What are we fighting for?

SUBHEAD: Mother Earth must ponder how human hubris overwhelmed our humility concluding we didn’t like it here. 

By Guy McPherson on 30 August 2012 for Nature Bats Last - (http://guymcpherson.com/2012/08/what-are-we-fighting-for/)

Image above: No it's not Earth (at least not all of it yet). This is a detail of a 360 panoramic shot by NASA of Martian landscape taken by nuclear powered Rover
on 8/18/12. From (http://www.space.com/17324-curiosity-s-360-degree-mars-view-video.html).

In my latest essay in this space I mentioned two phenomena worth fighting for: the living planet and freedom based in anarchy. I surrender. I no longer believe the struggle matters on either front.

I no longer think we’ll save the remaining shards of the living planet beyond another human generation. We’ll destroy every — or nearly every — species on Earth when the positive feedbacks associated with climate change come seriously into play (and I’ve not previously considered the increasingly dire prospects of methane release from Antarctica).

The climate-change data, models, and assessments keep coming at us, like waves crashing on a rocky, indifferent beach. The worst drought in 800 years in the western United States is met by levels of societal ignorance and political silence I’ve come to expect. I would be stunned if this valley — or any other area in the interior of a northern-hemisphere continent — will provide habitat for humans five years from now. And climate change is only part of the story.

My trademark optimism vanishes when I realize that, in addition to climate chaos, we’re on the verge of tacking on ionizing radiation from the world’s 444 nuclear power plants. When we choke on our own poison, we’ll be taking the whole ship down with us, spewing a global blanket of radiation in the wake of collapse. Can we kill every single species on Earth? Apparently we’re willing to give it a try, and I will not be surprised by our “success” at this omnicidal endeavor.

Onto anarchy. Few people understand what it is, and even fewer support it. As a product of cultural conditioning, the typical American confuses anarchy with terrorism. Considering the near-term exit of Homo sapiens from this planet, it seems a bit ridiculous of me to express concern about living outside the absurdity that has become mainstream.

Color me non-judgmental. Continue to fuck the planet and our future, and see if I give a damn. Minor efforts to sound the alarm, including my own, fade to insignificance when compared to the juggernaut of global imperialism. These efforts have long been irrelevant; it’s my awakening that is new.

And color me sad, of course, at the societal path we’ve taken. Swept up in the pursuit of more instead of better, we’ve become the waves approaching the rocky shore.

We had an opportunity to return to our tribal roots, as others have done when civilizations collapsed. Consider, for example, the survivors from the Olmec, Chaco, and Mimbres cultures, all of whom chose tribalism when civilization failed.

Tribalism worked for two million years in a diverse array of situations. It worked before and after civilizations arose in specific regions. For many decades, our version of civilization has been successful only for a few individuals of one species, yet we keep tinkering with the system long after it’s failed.

Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, we’ve come to believe industrial civilization is the only way to live. As we’ll soon discover, it’s the only way to die, at least at the level of our species.

Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s eponymous poem, I offer the following requiem for Earth.

If Earth could sing with a female voice. Her strength would be evident, though her tone might waver.
Could she withhold judgment against one of her own, through all we’ve done to her, and our brethren?
We lived in her bosom from which we were born for two million years not forsaking our home.
Then we became something different from all we had known, and in the gasp of a breath we destroyed it all.
Can you blame her for judging us, considering what we’ve done? She gave us every chance to turn it around.
Now we’re all done and she’s endured our abuse, including pillage, plunder, and rape without any excuse.
All she can sing in that mournful tone is sorrow for the power she unleashed, through us and thus dispassionately onto herself, destroyed by one of her own.
She must ponder how our hubris overwhelmed our humility in concluding about our recent selves: They didn’t like it here.


Diggers' History

SUBHEAD: The Diggers - Land reform and direct activism from 17th century England to America today.  

By Dr. John Gurney on 31 August 2012 for STIR - 

Image above: Members of the
Diggers' Mirth Collective organic farm in Vermont was founded in 1992 and farms 12 acres. They stand in front of their biofuel fired delivery truck. From (http://www.healthylivingmarket.com/blog/news/healthy-living-loves-local-diggers-mirth-collective-farm/).

The Runneymede Eco Village has, at the time of writing, continued in being for seven weeks, despite the bad summer weather and the frequent and inevitable attempts by the authorities to move the Diggers on. The action began on 9 June 2012, with a march from Syon Lane Community Allotment towards Windsor, where activists aimed to set up a self-sustaining community on disused land belonging to the Crown Estate.

Eventually they settled on land surrounding the former Cooper’s Hill campus of Shoreditch College of Education and Brunel University, and it was here that they began building a long house, complete with wattle and daub and cob. The published demands of the participants in the venture were simple and direct. Everyone should have the right to live on disused land, to grow food and to build a shelter: ‘no country’, they claimed, ‘can be considered free, until this right is available to all’. As so often in the past, the question of access to land, shelter and livelihood had led people to articulate demands for a radical shift in society’s attitudes, and to engage in constructive and imaginative direct action to advance their cause.

The Runneymede activists’ demands might, at first sight, appear to present something of a paradox. On the one hand, they address very real twenty-first-century problems, among them today’s serious housing shortages and the reluctance of politicians of all major parties to take action to bring rents and house prices down to affordable levels. Allied to this is the issue of how best to promote viable strategies for sustainable living on an increasingly crowded planet.

On the other hand, the activists’ demands very deliberately invoke those of the original, mid-seventeenth-century Diggers, a group of activists whose world was very different from the one we now inhabit. What possible relevance could the example of seventeenth-century Diggers have for activists today?

It was in April 1649 that the Diggers, inspired by the writings of Gerrard Winstanley, occupied waste land on St George’s Hill in Surrey, and sowed the ground with parsnips, carrots and beans. For Winstanley, the earth had been corrupted by covetousness and the rise of private property, and the time was ripe for it to become once more a ‘common treasury for all’.

Change was to be brought about by the poor working the land in common and refusing to work for hire. The common people had ‘by their labours … lifted up their landlords and others to rule in tyranny and oppression over them’, and, Winstanley insisted, ‘so long as such are rulers as calls the land theirs … the common people shall never have their liberty; nor the land ever freed from troubles, oppressions and complainings’.

The earth was made ‘to preserve all her children’, and not to ‘preserve a few covetous, proud men to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the earth from others, that they might beg or starve in a fruitful land’ – everyone should be able to ‘live upon the increase of the earth comfortably’.

Soon all people – rich as well as poor – would, Winstanley hoped, be persuaded to throw in their lot with the Diggers and work to create a new, and better society. To Winstanley, agency was key, for ‘action is the life of all and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing’.

Winstanley’s vision was as much religious as political; he was strongly influenced by the mystical writings that were so popular among seventeenth-century radicals, and he shared fully in the millenarian excitement of the age. Yet in many respects the central elements of his programme remained resolutely practical, and it is largely this that explains the continuing interest in his ideas.

 The Diggers were active at a time of severe economic hardship and rapid political change. England had only recently emerged from several years of debilitating civil war, an experience made worse by a series of disastrous harvests in the immediate post-war years. King Charles I had been executed just two months before they began their digging, and England was in the process of being transformed into a republic.

The Diggers’ program was both revolutionary and practical: in occupying the commons Winstanley and his companions hoped both to advance their aim of ridding the land of private property and monetary exchange, and also to provide people with the opportunity to subsist in a time of scarcity.

We should not be surprised to find that many of those who joined Winstanley on St George’s Hill, and who stayed with him until their settlements were destroyed, were local inhabitants. The traditional view that the Diggers were naive urban radicals, who descended upon an unsuspecting rural community before being swiftly driven away by outraged locals, now has little to commend it.

It is clear that Winstanley’s vision, and his astute social criticism, had particular resonance for rural inhabitants whose livelihoods had suffered in the years of war and scarcity, and for whom England’s unprecedented political changes appeared to offer the chance to radically re-order their community.

Digging lasted for just over a year from April 1649. The Surrey Diggers abandoned their St George’s Hill colony in the summer of 1649, after having succumbed to frequent assaults and legal actions, and by late August they had relocated to the neighbouring parish of Cobham. Here they remained until 19 April 1650, when local landowners brought hired men to destroy their houses and burn the contents and building materials.

New Digger colonies had, however, sprung up elsewhere, inspired by the Surrey Diggers’ example and by Winstanley’s extraordinarily rich body of writings.

The longest lasting was probably the one established at Iver in Buckinghamshire, but we know of others too at Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and at Barnet, Enfield and Dunstable. Further colonies – most of them unspecified or difficult to identify – were reported elsewhere in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire as well as in Gloucestershire, Kent, Nottinghamshire and possibly Leicestershire.

Clearly Winstanley’s ideas had – for a brief time at least – fired the imagination of significant numbers of radicals and country people.

