Monday, December 29, 2008

Advocating a local currency.

In light of all these developments it's time to start thinking about this sort of thing, at the very least to provide a non-inflationary alternative to the status quo. Please take the time to educate yourself about how effective and powerful a means for constructive change a local currency can be, and has been over the years.

Here is a link to very well thought out commentary on successful local currencies:

Here is the link to the local discussion:

Sunday, December 28, 2008


It's becoming a bit hard to account for the fact of the explosion in wildlife around here in the last few months. All sorts of stuff is certainly moving in which a year ago simply wasn't present or was just uncommon. Now, it's just not the case. I'm sure a little chicken scratch lures a few like the cardinals and the pheasants, but to see the Io and now the Hawaiian bats moving in was a bit of a surprise. It's not a simple matter of not seeing them before--the bird population isn't even pretending to be illusive at this point--a year ago one would scarcely see a thing no matter how hard one tried.

Certainly this is a positive development but I'm curious as to what is indeed the root cause.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The point of all this:

You all NEED

. . .to start living sensibly

. . .and simply.

It is about to cease to be an option.

The Happy Ending

There are no happy endings. Endings are endings, and none of them are happy. An Epoch is in its death throes. It was a time of beauty, and I, this strange kid, got to see a surprising lot of it. The sea turtles were the big thing. I wanted to see those since I was the tiniest kid. I've now had the experience of them eating out of my hand. . .

Sadness in inherent in beauty, because comprehending beauty embraces the temporal nature of life.

And, or course, "Passion is Meaning." Some of you are familiar with that quote. . .

Take pictures. Love your people. Write about what is going on. It will be important at some point. I'm wholly with Mike that booze will be constructive. Whatever it will take to keep your heroism intact will be completely justified. . .

I spent the day planting trees. A pessimist does not plant trees. Why would I bother to mess around in the mud dealing with something I will see no benefit from in 20 years? Maybe ever? Why? Self indulgence? Delusion? Maybe. . .from the perspective in my own mind--no, not at all.

In some sense the future we face redeems us all from a kind of responsibility, perhaps, we should not ever have attempted to bear. . .

Jesus! Can't be!

Well, I didn't make up the rules, and personally over the years I've made a real attempt not to contribute to any of this mess but "facts is facts." We can pretty much expect that this next year, this next magic year of 2009, will be the one in which human-kind really fucks up. We will get behind the supply curve, due to frozen credit markets and incompetence, and make a future of peak oil and its ramifications--until now not really a certainty--inevitable. The ball was dropped, and we will suffer the consequences. As well, in terms of climate change, we needed to get on capping emissions. Does anyone really believe that the will exists in this society to reduce CO2 emissions by 90 percent by 2020? This is what it will take, optimistically even, or we're just buggered, and there is no going back. Technology? Bunk. Unless you can roll out a winning technology next week on a global scale, forget it. It would take 20 years to implement anything meaningful on a meaningful scale if we started with unlimited funding today. . .

Forget it.

So, what will we do!?

Here is the crux--

Whatever it takes. It's what human beings always do. A lot of it will be very desperate and poorly thought out. A lot of people have a lot of ideas about it all. Surely, one thing is certain--life is going to be very different that what it was like a couple of years ago. We are coming from a society in which there was very little profit motive--at least for most people--to actively disregard law and order as a means to survival. As well, we have had a very well funded police presence. This allowed some people to draw the conclusion that we lived in a civil society. We are going to move to a world in which for many there will be a lot of reasons--at least from their perspective--to disregard law and order. In fact, for a lot of people it may be necessary to make decisions like--pay my taxes and lose my house, or commit fraud and keep it? A whole lot of people will be out there ripping stuff off. This isn't going to be a lot of fun, in fact it's going to get very tiresome. This whole attitude isn't going to be helped by the fact that the ultra-rich will be mostly exposed as a criminal class what have committed theft on the epic scale and more or less will walk away without any repercussions. Within the baboon troop, this is a very bad precident--for what monkey see, monkey do, or at least begins to feel entitled to do.

And of course the police department will have a tough time fueling vehicles, or hiring staff, or anything else. Jails will be packed, and funding for new ones will not exist. . .so. . .

So, what will it mean for we "common folk."

Good question.

Lets say you're 65, you've lost 70 percent of the value of your investment portfolio, whatever that is, and half of what your house was supposedly worth.

Let's say you're 40, you've lost the same, whatever you were lucky to patch together, and you're worried about losing your job.

Let's say you're 25, and you haven't a dime, and can't get a job.

Let's say the cost of almost everything you are forced to buy doubles.

Your wages if you have any are frozen.

They raise your taxes.

And a government bailout is extended to Madoff's investors.

Meanwhile, in the feral human warrens around the country where the marginal--for whatever reason--living on whatever version in public assistance--in the household where Grannie Jones lives in a subsidized low income complex with 6 other somewhat or questionably related people, including a couple of boyfriends who make a living stealing tires and car stereos--whose budget has been hanging make or break by the value of one damn cigarette for years--suddenly sees a doubling in their cost of living.

GM folds up 20 billion dollars of blown money later.

Meanwhile, in California the state employees pension fund says, "whoopsie! we've got no money!" And checks quit coming.

Or in Hawaii,

Or any other state.

I suspect people will be pretty uptight, actually. . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Terra preta do haole and winter in Hawaii

It has cooled off a bit finally and a the rainy season has started a bit, yet the weather is significantly different than last year. The Ohia are just starting to bloom now--it was early November last season. The north Pacific has some business going on as those in Washington state are aware for sure. The ice will sometimes blow in high in the morning--as in the photo, and fall as a mist at dawn. Pretty spectacular.

Plugging away on the terra preta project, as it's a good project to mix in while getting rained off work. No information on how it works in the soil yet, as, of course, it isn't yet. But, I'm working away putting it into the soil on a regular basis. There are immediate changes one notices that I'll get to in a bit.

After doing the research one will find that the "bio-char" isn't something that one can just willy nilly sprinkle on. While small amounts may be advantageous, one needs relatively high loadings to get the real big effects that one equates with terra preta. That figure seems to be around 10% in the top foot or so of soil, in the aerobic zone. So, I'm assuming that one needs to put down at least 1 lb a square foot to be in the running, and that's a big project.

Not an insurmountable project, however, as in one run I make about 30 lbs of charcoal. It's not the sort of activity that takes a great deal of attention, so taking it on as a hit an miss sort of deal isn't a big problem. While the guava wood is nice, we're not shooting for a char like a hard fuel grade. Any old smaggy green will work if it has some cellulose in it. The soggier the material you process, the less complete a conversion you will get--in some ways that's apparently good. It's no big deal as if you have pieces in the mix that didn't completely burn you'll simply pitch them in to run the next batch.

It's simply a manner of lighting a fire in a barrel full of wood, and when it gets hot enough choking the air off so you get charcoal and not ash. There a little talent to it but precious little. In the process, however discover a few things about why it was initially done. First, you'll note that you're likely to be making the charcoal near your garden, and the process can make a fair bit of smoke. Especially as the wood is pretty wet the smoke is heavy, and it will blow all around the garden, in essence fumigating it. It may well be my imagination, but it seems it's done a pretty fair job of chasing the bugs off, and there's no reason to expect that it wouldn't. Stone age pesticide.

Secondly, once you apply the material, you find that you darken the soil appreciably. Of course, right? But the immediate effect is that the soil heats up a LOT faster in the sun and retains that heat. Higher earlier germination rates and a higher level of biologic activity can only result.

So, the big questions--is this an ecologically benign activity? We're going to hear a lot about terra preta from big institutions soon and it's worth asking before it gets rammed down our throats.

First, we have to admit--we are burning wood. Burning wood is bad for the atmosphere. Burning live trees is pretty questionable at any rate. The only way that terra preta is "green" is if it works--and that's likely a big if. The key is that you greate a soil so rich that it literally grows like an organism. Studies do show it can, and at a surprisingly high rate. Rather than the typical 1 inch a century in a wild environment that seems typical, the androgenic soils can grow at .5 inch a year. They do so by retaining and pumping down a lot of carbon which is near permanently sequestered. This is good. The data is incomplete, at this moment, but is perhaps the most encouraging technique I've seen in a long time, suggesting that it's actually a carbon negative activity, meaning there's less CO2 in the air when you're done, assuming you do the whole thing. At any rate if one were to cut a guava tree, char it, mix it in the soil, and plant some fast growing monster like a koa or monkey pod on the place, I doubt you could lose on that score.

