give assurances that if farmers cared for the trees on their land they would be allowed to benefit without fear of being fined. These laws were only changed in 2004 after much negotiation by entities such as USAID. Farmers began to access markets without undue hassle. And as trees on farms switched from being nuisance weeds to becoming a cash crop in their own right, this was good motivation for farmers to cultivate them. Over time, locally agreed upon codes and rules with support from village and district chiefs were established. Without this consensus and support for the protection of private property, it is unlikely that FMNR could have spread as fast as it did. 

The benefits of FMNR quickly became apparent and farmers themselves became the chief proponents as they talked amongst themselves. FMNR can directly alleviate poverty, rural migration, chronic hunger and even famine in a wide range of rural settings. FMNR contributes to stress reduction and nutrition of livestock, and contributes directly and indirectly to both the availability and quality of fodder. Crops benefit directly through modification of microclimate (greater organic matter build up, reduced wind speed, lower temperatures, higher humidity, and greater water infiltration into the soil), and indirectly through manuring by livestock which spend greater time in treed fields during the dry season. The environment in general benefits as bio-diversity increases and natural processes begin to function again. With appropriate promotion, FMNR can reduce tensions between competing interests for landbased resources. For example, as natural regeneration increases fodder availability (tree pods and leaves), farmers are in a better position to leave crop residues on their fields and are less likely to take offence when nomadic herders want to graze their livestock in the dry season.



Harvesting millet amongst the naturally
regenerated trees in Niger
Photo: Autho
r
Since 2000, World Vision has been promoting this method in a number of other African countries. Malatin André, a Chadian farmer practising it for just two years reported: “Thanks to the new technique our life has changed. Food production has doubled and many people who were laughing at us, have also adopted the techniques for soil regeneration. As a result, there is always good production, the soil is protected from erosion and heat, and women can still get firewood. We have been using the same plot for more than 30 years and without such natural fertilizing possibility, we would soon stop getting food from it”. Khadidja Gangan, a 35 year old Chadian mother of six said: “This year is very exceptional for me because I have been able to get enough sorghum. I cultivated one hectare and harvested 15 bags of sorghum. Generally, I could get three to five bags when working this land in the past. This would have been impossible if I was not taught the new technique of land management”.


Conditions for success and future challenges

There are, however, still many gaps in our knowledge of natural regeneration. Farmers adapt it to their own personal needs and have different reasons for practising it. Further investigation is needed into various technical aspects, such as the most beneficial spacing, species mix, age to harvest, or type of harvesting, for specific purposes. In addition, legal and cultural considerations and historical relations between stakeholders need to be taken into account. For example, the major difficulties faced in Niger included:
  • The tradition of free access to trees on anybody’s property and a code of silence protecting those who cut down trees. It was considered anti-social to expose anybody who had felled trees. This tradition was hard to break and those who left trees were often discouraged when their trees were taken by others. This situation was successfully addresses through advocacy, creation of local by-laws and support from village and district chiefs in administering justice. Gradually, people accepted that there was no difference between stealing from someone’s farm and stealing from within someone’s house.
  • Fear that trees in fields would reduce yields of food crops. Field results put these fears to rest over time.
  • Inappropriate government laws – if the farmer does not have the right to harvest the trees she has protected, there will be little incentive for her to do so. Farmers feared that they would be fined for harvesting their own trees. By collaborating with the forestry service, we were able to stop this from happening.
Other factors also affected the spread of the technique, for example, where language may reflect deeply held attitudes. In Hausa the word for tree (itce) is the same as the word for firewood, and therefore trees were seen to have little value of their own, apart from for firewood. Cultural factors may also work against adoption. Traditionally, Fulani cattle herders saw their lifestyle as the best in the world. Initially they found it humiliating to consider harvesting and selling wood, the way sedentary farmers did.


In addition, the practice of FMNR depends on having living tree stumps in the fields to start with. However, in many cases, farmers can successfully broadcast seeds of desirable species which, once established, become the basis of a FMNR system. The number of trees to be left in a field will depend on the number of stumps present and the farmer’s preferences. Some left over 200 trees per hectare, others not even the recommended 40. The “correct” number of trees to be left will be a balance between farmers’ needs for wood and other products, optimal environmental protection and minimal negative effect on crop yields. In areas of low rainfall, growth rates will be slower, and harvest or cutting regime should be reduced accordingly. Also, in low rainfall areas, establishment of direct sown seeds will take longer and be more difficult than in higher rainfall areas.


In areas where existing species are predominately thorny, or they compete heavily with crop plants, farmers may have second thoughts about FMNR. Where existing tree species are palatable to livestock, the increased effort required to herd animals or protect trees is beyond the reach of many farmers. In many cases however, the species are not palatable and there is no need to exclude animals from the field during the dry season.