After Winstanley had completed his last major work in 1651, his writings were little read for more than two centuries. It was not until the 1890s that they were picked up again, first by Marxists and then, significantly, by land reformers. Today knowledge of Winstanley is widespread, and he has become one of the best-known figures from the period of the English Revolution.

There have been numerous plays, novels, TV dramas, songs and films, and Winstanley has often been cited as an inspirational figure by politicians of the left. It is, however, for modern activists that his ideas and achievements have come to be seen as particularly relevant, and the Diggers have become one of the historical groups with which activists today are most likely to identify.

From the 1960s Haight Ashbury Diggers, through Britain’s Hyde Park Diggers and Digger Action Movement, to The Land is Ours, G20 Meltdown and Occupy movement activists, one finds frequent echoes of Winstanley’s writings in modern social movements.

His memory, and that of his fellow Diggers, has in recent years also been invoked by freeganists, squatters, guerrilla gardeners, allotment campaigners, social entrepreneurs, greens and peace campaigners; and both Marxists and libertarians have laid claim to him as a significant precursor.

Video above: Diggers' Mirth organic farm was founded in 1992 and currently has five members farming 12 acres in rural Vermont. This is a worker-owned and operated farm. Their name was derived from a British agrarian collective that operated in the mid-1600s. From (http://youtu.be/eYsgLfecCs4). 
Last year’s Land and Freedom camp on Clapham Common included a timely showing of Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s classic 1975 film Winstanley, and independent socialists in both Wigan (Winstanley’s birthplace) and Wellingborough (the site of a Digger colony) have begun holding annual Digger festivals. Even well-heeled Cobham now has its Winstanley Walk and Winstanley Close.

The best-known attempt in recent years to draw on the example of the Diggers was the campaign launched in the 1990s by The Land is Ours. In 1995 TLIO activists set up camp at the disused Wisley airfield in Surrey and briefly invaded the fairways of St George’s Hill golf course. Four years later, on the three-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Digger experiment, activists marched to St George’s Hill – now an exclusive housing estate – and set up their tents, yurt and compost toilets on North Surrey Water Company land near the summit.

The occupation lasted for just under a fortnight, when the site was abandoned before a possession order could be put into effect. Other land occupations soon followed. TLIO’s activities and their thoughtful publicity material helped draw attention both to pressing land-access issues, and to the continuing relevance of the Diggers’ example for modern activists.

It is often thought that TLIO were among the first activists to make the connection between modern land rights campaigns and the activities of the Diggers. Others had, however, got there some years before.

More than a hundred years ago Stewart Gray, a mystic, hermit and former Edinburgh lawyer – and a figure now almost completely forgotten – travelled to Cobham to honour Winstanley, who had, he said, ‘grabbed a piece of land and taught the people how to grow their own food’.

While living in Manchester, Gray had thrown in his lot with the unemployed and had become a pioneer of land grabbing. In 1906 he and others had seized church land at Levenshulme in Manchester, where they set up camp and hoped to ‘teach the unemployed to dig’. Soon other camps had appeared in Manchester, Bradford and Poplar. Gray later invaded the pulpit of Manchester Cathedral and led an unemployed hunger march – one of the first of its kind – to London.

He planned, in anticipation of the 2012 Diggers, to settle part of Windsor Great Park as a colony for the unemployed, but when this failed to materialize he announced instead his intention of going on hunger strike. It was at this time, in February 1908, that he arrived at the gates of St George’s Hill.

Finding the hill closed to himself and his companions, he took a growing cabbage from a cottage garden and planted it in protest outside the entrance to the hill.

Gray was not alone in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain in invoking Winstanley’s memory in connection with modern land-access campaigns. Lewis Berens, who in 1906 published the first full-length study of Winstanley’s life and ideas, had for many years been active in land nationalisation campaigns in Britain and South Australia, while Morrison Davidson, whose The Wisdom of Winstanley the Digger appeared in 1904, was also heavily involved in the cause of radical land reform. In 1910 Joseph Clayton could claim that Winstanley’s ‘social teaching on the land question has thousands of disciples in Great Britain today’.

We should be careful not to assume that the popularity of Winstanley and the Diggers has persisted unabated since their rediscovery just over a century ago. The ‘land question’ that so exercised Edwardian radicals has never fully gone away, but by no means every land activist in the last hundred or so years has claimed to draw inspiration from the Diggers or been aware of their story.

As Alun Howkins and others have argued, the many generations of activists that have addressed land-rights issues since 1649 have often responded to familiar problems in very similar ways, without necessarily being conscious of the example of their predecessors. But the place of the Diggers in modern popular memory is striking.

In part this derives from the work of the historian Christopher Hill, who first wrote about Winstanley and the Diggers in the 1940s, when he was active in the Communist Party, but who presented a rather different, and to modern readers more sympathetic, view of Winstanley in his classic The World Turned Upside Down, published in 1972.

Here for the first time Winstanley was portrayed as the articulate representative of an early modern counter-cultural radical underground; Winstanley’s insights into the corruption of the earth were also now seen to have profound contemporary relevance for a generation alarmed by the destruction of the environment and by threats of nuclear war.

Hill’s Winstanley could be seen to speak powerfully to the new social movements of the 1960s and 70s, and to those members of a younger generation who increasingly questioned the achievements of post-war capitalism and rejected its values. Others too helped to forge this image of Winstanley, most notably George Woodcock, whose influential book Anarchism contained an important section on Winstanley which portrayed him as a figure who ‘stood at the beginning of the anarchist tradition of direct action’.

David Caute’s 1961 novel Comrade Jacob, and the radio and theatre plays it inspired, also helped to bring Winstanley and the Diggers to new audiences, as did Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s film. All these brought home the importance of Winstanley’s attempt to deal with the land question of his day, in ways that continued to resonate across the centuries.

Most influential, however, was Leon Rosselson’s song ‘The World Turned Upside Down: Part 2’. Rosselson wrote the song after reading Hill; it has since been memorably recorded by Dick Gaughan and Billy Bragg among others, as well as by Rosselson, and has been regularly sung by Roy Bailey in his performances with Tony Benn on their ‘The Writing on the Wall’ tours. It has become one of the best-known protest anthems of recent times, known to activists not only in Britain but across the world.

Over the years it has been adopted by activists at Greenham Common, by miners’ support groups, by land campaigners and by campaigners in the United States, Australia and Nicaragua. The BBC is even said to have once broadcast it as a traditional anthem of Nicaraguan coffee bean pickers. At Occupy London last year, Rosselson sung it memorably, and appropriately, at the camp at the foot of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Rosselson’s song brilliantly captured Winstanley’s message, and articulated it for a new generation that could easily identify with the Diggers’ spirited aims and their sufferings at the hands of their opponents. ‘To make the waste land grow’, the slogan adopted by the Runneymede Diggers in 2012, echoes Rosselson’s song more directly than Winstanley’s own writings, and reminds us of the ways in which the arguments of 1649 have been so importantly refracted through Rosselson’s 1974 words.

As long as Rosselson’s song continues to be sung, the memory of Winstanley and the Diggers will no doubt be kept alive, and future generations of activists will be reminded of the example and relevance of their seventeenth-century predecessors.

Ex DLNR Chair against PLDC

SUBHEAD: Public Land Development Corporation should not move forward, pending needed repeal in 2013.

By Laura Thielen on 29 August 2012 for the Hawaii Independent - (http://hawaiiindependent.net/story/thielen-pldc-should-not-move-forward-pending-possible-repeal-in-2013)
Image above: Promotional photo of Laura Thielen from her political website supporting her run for Haweaii state senate. From (http://www.laurathielen.com/press-room/).  

Come to Public Hearing on August 31 at 6:00 pm-8:00pm on Kauai in Lihue at Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary School.

If you cannot make it to one of these hearings, please send your comments directly by 9/14/12 deadline to: email: joy.y.kimura@hawaii.gov or mail written testimony to PLDC, P.O. Box 2359, Honolulu, HI 96804

 [Note: State Senate Candidate Laura Thielen testified to the Public Land Development Corporation on its administrative rules last on Wednesday, August 29th, and asked that the act authorizing the PLDC be repealed. Her testimony is reprinted here.]

My name is Laura Thielen, and I am testifying before you today as an individual.
I served as the Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) from July 2007 to December 2010.

I have not commented publicly on the business of DLNR since I left that position because I wanted to give this Administration and Chairperson the same respect as previous DLNR Chairmen provided to me.

However, my concerns over the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) and the impacts it will have on the mission of DLNR have grown so great that I can no longer remain silent.

Because we have a limited time to speak, I am limiting my comments to the most serious structural flaw in the PLDC and recommending you adopt five provisions in your administrative rules to address this flaw. But first, let me provide the context for these recommendations.

During the early days of Statehood, the predecessor of DLNR was created with the goal of developing state land in order to develop our state economy. This mission was laid out in the original enabling legislation.

