Saturday, February 28, 2009

Damn the Doom!

Ok, enough of this already. . .here's a "few, we lonely few, we band of brothers" bit. . .

There is a lot of talk about "uncertainty" out there, and people feel that they don't know which way to turn. Allow me advocate that this moment uncertainty is an erronious attitude born of denial. We have nothing to be uncertain about except the most trival of details. We have been for a while lost in a forest, unsure of our path, many of us paralysed by indecision. No longer. We know the path that lies ahead, and we know it's going to be a miserable grim slog at times. There is really nothing left to do but pick up and soldier on.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing either. Acknowledgement of a task engenders effort towards its end. It is time to acknowledge the task that lies ahead. We have no option but adapting ourselves to our new future and our lot in life. This will be painful for many, of course, if not most. No matter.

We a dire future, but not necessarily a hopeless one. The hope is up to us, and the heroic manner in which we face what is ahead. I will not deny that hope and delusion can be very difficult to discern at times. Fine, so be it. The alternative at this point is dispair. I resolve to maintain meaningful hope even if my is an outright and undeniable lie.

We must either learn straightaway in a completely functional manner how to care for ourselves and our loved ones in every aspect of life, certainly including many of those we have taken for granted till now--or beg for aid from those who have been foresighted enough to do so. Whether by land or by sea the age of dabbling in these lifestyles as a recreational dilettante is over and to persist will be fatal. We still have time to press ahead honestly and make a few mistakes, but less time than we did a year ago.

Frankly, I intend full well to prosper. I would expect any enterprising individual with a good mind and the willing to learn--one that is a first order producer of knowledge or value will be as succesful as any. The brokers and agents of this world, or any of those who managed or outright stole the efforts of others will find it very difficult to adapt. The only bond between men and women and society will be one's word and one's integrity--woe to you if you've not demonstrated any to date!

One must: 

Provide a secure dwelling that one owns, or owns with others. Whether a cabin in the woods or a boat--or the back of a datsun wagon, to be without a castle of some variety will be a recipe of sure dispair.

Provide oneself with a diversified means of income--cashflow will be part of human society for the near future, and a great deal will be demanded likely. You will not be able to rely on  "employment." You will need to produce value. Whatever that means is up to you so long as it works.

Provide oneself with a network of knowledgable dependable freinds and cull the rest.

Provide oneself with the mental maturity and determination to succeed, as well as not to be a detriment to the community that by necessity one will find themselves within. Success will require acute technical understanding of the task at hand.

Lastly, resolve to make life meaningful. Whatever that takes. This may well be the last line of defense that the hero has--one must believe that one is carrying on for something. This something is not going to be hard to find--in fact, there are unlimited deserving opportunites that will require a hero for survival. . .

And with that, I resolve to stick with more practical stuff in posts for a while. As, it is, all in all, the practical stuff I do best. . .

and YET ANOTHER plug for George Soros.

Game theory and the "Tragedy of the Commons" pt II

Some rambling thoughts.

Obviously, then this CO2 problem is going to be a tough nut to crack, and in the classic "Tragedy of the Commons" manner we are operating dangerously close to the "problem impossible to solve by technical means." Everyone at this moment has a vested survival interest in using the atmosphere as a  sewer. In fact, certainly, if you don't, you are severely penalized. My integrity in wanting to live a low impact lifestyle through the last decade caught me no end of grief and alienation--it ended freindships and relationships as well as opportunities. Jay thought flying off to Bali was unethical material consumption, and well, that wasn't fun enough for some and made others feel bad or stupid. Others in a more comfortable and flexible manner had different "feelings" about the matter and different "beliefs." I had a different understanding of the issues at hand. Still, we all recognized a looming problem that promised to be unsolvable.  All in all, however, as game theory dictates, the only way to win in such circumstances is by a radical redefinition of the game rules.  Most people instinctively understand this, but not how to do it, and this is part of why we have the muddled mess that we do.

One of the very great dangers I see among those who I know who share similar values to mine is a particularly insidious one. There is a tendency among many who are repulsed by the mainstream values, in any culture or in any time, to project that the mainstream values are destructive and will ultimately end to some sort of apocalyptic demise. Sure, the gods will avenge the "evildoers" in the end and disposessed people have always whined that. This is a very different attitude than a well informed and technically literate understanding of a given society's trends--although the predictions of dire consequences may sound very similar in most cases. Some people are worried about the next decade because of credit default swaps, some because of peak oil, some because jesus is on his way back or some such. Let me point out that while there is a certain camaradarie in such doomsday talk, each of these people will engage in a "radical redefinition" of the game rules in order to win in a different manner. Redefinitions predicated on erronious first principles are unlikely to be successful.

For myself, this has always been a central concern. Back in my late 20's I felt a great deal of pressing anxiety about the future and in what manner I was going to face it. I was in a position where I certainly could have taken that career path to some degree anyhow, but for technical reasons really felt that it would be a dead end at some point--at any rate I wasn't connected enough to every be very successful in that world--and finally made a very conscious choice to "radically redefine" my game rules in a manner that I felt I might win. That choice was the "extracultural" lifestyle of Seasteading and, all in all, it was a good choice. At any rate there was a great deal of deliberate purpose in the whole thing--I knew either choice would have grave consequences--as well if I were to go about either choice in a half-assed manner I'd certainly lose.