Conclusion

What most entities working in reforestation have failed to recognise is that vast areas of cleared agricultural land in Africa retain an “underground forest” of living stumps and roots. By simply changing agricultural practices, this underground forest can re-sprout, at little cost, very rapidly and with great beneficial impact. In other words, in many instances the costly, time consuming and inefficient methods of raising seedlings, planting them out and protecting them is not even necessary for successful reforestation. Presumably, the same principle would apply anywhere in the world where tree and shrub species have the ability to re-sprout after being harvested.


Farmer managed natural regeneration is a cheap and rapid method of re-vegetation, which can be applied over large areas of land and can be adapted to a range of land use systems. It is simple and can be adapted to each individual farmer’s unique requirements, providing multiple benefits to people, livestock, crops and the environment, including physical, economic and social benefits to humans. Through managing natural regeneration, farmers can control their own resources without depending on externally funded projects or needing to buy expensive inputs (seed, fertilizers, nursery supplies) from suppliers. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and accessibility to even the poorest farmers, and once it has been accepted, it takes on a life of its own, spreading from farmer to farmer, by word of mouth. 


Tony Rinaudo. Natural Resource Management Specialist, World Vision Australia. G.P.O. Box 399C, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia. E-mail: tonyrinaudo@worldvision.com.au



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Posting from the Road

We're in Estonia, teaching a permaculture design course with a backyard mushroom growing seminar thrown in, and before that we were in Spain teaching an introduction to ecovillage design, and before that in Jordan, Palestine and Israel touring permaculture conferences and projects, and so now it has been more than a month since we last posted and apparently Blogger has bolted our entry door to the site. So we are sending in this post by email and hoping it finds its way up onto The Great Change. If you can read this we were successful.


On Oct 11, 2011, at 11:14 AM, Rick Ingrasci M.D. wrote:

Here's a great collection of photos to give you a sense of what's going on across the country. 





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On Oct 11, 2011, at 12:12 AM, Tom Atlee wrote:

Three excellent articles on Occupy Wall Street - the last one is greatly inspiring.


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Occupying Wall Street: What Went Right?
By J.A. Myerson:

Truthout | News Analysis


"Of all the criticisms being hurled at Occupy Wall Street, the most substantively interesting is the issue of scale. How large can the living-society portion of the occupation grow, dependent as it is on a reasonably small living space and an inspiringly simple if limited amplification system? Questions like this are worth pondering, and I'll be taking some of them up here at Truthout in the coming weeks, but let us pause for a moment to consider how astonishing it is that this is a concern at all."


rest of the article....



 



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Where the 99 Percent Get their Power
By Sarah van Gelder

Executive Editor, Yes! Magazine

  


"Powerful movements build not on a laundry list of policy demands, but on principles and values.... Powerful movements create their own spaces where they can shift the debate, and the culture, to one that better serves. That's why showing up in person at the occupy sites is so critical to this movement's success. In hundreds of communities around North America, people are showing up to make a statement and to listen to each other. They are also teaching one another to facilitate meetings, to take nonviolent direct action, to make their own media. They are taking care of each other, gathering food supplies, blankets, and clothes that can allow people to remain outdoors even as the weather gets wetter and colder."


rest of the article.....





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Ambiguous UpSparkles From the Heart of the Park (Mic Check/Occupy Wall Street)

By Eve Ensler 

Author of 'I Am An Emotional Creature" and "The Vagina Monologues," Founder of V-Day

I have been watching and listening to all kinds of views and takes on Occupy Wall Street. Some say it's backed by the Democratic Party. Some say it's the emergence of a third party. Some say the protesters have no goals, no demands, no stated call. Some say it's too broad, taking on too much. Some say it is the Left's version of the Tea Party. Some say its Communist, some say it's class warfare. Some say it will burn out and add up to nothing. Some say it's just a bunch of crazy hippies who may get violent.

rest of article....





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Even more if you want....

On Oct 10, 2011, at 12:24 PM, Rick Ingrasci M.D. wrote:

Panic of the Plutocrats

New York Times


Published: October 9, 2011

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America's direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important - namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called "economic royalists," not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police - confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction - but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced "mobs" and "the pitting of Americans against Americans." The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging "class warfare," while Herman Cain calls them "anti-American." My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don't deserve to have them.

rest of article...



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Why the Elite are in Trouble



Published: October 9, 2011


Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars' worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence. 

The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave* to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.

rest of article...




Sunday, August 28, 2011

Theater-States and the Long Count


Here in the Mexican colonial city of Mérida, the Society for Ecological Restoration is having its Fourth World Conference. We find that a useful title, because in common parlance the Fourth World represents the indigenous peoples — those who have, so far, survived colonial genocide. Cities like this one were the military and cultural spaceport from which attacks by futuristic alien occupiers against ‘primitive’ populations were launched. — The Conquistadors’ final campaign against the Itza Maya island capital of Tayasal, near Tikal, was launched from here in 1696. As the vine and mildew-covered grand colonades with flaking plaster attest, this is also the way the spoils of war travelled their way back to Europe.