Over the next few decades development flourished, often at the expense of our resources and our communities. Our state economy grew, but unfortunately, an insatiable appetite for development and the significant money it brings to the developers and their supporters, also grew unchecked.

In time, the residents of Hawaii rebelled and advocated to change Hawaii’s laws. In the following decades our State adopted many laws, which have clearly re-defined a new, modern and relevant mission for DLNR: conserving, protecting and enhancing Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.

Up until last year, DLNR was an agency governed by a single Board. The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) was exclusively tasked with balancing the modern mission – conserving our resources for future generations – with the old laws authorizing DLNR to develop state land.

While this balance can be a challenge, in recent years the BLNR has clearly been shifting DLNR to focus more on resource conservation. DLNR development has been limited to minor projects that support DLNR’s base operations (park and harbor improvements; fencing native forests), or a select few larger projects in already urbanized areas, which must comply with all federal, state and county permitting, zoning and land use laws.

Last year the Legislature adopted a law that completely shatters any concept of balance. By creating the PLDC, the Legislature effectively severed any connection between the mission of resource conservation and the development of state land.

Now there are two, disconnected Boards. The PLDC is tasked with a mission to develop state land to generate revenue. While some lip service is given to supporting DLNR, the reality is the PLDC’s mission is to develop state land in a manner that maximizes revenue. The PLDC Board has no obligation to balance the interest of resource conservation; no obligation to have projects meet land use or county zoning laws; and no obligation to ensure the BLNR supports the projects.

We are being told we should support the PLDC because it will generate revenue for DLNR.
As the former Chairperson of this department, I can tell you unequivocally the PLDC is and will take revenue away from DLNR. Under law, the PLDC will take it’s own costs and a 15% cut out of any revenue it generates. In addition, the PLDC apparently does not have to abide by the public bidding or lease limitations governing DLNR, thereby opening the door to “sweetheart deals” that may generate revenue, just not to DLNR.

Equally worrisome are the comments of the PLDC Executive Director in this morning’s paper. He stated that the PLDC’s “objective is to provide the alternative funding that will make programs self sufficient…”. It appears that the intention is to defund DLNR of all General Fund revenue and replace it with the PLDC project-generated revenue. In that case, the PLDC development will not bring any new resources to DLNR, but instead place DLNR on more unstable footing.

All this background begs the question: if one is purely interested in supporting DLNR, why create a new, redundant Board that siphons revenue away from DLNR?

It appears to me that the PLDC was created by interests who do not like the fact that the development of state land has been governed by the BLNR. I guess those interests want the development of state lands to be unfettered by concerns about resource conservation; and hence the creation of a new Board free of such concerns. It is this suspicion that is fueling the growing opposition to the PLDC that you have been hearing this past month.

I realize that this Board did not introduce the legislation creating the PLDC. You were just appointed and are trying to meet your legislative duties. While I personally will work next session to repeal the PLDC, I realize that is beyond the scope of this Board’s authority and you cannot grant this request.

You do, however, control the content of the administrative rules governing the PLDC. You do have the ability to address these public concerns by adopting administrative rules that place limits on the PLDC authority going forward, in the event it is not repealed.

I ask that you demonstrate good faith with the public, and adopt the following procedures and commitments in the PLDC administrative rules.

- The PLDC will seek BLNR approval of any project involving the development of state land.
- The PLDC will not seek to develop agricultural lands eligible for designation as Important Agricultural Lands.
- The PLDC will voluntarily abide by state land use and county zoning laws, and any projects that require an exemption or amendment to such will follow the established public processes.
- The PLDC will be responsible for providing OHA with any ceded land revenue, and will not transfer this responsibility to DLNR or any other agency.

The draft rules include provisions that authorize the PLDC to make investments in securities, including providing seed capital even when no other professional investor is involved. Any provision authorizing investments should be eliminated, as it is fiscally irresponsible to allow the PLDC to use state funds to engage in speculative trading.

I’d like to make one last request in which your Board can demonstrate it is taking these public concerns to heart. Next legislative session there will be a significant effort to repeal the PLDC. We’ve recently seen how the City, ignoring the opposition to the rail project, moved forward with contracts that will now cost taxpayers extra money due to delays that should have been readily apparent when the contracts were written.

This Board should not move forward with any projects, contracts or investments until we see whether the Legislature will repeal the PLDC. It would be manifestly unfair and unwise for the Board to entangle the State in obligations that it may not be able to meet starting in 2013 if the PLDC is abolished.

Mahalo for your consideration and this opportunity to testify.

REPEAL ACT 55 This you-tube video gives an essence of what PLDC is all about! Scroll to 3:30 and see Abercrombie explain about Land and Money! Owning, controlling, manipulating, income stream, and the like.
Video above: Congressman Neil Aberchrombie testifying on public land grab in Hawaii. (http://youtu.be/1gs-pKQHP7I)
Take the government back! We hope all is well with you and your ohana. We ask for your kokua again to REPEAL Act 55, a bureaucratic corporation that usurps Hawaii's public trust and assets.



See also: 
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC ceded Land Finale 8/29/123  
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC Rejected by Public 8/22/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Cold Water in the Face 8/20/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: Public Land Development Corporation 8/18/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Legislative Subterfuge 5/1/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: From the Inside Out 9/23/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie Land Grab 9/13/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Privitizing Public Land 6/2/11

Obols or No Balls

SUBHEAD: Meanwhile Greek citizens are already finding creative solutions to the desperate shortage of currency: they are creating their own.  

By Molly Scott Cato on 29 August 2012 for Gaian Economics -

Image above: At a Greek farmer's market alternative currencies are accepted for transctions. From original article.

While policy-makers struggle to increase the flow of money in stagnant national economies they fail to see that it is not the quantity of the money that is the problem but its quality. The imperialist currencies of dollar and euro were designed to serve the interests of elites, so we should not be surprised that they do nothing to support the livelihoods of citizens of countries the world over. In The Ecology of Money, Richard Douthwaite suggested a sophisticated multi-layered currency world, where different types of money played different roles. Although ignored at the time, this may be just the sort of proposal we need now to resolve the crisis in the global economy, and particularly the crisis in the Eurozone.

The structural flaw with the Euro was always clear to economists: a single currency means a single interest rate, a single price for money across a number of diverse econonomies. The overheating, subsequent bust and unpayable debts in Greeece, Spain and Ireland were bound to result from such a system from the start. For this reason the UK Greens campaigned hard against the Euro proposal as soon as its design and inevitable consequences became clear. Our policy was to support the Euro as a common currency rather than a single currency, and a shift to such a policy remains a viable option for the Eurocrats now, enabling them to save face by claiming that the Euro can survive with its membership intact, while allowing the countries of the periphery to escape ongoing suffocation.

So Greeks would still be able to spend Euros, and the tourism industry, for example, might continue to accept them. But the Greek government would initiate a new currency for the purposes of running its national economy (I would suggest that they not call it the Drachma). Governments need a currency in which they accept taxes, and they need to have control over this currency, Greece could issue Obols to pay the salaries of public-sector workers, and accept the same for payment of taxes. This would immediately liberate the country from the death spiral it is currently enduring. Traders would prefer to have Euros, but a currency which you can use to pay your taxes always has an intrinsic value and would be accepted faute de mieux.

Meanwhile Greek citizens are already finding creative solutions to the desperate shortage of currency: they are creating their own. The best known example is the TEM (an acronym from the initials of the Greek phrase 'local alternative unit') which circulates widely in the Greek town of Volos. The currency is a typical example of a community or complementary currency, circulating within a defined local economy. This system, like many LETS schemes in the UK today is run entirely electronically. It has provided a lifeline to many Greeks for whom the Euro is now unattainable. Its success provides evidence of the need to end the national and now international monopoloy over money and shift to a pragmatic policy of creating a number of moneys appropriate to the role that money should play in the economy: facilitation rather than strangulation.

PLDC Ceded Land Grab Finale

SUBHEAD: In a nut shell - Please take action against PLDC - this is the scariest law we've seen in Hawaii.  

By Shannon Rudoph on 29 August 2012 in Island Breath - 
Image above: Poster for live broadcast of Oahu PLDC Rules meeting starting at 6:00pn tonight. From Shannon Rudolph. Click to see live video.

 [IB editor's note: This article includes several source files put together by Shannon Rudolph (shannonkona@gmail.com). Tonight is the important Oahu Public Land Development Corporation meeting. Then Friday is the last public meeting on this subject on August 31 (6:00 p.m.) on Kauai at Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue.]

 If you have not already signed this on-line petition, I urge you to consider it and send it on to people who trust your judgement. The law that established the Public Land Development Corporation (Act 55) is a most dangerous law. It expects we the people to trust that a board of 5 appointees will make the right decisions about how to develop public lands to make "optimal use of public land for the economic, environmental, and social benefit of the people of Hawaii." Not only that but once public lands are conveyed to the PLDC, they are no longer defined as "public lands," thanks to HB 2398 (passed this year).