Driven to succeed? Not really. I'd say the central motivation I have that has carried me forward was the desire to understand. I wanted to know what I was talking about beyond a trivial level. I wanted to have reliable and technically applicable understanding of the world I lived in and the forces that shaped it. Understanding, I find, is always vastly more powerful in engendering action than casual belief. Far too many are comfortable with mere belief, and while they may have strong "feelings" about those beliefs, far too often there's a heavy air of "I can't be bothered with the details" attutude that floats around with it as well.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the issues we face at this moment are technical issues that require a technical understanding and technical solutions. Ideology and belief will not suffice to achieve anything. In fact, ideology and belief may well be powerful hinderences to accurately "redefining" the game rules. . .

So, then after that ramble--what will be "winning" and what will be the rules? What rules have radically changed?

I think a few things really may come to be understood with a higher level of resolution than in the past.

First-- "Feeling" states are very important. Passion is meaning.  Still, feeling leads to the  phenomenology of experience, not to comprehension. As well, affluence in general has a tendency to cheapen experience by making it far too accessible, and as such commonplace. I believe we will need to jealously guard our feeling states in this hard future in a manner to which many are unaccustomed--and adopting a deliberate integrity in our actions is the way to do so.

Second--Money will be a markedly less valuable and reliable tool for achieving those winning states--whether good times, or security, or companionship. Money has been pretty much the only tool in most people's toolshed for some time, and they're going to be pretty lost without it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How I measure my CO2 footprint.

This is a tricky buisness. Measuring any of this sort of thing is a very inexact science, and the only way to keep integrity in the process is to hedge the numbers very conservatively. But here a start and critique is invited.

In the high altitude tropics where I live the daytime temperatures are in the 60's to low 80's all year round. 140+ inches a year in rainfall mostly well distributed throughout the year. Stuff really grows and biomass abounds. As far as I can survey, I have about 1500 Ohia trees ranging from small and immature to nearly 3 feet at the butt, with the average size of perhaps 8. I have over the last year planted Koa as well in various places, several hundred trees. Most are doing well. The Ohia are prodigious soil builders requiring little in nutrients and producing large amounts of heavy leaf mold throughout the year. No wonder they are sacred here. They are the real backbones of the forest that the whole island system is built on.

Early on I built a couple of stations in the forest to measure the quantities of biomass dropped per square foot. Quantities are significant. With these and other estimations it is fair to assume 20 tons an acre in carbon rich biomass is produced annually. This seems to be consistent with other local crop yields of taro or sugar cane, or at least is sensibly in the credible range. 

So, perhaps that sounds like a lot, but only a portion of that is carbon, and only a portion of that is sequestered. Some becomes wood in trees which is relatively longterm storage, a good part of it rots giving off CO2 and CH4, not so good. So, the actual pumpdown in the amalgam is probably only a 3rd of all that, or about 20000 pounds.

So, what does that offset, really? The answer, of course, is nothing, as the the "ecowankers" and others are still flying around the world raising awareness about global warming. But, minding my own buisness, the figures are different. So, what is my allowable consumption to be carbon neutral? Well, roughly 200 gallons of gasoline a year, or 4000 lbs of wood in the woodstove, or elsewise in consumption in the mix. Of course here it gets very complicated, and it gets tempting to cook the books. Personally, I think the easiest thing to do is to scale it all in gross dollar consumption because the spending of every dollar has a carbon impact at this point, and the price of a gallon of gasoline is probably the most accurate measure of the real impact of a purchase, as fuel is one ingredient in everything we buy. If I assume 200 gallons of gasoline at 3 dollars a gallon as an average(since I don't burn that much gasoline) we have 600 dollars of consumption: if we assume that fuel is at least 10% of the cost of any purchase, conservative indeed--this gives me a consumption level of +/- 6000 dollars a year at current valuations as what I'd see as the upper allowable limit of personal expenditures. Of course this is a little over twice of global GDP so I'm living pretty high on the hog. A good number for a lot of reasons: 3 acres per person, perpetual permaculture, living under one's federal standard deduction so tax money doesn't directly go to undermine one's effort(another topic). At the moment with world population where it is there is almost 5 acres per person on the planet so the effort is sensibly ethically dependable. . .3 acres per person in agriforestry permaculture with cash expenditures not to exceed 6000 dollars a person for annual expenses to me seems to be a very good estimate of what sustainable really means. It is indeed do able, and of course, central to the theme around here, is a strategy that makes the forthcoming economic collapse of pretty small consequence. . .

Thoughts? Obviously unless you're living very sustainably off the land itself this isn't achievable. 5 gallons a week will not run a homestead and drive you to work. It will however, power a homestead alone. The immediate implication is that any functional homestead must provide both food, infrastructure, and income to be sustainable. Going elsewhere to earn a living is prohibitably ineffient and something we'll need to change.