Understanding how the Maya survived and are still populous in this part of the world, speaking the same ancient languages, carries some important lessons for both ecological restorationists and collapseologists.

One reason the Maya survived, of course, is that they kept very strong ties to the natural world, never drifting very far from their farming roots and shamanic religions. Another is that even when engaged in urban professions and lifestyles, Mayan descendants are in a comfort zone that is bolstered by strong family ties and a 3000-year history, much of it involving city living.

The collapse of the Classic period, around 900 CE, is an active academic field, with many conflicting theories and a mountain of literature. While traveling here we absorbed the writings of Arthur Demarest, of Vanderbilt University, and his narrative easily lends itself for comparison to our current global situation.*

One of the terms Demarest uses to describe the Classic Maya period is a “theater-state.” The ruling elite, known as the K’uhul Ajaw, or Holy Lords, were relatively hands-off with respect to economics, social welfare and trade but devoted lots of resources to legitimizing their political and religious authority through monumental architecture, art, pageant, sports spectacles and warfare. This resource misallocation – taking away from the real needs of the populace, especially in times of stress – led to swelling of the elite class, enormous diversions to unproductive types of labor, depredations from unnecessary wars, resentment from disenfranchised youth who were relegated to mere javelin–fodder, and, of course, ecological decay — as previously elegant eco-agriculture microsystems (using 400-500 species of plants) were consolidated into monocultures and overproduced.

Sound familiar?

A basic question Demarest probes is why, in so many areas, Mayan leaders did not respond with effective corrective measures for the stresses generated by internal and external pressures they could not have failed to notice. We generally think of complex societies as problem-solving organizations, in which elaborate chains of central command and control “wire” a nation to meet its goals. Yet beginning around the Eighth Century, the Holy Lords were apparently out to lunch.

Demarest thinks the problem was structural. Since the elites of the most classic Maya kingdoms did not farm or manage production of goods, the “real” economy was decentralized to local community or family. The role of the Holy Lords was to manage a “false” economy that was derivative, its only marginal utility being that it gave their Kingdoms some sort of patriotic zeal or sense of exceptionalism. When these derivatives eventually began to unravel, the Holy Lords, like mechanics with a limited set of wrenches, did what they knew best — they intensified ritual activities, built taller and more ornate temples and expensive stages, props, and costumes, and scheduled more performance rituals, wars, and feasting. Contrary to earlier results, however, these measures only prolonged or intensified the problems, led to further disenchantment, which eventually brought about whatever cataclysm dethroned them.

Successive rounds of quantitative easing had diminishing returns. The “real” economy was suffering a century-long drought punctuated by severe droughts in CE 810, 860 and 910. The “false” economy tottered from a hefty reality dose.

Today the theater state is shown in high definition and 3-D, and it resembles in its own way the grand Berlin pageants of Albert Speer as much as the scenes from Apocalypto. Mad-Men have refined the manufacture of consent, to use Chomsky's phrase, to a fine science, and as in Classic Maya times, military recruitment is viewed as a fortunate outlet for the unemployed. Recruiters have never had it so easy. And the recent riots in London are a reminder of what can happen when a country brings its boys home too soon.

However, a “classic” period, signifying the peak of empire and also a peak in energy, productivity, and population in most cases, is never sustainable, because it is inherently unbalanced.

Demarest’s insight here is that we tend to characterize every civilization in terms of “preclassic, classic, and postclassic,” but we might do better to think of it as “stable and expanding,” “unstable,” and “shrinking and reconsolidating.” Preclassic Maya agriculture was exceedingly diverse, with agroforestry, household garden plots, rotational field crops, chinampas and aquaponic systems, and perhaps also novel farming techniques we have yet to learn about. So was the postclassic. We have only just recently begun to appreciate that the “slash and burn” found in many parts of the tropics was once a highly productive and ecologically sustainable biochar amendment system when practiced in the ancient ways.

The Mayan preclassic food system was only marginally regional. While trade and tribute brought in salt, chocolate, hardwoods, hard stone, luxuries, textiles, and non-perishable goods, transportation of corn or other staples was largely prohibitive from an energy efficiency standpoint. Moving corn on the back of a man 25 km requires the consumption of 16% of the caloric value of the load. Transport from 100 km would have cost a third of the load in expended caloric energy. Demarest wrote, “Such high transport costs might have been maintained by a few Mayan cities at their peak, but more generally Mayan subsistence economies and markets were probably based on an area of about 20 to 30 km — a day of travel from the major center and its periodic markets.”

Joseph Tainter’s famous 1988 analysis of civilizational collapses argues that what generally occurs when a civilization over-extends is not a complete disappearance but a rapid decline in complexity. Axiomatically, it can be said that the instability experienced at the peak of a culture is a function of over-complexity.

While this might be true of the Maya in some ways, in other respects that analysis fails to satisfy. While the theater state of the Holy Lords reached a peak complexity and then declined, a different type of state followed that increased in complexity over what had existed in the classic period. The end of the theater state led to the cessation of monumental architecture and the disappearance of high status exotic goods and ornaments, but good riddance.

