Environmentalism is not a religion

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My response to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/26/climate-change-skeptic-religion?commentpage=6#start-of-comments

I’d say it’s the exact opposite of a religion. We environmentalists have looked around at the state of the world, gathered evidence, considered the possibilities and (quite often) reluctantly come to the conclusion that “someone should do something” and “I am someone”.

Believe me, I would much rather that the world was fine and I could spend my time on something else instead.

I am convinced by the evidence, where global or local it all points in one direction. I’m also convinced by the successes, from the action against CFCs, the ever-growing amount of organic food available (again – it was all your grandparents had), and the cleaning up of rivers in many countries through to the many permaculture projects regenerating wasteland and making it productive for human civilization.

Humans are amazing. We can fix the world and we will fix the world. It does however seem that we will have to get on with building a better world without waiting for agreement from everyone, let alone governments.

Are ‘super farms’ good for the environment?

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My response to http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jun/07/super-farms-environment-livestock-climate

The case for super farms ignores two things.

1. It is increasing the case that monoculture proves to be a bad thing, in farming like anything else. Moving to larger scales of monoculture merely increases the likelihood that diseases and pests will claim the entire huge crop. Mixed cultures are much better from that perspective.

2. A “super” farm is only possible with large amounts of cheap energy. The costs of energy are rising and will continue to do so.

I also heard on the radio this morning that super farms will create jobs because 1 man can now do what 10 used to. Not sure how that works?

What seems to be more useful is the opposite: small, human scale organic farms with mixed crops, probably designed using permaculture principles. This would seem to be a more productive way forward to produce more food, of different types, and more employment, while using less energy.

Zac Goldsmith: climate change pushes other issues off the agenda

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My response to http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/06/climate-change-other-issues-goldsmith?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

I would blame the media, who only seem capable of focusing on one issue at a time. Politicians respond to that.

Most environmentalists (like myself) know that we need to change nearly everything we as a species do if we want to avoid a collapse of our civilization. Pick your scenario – economic collapse, 6 degree temperature rise (and counting), sea level rise, resource depletion, peak oil, soil sterility, antibiotic resistant disease, crop failure, pesticides in our foods poisoning us, the obesity epidemic, the fact that we eat fish today that were considered inedible when I was a kid, the lack of fresh water etc etc. There’s plenty more and they’re all very feasible right now.

It is our economic system that delivers all this, supposedly in the name of progress. If we were all happy, perhaps it would be worth it, but most of us aren’t. Why, exactly are we destroying our own habitat in order to make ourselves miserable?

Saying no-one votes for the environment misses the point. The laws of physics, chemistry and biology don’t negotiate. If we have to wait for our “politics is the art of the possible” to reluctantly see the need for action then we’re in deep trouble.

Unfortunately what we need are brave politicians. I don’t see any in the West, so I guess we’re going to have to collapse before we can start to build a sustainable future for humanity. At least that will be better, but it’s going to be interesting getting there.

Thoughts after my Permaculture Design Course

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It’s interesting watching yourself have your own world view changed.

As I drove to Steve and Fiona Hansons “Permaculture Eden” for my two week design course, I was wondering if after two weeks I’d finally know what to plant with what. I guess I had permaculture fixated in my head as “hippy gardening”, and the only reason I was really going was because the Transition Handbook strongly suggested it was a good thing to do.

I’ve always liked nature – I enjoy hiking on mountains and in forests, but I guess I viewed it as a kind of nice to have thing. Great to get into, but nothing to do with the real world of people.

Then came the two week immersion, with a fantastic group of intelligent people, coming at the whole topic from different angles. We had different cultures, ate different foods (I am not, and almost certainly never will be by choice, a Vegan), spoke different native tounges, and came from different backgrounds. A mix of practical and hopeless (I’m still working on my tree and herb identification), but all with a great desire to learn about the subject.

On day one, I was sceptical. All this talk about the people that started it. By the end of day two I was hooked. This wasn’t hippy, this was really design science! I was in my element. By the end of day seven, we were due a break. I needed it, pleading “my head’s full”. But we kept discussing, and kept learning. By the end of the course, we’d learned all sorts of things, some new, some not so, and could piece it all together. We were so pleased with our design, and all of us wanted to stay on and build it, and see if it could really be done. I’m sure we’ll all build part of it somewhere.

Before we all left, we held a party, and I drove to the supermarket for beer. It seemed so strange going into this enormous shop and buying things that we could just grow.

The following day, driving home, I realised that I would never see the world in the same way again. What had been nice pretty hedges on the way in, had become fabulous edges, full of interaction, co-operation and competition. What had been nice fields became lifeless deserts, with a monoculture crop standing in a lifeless dead ex-soil supported by pesticides and fertilisers. And the trees! Not just satisfying to look at but a source of so much, capable, if managed properly, of sustaining many of our needs.

When I got back to Ferney-Voltaire, my pensive mood continued. Who knew there was so much food lying around growing in the town already? I had thought growing food in town would be really difficult, but now I know that by working with nature, rather than against it, it’ll be much easier than we think.

iPads and journalists

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Am I the only one who has noticed that mobile journalists are taking to the iPad in large numbers?  Having been around technology a while, it seems that every 10 years or so we get a variation of this form factor…

TRS-80 Model 100

Any thoughts?