Secondly, and key to my message in this forum--is terra preta a sensible survival option? Remember, we're assuming that a sensibly minimalist and self-sufficient lifestyle may well become necessary. I've assumed from the start that the biosphere is going to suffer widespread damage--and my goal isn't to save it, but rather encourage and personally create small "arks," if you will. From this perspective, terra preta is an obvious winner. To maintain my goal of being under a 3 acre footprint, I will need to consciously "eco-form" an anthropogenic environment that works at a healthier and higher level of functionality than it might left unattended, or, rather, merely tended by pigs and birds.


Things I've learned.

It's amazing what you learn by doing rather than theorizing.

Anyway, having worked in a whole bunch of charcoal into the soil now I've started to ask myself--why do I want this broke down? Isn't big chunks better than dust? In a tropical environ where rainfall abounds drainage is ofter a much bigger issue than fertility. . . I expect that a grain size much like that acetate shit they put in plants is about the place to be. It makes for quite a light and fertile soil very rapidly. Keeping it that way with annual loadings of new material that isn't mechanically degraded will contribute to the ultimate carbon load. In the mean time, however, there are near immediate effects to the ammendment.


Having significant char loads in test beds at this moment I can conclusively declare that the biochar works. The most noticable effect is that fertilizer needs are vastly reduced. In test patches in un-chared soil triple 16 is near ideal for most everything I have up here. With char in the ground the triple 16 is nearly lethally strong--exactly as advertised. Since the goal is to ammend soil while I can and rely on leaf mold once the potash in the world is all used up, it is clear that the char will be a huge help to avoiding soil depletion.

The ancient Hawaiians used char made from the false staghorn fern in the taro patches as a soil ammendment, by the way, and now so do I.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Keeping with being the clearinghouse for interesting and pertinent stuff, here's a timely bit.

Two hours worth, take the time!

And along the road to that, John Galt himself speaks.

You really ought to watch this: what an unbelievable sack of shit.

Atlas Shrugged

It may be worth noting, in the context of politics again, that the "performance of a choir is only a strong as its weakest voice."

As well,in politics, as is too often the case with web forums, the tone of the discussion is dictated by presence of contrary nay-sayers, who enjoy disagreement for disagreement's sake. And there are a lot of those, who simply enjoy the disproportional power that comes from contributing nothing of value to a conversation, but rather simply engage in argumentative "drive-by shootings." It's a simple manner to create a whole host of straw men play a silly game of obfuscation of the argument--it's vastly more difficult to counter arguments by offering well measured counter-arguments.

There is a real risk, and I'd go so far to say a real effect--in politics--that thoughtful well meaning people interested in progress--precisely the group that politics really needs--simply elect to drop out of the process entirely. When people "involved" aren't afraid to assert, without a blush, that they don't believe anyone with an education has any business in politics. . .well, there you go. I'd say that sort of thing sets a tone. The problem is Sarah Palin has an opinion about stem-cell research. Does she have any right to that opinion? No, of course not. Does that make any difference to her? Obviously not, not to her. To a kid with leukemia, well, it makes a difference.

The danger is, again, that the majority of problems we face as a society are complex issues that demand more than a cursory understanding of their intricacies. There are those who for personal reasons obviously want to alienate from the process those very people, ie., those people who take the time to remain informed, and who are needed to solve these issues. The result is, of course, more of the same.

It is a real mistake to take for granted the good-will of those who in a meaningful manner have capably and ably worked for a better world for years. It is and always has been a very small segment of society that effectually creates beneficial change, and for altruistic reasons shoulder on bearing that thankless task.

An awful lot of those people are becoming pretty jaded and are looking hard at shrugging. . .

It is ironic in the extreme that the modern crop of financiers have found "Atlas Shrugged" to be some sort of manifesto. There isn't a a CEO to be found that bears any resemblance whatsoever to John Galt. Most critically as a distinction, John Galt actually created things of value. The real John Galts of this world are not running GM or Lehman's Bros--in fact these are the ultimate examples of the parasitic sponges Ms. Rand despised. Rather, the real John Gaults of the world are slugging away planting gardens, figuring out how to live more efficently, and creating attitudes and expectations that allow society in large to suggestfully tranform, with as little carnage as possible, into a post-consumer driven society. It might well be well for some to ask, especially those with the deliberate attitude of ignorace so prevalent among those commonly called conservatives--what the hell anyone needs them for? What do they contribute to society? Why should anyone give a damn what they think, especially, when it's clear, they don't do much of it.

The heart of the progressive movement, the sole place in society where constructive reform is occuring, is one increasingly focusing on knowledge and productive self reliance. As such, it is one step every day closer to telling the rest of society that rides on their coat-tails and flicks shit at the back of their head while riding along--well, to fuck off.

If you want to see how god-damned stupid we've gotten--check out these interviews.
Can you imagine this sort of depth of interview or treatment in any forum today, let alone television?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Questions and thoughts

Staggering developments in the world lately, and it's important not to get so shellshocked by events that one gets numb to the sound of the bombardment. I posted those links yesterday to some very timely topics for a start, but it isn't going to take much for anyone to find more. We all know, it's a mess.

I'm concerned however, that few understand what this mess means, or are adequately informed about of the magnitude of this issue. This is for a couple of reasons, but the primary one is that the crisis as it exists only exists in its full form at institutional levels. While the housing market is certainly an indicator of a larger problem, when one looks at the global indicators of large business on the macro economic scale--the scenario is nothing short of apocalyptic. Whether it is the demand for crude, or any of the various shipping indexes, or at sum amalgam of financial activity in the world we're looking at declines of 75% or more, comfortably, in the given amount of economic activity occurring in the world. These are very very very big numbers, utterly unprecedented, and to most, unfortunately, utterly unimaginable.

We, most of us, in spite of perhaps being conversant in the details, sense something needs to be done. And yes, it sure as hell does. There is no lack of bright ideas out there either, a lot of them coming from well connected folks soaking up what's left of endowment or grant money. In Hawaii, there is a push here locally as well to get involved with local issues, and one can see the well intended efforts of of Freinds of Puna's Future and others as examples of people participating in what they personally perceive as constructive good for the community.

The question I'd like to ask is this: In light of the world economy, in context of the economy of Hawaii and where it's going to end up--Do you really believe that personal civic involvement or government in general even remains relevant to our future?

I don't ask this in a snarky manner whatsoever. I don't ask this in a rhetorical context either. I'm asking directly--can we in the forthcoming environment expect any constructive aid, or services, or leadership from government entities in general? Personally, I think not. Even if the good will was there, and the process allowed for timely policy that reflected real needs in a timely manner--and there was actually any sort of funding to do anything with--I might be able to be persuaded otherwise. As it sits, with a massive budget shortfall in this state, and the Federal government committing half of the GDP of next year already to bail out bad banks--not a chance.

The point of ask this question isn't to berate the attempts of those who might still seem some viability in the government sector. The point is rather to suggest, in fact insist, that the vast bulk of the work that is going to be required to keep society intact is going come directly from the hands of individuals--not from a government agency, and we may as well be prepared for that inevitability. That process of "keeping things running" is a large one, and there's much work to do. As far as I can see it, we really need to get started.

Representative government in general is very poor at dealing with crisis, and almost utterly incapable of dealing with crisis in a timely manner. If the crisis has any element of novelty to it, you can fully expect all government may be capable of is helping others to pick up the pieces. This is made much more difficult today in a complicated world dominated by complicated technical issues. Very few people are even capable of understanding the basic issues, let alone offering sensible leadership. In public discussion or in civic activities, the progress of the group isn't so much engendered by the amount of visionary leadership present, but rather by the relative lack of idiotic, self-indulgent hypocrites. Since for example, any meaningful local "policy" pertaining to global climate change will be forced to be a consensus process between the most knowledgeable climatic scientists involved in the discussion--as well as the astute observations of the right-wing fundamentalist flat earth society--one can quickly discover that there is no grand vision of a future for humanity that can't get simply stomped out by simple cold hard stupid.