At the same time, although at different times and speeds in different regions, there was a  flowering and transformation to the new order. Extensive ecological, archaeological, and settlement pattern studies have found a resurgence of complex agricultural regimes that were well adapted to population levels with no indications of nutritional stress. When the curtains were drawn on the theater state, the health and welfare of the people improved. With the loss of simple monoculture and central authority and the diffusion of complex microfarming diversity and decentralized councils, the new order recaptured stability.

What followed in the postclassic period were a diffusion of distinctive new variants of the classic culture, with strange costumes, long hairstyles, experimentation with new legitimating ideologies, and unusual features in buildings, sculpture and ceramics (e.g.: ubiquitous serpents, brightly colored murals, and the psychedelic temple complex of Tulum).

The Maya that flourish in the Guatemalan highlands and Yucatán today are as populous and even more vigorous economically than they were in the classic theater state, but they do not generate anything like the art and architecture of their predecessors from 1000 years ago. They don’t need to.

Demarest observed, “For at least 6000 years, the hallmarks of the Western tradition have been linear concepts of time, monocultural agricultural systems, overproduction and exchange of surplus in full-market economies, technology-driven development, a long history of attempts to separate religious and political authority, and judgmental Gods concerned with individual, personal moral conduct. As we learn from the Maya, none of these traits is universal, none of them was characteristic of classic Maya civilization, and none of them is critical to the fluorescence of high civilization.”

For the restoration ecologists here in Mérida, there is much to be seen and learned. The pre- and postclassic system of mimicking the diversity and dispersion of the forest allowed the Maya to maintain populations in the millions in the Yucatán for over 1500 years without destroying a rich but fragile tropical environment and biodiversity. They are still here —still engaged in that work. That offers hope for us all.


* Ancient Maya: the rise and fall of the rainforest civilization by Arthur Demarest, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

44 Years of Slow Collapse

"You can go to the countryside, get yourself a farm, learn how to milk cows, sew your own clothes, put up canned goods at harvest, and midwife your own babies, but it won’t save you from the spread of the deserts, bubbling clathrates, or zombie hordes fleeing starving cities."

Watching the Tea Party make hostages of the other crime families is better than anything this season from Showtime, HBO or AMC.



With the collapse of the Murdoch Crime Family, other crime families are scrambling for position. The Bush Crime Family was feeling pretty good about skating away from its crime scene Scott-free, counting on the incoming Obama gang as a covert asset. The feel-good feelings that came in with Obama, primarily hope that the Bush-Cheney bungling and transparent evil would be gone, were entirely manufactured, something akin to the “Neo” program The Architect built into The Matrix. But there is a random element built into the program that can make it very interesting, or at least rife for sequels.


Hostage-taking as a political strategy caught the Bush-Obama family by surprise. Within a few months of getting their freshmen to Washington, the Tea family went straight for the jewels, like young Vito Corleone knocking off the biggest crime boss in Brooklyn. It used to be enough just to shut down the federal government for a few days. But with the debt ceiling drama, the global economy was kidnapped and held in a dark chamber for 4 months, and the ransom paid in the end reached straight into the breadbasket of the old order. The dons are not happy about that. Michelle Bachmann and Eric Cantor should avoid small private planes and room service.



Lets face it, it had to be paid, and the US had to come to the same kind of reckoning as Iceland, Spain or Greece. How a country gets there is less important, but in a fantasyland of mythical populism, created whole cloth from Murdoch’s media, a populist scam seems more plausible than, say, a report from Bush-Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. We are in new territory now, and as the warring gangs fight blood feuds in the ruins of the crashing empire, the smart money is getting out while the airlines are still flying. Given the latest hostages – the FAA controllers – that window may not be open long.



In 1969, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced a model called the five stages of grieving, based on her interviews with more than 500 terminally ill patients. Kübler-Ross was dealing with people who were experiencing profound, catastrophic loss — their own lives — and were trying to cope, somehow. She emphasized that while these 5 stages are not complete, exclusive or chronological, they seemed typical.


The five stages, sometimes known by the acronym DABDA, are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.



In some consistent but amorphous way, shape or form, we have been writing of the looming collapse of planetary ecosystems and the human civilization they support since about 1967. Over the span of the last 44 years our emotional state has risen and fallen, sometimes resuscitated by good news, other times deflated by confirmation that, indeed, collapse and mass extinction is inevitable. We described one of these deflating moments a few years ago as our Houston Moment. Houston, because that is where we were when we realized just how close Earth is now to profound, catastrophic, irredeemable collapse.



In 44 years you get to see a lot of people arriving to this point of understanding and, like Kübler-Ross, we observe some patterns. Much has already been written comparing peak oil and climate change to the five stages of grief. The similarity may only be in the flexibility, because not everyone shows all the signs, and there is inconsistent order. Lately we’ve noticed we’re getting more buy-in to the notion of collapse from people in the financial sector. Many of these, Chris Martenson and Paul Gilding for example, have made major contributions to encapsulating the big picture.