I've added my name to this petition with the following comment: "Act 55 exempts the PLDC from complying with state and county land use laws and regulations that exist to protect the public's interests. It creates a double-standard for the development of public lands by exempting them from the regulations that exist to protect Hawai`i from unwise land development! Why risk our precious public lands and resources in this way?!" Mahalo for your time. This is very important to Keeping Public Lands Public!  

PETITION HERE: http://signon.org/sign/an-open-letter-in-defense?source=s.em.cr&r_by=3674071&mailing_id=5706  

AND HERE: https://www.change.org/petitions/hawaii-governor-neil-abercrombie-hawaii-state-senate-representatives-repeal-act-55-hawaii-public-land-development-corporation-pldc Watch/Listen to the O'ahu PLDC meeting LIVE, Wednesday 29 August 2012 @ 6:00pm on Olelo.org (http://olelo.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=89) or on TV, Ch.53 , archives there and at KCCR.org Public Radio)  

REPEAL ACT 55 Take the government back! We hope all is well with you and your ohana. We ask for your kokua again to REPEAL Act 55, a bureaucratic corporation that usurps Hawaii's public trust and assets. This you-tube video gives an essence of what PLDC is all about! Scroll to 3:30 and see Abercrombie explain about Land and Money! Owning, controlling, manipulating, income stream, and the like.

Video above: Congressman Neil Aberchrombie testifying on public land grab in Hawaii. (http://youtu.be/1gs-pKQHP7I)  

Brief History
Senate Bill 1555 (authored and pushed by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and Malama Solomon) was enacted as Act 55 ~ Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) by Governor Neil Abercrombie in 2011. Act 55 establishes the PLDC as a State development corporation attached to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to develop public lands placed under the PLDC jurisdiction, including but not limited to existing open shoreline areas, conservation lands, agricultural lands, and small boat harbors, for commercial purposes to generate revenue for the State. Act 55 allows PLDC to exempt development projects from regulatory oversight.PLDC now has over-arching powers to make optimal economic, environmental, and social use of Hawaii’s public lands. PLDC commission is now stacked with pro-development cronies.  

QUICK SUMMARY The PLDC is authorized to:
Develop and implement public lands projects and facilities to create revenue-generating centers or where, through detailed analysis, opportunities exist to exploit potential local, national, and international markets.  

Exemption from Lawful Development Requirements:
PLDC projects shall be exempt from all statutes, ordinances, charter provisions, and rules of any government agency relating to land use, zoning, and construction standards for subdivisions, development, and improvement of land; the construction, improvement, and sale of homes thereon; and special improvement district assessments or requirements PLDC Powers.  

Acquire or contract to acquire: All privately owned real property or any interest therein and improvements thereon determined by the PLDC to be necessary or appropriate for its purposes, including real property … in excess of that needed for such use … where other justifiable cause necessitates acquisition for the contemplated improvements Recommend to the DLNR board the “purchase of any privately owned properties that may be appropriate for development”  

Exemption from Taxation: The PLDC shall not be required to pay state taxes of any kind. And, finally PLDC will become Hawaii’s ultimate BIG BROTHER. Private property owners will need to pay for infrastructure costs if they live near one of these “improvements” because it is for the “public good”.PLDC foreign corporations will merely plan, build, and profit. In other words, the government can now force you to pay for their cronies’ development schemes to ensure their profits. ACTION 

ALERT: Our beaches, parks, and school grounds are not for sale or lease to greedy developers. Allow the existing entitles like the Department of Land and Natural Resources to continue management. If there are management problems, audit and fix the problem.Another bureaucratic fiefdom to usurp Hawaii's public assets is not the solution! We, the people, want to Repeal Act 55 to abolish PLDC.Hawaii's public lands are for future generations and not for political cronies! Please kokua! Share this petition to Governor Neil Abercombie, Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives. Please also ask the following question of all candidates:Will you support the Repeal of Act 55?  

DEADLINE for WRITTEN TESTIMONY on Administrative Rules Draft to PLDC is SEPTEMBER 14, 2012.

Please email your comments to:  joy.y.kimura@hawaii.gov randal.y.ikeda@hawaii.gov
SUBJECT: Senate Bill 1555 PLDC Rules

Senate Bill 1555 – authored and pushed by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/Archives/measure_indiv_Archives.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1555&year=2011



http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/10/24/13421-ag-dlnr-back-pedal-on-problems-with-land-development-corp/ http://honoluluweekly.com/feature/2011/10/no-mans-land/ http://statehoodhawaii.org/2011/06/28/dlnr_plop/ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10575753Public/Privatization

gone awry http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/open-secrets/2005/10/30/1130607152241.html http://luc.state.hi.us/about.htm#HISTORYHawaii

History http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2012/03/08/15121-open-government-lock-down/Donovan

Dela Cruz - Public Enemy to Open Government http://www.civilbeat.com/reg/posts/2012/04/10/15467-should-hawaii-trust-politicians-with-their-sweetheart-exemptions-for-projects/Calvin Say -
Public Enemy to Open Government
This message was sent by Non-Partisan Hawaii Ohana email: NonPartisanOhana@gmail.com  

See also:  
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC Rejected by Public 8/22/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Cold Water in the Face 8/20/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: Public Land Development Corporation 8/18/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Legislative Subterfuge 5/1/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: From the Inside Out 9/23/11 
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie Land Grab 9/13/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Privitizing Public Land 6/2/11


Innovations for Economic Degrowth

SUBHEAD: Ability to degrow can also mean a steady state of constant production and consumption with low-level, highly efficient resource use.  

By Andreas Exnar on 29 August 2012 for Solutions - 
Image above: Solar panels being manufactured at Mondragon plant. The company functions using cooperative behavior. From original article.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in a peculiar situation: although hardly anyone would deny the deep ecological crisis facing humankind, we seem to be caught in a net of assumptions that impede a practical solution. Having acknowledged that we need to reduce consumption of energy and materials drastically,1,2 we still often think that adjustments within the current system of production and consumption will accomplish this formidable task.

At the same time, it is widely recognized that the results of the dominant approaches to solving the ecological crisis are far from satisfying. Thus, a growing community of scientists and social activists, sharing the basic insight that a reduction of energy and material use implies a reduction of gross domestic product (GDP), is gathering under the heading of sustainable degrowth.3 Degrowth obviously entails a fundamental transformation of economic structures. But what precisely are the necessary steps?

A Paradigmatic Shift
Radical Social Innovations from the Bottom Up. In contrast to the illusion that we can do more of the same—that is, new market or state solutions to alleviate a crisis caused by market and state solutions—it is more reasonable to start looking for a new way around this stalemate. Such paths are being explored in solidarity economics and the commons, both discussed below. These allow a shift in the trajectory of our economy from endless growth to degrowth—the voluntary reduction of energy and material use while increasing leisure and well-being.

Yet how can the paradigm of a good life for all replace the growth paradigm? What we clearly need is a great social transformation. And, in fact, we can already find social innovations that might function as the basic units of this transformation. They start from the bottom and flourish in protected spaces where shared perspectives are developed, experiments and learning take place, and links to wider power networks are forged. Two outstanding examples are the solidarity economy in Brazil and the global information commons.

The Solidarity Economy
The solidarity economy appeared in Brazil in the late 1990s as the country was hit by an economic crisis caused by the liberalization of capital markets.4,5 In the ensuing recession, many enterprises went bankrupt and poverty increased. Unemployment rose, while the prospects for reentering the formal economic sector shrank for a broad portion of society.

In this deplorable situation, a small group of socially concerned academics acted as change agents. They were engaged in a national campaign against hunger and had teaching positions at the National School for Public Health. This allowed them to support poor people’s cooperatives by creating solidarity economy incubators where cooperatives could learn to organize their workflow based on relations of equality and reciprocal support.

Cooperatives were also supported in resolving the technical challenges they encountered. A considerable part of the learning process in the solidarity economy took place within incubators, in which experiences with cooperative success were assessed, shared, and further developed.

In addition, social networking between trade unions, universities, and cooperative associations strengthened the power links between this niche and the wider society and state. Finally, the solidarity economy even managed to establish a state secretariat that was instituted within the Ministry of Labor. The state secretariat further supported the cooperatives by starting a national mapping project to assess the state of solidarity economics in Brazil and allow for the specific allocation of resources and legal reforms.

In the case of the solidarity economy, we see a radical social innovation in the making. Wage labor is replaced by self-management, which is the solidarity economy’s core innovation—and not a small one. Indeed, cooperative self-management is a precondition for ecologically responsible production. There are two reasons for this:
First, it is only through self-management that production can become oriented toward concrete needs (which are limited and can be satisfied), instead of shareholder value and profit (which are unlimited, can never be fully satisfied, and thus entail growing consumption of energy and materials).