We should be very afraid of this. We haven't time to make stupid choices.

But this is leading me to a new topic that I'll need to think about before proceeding with.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In the Future, everyone will have 15 minutes of anarchy.

Here we go, let's get a little perspective.

First, a mere six months ago, as I was accused of being unduly pessimistic.

Today--all this news from today, from one source.

This is representative of how the US is viewed around the world:

This is why:

Here is the result for stupid Americans who stood by and let this all go on unchallenged:

This poor sucker still thinks he's relevant:

What is "meltdown, you might ask? Here's what the US is going to look like in by next Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

But really, it's this one

this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
not with a bang, but with a whimper

Or this one,

Into the crystal chalice flowed
The immortal essence which glowed
With ethereal flavors so sublime
The taste of wine not yet realized
So did that nectar tantalize. . .

Drink, cried she, and at that my heart leaped!
Of course the choice grim was mine.
My heart was said to be proof against such magics
And so, bravely I fled, and won the day for fleeting righteousness.
But still
On nights, cold, dark and chill
I savor naught else but a bitter regret
Of that wondrous elixir my tongue never met.

Or this one,

Some say the world will end in fire.
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Apoclypse poetry,

Since I'm on it, and Charlie Rose the other night asked some goon pretty unworthy of his time--"the black swan" goon--what Roubini, or Soros, or Shiff, or elsewise mean when they say "financial meltdown." Well, I have MY definition, but I'll leave it to the poets to describe it. . .

How about this one, by another of my favorites,

Quite unexpectedly as Vasserot
The armless amidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe
And Ralph the Lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb--
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off.

And there, there overhead, there, there, hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness, the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

and along the road to that. . .

Seems pertinent. . .take a deep breath. Maybe two, and read this out loud to someone you care about. . .

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stoney rubbish? Son of Man
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock
(come in under the shadow of this red rock)
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at the morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you:

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The Famine of 2009

I've been thinking about this whole deal for a while, but it's time to bring it up for all friends, sailors, and kindred spirits out there.

Had an elucidating conversation this morning over far too much caffeine that made this commentary critical. Now, over Merlot, the thinking is more staid.

There are conditions forming that may create epic levels of trouble next year in the agricultural markets. We saw a little of that with rice last year, and corn, and elsewise--mostly due to bio fuel intrusion on the food chain. None of this pressure has gone away, but additional pressures are likely to be added. They are worth thinking about.

1) We have a credit crisis. We as homesteaders/seasteaders at heart and practice may be better prepared than many, and more or less uneffected by such issues, but the rest of the world is reeling. Farming in particular is in trouble.

2) Farming is in trouble especially because modern farming, globally requires credit as much as seed. The seed is proprietary in most cases, co-ops must purchase their fertilizer contracts, and they must do so on an non-arbritrary time frame. Spring wheat must go in at the right time, period, or you don't have any spring wheat. While GM and AIG dominates the news, the fact is that farmers aren't able to plant. In many cases, at all. Do your research!

3) There is a very very good chance that next summer will be the warmest ever in the history of human kind. Why? We're all cutting back on consumption, all around the world. Oil is at barely 40 bucks a barrel as a result. The ecological result is while CO2 may be lower next year, our soot production--which has kept the world almost 3C too cool--may well be much less. The result may be a sudden and severe increase in global temperatures and drought.

Do a little bit of research and get back to me. What do you think?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ecoforming III--the key?

If you're interested in such things, you must educate yourself about terra preta.

Does this, or does it not seem like an ideal solution--and for those of us concerned with carbon sequestration it does that too. . .

Of course one might need a more or less unlimited source of biomass ideally suited to charcoalization. . .guava?!? Of course!

I'm attempting to kill two birds--actually several--with one big rock. Control invasives, encourage responsible agriculture--and retain forestation. . .this seems like a solution to me.

Be sure you watch this video as well.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ecoforming II

So along the road to all that stuff pertaining to the last post, here's what I'm doing and what has worked well.

Obviously, when the figure of "3 acres per person" is tossed around, that doesn't really mean cropland, per se. It probably doesn't even mean crop land at all. Not that wild lands aren't productive, of course they are--more or less acting as the liver of the planet to suck up the wastes generated elsewhere and pump it down. The problem is, of course, we need "stomachs" as well as "livers," and certainly a doctor cutting out a liver to put in a stomach will kill a patient.

So, when one expands cropland at this point of human history, it must be done in a manner that allows the natural state of the land to exist more or less undisturbed. Of course, in my area, this means any sort of clearing or removal of significant trees, alien or otherwise, is simply not a sensible or responsible option. The trees are just too valuable as carbon sinks, and weather stabilizers, and lest we end up looking like Easter Island we'd do well to be very careful on that score. All, then is left as a viable food production strategy is to intercrop amidst the trees understory plants that can be selectively removed. This is labor intensive, for certain, but certainly not as much as one might think. This kind of "Ecoforming" gardening I'm working on walks the bare edge of wildcrafting plants--you mostly want your food crops to grow in an unattended natural state in a natural habitat. And, I'm happy to report, they do so very well if one chooses these species carefully.

The chief problem with farming the rainforest areas where I live is of course the mixture of rainfall and highly impermeable lava. While taro can grow in that poorly draining much not much else can. Even the native trees have a difficult time of it, and the anerobic layer of stinky poison often to be found a foot down is as rank as any in a ruined anchorage. What is generally recommended as a treatment for this kind of site is to blast and rip with a big cat, lay cinder and soil. Obviously, due to previous concerns, this is hardly a workable or responsible plan.

In poking around in the woods it didn't take me long to find the trick to finding cravases and lava tubes. They're hardly hidden. Look for the big trees. You will find stunted small growth in areas of impermable sheets of rock, but on the edge of such you'll find enourmous trees with roots deep in the cravases living almost hydroponically on the run-off. Indeed, some of the finest. To learn from that, the mucky soil isn't toxic, it's only overwet, and if drainage can be installed, it should be quite rich.

Of course draining fields is a time honored agricultural technique of which much has been written. A well drained field survives both rain and drought better than one that is not--and locally drainage seemed to be the issue. The problem here seems to be difficult at first glance, but when one realizes that one has ready-made drains about every 60 feet or so in the form of a bottomless pit--it's simply a matter of getting the water to the hole in the ground.

The solution is simple in the extreme. Your garden, the one that most everthing has died of root rot in, will have a path through it. That path will be an expression of lay of the land, and typically nicely graded, or at least as well as anything else. You will, by now, as well, have become tired, I expect, of that muddy path, and think a little rock there might be a nice idea. As well, at the edge of that path where you quit walking, is probably a pit, and it's all but certain there's a crack there just waiting to be opened up. Solutions present themselves. Mine happened to be right in the middle of the garden. I built a little bridge over it.

At this point you dig out the path, pitch the soil from the path(s) into the garden, creating raised beds, and backfill the path with large drain rock or even SD perf pipe if you felt the need or were too lazy to drag rock around, which may be sensible. The change in the productivity of the garden site will be marked, and it will not take long at all for the previously heavy soil to start becoming much much more healthy. I'd recommend planting U'ala Piko as a cover and reclamation crop, and 4 months out the whole of the site will be transformed. Plant bananas in drain rock for soil retention when you need to cap off the end of pit, if you need to, as they'll be pretty happy drinking up all that run-off.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sustainability again. . .

I'm getting a bit of "sustainability" fatigue.

One hears so much about "sustainability" ideas today and there are so many voices out there trumping amazing new ideas and technologies and visions--I briefly visited the "Sustainability" fair in Hilo a while back as well. All in all I was struck at the characteristic that all new "Sustainability" tech seems to share. Which is, that it isn't sustainable. When you look at the issue at all, with any sort of critical eye, it all becomes very apparent. An electric car is an expensive consumer device--and is very poor way and inefficient way to burn coal. Photo voltaic systems are expensive consumer devices--but aren't sustainable until you have solar stripmining, solar transportation, and solar factories that make panels. Without subsidies, either. Sir McCartney is all out of breath flying around the world advocating vegitarianism to save greenhouse gasses. . .you would laugh at this kind of bullshit if the situation wasn't so grim. What the sustainability movement is all about, really--is trying to sustain with gimmickry a lifestyle of consumption that isn't sustainable. And frequently to earn a good enough wage selling this crap that one can keep up with the once a year eco-vacation in Bali.