Over the years we’ve also lost some beacons who saw the way we are headed and made herculean efforts to shine their beams towards realistic, alternative routes of escape. Here we are thinking of Bob Swann, Scott and Helen Nearing, R. Buckminster Fuller, Barry Commoner, and most recently, Peter Berg, who passed away this past week.



Peter Berg was a San Francisco beatnik who was fond of turtleneck sweaters and free public art. He became one of the architects of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and later coined the word, “bioregionalism” to describe the only possible non-catastrophic way forward.



One memorable Berg installation was a wooden yellow square he called the “Frame of Reference” that he, the Diggers, and the Mime Troupe erected at the corner of Haight and Masonic on October 31, 1966. After warming up the crowd with two 8-foot-tall puppets in “Any Fool on The Street,” an improv play about what is inside or outside reality, Berg invited the crowd to dance with the puppets inside and outside of the yellow Frame and to disregard their normal frames of reference, such as the sidewalk. As individuals and groups, led by Berg, formed geometrical shapes in the street, traffic came to a halt until 5 squad cars and a paddy wagon threaded their way to the corner to make arrests. Seeing the Frame and the puppets, an officer approached and told a puppet he was creating a disturbance. The conversation was recorded by the Berkeley Barb:

Cop: “We warn you that if you don't remove yourselves from the area you'll be arrested for blocking a public thoroughfare.”

Puppet: “Who is the public?”

Cop: “I couldn't care less; I'll take you in. Now get a move on.”

Puppet: “I declare myself public—I am a public. The streets are public. The streets are free.”
The police swarmed the Frame, grabbed the puppets and the operators within, and shoved them all into the paddy wagon. The crowd surrounded the wagon, chanting “Frame-up! Frame-up!” The prisoners responded with “Pub-lic! Pub-lic!



What strikes us as a newcomers’ pattern is that, arriving on this corner scene in 2011, and noticing the yellow Frame of Reference and people in the street, the newcomers aren’t quite ready to fully associate themselves. Having shattered their way through denial, anger, and depression, they are still bargaining.  We shouldn’t cast aspersions, really, because after 45 years we do it too. In climatespeak its called mitigation and adaptation. We do not go gentle into that good night. We quest for solutions. Without the quest there is no hope, and without the hope, life is a drag. Dark humor is no substitute for even the smallest glimmer of hope.



Recent converts include billionaire fund manager Jeremy Grantham, oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, and HSBC chief economist Stephen King. What seems to fuel their realizations is not the financial meltdown but the recognition of game-changing resource constraints, something they should have absorbed by reading Limits to Growth in 1972. Is it possible to have been old enough to read in 1972 and missed that? Grantham calls the “new era” of resource constraint the Great Paradigm Shift, without reference to Korten’s Great Turning, Gilding's Great Disruption or our own Great Change. He says: “If we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash.”


No kidding? As Richard Heinberg says in The End of Growth, with the global economy and ecosystem both burdened by unmanageable debt, effective global default is only a matter of time. It isn’t if, but when.



When we see bankers and stockbrokers moving out of the Hamptons or South Beach and buying farms up some remote country hollow, we know that’s why. Of course, they could do better than to try to go it alone or with paid servants (a risky proposition). They could discover the benefits of ecovillage. Who knows? In pursuit of happiness, they might even accidentally turn the trend around.



And that’s the summary of 44 years watching this slow-moving juggernaut. It isn’t if, but when. You can go to the countryside, get yourself a farm, learn how to milk cows, sew your own clothes, put up canned goods at harvest, and midwife your own babies, but it won’t save you from the spread of the deserts, bubbling clathrates, or zombie hordes fleeing starving cities. The realization, acceptance, in Kübler-Ross’s terms, is not that you can buy time or bargain, but that a change in your Frame of Reference is available.



You can have a reasonably good life for little longer, maybe long enough to play with your grandchildren, if you are lucky. Chances are pretty darn slim, however, that they will have the same luxury. The future is not what it once was. Whether the end comes slowly or quickly matters only slightly. The Tea family seems to favor making it quick and painful. Tony Soprano couldn’t have planned it any better.


 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fracking Culture

"We are right at that spaghetti junction where all the lines converge with population and resources, food supply, energy, water and the rest. We’re at that point right now, in exactly the decade The Club of Rome predicted we would arrive here. We have to somehow get through this collapsing passageway and into the next paradigm."