Second, equal cooperation within an enterprise is a starting point for cooperation with other stakeholders and society at large, further reducing the competitive compulsion to grow. For instance, a recent study found that members of cooperative enterprises are more socially and democratically oriented than the average worker. According to the authors of this study, this trend is not the result of selectively employing people who are already socially oriented, but is rather the effect of egalitarian labor relations on individual workers.6

Thus, it is no surprise that in Brazil solidarity economy units often cooperate as networks by, for example, collectively marketing what has been produced independently. Solidarity economy chains that directly link different producers that depend on each other have been developed in some cases. The most prominent example is the textile cooperative Justa Trama.7
There, monetary income that is earned at the end of the chain is shared by all members who contributed to the production process according to their needs and living conditions. Because a solidarity economy is not primarily geared toward profits and often replaces monetary relations with direct cooperation, it does not promote growth but acts as an increasingly important safety net for people excluded from the capitalist sector.

Information Commons
Within enterprises of the solidarity economy, workers share machinery, buildings, raw materials, and products equally. Means of production, then, are commons. One might argue that, worldwide, commons are rare; they are, indeed, subordinated to market economics in most cases. However, on the level of information, they are already an important part of our daily lives. The best-known example of an information commons might be the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Founded in 2001, Wikipedia has become not just a reliable but also the most important source of encyclopedic information in the world. It currently contains 21 million articles read by about 365 million users in 285 different languages.8
Unlike traditional encyclopedias, Wikipedia neither involves wage labor nor is organized by the state. Instead, a global community of voluntary, self-organized writers collectively creates Wikipedia. Its use is not restricted by the market or the state, but is open to anyone with a computer and Internet access. In this sense, Wikipedia is a perfect example of a radical social innovation that overcomes the basic structures of capitalism—markets, wage labor, and state intervention—and does not rely on material growth.

Wikipedia is only one example of a much larger group of goods in the information technology sphere that share a common feature: they are not produced on the basis of wage labor or with the primary aim of deriving profits from their sale, but on the basis of collectively organized, voluntary work. As a result, they create products that anyone can access for free without the constraints of the market.

Most prominently, these include software products such as Firefox, Linux, and MeeGo, which have increasingly become serious rivals to commercial counterparts like Microsoft Internet Explorer. Beyond software, examples of information commons include projects such as Ronen Kadushin (ronen-kadushin.com), with its open furniture designs; the Open Architecture Network (openarchitecturenetwork.com); Arduino (arduino.cc), with its open electronic hardware designs; and many more. The One Laptop per Child Initiative (laptop.org) also uses an open design.
Intellectual property law provides the legal possibility of protecting the information commons from commodification through “copyleft” licenses, the most widely used of which are the GNU General Public License for free software and diverse Creative Commons licenses for other information commons.

Products that are distributed under one of these licenses are explicitly free for use, copying, and distribution, sometimes under certain conditions, such as noncommercial use and distribution. These patents therefore try to prevent what James Boyle called “enclosing the commons of the mind.”9 The development of copyleft licenses is just one example of the complex learning processes that took place within the open-source movement.

The success of information commons, like Wikipedia and others, indicates that, although money remains a necessity for survival in modern societies, it is not necessarily money that motivates people to create; rather, they can also be motivated by the enjoyment of creation itself, in connection with confidence in reciprocity. When someone decides to write or improve an article on Wikipedia, this person relies on compensation through thousands of complementary and additional improvements made by others at the same time. Wikipedia also shows that there is no need for central management—rather, a useful product can result from collectively organized work.

Working Differently
Mondragon Corporation in the Basque Region of Spain exemplifies how even for-profit companies can function using cooperatives. Mondragon, which has nearly 85,000 employees across many industries, maintains wage ratios between executives and laborers and gives every employee one vote within the company.

It is only one further step—and that step is not nearly so great as one might imagine—to expand the principle of commons into the realm of material technology and production, as already described in the section about solidarity economies.

Recent, open-source software products include 3-D printers, such as RepRap (reprap.org), Fab@Home (fabathome.org), and MakerBot (makerbot.com), which are able to produce small plastic objects of any form, bringing the factory to the consumer. The 3-D printer RepRap is even able to produce some of its own components, making it a self-replicating machine.

It is certainly questionable whether each person should be provided with his or her own small factory. Nonetheless, these are astonishing examples that show how a completely different mode of production that bypasses wage labor and markets is potentially within reach.

Such an economy without money would not be compelled to grow but could do what an economy in the Greek sense of oikonomia was originally meant to do: efficiently satisfy human needs for food, shelter, and cultural development.

How to Get to a Great Transformation
Diffusion of innovations starts when the dominant system comes into crisis. A crisis is an opportunity for a better future, a truth evident in the recent spread of solidarity economics and commons worldwide. Another reason for the acceleration of the debate on the commons is the late Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize-winning work on models of organizing resource use beyond state intervention and market economics.

Cooperation is not restricted to the local, as information commons best illustrate. The Mondragon corporation in the Basque country, which employs more than 85,000 members and comprises 256 companies and bodies, of which approximately half are cooperatives, is another good example. These companies are not coordinated by monetary relations or state regulations but—within clear limitations—by democratic governance.10 Another example is the kibbutzim of the 1960s, which were characterized by complex cooperation both internally and externally within the overarching institutional network of kibbutz settlements.11

Such cooperative networks act like super-commons, linking different systems and smaller communities through collaborative decision making procedures. Insofar as those networks replace monetary relations with a direct focus on concrete human needs, they are not oriented toward profit making and thus enable degrowth.

In market economies, livelihoods are bound to wage labor, which depends on profits and growth; in solidarity economies and the commons, production is determined by need only and can be voluntarily reduced. Social safety could be guaranteed by distributing products equally and by developing public infrastructures, from communal gardening and free sports facilities run by neighborhoods to open libraries. If production harms the environment, reducing it will contribute to society’s overall wellbeing, instead of exacerbating the social crisis of the growth economy.

An economy that is able to degrow can also enter a steady state of constant production and consumption with low-level, highly efficient resource use. This could fulfill the very goal that the capitalist economy increasingly fails to serve: a good life for all.

  1. Haberl, H, Fischer-Kowalski, M, Krausmann, F, Martinez-Alier, J & Winiwarter, V. A socio-metabolic transition towards sustainability? Challenges for another Great Transformation. Sustainable Development 19, 1–14 (2011).
  2. Gordon, RB, Bertram, M & Graedel, TE. Metal stocks and sustainability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 1209-1214 (2006).
  3. Martínez-Alier, J, Pascual, U, Vivien, F-D & Zaccai, E. Sustainable de-growth: Mapping the context, criticisms and future prospects of an emergent paradigm. Ecological Economics 69, 1741–1747 (2010).
  4. Singer, P in Universities and Rio+10: Paths for Sustainability and Interdisciplinary Challenge (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst & Gesamthochschule Kassel, eds) 73-84 (Kassel University Press, Reihe Entwicklungsperspektiven, 2003).
  5. de Faria, MS & Cunha, GC. Self-management and solidarity economy: The challenges for worker-recovered companies in Brasil. Journal für Entwicklungspolitik 3, 22-42 (2009).
  6. Weber, WG, Unterrainer, C & Schmid, BE. The influence of organizational democracy on employees’ socio-moral climate and prosocial behavioral orientations. Journal of Organizational Behavior 30, 1127–1149 (2009).
  7. Justa Trama [online]. www.justatrama.com.br.
  8. Wikipedia [online]. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia.
  9. Boyle, J. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2008).
  10. Mondragon [online]. www.mcc.es/language/en-US/ENG.aspx.
  11. Dar, Y. Communality, rationalization and distributive justice: Changing evaluation of work in the Israeli kibbutz. International Sociology 17, 91–111 (2002).

Drumming in the Stories

SUBHEAD: The weekend itself has drummed in a strange tribe of stories, and they haven’t yet left.  

By Paul Kingsnorth on 24 August 2012 for Dark Mountain -  
 Image above: Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf photo by Bridget McKenzie ftaken during the 3rd Uncivilisation Festival. From original article.
Everyone will have their own feelings on what the high, and low, points were of last weekend’s Dark Mountain festival – our third annual Uncivilisation event and in my view our best yet. For me, one of the greatest pleasures was the opportunity to actually enjoy the thing; to wander the site, meet and talk to people, sit back and listen to music with a beer in the woods. This project has reached a stage now where its work rests on many shoulders, rather than on just two or three, and the improvement is plain to see. Speaking purely selfishly, I’m grateful to have the time now to actually experience things, rather than simply (attempt to) run them.

But there was a clear high point of the festival too, for me, and it was Martin Shaw‘s storytelling and mythmaking session on the Saturday afternoon. Martin is someone I met only a few months ago, in a Devon pub, but I already feel that the connections between his work and ours are going to prove fruitful. Martin is director of the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, a storyteller and a man with a fascinating history. He and I will be collaborating this winter on a writing and mythmaking workshop on the wilds of Dartmoor. More on that here soon.