I get told--Jay, you're far too negative about this sort of thing. Ease up! People say that they understand that we're not really sustainable yet, but hybrid cars are a "step in the right direction," right? Actually, I reply, no they are not! They may be smaller steps in the wrong direction than others may be--but they are still steps in the wrong direction.

If we imagine our situation in terms of dallying near a precipice, we get a better and more complete metaphor and get a better sense of our reprecussions. In a very real way we are indeed standing on a brink of climate change and wholesale collapses of ecosystems. If we were aware of the danger of the brink, and were sensible enough to stay a goodly bit away, an occasional mis-step in the wrong direction might be forgivable. At this point we are teetering on the very edge, at the slightest mistep may have dire consequences. We've made some very big misteps in the name of "sustainability"--bio-fuels would be the big one, which at this point is the single largest deforestation industry in the world. The biofuels industry was a massive step in the wrong direction, and getting worse all the time. I'm entitled, I think, to be more than a little skeptical and negative, as I'm going to get shoved over cliff with all the rest.

Someone said to me not so long ago, "Jay, you just need to realize you have a different definition of sustainability than other people." Ease up! Actually, while apparently and sadly this seems to be true to some degree--there's only one definition of sustainability, which is, to be sustainable. Everything else is unsustainable. Sustainability isn't an attitude, or a philosophy, it is a practical emperical concept. There may be a bit of fudge in the way to define it, depending on what you're trying to argue for, but what is incontestable is that there are only barely 3 acres per person on this planet, at this moment, at this level of population. It would seem to me that the only just way to quantify sustainability is to hold these 3 acres as a conceptual common trust. If you are consuming more than 3 acres worth, you are living unsustainably, and not only that, you are necesitating some one elses deprivation. World GDP divided by population is barely 3000 US dollars a year: if you are living on more than that, you are living on more than your fair share of the sum output of the world's economy. And a share of an unsustainable economy at that, mind you.

So what to do? Unfortunately except for a handful of conscious and conscientious, people what passes for ecologically sensitive is a lifestyle typically consuming between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude more than what the planet can really bear. If this is the highest level of integrity we progressive can muster, one may as well prep for a swan dive into the abyss. As far as I can see, especially since the global economic collapse with dominate all issues for the forseeable future, meaning years--a major collapse of the biosphere and a massive extinction event is at this point all but inevitable. . .

So, where to go from here?

From my perspective, again, the lifestyle that I should be living out of a concern for the ecology as well as care for humanity in general--one of strict anti-consumerism, is the one that most effectively will prepare me for the now inevitable future--as the future will be one of strict anti-consumerism by necessity. It may be cute to talk "green" in gassy terms today, but in the same way the high flying financiers have been brought low, soon enough I expect the "Trust-fund-afarian" lifestyle will be coming to an end. There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth as well. Times of affluence and ease tend to sloppy living and sloppy thinking--and we can see the results. I imagine that once the critical and attention grabbing task of feeding oneself comes to dominate one's life--there will be a great more attention to paid to real sustainability than there is at the moment. And rightly so. Living unsustainably may well mean not living at all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Credit where credit is due.

Some of you will note I have an eye for finance. Mostly that's due to the fact that I'm not a child of privilege and have had to scratch hard for every nickle I've ever earned. I pay a lot of attention to this stuff in the same way as a sailor on an engineless sailboat I watched the weather. . .

I've always said--If you believe the world is a meritocracy, ask yourself this: Why is it that a brokerage house like Meryl Lynch or elsewise can hire SHITHEADS from fancy families with fancy degrees to run funds with payrolls in the 6 plus figures and they will fuck it all up--not turning rates of returns that a meth addict monkey throwing shit at a wall could produce--ie., pin up the Journal--and where the shit sticks, BUY. Imagine that they, like Imperical China a thousand years ago or the NFL today, actually looked for talent--and rewarded it when they found it. It would be so easy for Vanguard funds to search their records, and you're going to find some couple in S. Dakota than have outpaced Buffet for 30 years. . .jeez, if that isn't a 10 second 100 I don't know what to tell you.

Look, and of course you will figure it out. The NFL makes money by being a meritocracy. You actually have to win games in football to achieve, and that requires real measurable above the mean performance. The financial world makes money by anti-competitive practices, and protecting the interests of those who already have money. Do they need to perform? Do they care about you? Fuck, no. It is as simple as that.

Anyhow, the point of all that is this. Here's another, and one I've read a fair bit. Sorry, will miss you, Tanta. That commentary you gave was pretty damn astute.

Note, in this world, at this moment, your ideas actually CAN matter, mostly. To some of us, at least.

Savor the moment.

You must be friggin' kidding.

It's worth sitting down and taking a look at this. If you don't get it, well, you don't get it.

If you'd like to check the good Dr. Gono's figures, here's the means.

Lots of stuff out there for each of us to think about--after a good time with friends up at N. Kohala for a couple of days, I'm going to head to Punalu'u and do just that. Monday, it's back to work in earnest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Green Building.

I live in a house of under 200 square feet. I don't find it confining in the slightest. Of course I've lived for years on sailboats, and even the largest most opulent yacht is still a relatively small space. Most would think a 50 foot sailboat to be a very expensive and luxurious residence. Well, I guess. My last sailboat had about 120 square feet of living space--a big boat. The one before had about 30, and only one place I could stand up to put my pants on. I lived quite comfortably on that one for most of a decade. Space and the sense of it is relative, and the need for it is a matter of skill, and nothing else.

Today, I get asked a lot about building small homes. We boat building types know how to do it better than any, because we know how to stretch precious volume to its utmost. People are interested in small structures today because they believe they are cheaper to build, naturally, and as the economy is in the toilet and will be for a while--suddenly everyone is a compulsive minimalist.

Well, while small structures are cheaper to built, naturally, they aren't, legally. In fact, there is a full on assault on building such things--exactly the kind of homes that we need as we move into a future of resource scarcity, global warming, and population growth.

In some places it's simply prohibited to build structures of under 1000 square feet or less. No explanation as to why--that's just the rules. Elsewise, in more eco-sensitive places like Hawaii, it's prohibited in a much more passive aggressive sort of manner. While they can't tell you not to do it, as that would look bad, they simply make it utterly impossible. The best way to do this is to make the building of a 16 by 16 cabin every bit as complicated as a 3500 square foot McMansion, and make the cabin bear all of the same costs. You will need all the same permits, fees, inspections, etc. etc. and all else--including accessory costs to build the small structure as you would the large one. Of course, the point, and I will say intent, is to discourage it. If you want to comply the catchment tank you'll be required to have will be larger than your house. I'm not kidding. Really, I'm not. Of course you can just forgo insurance and all the rest, but you'll still be building a structure that costs radically more per square foot than the most obnoxious spec build, and you'll bear all that cost personally.

So of course you'll ask yourself why? If you're sensible, you'll say forget it. If you're the kind of person that's more interested in doing the morally right thing and the best thing for humanity and the planet, you'll just say fuck it and go ahead and build it and deal with the consquences. On my street to my knowledge there isn't a single permitted structure, at least any in any sort of compliance. In Hawaii that is pretty typical, but there is a big push to change all that. For what reason, I can only guess. Of course that guess is to favor development, and turn the Big Island into the worlds largest gated community.

Most people know nothing about building houses. This is why, locally, the Puna Community(har!) Development Plan and stuff like that goes mostly unchallanged. There is a heavy odor of "best for Hawaii" sprayed all over that document, and it stinks of it, like a size XXXXXX Muumuu. Conduct for yourself a thought experiment. Let's say you owned a piece of property in Hawaii that was beautiful virgin forest. Let's say your goal was to build a very small cabin in a natural clearing with the utmost of care for the land and the least disturbance. How will you go about this? Well, what you would do--pre-PCDP--is that you'd go hack/tromp a trail back into the trees, and you put down a pier someplace that was clear. You'd push a little brush back here and there, up and down, and you'd build a cabin that flows naturally around the lay of the land and the existing trees. This would be the best for the world, Hawaii, and humankind's future. Today, that's impossible, legally. You will need to stamp plans, engineered structures, tanks, and all the rest--finally you'll throw up your hands and just bring in a D-9. I promise. All this at a cost of twice of what the better option would be. And the point of all this?