This past week, before leaving to attend the gathering of the Ecovillage Network of Canada at La Cité Écologique in Quebec, we were asked to speak at a forum hosted by Nashville Peace and Justice Center concerning hydrofracking, mountaintop removal, and nuclear power in Tennessee. This is a rough transcript of those remarks.
First I want to start with setting a context, because usually you begin with a problem statement. A lot of what we address at the Ecovillage Training Center and in our curricula for trainings and workshops are methodologies for a switch — a massive transition — from the past paradigm that is failing us now to something entirely new that has the potential for success — to make us successful as a species in partnership with all the other species on the planet. 
To do that, you have to understand the need for a realistic framework to get us from where we are to where we are going, and to, in some sense, reverse engineer it, seeing where we want to be and then backcasting to see what steps are necessary to get us where we want to be within a reasonable time frame.
Phasing out of emissions from coal, oil and natural gas — particularly methane — is an enormous challenge. To change over the entire fossil fuel paradigm to a post-petroleum paradigm is an enormous challenge. You have to think about how such a transition is even possible. The current administration’s plan — the Obama/Boehner/Bachmann drill baby drill menu — is all about Canadian tar sands, a pipeline from Canada, the Marcella Shale, the Bakkan and various other plays, offshore deep wells and ways to accelerate the fossil end game. If that succeeds, it is essentially game over. There is no way we are going to take all that carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere in the timeframe that we need to. We’re going to get runaway warming, the methane clathrates bubbling up from the bottom of the oceans, and various other nightmare scenarios.
Nuclear power has been held out as a carbon-free alternative source of energy, but that is the same PR bull we have been handed since Our Friend The Atom was foisted upon innocent schoolchildren, and was also given to the Japanese schoolchildren, by the way. If you look at the entire nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear is black carbon dirtier than natural gas and not quite as dirty as coal. Coal is more radioactive than natural gas but not as radioactive as nuclear. All of them kill people in order to do what? Boil water. They kill unborn children in future generations, and expose them to horrible birth defects and cancers in order to brew coffee and dry hair.
We are all the victims of TVA’s efforts to feather its own nest at our expense. This goes back a century to the battle between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison for control of the electricity market in New York City. Westinghouse won, and what we got was energy that was ever more expensive every year, non-renewable, and unsafe at every turn. Those are the people who built the Fukushima nuclear plants, as well as the reactor that is getting flooded in Nebraska now. They are the mountaintop removal cabal.
The grid was created to suit itself, not the people it was supposed to serve. Edison wanted to charge people by the number of lights they had. Instead, George Westinghouse charged people by the kilowatt-hour and sold them the most inefficient lightbulbs he could make. And so it went for 100 years – they encouraged people to add more and more gadgets to their homes, and to buy appliances with planned obsolescence, and to then make you need a bigger house to store all that stuff. It was a sales campaign dressed up as labor saving, or civilized living. What we got was an unhappy, disastrously wasteful and soon-to-be-extinct culture. Coal, gas, and nuclear — they are part of that same paradigm. It is a huge conspiracy being foisted on us by the best government corporations could buy. It is all suicidally insane. TVA is clinically insane. What do you call someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over, never proving what they claim they are doing, getting the exact opposite result, but telling you this time the result will be different? I mean, other than a Republican? Clinically insane. That’s clinically insane.
And so, if you look at where are we now, we are right where Dennis and Dana Meadows said back in 1972 we would be in the Limits to Growth study. We are right at that spaghetti junction where all the lines converge with population and resources, food supply, energy, water and the rest. We’re at that point right now, in exactly the decade they predicted we would arrive here. 
We have to somehow get through this collapsing passageway and into the next paradigm. And so what we do at the Ecovillage Training Center — what ecovillages around the world are all trying to do — is to provide models, transition pathways, to get us to that next step, to get us to where we are going. And some of that is food supply, some of that is energy, some is building materials and how we get our buildings, some of that is microeconomics, like complimentary currencies. Some of that is new methods of social networking and alternative education and midwifery and alternative health care and doing things in ways that we have known for hundreds of thousands of years and we need to get back to.
Show of hands: how many people here either saw the sunrise this morning or were up at that time? (some laughter, about 20% raise their hands). That’s pretty good. Your average audience – none. But in point of fact, that’s when the light came on. And you could get up and do chores and it was still cool for several hours. And we’re going to be here until after that light goes out tonight. We’ll be here after dark, and we will spend coal energy getting home, feeding our family, putting ourselves to bed, whatever, which we could do without all that dirty power if we just got up earlier.
So ecovillages are about that. They are trying to find ways that are relatively painless, in comparison to the kind of pain that civilization is about to experience — to lead the way, so that people can jump into these new models and start doing it for themselves and avoid the shock that comes of collapse. Because that is where this previous paradigm is heading us, and taking along a lot of other species, too.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tea Baggers Tickle the Dragon’s Tail




Outside the Fukushima plant and for some distance at night, can be seen the intermittently sparkling blue glow of re-criticality, as the melted fuel from four reactors, moderated by fresh water pumped from fire trucks, puts on a light show of ionized air over the coast of Japan. This is a requiem display, a salute of fireworks, because Japan, mortally wounded, is dying the same way the Soviet Union did, killed by the nuclear dragon it thought it had tamed.