One of the necessary – the vital – aspects of Dark Mountain’s work, and one which we need to explore further, is the gulf in this culture between mythos and logos; between a way of seeing the world that expresses itself in stories and a way of seeing that expresses itself in measurements. In our culture, the balance between the two has got badly out of kilter. This gulf was discussed again and again, independently, over the weekend, in many sessions and discussions, by, for example, Andy Letcher, Martin Palmer and Jay Griffiths and doubtless many others I missed, and was alluded to and touched on much more widely. I see at least part of what we do as an attempt to restore some dignity and some authority to mythos; to take it seriously as a way of seeing that goes beyond whimsy or ‘romance.’ To understand that without it we are lost; as we may already be.

Martin Shaw’s session was simple in one way. He talked about the importance of myth and story, then he told three stories. But that doesn’t do any kind of justice to what happened when he told them. There are a lot of storytellers around, as there are a lot of writers, but you know when you have come across one who touches on something in the depths. I took something away from Martin’s session; something which I took away, in fact, from the whole festival. I don’t know what it was, quite, but it’s not an intellectual impression; it’s a physical feeling. Right now, I don’t feel like the same person I was before the weekend began. I feel like I haven’t touched down again, and I feel like I don’t want to.
And this is what it was always supposed to be about.

For the first time since we wrote our manifesto, I feel that Dark Mountain has done, and done well, what we intended to do: summon the stories. It’s a beginning, not an end, and it’s nothing I can prove. This is only my experience. But I feel that our third festival has sent trails out into the world which will lead … who knows where? It doesn’t matter. Martin Shaw began his stories by playing a large drum, balanced on his lap. We had to ‘drum in the stories’ together, he said; ‘this isn’t theatre, this is real.’ I feel, oddly, as if the weekend itself has drummed in a strange tribe of stories, and they haven’t yet left. They haven’t left me, anyway.

Other reports are beginning to come in on the weekend, and if we’re alerted to more we will feature them here. For now, here is a nice piece of reflection from Bridget McKenzie on the weekend; and here is Robert Alcock offering his take (nice use of the provocative headline!) Here are Jody Boehnert’s thoughts on the relationship (or not) between stories and activism. Here is an excellent piece on the wider aims of the project, by Charlotte DuCann (see below), which sums Dark Mountain up better than I have ever managed to do. And here is a wonderful pallete of photographs (see image above) from Bridget McKenzie, which give a great visual impression of the weekend.

We’re keen to hear the thoughts of those who attended, so please leave a comment here if you have any perspectives, suggestions or views of your own. They don’t have to be complimentary! We’d like to hear as many views as possible about what worked and what didn’t. What should there be more or less of next year, and what was missing? Because there will be a next year. I’ve already filled a sheet of paper with ideas. I’d like to hear yours too.
Thank you again to everyone who made it happen.

The Dark Mountain Project
 By Charlotte Du Cann on 20 August 2012 for STIR - 
It started with a conversation that became a manifesto that became a book that became a festival that became a movement. Three years on the Dark Mountain Project is still hard to define. It is both a cultural response to a collapsing world, and a network of people who gather to makes sense of that collapse. At its core is a shared recognition that the stories we have inherited are are no longer making sense of our lives, and a new narrative for the times we are living in needs to be forged.

The Project was founded by former journalists, Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, and has not just inspired fellow writers and thinkers, but has also brought together performers, poets, musicians, artists, craftsmen and activists. The work and the conversations that shape and inform this cultural movement are as many-layered and diverse in their expression as a rainforest, or an ocean. The annual arts and music festival on the Hampshire Downs in August includes a Funeral for A Lost Species in the woods, a celebration of the art of protest, storytelling around the fire, workshops on scything and foraging, a children’s council, as well as poetry readings, discussions and performances.

This diversity is deliberate: we live in a monoculture of Empire, which holds a firm grip on our imaginations and our perception of the world. It is hard to see or feel or think outside the illusion it maintains of the supremacy of Western civilisation, with its high-profile shows, power games and technology.

Dark Mountain however is about facing the reality of the matter, how we proceed towards the future with integrity and intelligence, no matter what the storm brings. It allows the space and time in which to discover a creative common ground, as well as our common allegiance with the living, breathing earth and all its creatures. At the heart of the project is a deep reconnection with the planet and a recognition that we need to shift away from a dissociated, mental worldview to reengage with life on a practical and imaginative level. A shift away of what some might call the domination of a heartless left-hemisphere attention, to include the the all-encompassing feeling attention of the right.
Perhaps what defines Dark Mountain most is that it provides a space in which those perceptions can happen: an allowance of uncertainty.

That space is hard to write about because it is not easily found in an objective world where human beings are seen to be in control of the environment, in lessening degrees of sustainability or social justice; but within a more subjective relationship with our home planet, where a connection with creaturehood, ancestral form and language inform our actions and our attitude. Here is Akshay Ahuja on the Dark Mountain blog reviewing the collection I’m with the Bears: Short Stories on a Damaged Planet:

“There is real sorrow, though, and for something specific — a lost language, the Ferrarese dialect, and all of the parts of the natural world that it named, like hares, which went extinct during the Crisis.
‘The ruins of a language are heart-wrenching,’ the narrator writes. ‘Every word that dies out is a house that gives up, sags and sinks, becomes buried in the sand.’

An acute sense of loss is one of the markers of Uncivilisation, a loss of the things we love that define us as human beings, namely our kinship with the natural world, our ability to make beauty and sense of our lives, our connectivity. It’s a loss that leads not to guilt or powerlessness however, but to questions that challenge the writer and philosopher in all of us.

What if fiction itself is no longer the form that brings meaning? What if the building blocks of our stories — the hero, the battle, the family, the house — are no longer its true foundation? What if the form itself has to change to accommodate the shift towards a different kind of world? What if our stories no longer aspire towards happy endings or conquering the peak, but on finding our way down the mountain in the dark? In many ways the Dark Mountain collections (the third is published on September 15) reflect this. There are stories and essays, myths and poems, discourse, meditation, interviews, photographs, paintings, journeys. journalism; its contributors include known writers — John Michael Greer, Naomi Klein, Jay Griffiths, John Rember, Melanie Challenger, Adrienne Odasso — as well as new and unknown voices. What they share is an urgency, a sense of belonging in a time of dislocation:
“We came to this issue of Dark Mountain with a question, how do we begin to find our way home? When our stories have failed us and our maps have led us astray, how do we get our bearings? And what remnants might we find of the meaning and security for which a human home, if we are lucky, might stand?”
In a world divided into stats and graphs, straight lines and pixel squares, Dark Mountain speaks in the cycles and circles of earth, at home in wild uncharted places, in silence, in the woods, on the farm, around the fire, and equally fluent in a city intelligence. Rooted, fierce, unafraid to ask difficult questions or enter a dialogue, it is most of all real about the places we live in:
Global campaigning for an abstract “environment” does not appear to work. What does work is engaging with nature on a human scale. Perhaps the best rejoinder to those who believe the world is a giant spreadsheet is an engagement with its messy, everyday complexity. A kind of vernacular environmentalism; an engagement not with “the environment”, but with environments as we experience them in lived reality.
This would be a good time to step back, to get our hands dirty and our feet wet, to smell the rain when it comes and get a feel for where we are on this Earth and what, at the root of it all, we can still usefully do. — Paul Kingsnorth (The Guardian, August 1, 2012)
On a personal level, having focused my attention on the Transition movement for four years, the Uncivilisation Festival opened a door I had forgotten was there. Dark Mountain shares an awareness of social and ecological crisis with many environmental campaigns and social movements, but it approaches this “information” entirely differently. Progressive groups can bring communities together, but their scientific, political and sometimes corporate language, cannot get to the heart of what it means to be alive in human form at this time, to express what might be called the existential:
my place in this world.

They don’t link with the deep and rainbow-coloured fabric of the world, its dreaming and song lines, or the lineage of poets and artists who have held out for another kind of living together on the earth. For Dark Mountain is not the nature writing of Empire, the polite observations of vicars and academics: its participants meet in the commons, celebrate the rough and radical moves of Diggers and Luddites, the anti-road protesters of the ’90s and the freedom fighting of many indigenous people, all of whom who stand up for themselves and their ancestral forests and mountains against the murderous Machine.