I built my place and didn't clear a single living native tree. Not one. Not FUCKING one. There are more native trees on this property now than there were a year ago, and by hundreds. Is this the kind of "development" and am I the kind of "person" that we want to discourage? Apparently so. I could really go on a tirade about that, but I'll just give it a rest.

We as a culture drive our cars way too damn much. We know that, and we know it's killing the planet. In spite of the fact, we do very little to encourage others to ride their bicycles. Fortunately others do, and I thank them, as it's an amazing act of courage to do so. There is great personal risk in riding a bike, but it works for a better world. In building--and homes are a larger footprint by some measure than transportation--we need similar attitudes. Imagine policy that would require licensing and comprehensive insurance for bicyclists. Don't scoff, I can see it, and some of it has already been tried. Would this discourage bike riding? Of course it would! Hell! It's dangerous! People get killed! And of course, this will benefit car dealers, who will foot the bill for this "progressive reform." Much the same sort of crap that is tossed out about building and zoning and all the rest. I think most people at this moment would understand the issue of scale as a primary determinant in the issue of bicycles. They would say--leave them alone, they aren't hurting a thing. The same attitude should be extended to small building. At the moment however, we are running hard in the other direction. Why? To protect property values. While safety, sanitation, and elsewise is trumped out--it's all about one thing--money. If it was about sanitation--there would be some goon once a year who would come out and take a soil sample near your septic tank's drain field. And you would fail the test. It rains too much. But it's all about that magic 5000 dollar sticker, and that's all anyone give a damn about. Once you paid for the sticker, you're done. Bugger you if it's too expensive.

I at this moment could deliver a small house to a young couple that would be rude, but safe, warm, and sanitary if I wasn't impeded by all sorts of other crap for under 20000 bucks. Delivered. This isn't a building zoning issue--this is a human rights issue. Why compel people to purchase more than they can afford? Why force people to then live lives of a wage slave to pay for something they didn't want? Why force consumption down people's throat--especially in the context of safety and making the world a better place--when the net result will be to denude and destroy the eco-sphere? Why?

It ain't green if it ain't small.

It ain't progressive if it ain't small.

It ain't sustainable if it ain't small.


It ain't legal either, likely. Since the goal of the system is to keep you a slave to it, don't be surprised.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The next year. . .

Seems like the birthday party isn't over yet, going on most of a month now, having just seen Mike and Eric home yesterday and Perry coming in on the plane next week. Well, we'll be back to work soon.

Hardly like things have been unproductive, being very fortunate to have astute, insightful friends it's always worthwhile to indulge in fruitful conversation even if a little boozy at times.

Of course topics centered around the state of the world and the economy--as it must for any sensible person at the moment. It's very hard to find good news out there on the macro scale. About the only positive thing I can find to say, and it isn't trivial, is that there is a good possibility that this forthcoming and protracted shock may engender a real turning point in human history, exposing the bankrupcy(ha!) of popular value systems, and for the first time in quite a while, the masses may actually think a little bit. We aren't there yet, but it's closer all the time.

I'd at this point call--

The major indexes in the US have about another 10 percent to shed, and will be volatile but stable in that range for the foreseeable future, which means years.

Real estate values will be mixed. One will see disporportionality high values of ag land and small homes, and large pointless homes and commercial real estate will be near worthless.

A real unemployment rate of around 15 percent.

A major collapse in the dollar by mid spring, shedding perhaps 25 percent of current valuations. Say hello again to high oil prices in the 100 dollar a barrel range, but I'd doubt much higher.

Gold may see 1800 dollars an ounce, but I wouldn't touch it personally.

It will take till near summer before the effects of this "financial crisis/swindle" actually start hitting everyday people, but it will hit much much harder than many think.

My strategy is unchanged--full on hunkerdown mode. I see no personal cause for panic, but I do see a not far off that inspires me in the same manner that the prospect of lugging a unit of 5/8's x 12 sheetrock up two flights of stairs might. Take a deep breath. I plant a dozen sweet potato plants a day, with an eye to semi commercial production, and expand the taro patch as the keikis produce themselves. Thanks to Jerry's advice all is booming ahead.

Handyman work as always is a staple, and I expect more so all the time as big builds will simply dry up, and people need stuff repaired rather than remodeled. I'd like to get another book written, but it's still fermenting at the moment. The message, however, is clear--we're going to be on our own, technology and government isn't going to save us, we're in a bigger pickle every moment--and we desperately need people willing to lead into a new way of living. This new way of living will be minimalist at its core, the values will be utterly different, and very little of what we take for granted today will be very applicable. Dumping 50 thousand dollars on a PV system and feeling good about oneself is hardly an option, nor constructive--and one will need to very shrewdly cherry pick both new and old techniques with an eye towards maximum effeciency in all things. We must do much more with less. At the moment, it's something to dable in. A year from now, I expect, it will be a survival skill.

Hopefully get the boat finished in the mean time.

Koa of course, and it's planting season for that, and hope to get another hundred or so trees in the ground.

So, more or less proceed as am and as planned. Live simple, frugal, and more or less forget about the rest.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ecoforming, Symbism, and a heroic quest for a new future for mankind.

This long drawn out and scatterbrained post crammed full of ideas has its origin in a peculiar experience. . .

. . .Back in the days I was first getting involved in Seasteading on "RENEGADE" of course I had no idea what I was doing, and wasn't much of a sailor either. But, I was getting my wings and had made the step to the full on live-aboard lifestyle living on a mooring I had set in a mostly isolated bay in the South Sound. I was into fishing, but very very bad at it. I would sit as the boat would swing at the mooring and jig the bottom, only occasionally catching a miserable flat fish. I did this for weeks one summer, and had very little success, until, one day, I simply started catching fish like crazy.

While happy with my new found success, I was more than a little puzzled at the reason for it. I wasn't doing anything different at all, or at least that I could detect. Same jigs, same gear, same technique, but I simply couldn't miss--seriously, it was one fish a cast. Finally I thought I ought to put on the dive gear and head down there to find out what was going on with the fish and just how many there were as it seemed the population had simply exploded. In fact, so much so there was an osprey quite frequently in the rig in the morning(and I learned to keep the forward hatch closed after one really bad "fishshit" in the face experience, ha, had forgot about that!) and the occasional otter would climb aboard and chew something nasty in the cockpit. It seemed that karma had simply come to my little boat and my little anchorage. . .and I was surpised in a Hawaiian Hawk sort of way and a little mystified as my boat was the only one in the little anchorage of a dozen that recieved this sort of blessing.

Well, I went for a dive, and found the explanation. The explanation was the astounding level of growth of anenomes, barnacles, goose mussels, and kelp growing on the circular artifical reef of beer bottles that surrounded my mooring. I'm not kidding. . .

The thing to be learned from this is that there will come a day in which a man that calls himself a "fisherman" will be known not as one who hunts with hook and line or net but one who builds habitat for fish.

Two ideas for me were engendered in this experience. First is the idea of active Ecoforming. Ecoforming, as I define it, is the technology of creating, preserving and improving ecological systems. The second is a philosopical system I've been thinking on and off for a while, which I call, somewhat awkwardly, Symbism. Symbism is a philosophical framework of values and judgments assuming as a first principle that one's actions create both the moral and physical environment for the analysis of those actions. Philosophically Symbism is a means of looking at the relationship between oneself, one's society, and one's environment with the tacit and implicit assumption--in fact first principle, that while one lives within the given larger system, one also creates it. As such, it is a reflection at its core of the most modern scientific ideas and philosophical precepts. It finds itself very comfortable with Gaian climate theory, with particle physics, with analytical psychology, with reflexive economic theory and most other cutting edge thoretical research-- which has in common a very important central observation: There is no way to empirically separate the experimenter from the experiment. The failure to acknowledge--or emphasize the importance of--this reality has been a major failing of philosophical, religious, and ethical systems. It has been a major failure within "ecological" circles too, with a few notable exceptions. James Lovelock, certainly, would only reply "of course."