Louis Slotin's Los Alamos ID
This same light show was once observed in 1946, with fatal consequences, by physics students working in Los Alamos on advancements to the atomic bomb. Louis Slotin, their 35-year-old Canadian instructor, had been the criticality math whiz of the Manhattan Project and had personally assembled the core of the Trinity device. His method of establishing critical mass values was very bold, not to say reckless. Slotin would push fissile masses together slowly until they displayed early onset signs of criticality to clickity-clacking Geiger meters. On May 21, 1946, Sloton demonstrated his technique, which Richard Feynmann had by then coined “tickling the dragon’s tail,” to the six star-struck students in his lab.



Using his bare hands, Sloton slowly moved a screwdriver out from between two beryllium half-spheres lined with uranium reflecting neutrons back to a 3.5-inch-diameter (89 mm) plutonium core. At exactly 3:20 p.m., the screwdriver slipped and the upper beryllium hemisphere fell. The room flashed iridescent blue and Slotin, reacting heroically, used his other hand to knock the spheres apart. He died horribly, nine days later, from the exposure, but he saved the rest of the people in the room, not to mention everyone within a 5 mile radius of Los Alamos.



The Idiotcracy that staged a palace coup in the US Congress last fall is now tickling the dragon’s tail of the full faith and credit of the United States. Refusing to give up tax breaks for the rich and powerful, the Exxons, BPs and Haliburtons, the tea baggers and their millionaire Republican allies are demanding elimination of medicare, privatization of Social Security, and a blather of deep social welfare cuts that any impartial accountant (the Congressional Research Service, the General Accounting Office, or the Office of Management and Budget,for instance) recognize as not only ineffective (pushing the USA into far greater, and more expensive, problems down the road), but purely political gamesmanship. The goal of that game, for millionaire Republicans, is to get as close to the brink as possible, elicit as many concessions for the wealthy as possible by beggaring the poor, and then to pass a new debt ceiling and repeat the process.



The goal of the Tea Baggers, for whom nuance and strategy are not strong suits, is to play to the cheers of the Colosseum as they give thumbs down to federalism and separation of powers and toss the Moorish President to the lions.



The US is now officially without a fiscal budget, living on holdover spending, mere wax and string that runs out on August 2nd. The millionaire Republicans want to strike a deal on August 1st and ham it up for the cameras until then. The Tea Baggers want to strike a deal on August 3rd, if then, to give both the Democrats and Republicans a taste of the lash. Neither have any idea of what kind of dragon the tail they are tickling belongs to.



The US Treasury is limited by Congress to borrowing up to a debt limit, originally established in 1939. Since Congress originates all federal activities requiring funding, such as insanely expensive foreign war adventures or sending rockets up into space, Congress has to annually increase the debt limit to keep up. The last increase was in February, 2010, to $14.294 trillion. George W. Bush increased it 8 times, moving it from 57% of GDP to 84% of GDP. Under Obama, it has risen to 97% of GDP.



The Supreme Court ruled in 1935 that Congress does not have the power to void a government bond, so if any loans come due, it is obligated to pay them or default. Here is what happens if the Tea Baggers’ screwdriver slips:



There would be widespread banking collapse, not just in the US, but everywhere dollars are traded as the currency of choice for oil and other commodities. If economic transactions are halted, then trade and supply-chains break. The longer goods are stalled in the pipeline the more consumables and perishables decay in transit and storage or are consumed by present holders or returned to sender. Pipelines and machines rust, factories close, unemployment and starvation turns to riot.



The longer the down time and the wider the scale, the harder the re-boot once the idiots see what they have done. The dollar ceases once and forever to be the world’s reserve currency. Suddenly, instead of getting everything in the global economy at a discount, the US pays top dollar to buy, say, Swiss Francs, so it can pay for its addictions.



FEASTA’s David Korowicz, writing last month on large-scale risk management, said, “The wonder of our globalized economy is that in all this globalized integration and complexity there is no one in control…. So, while national economies may have an individual character, they have no autonomous existence in anything like their present form outside the globalized economy, just as an arm, lung or heart cannot declare independence from the human body.” Korowicz was underscoring the point that we are all coming to realize: the global economic body is delicately interconnected, and hungry, but there is no brain.



In the US, a Zombie Congress is dragging itself through the angry streets in search of fresh blood. It may, in the end, have to settle for consuming its own. This dragon does not like to be tickled.




 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spain’s Irish Spring


 Twenty-one and a half years ago we wrote:
“What will it be like when this world food crisis arrives? We can make some educated guesses. The decline in living standards will be felt everywhere. At the lowest level of poverty, the price of food will rise above the power to purchase. There will be food riots in major cities…. At the upper levels of wealth, the pain will be felt, but it will be less acute…. Inevitably, such stark differences in purchasing power will deepen animosities and elevate world tension.”
— Bates, Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do (Book Publishing Co, 1990).