It became clear that to proceed with any kind of impeccability, to value the world, we need to engage in creating a culture that reflects those sensibilities. And secondly we need to be able to hold the reality of what is happening, what might be called systemic collapse, not just on our own, but in the company of others. To connect, as John Berger once wrote, what has been “institutionally kept separate”.
Three months ago I wrote a blog about Transition, which, though it describes itself an experiment, has a clear road map that you can follow: it is signposted with 87 Ingredients and Tools and has a thousand initiatives around the world, engaged in downshift and relocalisation. You can write about what people in those places are doing with ease. But Dark Mountain is the uncertain path. It sits with a blank slate and it doesn’t know the way forward, or have any intention of rolling out a master plan. It is hard to define, and that is partly the point. We are from a big know-it all culture, and we sit in front of computers like the Wizard of Oz, talking about carbon reduction and supply chains, as if we could get it all sorted and go about our lives as before, just with nicer sources of energy.

But many of us — including activists and Transitioners — are drawn to Dark Mountain because a lot of the stuff we do doesn’t work out the way we would like it to work out, and many of us feel it won’t work out with climate change and peak oil, no matter how positive or right-on we are, and how do you face that? Some people react with a prescribed set of emotions — despair, hope and grief — and explain them in terms of spirituality or psychology. But for most of us, those explanations still form part of the old narrative. Our story is not yet written. We haven’t even found the words, but we might just have found each other. In the woods, around the fire.
If someone were to ask me what kind of cause is sufficient to live for in dark times, the best answer I could give would be: to take responsibility for the survival of something that matters deeply. Whatever that is, your best action might then be to get it out of harm’s way, or to put yourself in harm’s way on its behalf, or anything else your sense of responsibility tells you. — From The Dark Shapes Ahead by Dougald Hine
I’m on the beach with Dark Mountain Norwich, a small regional group that formed after the Festival last year. We have taken the afternoon out of our normal routines to have a picnic by the sea. Here we are sitting among the dunes in attentive stillness, without a plan, allowing whatever arises. We have spent the summer devising a happening in Chapefield Gardens. Now we are focusing on the waterlands of East Anglia and those of everyone’s native lands: the rivers and lakes of Portugal, Denmark and the Austrian Alps. We discuss the way water informs our lives, what memories it brings. In ordinary life there is no time for this discussion, we are way too busy: our attention focused on getting through the day, earning our living, distracted by politics and the 24/7 media circus. We don’t notice what is going on, and discuss it even less. Jeppe tells us how many people he knows are living in a state of anxiety. Stuff that is hard to see when you look at the shiny successful surface of things.

Because life really looks OK when you look at the beach: happy people walking, the sea sparkling, the dog playing in the surf. Only when you push below the surface is something else revealed: the polluted ocean, the oil tankers on the horizon, the dog that depends on the industrial food system, the inner turmoil of the people walking past, the state of their bodies, hearts and minds. The absence of little terns, the disappearance of the cod. That depth, that inquiry, the acknowledgement that those difficulties are there is the place where Dark Mountain starts. It doesn’t rush in with solutions, or go into denial. It starts there, with complexity, with the big picture and the details. What is in front of us every day.

Afterwards we go swimming in the sea, and Kevin, who is from the Norfolk coast, tells me how he comes from a long line of bargees and fishermen, and how he spent summers in his youth out among the sandbars and the driftwood, living wild. We float in the waves, in the immensity of sea and sky, like seal people, like people in their element.

You need to go into the mountains, the writer, Edward Abbey once advised all activists, and remind yourself of what you are doing all this for.

Dark Mountain is that reminder. Earth first.

See also:
 Ea O Ka Aina: Hope in the Age of Collapse 4/3/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Time to Stop Pretending 4/27/11
 Ea O Ka Aina: Climbing a Dark Mountain 9/6/10
 Ea O Ka Aina: Industrial Apocalypse 8/17/09 .

Days of Future Past

SUBHEAD: Back in the day much of the world was covered with forests, and could withstand extremes more easily.

By Brian Kaller on 25 August 2012 for Restoring Mayberry -  

Image above: The River Liffey near our home in rural Ireland was flooded in late 2009. From original article.

 “I can’t remember a year like this. Ever,” said an old man in the tweed jacket and flat cap. My wife and I had stopped in the pub to take shelter from the rain – not the cold mist that Irish people know so well, but a hard rain that loudly hammered the low ceiling above our heads. “Are you from here?” I asked him, talking over the drum roll above.

“Lived in this place all my life,” he said, “Sixty-seven years. I talked to my neighbour down the road today – he’s 85 years old, and he said he’d never seen a year like this. He thought 1947 was a bad year, but it was nothing like this.” Everyone here says the same: farmers, neighbours, bus drivers, the old lady I met in the coffee shop this morning. As useful as it is to read the record-breaking weather numbers, it also helps to talk to people who have spent much of their time outdoors for decades and ask them how the air feels.

When modern people try to gauge whether climate change is real, they run into several problems. We no longer live with a sense of our surroundings as our ancestors did, but spend much of our time in a bubble of regulated temperature and lighting. Even when we allow ourselves to feel the elements, we do so for a narrow sliver of time; until recently most people only lived to forty years or so, and while we have almost doubled that figure lately, our lives still flicker on and off quickly compared to those trees or turtles.

We have been able to stretch our understanding far beyond our own lives, though, thanks to a million or so un-thanked researchers each testing bits of the past: pockets of prehistoric air trapped in ice, pollen grains in lake mud, bones and branches and beetle wings, and bits of carbon left behind when an errant subatomic particle jumped its atomic ship. In short, experts of all kinds, of dozens of faiths and countries, have come up with a story of the past – and in broad strokes it all fits like a particularly horrific jigsaw.

The story they tell us is not that carbon dioxide traps the heat of the sun like greenhouse panes – that was known around the time of the US Civil War. Nor is it the fact that our industry and modern machines are flooding the air with carbon dioxide and will change the climate – that has been predicted for more than a century.

 Such information even entered into pop culture long ago. I have on my shelf a book that once came free with Life magazine in 1955 called The World We Live In – it was to promote science among young Americans in an age when both Life and science education were commonplace and uncontroversial. It casually states (1) that pollution from cars and factories had boosted CO2 levels by 10 per cent -- those were the days! -- and that the world would get much hotter in the years ahead. At the time, saying that humans would someday walk on the moon would have been more contentious.

While it did not appear the most urgent issue at the time, references to carbon emissions remained in the mainstream; in 1965, for example, President Lyndon Johnson said in a presidential speech that “this generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through … a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.” (2) In the 1980s, when a growing body of data caused scientists to escalate their warnings, Time magazine devoted cover stories to the issue, and in 1990 George Bush – the first one – said that “we all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and in unprecedented ways,” although he balked at most changes to deal with the problem. (3) Such pronouncements stood on a small but sufficient body of evidence – enough to convict, as it were.

The world’s experts had the ice-core and balloon-test equivalents of witnesses, motive and fingerprints, and world authorities listened, from the United Nations to Pope John Paul II. Over the next twenty years, though, three things happened.

First, the evidence multiplied to many times what it was before, both because we got better studies, clearer samples and so on, and because the phenomenon itself continued, offering more looming tragedy to study. Instead of just the witnesses, motive and confession, we now also had the equivalent of DNA evidence, forensics evidence, a signed confession and video footage of the crime. You had the accused changing their plea to “guilty.” You had the ghost of the murder victim rising from the dead to point a finger at the accused.

You had the accused killer holding press conferences announcing exactly how they committed the murder. In short, we went from 99 per cent certain to 100 per cent. The second was that, as evidence of the crisis increased, support for fixing it decreased, until elites and media pundits – a minority in Europe, a majority in the USA – claimed the massive changes around them were a hoax, a secret conspiracy of scientists of many nations and faiths, their own eyes, and in some cases, themselves from a few years earlier. The argument usually ran like this:
  1. the weather was not changing,
  2. the cause of the change was unknown,
  3. we had nothing to do with the change,
  4. the change would turn out better for us, and
  5. the weather was not changing.
For the last two decades most environmental activists have continued fighting the good fight, although usually claiming – as with most issues -- that “we” have only x number of years to stop climate change “or it will be too late.” The number of years seemed to vary, for every new season and study seemed to force a re-evaluation, and the “too late” part rang hollow, for climate change has no starting point and nowhere to put a countdown.

A third thing changed, though – everything. As scientists began to understand global warming, the more they realised that it wouldn’t bring warmth. It would bring chaos.

A third thing changed, though – more people realised that global warming wouldn’t necessarily bring warmth, but chaos. Not a steady progression in a single, if sometimes inconvenient direction, nor a Hollywood apocalypse to which we could count down. It would mean sudden swings to extremes that we could not predict and for which we could never prepare. Even more disturbingly, this might be a return to the normal state of climate.
To understand this, it helps to understand that ice ages were not, as some people imagine, a planet covered in ice. The world probably did see something like that 700 million years ago, a Snowball Earth that might have forced the then-planet of germs to organise into bodies as fortresses against the elements. Since then, though, the planet has been what we would consider tropical, as in every dinosaur illustration you’ve ever seen.
Only a few million years ago did the world begin to see ice, and even then it has swung between two moderate states. Every ten thousand years or so the planet gets cooler and the ice caps expand down to Spain and Kentucky – the ice age part -- and then they retreat to the small caps we know today. The cooler stretches sound extreme to us because they covered today’s Western and prosperous nations where so many of us live, but remember that even now, most humans live elsewhere, and we didn’t just lose potential land.