Would it not be marvelous to live in a world of such verdant plentitude that to exist and prosper one only needed to live as an enlightened hunter/gatherer? I would suggest rather than a "return" to an agrarian ideal--perhaps this is the return we need to make.

Here is a whole list of ramifications of this sort of thinking:

It is philosophically impossible to shake the responsibility of the inevitable chain of influences one's actions cause as they cascade through society and the environment. The sole defense against the burden one's personal responsibility is to simply not care about it. People have become very talented at maintaining this evasion, but it's more difficult all the time, and only really possible for those who I call the "deliberately ill-informed."

When one makes a judgment of a particular action, one does so form a perspective of incomplete information, and from a position created by a series of actions chosen from perspectives of incomplete information.

The self that forms the judgement is a self formed from the reinforcement, positive and negative, from such past actions, and carries with it a bias, which is necessarily more or less personally indeterminable to that self.

Suppose then this model, suggested by a Symbitic perspective: Rather than what agriculture, or permaculture, or architecture has done in the past--although there is much to learn there--what if the Ecoformer's goal was to create, in essence, a natural environment so bountiful and verdant that on could simply live within it, in the same manner that the birds live in the trees or the bison live on the prarie?

Birds create forests, and bison create prairies--there is no reason why humans cannot actively create ecosystems for themselves that are equally as bountiful and viable. At the moment we actively create bad ones. The issue is one of consciousness. Consciousness gave us the power to recognize and exploit, and now we will be forced to consciously strive with the even greater energy to preserve.

Evolutionary pressure at this moment seems to be less concerned with our physical form as our ideas. And rightly so, because humanity, once we gained the level of consciousness of modern man, is far more a concept than a species--in that the knowledge we hold is vastly more powerful and energetic and creative than our DNA.

In order to ask whether or not an idea is important we need to ask: Important to whom? An idea is important not it what it suggests but in what it effects. There are plenty of potentially important ideas in the world, but it is important to focus on those that are immediately effectual.

Obviously, from the symbitic point of view, it is impossible to separate man from nature. When man builds a city or a nuclear plant, it is every bit as much a natural event as the evolution of an orchid in a tropical rain forest. Both are responses to primal urges toward growth and responses to environmental pressures. The sole difference is that the building of a city has some conscious influence to it. Both may be short lived and ill-fated responses due to erroneous interpretations of sensory input--both may be beautiful. Beauty and falsehood are certainly not mutually exclusive. Many of the most beautiful things ever crafted by the hand of man were the products of delusion.

Especially cute and fuzzy species are far less likely to face extinction. This is because they have evolved to fill symbitic niches.

And so we see the influence of consciousness of man in his creation of his religions and gods from the proto religions. Man who is symbiotic with nature creates god in his image--and declares god IS nature. God IS the cosmos. Conscious man who creates ideals through consciousness that himself apart from nature, erroneously, declares--God Created the World, God is Above and Rules the Cosmos.

To suggest that "All is One" or to refer to a "Great Connectedness" is no article of faith: is is a mere self-evident matter of fact. Religion and spirituality are wholly accessory to this fact, and some might go so far as to say irrelevant in light of it.

Sometimes this connectedness is a source of joy--sometimes it is a source of abject terror. The fact, of course, and its repercussions, when pondered upon with due deliberation, cannot help but be awe inspiring.

Symbism is manifest in efficiency and simplicity.

Thoughts? Critiques?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One Year:

Hard to believe that it's been all of one year, and only one year that I stepped off the plane at the Hilo airport with a bag of cordless tools and a machete.

As well it's been a big week with turning the 40 and with the elections coming through. An awful lot of big gears swung through a few degrees of arc. Where that ends everything up is less than clear at the moment, but at least in my little patch of the planet all seems well.

It has been on my mind a good deal lately, as the issues that we face as a world and a society are looming larger by the moment, and if anything over the last year or so I've seemed to observe even a larger degree of deer in the headlights paralysis--even among those who proclaim to care. It's not too surprising. There has been a lot of fetishist semi-snarky talk in "counter-culture" circles for quite a while at how the ecology was going to go to hell and the economic system was going to collapse. Few understood, it seems, that this was more than mere talk. And now, I'm afraid many are caught in the same pants down position that those who paid no attention whatsoever are. I can understand why the debate would tend to remain in the realm of "talk" and not action. It's a pretty damn scary issue. To respond with sensible meaningful actions will require profound changes in attitude and lifestyles. Those of us who "got it" have been doing this for years, and it's not really such a big deal except in an existentialist sense, at least at the moment. For those who didn't pay attention and those who only payed attention as a social dillitante, again, they're simply standing in the middle of the freeway with a panic. Those who paid next to no attention until fully lately, but have money and time on their hands, and have now found religion seem to be compelled to get into politics, with an attempt to fix what they don't understand with laws that would pertain perhaps to a world as it existed 20 years ago. Utterly irrelevant. Our "leaders" are utterly at the back of the pack. At this point their policy is more often a hinderance than an aid.

So I have thought about this sort of thing a great deal and especially yesterday morning over a cup of tea, on the exact day to a year near to an hour in fact, from the first time I saw this little 3 acre patch of land. My concern in the project was great--I wanted a zero impact home--in fact I wanted to do better than that: I wanted to be able to say with postive confidence that this little piece of Hawaii was actually in better shape for my being here. That is a high bar, for sure, but in the context of Hawaiian Bulldozer Building and the new PCDP that is proud as punch that it has something to offer about how the new Burger King and KFC will be located--My God?!? This is cutting edge community vision?!?--in a neighbor hood where local identity seems to be measured in how many wrecked car one has crammed out in the brush over the years. . .not one of my "local" neighbors have ever taken the 8 mile trip up the road to the volcano. Not one. . .in that context, in spite of it all--well, I had some stuff on my mind.

So I was sitting here looking out at the garden and the Uala growing thinking I needed to plant a bit more, wondering if all this was a pretty damn pointless exercise in a manner that a guy who just turned 40 might, and a Hawaiian hawk comes down, lands on this pot, not even 6 feet from where I'm sitting, takes a lazy drink, and after giving me a hard reptilian eyeball flies off back into the jungle. Damn, Hi Hawk, I think.

It's not too often that one gets a personal visitation from the divine aumatua, I guess, and I'm too much of an athiest to get too carried away with the whole deal, but certainly from any analysis this little bit was certainly confirmation in a very real sense that, yes, actually, this does matter. Certainly as a metric if one finds that the place one lives is safe and sane enough that rare endangered creatures are drawn to it as a place of refuge and safety--it's a pretty good indication that you're doing the right thing. It may be more rare than one might think, that a bird can find a safe place to land for a quick sip without threat of cats or dogs, within safe harbor of natural mature trees--it may be that the bar to give life a chance is pretty low, you've just got to back off and give it a fair shake. That is much how I see it, anyhow. If we thought a great deal about what we were doing and did very little of it in general, I expect the world would be a better shape.

So, planting a couple dozen koa trees this morning. The several of the ones I planted a year ago are as tall as I am now, and doing very well. I imagine I'll stick with the same program. . .seems to be working out.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

So, sanity again:

This pertaining to the previous post--and the interesting comments. Allow me to ask a semi-rhetorical question:

Is it possible to achieve and maintain sanity without simplicity?

I don't believe so. Between Jill and a stroke and Eckhert or whatever his name is with absolutely ultra indulgent destructively delusional naval gazing--which probably does more damage to your head--we see two people who have claimed to see another type of "ultimate" reality by withdrawing utterly from it, in a very real sense.

But, there is a grain of truth in the whole issue to that "living in the moment" business. Of course, we would all desire to be able to live lives of compassion and with our senses wide open to the world around us. The problem, however, is that we're utterly shell shocked by bad karma at every corner that it takes near death experiences to get at it.

So I think there really is a place for as much as possible removing the toxic stimuli in every way imaginable--if at least for the short term to try to lose the "twitch" endemic in modern society.

The problem is that we treat the issue as neurotic modern people might. We take pills, drink, lie to ourselves or fantasize about the divine light to obscure the fact that our lives are far too full of anxiety inducing encounters. This gets in the way of one's dharma. What we need to do is treat our lives not with the attitude of a therapist, but as a technician--assuming from the start one can fix the problem, identifying the issues, and moving ahead to solve them.