This past week we were sitting in a sidewalk restaurant with the leftist candidate for mayor of a city in Spain on the night before the election. As he got up to leave, we wished him well.

“Suerte,” we said (“good luck!”). He turned and looked at us with cow’s eyes. “Graçias,” he said, but he had a tone of sorrow, more than hope.

On May 15, a few activists had gathered in Puerta del Sol, a large public plaza in the center of Madrid, to protest the coming election and to register their general dissatisfaction with the situation in their country. Last year unemployment rose from 20.5% in August to 20.8% in September, the highest rate in the European Union, and probably in the developed world. Food and fuel prices had crossed a tipping point for many, where it was no longer other things that were being given up to pay for food, it was now food that was being given up.

Spain is a microcosm of the collapse phase Global Civilization finds itself in and the protest camps in many cities are an example of the bankruptcy of political ideology — it is adrift and uncomprehending. Neither the right nor the left are remotely proposing the degree of change that is needed (essentially, an end to oil addiction and a epoch of ecosystemic healing). The street protests have nothing further to offer — they are reactionary, but not revolutionary.

Spain elected a socialist government led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2004 (and last month he announced he will not stand for re-election in 2012). Zapatero instituted liberal reforms, such as the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the Bush wars; legalization of both same-sex marriage and abortion; numerous gender equality laws; peace negotiation with the rebel ETA; unpopular tobacco restrictions; recognition of regional autonomy, particularly for the Statute of Catalonia; and the idea of an Alliance of Civilizations, co-sponsored by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. What was not anticipated by Zapatero, however, was the housing meltdown; the financial crash of 2008; euro deflation along with food and energy price escalation; and all of it against a background of Spain slowly obtaining the climate (and some of the population) of Northern Africa.

For many years, Zapatero’s government ran a current accounts deficit of 10% GDP, forcing Spain to borrow 7 to 8 billion euros every month, until, by 2010, the value of Spanish government paper debt had sunk so low that lenders simply stopped lending. Zapatero had inherited the same banking crisis Obama had, and it came to a head in the burst bubble of the housing sector. The Spanish economy had been hooked on household and corporate debt steroids with not just sub-prime but negative interest rates from early 2002 until mid-2006, causing "massive overheating" in the Spanish economy, which sucked 5 million immigrant workers from Africa in 8 years. But, just as in Iceland, Ireland and the USA, chickens invariably do come home to roost.

As the EU, IMF and Spain’s lenders started to pick up the pieces of their shredded balloon, severe austerity imposed by the Banksters put 5 million young Spaniards out of work and on the streets. As in Ireland, Spain responded by moderating its social programs (entitlements), cutting welfare spending, raising the age of retirement, and chipping public pension benefits by 20%. And, as in Ireland, discontent swelled.

The medicine had some effect because the ‘Bikini Graph’ that Zapatero’s emergency measures produced ran deeper and somewhat ahead of Obama’s.

Spain's 'Bikini Graph' showing its rebound in GDP (before IMF austerity controls take effect).


The problem is that both Ireland and Spain are trying to make major corrections to their economies while participating in a monetary union. Neither has a currency to devalue, or a central bank with capacity to print money and issue or recall bonds. Instead, both must achieve “internal devaluation” by cutting wages and prices until its accounts are back in line with its Eurozone partners.

On May 16, people wandered into Puerta del Sol to see what was going on with the protestors of the preceding day and were arrested for “illegal protest.” In response, the protests grew, and extended to rallies in central plazas of other Spanish cities. People came and camped. The police stopped evicting. It became Spain’s Tunisian Spring. Thousands are now camped out in central Madrid along with 60 other sites nationwide, creating temporary cities of the dispossessed. The mainstream media in Britain and the West have chosen to largely ignore this phenomenon,

On May 22, Spain held its regional and local elections and our acquaintence, the mayor, lost, as he may have expected to. Even though the Socialists had made real progress in setting Spain back on track, half the population stayed away from the polls and over a million ballots were turned in blank. The elections were a landslide victory for the conservative People's Party (PP) which took control of all of Spain's largest cities, including Barcelona, a Socialist base since 1979.

Interest rates on Spanish Debt
This is what had already happened in Ireland, with a left-leaning, green coalition alienated its base with austerity measures while being unable to control the on-barreling peak oil and climate change freight trains, so whomever was in office caught the blame for everything that was wrong — both the disease and the medicine.

While the young, unemployed protesters camped out in Puerta del Sol demanded “Democracy Real Ya” (“real democracy now”), right-wingers, some of them previously under indictment for corruption, swept the democratic vote. 

Spain is now as forked as Ireland. It not only has all the problems of a crumbling paradigm — the religion of endless growth — but it has elevated the high priests of that paradigm to its seats of power.

Will the protests grow? Yes. Will they spread to other countries? Probably. Do the protesters have an achievable goal, some realistic strategy to get their countries out of this huge bind? No.

So, good luck with all that.

Friends

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