 Places like Chihuahua or the Sudan might have been more habitable than today, and the Caribbean and Indonesia would turn from island chains to vast rainforests; in terms of habitable space, we might gain as much in an Ice Age as we would lose. It also helps to understand that humans did not merely endure weather, as we once thought, but changed it long before we discovered the fuel potential of fossils. US histories once imagined Native Americans wandering sparsely around a virgin wilderness in loincloths, while European histories rarely mentioned the hot and cold periods that had such power over European culture for hundreds of years.

A detailed history of Britain, for example, might have mentioned the “frost fairs” on the River Thames, without explaining why the Thames no longer freezes. Over the last couple of decades, though, researchers began to fit various pieces together --as chronicled in books like William Ruddiman’s Plows, Plagues and Petroleum and Charles Mann’s 1493 – and concluded that humans have been changing the climate since the end of the last ice age.

We imagine humans doing this in modern farming nations like Britain and China, but ancient humans farmed almost everywhere they settled; in what is now Arkansas and Nigeria, New Guinea and the Amazon. By cutting down most of the world’s trees, humans sent a constant trickle of carbon dioxide into the sky and prevented it from coming back, and that subtle shift, say some researchers put off the ice age that would otherwise have been coming back right about now.

When large numbers of farmers suddenly stop farming and the forests return, the effects can be seen in global weather. After Genghis Khan killed tens of millions of farmers, the climate noticeably cooled, as it did after the Black Death cut the European population by a third. When Europeans first reached the Americas, they brought ten thousand years’ worth of diseases to which Natives had no exposure, and an estimated 95 per cent of the population died, turning what had been a densely populated landscape into an empty land.

And once again, the forests grew back, and the resulting Little Ice Age iced over the Thames – and much of Europe – for the next 300 years. The fact that we started changing the climate long ago, though, shouldn’t make us take the current crisis less seriously; rather, it should serve as a cautionary tale. If medieval farmers could do this much by burning trees, releasing the sunlight and carbon drawn down from the last century, how much more are we doing by unleashing hundreds of millions of years?

What we are doing, in fact, is flooding the air with the atmosphere of forests that existed before dinosaurs, from when a dimmer sun shone over a thicker atmosphere and giant insects under a fern-tree canopy. When we drive, fly, and use engines of any kind, mixing our own air with that of an alien planet.
This brings us to the final and greatest problem, one that we are only slowly beginning to realise. When the climate changed in the past – say, at the end of the ice age – it did so far more quickly than we realised, perhaps in a few generations. Climate change does not creep along slowly over generations, but swings from one state to another wildly, and the last several thousand years have been comparatively mild and moderate.

We have lived in a stretch of green and pleasant land not just as long as any individual can remember, but as long as there was recorded history. It seems a long time to us, but it’s a blink in geological time, merely a summer in the ice-age oscillation. Humans have had modern brains for perhaps ten times longer than that, and have walked upright perhaps 400 times longer.

In this ten-millennia stretch of warm and stable temperatures, though, we have gone from our normal foraging to fields of crops, to cities, world wars and plastics, and multiplied our numbers perhaps 7,000 times above normal. Now that we have manipulated carbon dioxide levels as much as any ice age – just in the opposite direction – we might return to a wildly oscillating climate.

Climatologist J. P. Steffens, who studies ice cores from his base on the frozen wastes of Greenland, doesn’t believe this to be a coincidence. In Elizabeth Kolbert’s excellent 2002 article “Ice Memory,” Steffens says our frenzied growth in this one era could only happen because we have been fortunate enough to have a period of calm in the storm. “Why didn't human beings make civilisation fifty thousand years ago?

You know that they had just as big brains as we have today. When you put it in a climatic framework, you can say, "Well, it was the ice age. And also this ice age was so climatically unstable that each time you had the beginning of a culture they had to move. Then comes the present interglacial — ten thousand years of very stable climate.

The perfect conditions for agriculture. If you look at it, it's amazing. Civilisations in Persia, in China, and in India start at the same time, maybe six thousand years ago. They all developed writing and they all developed religion and they all built cities, all at the same time, because the climate was stable. I think that if the climate would have been stable fifty thousand years ago it would have started then. But they had no chance.” (4)
Climatologist James Hansen echoed the same sentiment a few years later. “… civilization developed, and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12 000 years in duration,” he said. “That period is about to end.” (5) Of course, all these statements were made before the most potentially serious sign of the future -- bubbles of methane released from melting ice -- were seen frothing up from under the Arctic at an alarming rate. Most of the change so far has been from carbon dioxide; methane is dozens of times worse. It’s a realisation with breath-taking implications for the whole idea of climate change.

Rather than a steady climb upwards, easy to predict, track and prove, we could face a chaotic series of extremes in all directions, depending on where we are. Convincing people that the climate is changing presents an obvious difficulty; since climate is simply the average of thousands of days of weather, any of which is unpredictable in itself, change is difficult to see except by careful noticing over time. Even then such changes could be determined if the change was steady and predictable; if the temperatures, wherever you are, were to rise one degree per decade, then after a decade or two the world could have taken readings and had an answer before televisions were invented. When the change means wilder swings, though, predicting the effects of climate change becomes even more difficult, as does convincing people. No one could ever blame climate change for any one weather event, any more than one could ever blame tobacco companies for any one smoker’s lung cancer. You could, however, look broadly at the number of smokers who die of lung cancer, and compare them with the number of non-smokers, and you can calculate a certain per cent increase in the risk of cancer. In the same way, we can look at a typical climate and calculate what we are seeing that is unusual, as NASA scientists did earlier this year, and find that climate change caused the 2003 European heat wave that killed tens of thousands of people, or the 2010 Russian heat wave that caused massive peat fires, or the heat wave in Texas and Oklahoma last year. (6) Or let’s say you just stick to this year. My daughter and I visited my native Missouri, which was enduring the same unprecedented heat and drought as most of the continent; July was the hottest month in US history. The weather is destroying farmers’ crops and driving up global food prices, which could lead to riots and civil war in countries where millions of poor people depend on the baseline price. Gardeners I know there are giving up; even if they have water, they say, the soil dries so quickly that it’s of no use.
We visited an acquaintance in the Ozark Mountains, and thankfully the forests there had not burned; Colorado and New Mexico were not so lucky. Then we visited friends in Minnesota when floods hit Duluth – floods like no one had ever seen before, floods that ripped canyons through town big enough for cars to fall into, floods great enough to lift seals out of their enclosures at the zoo and set them on someone’s front lawn. A report last month found that the number of heavy rains had increased 30 per cent since 1948. Then we returned to Ireland, seeing near-constant rain and chill.

A couple of years ago, Ireland saw its worst flooding in 800 years, with waters covering vast areas – but the very next summer saw a lack of rain, to the point that we worried that the peat bogs around us could catch fire. That winter we had a deep snowfall – something that almost never happens in Ireland. The next year we had another.

No doubt in a matter of months, various number-crunchers will diligently inform the world that these events were due to our human activities, unprecedented signs of a world to come, and be dismissed again. At one of my talks in Minnesota, I talked about this, saying that the stock environmental message about climate change is wrong. We don’t have a certain number of years to avoid it, and we’re not on a countdown. That passed long ago.
Because most mainstream media elites are located on the coasts, I said, a standard message about climate change has been that it will flood the coasts – the loss of part of Manhattan was one of the frightening scenarios posited in Al Gore’s Nobel-Prize-winning Power Point presentation. The real danger, I said, is not the loss of this or that city; people can move, after all, and Tulsa is not less valuable than New York.

The danger, I said, is that crop failure becomes commonplace, until even fewer young men want to become farmers, or that farms become too great a risk for financiers, or that even homesteaders don't know what to plant this year. Someone asked me afterward what kind of solution I would propose.

I said that we could grow a great variety of different crops, so that something would succeed. It would involve everyone participating in an intensive degree of homesteading and market gardening, to the point that we would be doing little else with our lives, but perhaps that’s for the best. I said I could also recommend asking ourselves why, during millions of years of chaotic climate, so little of the world was harmed.

I would like to hear from a paleo-biologist, but my guess would be that so much of the world was covered with forests, and could withstand extremes more easily. Forests can also help regulate their own climate; trees can break the fall of heavy rain before they hit the soil, and their roots keep soil from eroding.

Their leaves cool the ground with their shade, and can exude enough moisture to generate their own clouds, as above rainforests. Perhaps the best thing we can do, I said, is take a page from Genghis Khan and Columbus, and help some failing cropland turn back to its natural state again. It wouldn't undo everything, but it would be a victory in the battle for normality.