Once we look at the issue from a technical perspective--as in all engineering, the fast track to reliable performance is indeed simplification. It is not impossible to create complex and reliable machines, it is just very very difficult, and within the time frame of an adult life there simply aren't enough allocatable man hours to get the job done. . .

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008


So some have commented on the black granite countertops in the photos. . .a bit excessive in the cabin, they say?

Well, maybe. I guess I could have used pig pat.

The fact is I like black granite, and at 5 bucks a square foot there's 150 bucks worth of it.

Or 30 six packs worth.

Or two tanks of gas.

Or 75 lbs of sweet potatoes.

And the truth is, the black granite will be the only thing still here in 50 years.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rocket Stove Kits

My neighbor who is a steel fabricator and does very fine work will supply rocket stove parts per order, or you can buy the basic kit which duplicates mine. If you have scrap steel that you'd like to use, I'm sure he would accommodate. His name is Shiloh and can be reached at 6405308. I'll help you put the thing together for free as a "build community" sort of thing.

You'll love it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It is interesting. . .

To see the flurry of thoughts and ideas bouncing around out there. More and more every day we seem to hear about the crisis of confidence we face as a society towards the trust we have in each other and our institutions. This crisis in confidence is clearly well founded. Unfortunately, the response seems to be the formation of large numbers of groups out there--all seemingly saying "Trust us! We're building new institutions!" Certainly I'm familiar with the Venus Project, all that Zeitgiest stuff, of course the Large Cap Seasteading guys, and all that. They are very fine at drawing all sorts of nice pictures about what they're going to build. I understand the temptation. When I was in 2cd grade or thereabouts, I was all caught up in UFO's and spaceships and must have drawn blueprints for hundreds. I would proudly show off my plan for a new spaceship with nice little drawing of people growing food in boxes and gymnasiums, and of course somewhere was a squigly device with pumps and smoke that was, the "fusion engine"--or so I'd sagely reply. In fact, they looked a lot like the stuff you will see over there at the Venus Project. In fact, they have one very critical characteristic that is identical. They were, stictly, daydreams. To suggest that such a thing could be built is a entirely differnet issue than will it. Of course anything can hypothetically be built. If we focus on, strictly that which will be built, or on lifestyles that will exist, suddenly the whole picture and the task at hand becomes immediate. We need to get started, immediately, on the immediately beneficial, and the immediately achievable. This is the sole way to a better future.

Of course, central to the issue as well is this. It is a complete waste of time to daydream about ways we personally could live. We must focus on what changes we will make. This and only this engenders progress. It is no good saying that I'm not being visionary enough, or whatever. Visionary thinkers we have no shortage of. We need heroes. We need people that act. Here is our crisis. There is simply no way to anticipate what sorts of options move from the hypothetical world of the possible to the world of the accessible once one has made real steps in that direction. Unfortunately, we have people planning what they will do upon arrival without even lacing up their boots.

Allow me to state the obvious: It isn't visionary in the slightest unless a wholesale attack and complete rejection of materialism as core social value is not central to the vision. It isn't a credible vision, in the slightest, unless real concrete steps towards that vision are evident.

. . .And lastly, none of this will mean a damn thing to you unless these visions and actions aren't personal. . .

Our new institutions will not be formed. They will arise. What they will arise from is the amalgam of each and all of our manifest values and actions. If you want to change the world, get started planting that garden.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Tonight, again raining lightly and chill. Certainly the weather has changed in the last week. I imagine we'll get a couple of weeks yet of good weather before it really comes on, but "summer" is clearly over.

Tonight, cooking on the rocket stove a curry of taro(out of the garden, lauloa ele'ele omao, and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong on the variety!) with local onions and local beef. The rockets stove is happly sucking away buring construction scraps. It's very quiet. I type at the computer with the battery bank nicely full. Ran the generator today to power the wirefeed welder, and the whole house is powered up if the fuel gets burned.

Cool outside but toasty in the cabin, and dead silent except for the pop or two of a stick and the hard pat of rain on the roof and the softer hiss of the same on the ferns.

This, of course, is the simplicity we seek manifest.

Of course it wasn't simple in the slightest to achieve it. How soon we all forget that.

So the epiphany. Everybody wants to live a simple life. Everybody tries, according to their definition of it. No one wants a life full of drugery, stress, pain, worries, and confrontations. No one who isn't pathalogical, anyhow. The problem is simply this--people simply don't know how to go about it.

This is compounded, of course, by the fact that the majority of what is out there marketed with the idea of making life simpler is really just someting being sold for the sole purpose of enriching the seller--making HIS life simpler with a fatter account, but that's about it.

Certainly when you see people plowing away after the big house--a lot of it, at least hypothetically, is that more living space eases tensions in a family, and the house itself is an investment that will pay off with better living down the road. Really? When you see expensive cars it's that they are safer in a collision and are more reliable. Really? When you see people with acid refux and irritable bowel syndrom pulling their hair out trying to get ahead in a "career" the only the reason they do so is so that the income that they will achieve will allow them, at some point, at least, to take a step or two back and maybe a vacation in Bali. . .really. . .

Well, I'm sure most everyone in the developed world is questioning those assumptions at least a little bit at the moment.

With the exception of people who are stunted, and there are more than a handful of those, who can only function in environments with very high levels of stimulation--you've got a brute creature which is nothing more than a bit of human colored spray paint on a brain stem--one that simply has nothing in its head without the racket of roaring motors or the company of bouncing clowns. . .except for those. . .the sane among us only miss out on a life of simplicy and sanity not because of a lack of desire, but because of a lack of hope, skills, and honest guidence.

This is where the responsibility comes in. If you know something, share it. Give it away. We must achieve a critical mass of people who do live in this manner. Unfortunately, most who would desire to live so give it such a bad go that their lifestyles effectively are near indecernable from those who simply don't give a damn about anything but the next fix, whatever it is. This gives a disproportial sense of real values of society--and sells us short.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


When you start reading about this plant, its uses, and its qualities, you simply must stop for a moment and ask: can this really be true? It is really such a valuable plant that it's difficult to believe that the various claims can possibly be true.

Apparently, they are. I'm sold on the evidence and planted some today. I'll keep everyone posted on how it goes. I see no reason why it should not, and it's widely grown in Hawaii anyway.

This very useful website has a lot of information about moringa, its uses, and propagation methods. As far as I'm concerned anyone who could swing growing it ought to give it a whirl. At least look into it. It's very possibly the most nutritional plant on earth.

This video is pretty good as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Something Else That Can Get In the Way of Simplicity

This sent to me today. God, so funny I near pee'd myself. Sigh. . .

I take it she thought moving out of the "cage" and back to the "Savannah" wasn't such a hot idea.

We need to work on this kind of getting along a bit too, I expect.

Homesteading meets Seasteading--the base of operations

Those out there living the lifestyle are going to need to sink or swim here. One is going to need to get that boat ready and be pretty creative, I expect, if things keep rolling in the manner they are.

Part of the reason that I came to Hawaii and the Hilo area in general is that Hilo bay is unquestionably the most important port in the Pacific for a Seasteading lifestyle. It is more or less undeveloped, with minimal congestion, and is a relatively easy more or less all weather entrance accessible for a windjammer, even a large one. As well, it's shaping up very rapidly that the Big Island is the only island in the mid Pacific that has the capacity to maintain sensible agriculture, and there's really only going to be one place to get real stores. If the climate models are correct, most of Mexico, especially the Sea of Cortez region may be more or less an ultra arid dead zone. Many of the smaller islands will be in the same place. The Big Island as well will suffer, but it's still big enough that there will remain productive patches in certain areas. While the Pacific Northwest looks good at the moment, the population density is simply too high, it's too expensive yet to make agriculture sensible, and drought in the Cascades, with snowless winters is going to be the norm.

At this point I'm missing only one of the traditional "canoe plants" that voyagers stocked their ships with, and I'm getting very close to being able to produce useful quantities for voyaging boats. Anyone who has their foot in the Pacific rim and are looking to a long term future take note!

The day of making a living in the Pacific as a small time trader is very nearly back. You've got a chance to get it all together here soon with a bad economy and cheap oil for the next couple of years. We have learned how expensive it can get and how fast. We also know what levels of costs it takes to break the economy's back--and that's about 150 bucks a barrel. Less than I would have expected, but it's a known now. Way too close for comfort!

Jerry Konanui

Had the amazing pleasure this morning of a visit by Jerry Konanui, perhaps the most knowledgeable taro expert in Hawaii. Jerry is Aloha incarnate. Certainly he is a very fine example of the fact that most people who really know what they're doing are invariably very gracious and generous with their knowledge. Needless to say, I learned a great deal about taro and canoe plants in general and was pleased to receive the affirmation that I was doing a good job with the whole project. Certainly his opinion matters more to me than many.

Looks like we'll be building a rocket stove down at his place pretty soon! I really need to put a class together on building these things, as everyone that sees it wants one. . .does someone want to put that together? Let me know. My neighbor is a very fine steel fabricator and has a couple of kids, and I try to kick all the work to him I can. I'll get a bid from him for what delivered components would cost in the next day or two. Elsewise it's my wirefeed welder and and a sawsall, but it works too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Biggest Obstacle to Simple Living

Simple living isn't necessarily easy. At the moment the biggest problem for many is access to health care.

Many of you who know me know I suffer from psoriasisitic arthritis. Dealing with it has been an ongoing hassle for the last decade, and that issue hasn't gone away. Since I lost my health care coverage in a divorce a while back I now contend with the pre-existing condition issue, so independent health insurance simply isn't an option. Neither is paying for the treatment out of pocket. We're looking at a protocol that would cost better than 30000 dollars a year. The condition comes and goes, at times it's bad enough that it's painful to drive a car, so you can imagine single-handing a 34000 pound engineless gaff cutter was difficult. I became very concerned that I could easily find myself somewhere in the world with a flareup, unable to handle the boat, unable to get treatment, and I'd likely have to simply walk off and leave the boat, losing 9/10ths of all I owned in the process. If I hadn't sold the boat, I guess I would have stuck with it, as there wasn't really any other option, but I certainly decided it was in my best interest to, if I could, diversify a bit to protect myself. I was in pretty rough shape at the time. Better today, actually, and thanks--but it's a every day thing. And fortunately the opportunities presented themselves for me to more or less keep my lifestyle. Necessity is a Mother.

Living a simple life requires compromises. You will have to pick and choose what it is you can afford and what you can go without. You will have to go without something. You will have to make some sort of deal with the devil, especially if you're of the economic class that deals with this sort of issue--which you probably are, or would have very little interest in anything I've got to say. It's not all bad. Since for my condition one of the most effective treatment protocols is hanging out on a beach in the sunshine, you may well see why I live where I do. For 30000 bucks I can do a lot of that.

This may well change. The Federal insurance plan would be a godsend for sure, especially as it would not concern itself with the "pre-existing" condition. Elsewise at the moment my only option is to work some crappy place, full time, for miserable wages, for most of a year--if the company hangs in there that long, and keeps offering the plan--if I get into trouble. It's not a happy prospect, but it's the only one out there, and I rightly need to keep that ace in the hole. Not happy about that, but, well, whatever.

Life is happens before you get sick. No one gets out of here alive.


Quality of life might be measured as one's sum "Means" of "bounty" times the amount of "Time" one has to enjoy it, divided by the square of the amount of "Hassle" it takes to maintain it.

I think very soon people are going to look at affluence not by what it affords, but the problems it forestalls. I think we're just shellshocked by the ongoing concussions of the collapses of the institutions around us, and becoming very gunshy as a result. Soon, though, once the dust settles, it may be very quiet indeed.

Still the transition is going to be pretty difficult for many of us, and there will be a lot of uncertainty. I of course am aware and sensitive to this fact.

If the little pathway to my house over the pond looks like the entrance to a shrine, it's because it mostly is. With the craziness out there one cannot avoid, one will need to ladle on the sanity heavily indeed to keep a little balance in things.

Simplicity at its core is a process of evolution in design. In sciences, as in engineering, as in sailing, as in an self-actualized or engineered life. . .simplicity is the ultimate net result of process. Simplicity is efficiency. Simplicity is reliability. Simplicity is elegance. Simplicity is economy. Simplicity is not simple to achieve, but rather demands a systematic and relentless effort to perpetually pare away unnecessary complications, and to seek the highest return on investment per energy or capital expended. Central to this task requires targeting a very specific goal--what is the point of all this? This question must be asked, and answered, with the utmost of rigor. The slightest vagaries here preclude success.

So, what is it that you want out of all this?

This isn't a rhetorical question.

A moment of silence. . .

Very very very quiet in the forest tonight. Soft rain falling, and it's chill. It feels a very long way away from a lot that is going on out there in the world on one hand, but oppressively close on another, as something vague and malevolent lurking out there in the darkness.

Checking the news one last time. Briefly looked at the debates, was nonplussed.

Checking the financial markets around the world--Tomorrow is going to suck for a lot of people.

We all feel a bit exhausted don't we? It seems everyone has a bit of a too much coffee up too late kind of twitch about them, that we were way too excited about something that didn't deserve it.

There is a real hunger for quiet simplicity of the like I've never seen, nor ever felt.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why real "communities" will indeed form.

There is a lot of pessimism about the potential success of "designed" community, or "eco-village" or that sort of thing. I don't share it. I not only believe that such communities will be built, I believe they will become inevitable. it is certainly happening in my neighborhood, and clearly happening among the Oar Club people in a manner unprecedented. Here's why.

Many believe that community spirit or a value of cooperation can only exist under very regimented strictures. Many believe that American people are too "individualistic" to operate under such control. Really? I think American "individuality" is a myth, and in most cases the "paraphernalia" of individuality is pretty generic, and is a response to the amazingly regimented manner in which our society works. You are defined by your job, and nothing else, and in the corporate world especially you are really just a brick in the wall. The "wall" itself is the greatest impediment to going it alone, as it's increasingly more difficult and litigious to make a living without participating in the corporate system. American society is very regimented--you can be only Republican or Democrat, and you must believe in a chain of ideals attached to each or your political power is utterly disenfranchised. You have to move in lockstep with the party line or you're not part of the group. Even in progressive groups it is very much the case. If you embrace ecological values but don't smoke pot you will find yourself often a pariah.

The biggest problem isn't individuality, it is simple greed. It has become a central cultural value to simply get for yourself whatever you can. Going against the community good for personal gain is wholly acceptable. In fact, even in marriages it's encouraged, at least for women, that no compromises need be, or should be, made in one's personal life--for the value of the marriage. You can have whatever you want, you deserve it. While I'm sure that was nice for some, necessity may be a bugger for this lifestyle very soon.

Human beings work together naturally, and enjoy it if the playing field is fair, and the team is pulling together for a common goal. This is all it takes--it doesn't require a hardcore ideology. Many people feel that being part of a sports team, or military experience, or part of a crew of a ship, or whatever, to be very valuable and rewarding experiences. We naturally long for this sort of experience. The obstacle is that one selfish interest screws up the works. But if you consider that a football team of 60 or so ego driven guys can pull together in very fine examples of cooperation, where "selfishness" is utterly intolerable, and the common goal of winning games is equally rewarding to all players--it only proves that it works.

So today communities aren't going to be a value, they are going to be a necessity. It isn't going to be a matter of feeling that you should pull for your neighbor, it's going to be a matter of knowing
that you must, as this will be the last and only remaining, however doubtful, adhesive keeping basic civility together. Once people understand that the reality is that being a good member of a group is highly in one's own self interest, suddenly things will change, and they likely will change rapidly. I really do believe that scarcity may well make mutual value and character a binding source of humanistic ideals potentially stronger than race, heritage, or sex, or even family. Am I saying there is only going to be cooperation in this Utopian future? No, rather there will be a lot of competition to be the best, most valued, and most respected member of a given society.

All it takes is for status within a community to be dependent on one's character and value to the community rather than one's bankroll. . .once the pretty girls chase after the guy with a good heart and skillful hands rather than the guy with a rich daddy and a new car. . .the world will change for the better in an instant.

This change is clearly happening right now.