Let me point out as well that the forest here is improving. This property is moving from a "natural" state to an "enhanced" state. By careful stewardship the output and carbon cycle of the land can be greatly enhanced. Careful applications of soil ammendments, tree husbandry, the introduction of biodiversity(koa especially) and biochar promise to move me from carbon neutral to into the plus column quite rapidly. Of course to then increase my standard of living is counterproductive--restaint, remember?--but does demostrate that this small living can work and provide for a lifestyle that indeed moves in the right direction. More on these techniques in the next few days.


So, what this all means is that the average N. American couple will need to pare back consumption and expenditures by 80 to 90 percent. This is a lot. A lightbulb, casual recycling and a spiffy new Prius isn't going to cut it. Funny that I would find that number to be applicable because -- -- these folks have come to the same conclusion. I don't see any way around it.

So, really, what gives? Are we really really right there at the brink of the Malthusian Nightmare? Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, I really think so. Honestly, I've been trooping and working on this stuff for years and it's caught me by surprise. But, all in all, this how it works. Life is what happens before your ass gets wiped off the planet.

Here's another term: Ecophile. One who loves nature but in a self-centered, delusional, destructive, and exploitive fashion.  As in Pedophile.

Anyway, excuse me while I attempt to go sweat out the rest of this fever. . .

Oh, and lastly, so since I've been asked a great deal lately--how long will it take to get a homestead together in the manner in which you have? Two years. If you have help. I'm not there yet either, but certainly striking distance and have may a few, but not to many mistakes. I don't mind being a pioneer. Someone needs to.

Here's a new term for the day: Ecowankerism

Thanks to an anonymous source for this one:

Ecowankerism: the belief that one can live in an ecologically benign manner without significant personal sacrifice in consumption or lifestyle.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

CQ. . .CQ. . .CQD. . .

Umm. . .

There's a lot more of you out there than you think. I'm running more e-mails a day than ever--(30 today) with inquiries of sailing and seasteading and homesteading and the rest. . .I smelt the smoke early on and left theater a decade ago. . .and we're just about to see everyone else wake up and run for the exits. . .

Sure, it's obvious. Seasteading works. Hawaii works. Both have worked for centuries if you have due respect for the lifestyle and the land(sea) itself.

Get serious: get in touch. I want people like you to be my neighbors, not Oprah.

Along with all that, "food" for thought. . .

The timeless  piece "tragedy of the commons" is worth a re-read at the moment. Here it is:

Obviously the issues are timely. In the interest of a discussion--let us look at the various "commons" that have been exploited to the point of collapse.

The ecosystem for certain, 

Of course the atmosphere in general. . .but also.

The economy, where it is in everyone's interest develop new buisiness, hence oversaturating every market. . .

In relationships between people, where the "common" responsibility and good will is often taken for granted and exploited.

In one's personal health,

Indeed in one's mental health. . .

Perhaps the greatest ethic we can hold up at this moment in history is "restraint?"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Updates and Etc.

It's been quite a while since I've had a chance to write a bit, but have a quiet morning. The parents are here visiting and they did a great job of importing a nasty cold to my little oasis and it's quite the plague colony around here. Drinking coffee and bourbon and trying to cough up a lung but may as well write a bit at the moment.

Certainly over the last month or so I haven't been idle. While work has been very difficult due to the weather and rain in between the squalls I've managed to put together a shop and a greenhouse, which will greatly expand production around here even in the bad weather. It is really becoming quite the little homestead and things are more viable every day. The Hawaiian word for water is "wai" and interestingly for wealth it is "waiwai." If one is ready and in syncroniscity with the weather and island lifestyle, the rainy season is unquestionably a season of bounty. The growth out here in the uala and kalo is scarce to be believed.

It's interesting as I go along how things are discovered. The major discovery is the style of farming that is best suited to my area and climate, as well as its historic precident. There was at one point a significant agricultural tradition in the Hawaiian islands of upland mountain farming, especially of taro, in the style termed "waena" --meaning "admist the grassy clearings in the forest." Certainly interesting that instinctively I gravitate towards it, as it unquestionably is the most viable and sustainable of the various planting 
styles. Unfortunately, by and large, the style has been lost and again I find myself to a large degree reinventing the wheel. Still, it is exactly the kind of task that my temperment is best suited to--with heavy research and practical application hand in hand--and it reminds me a great deal of teaching myself to sail. Yeah, and I mean, really sail. And of course as most of you know, that meant without relying on engines. I still stand by the observation that sailing is sailing, and boating is boating. Boating isn't a crime, but calling yourself a sailor when you're a boater isn't too fair and one should know better. This has nothing to do with being an extremist or a purist or any of that. There are all sorts of things in human life that are either/or propositions. Either you are faithful to your partners or you're a cheat. Either you are honest or you are a thief. Either you are a sailor or you're a boater who sails when 
it's convienient. Of course, and again, as the atheist I am, I can't really say that being a thief, a cheat, or a boater necesarily makes you bad. If that's what you are go for it with your head held high. There's some integrity in that. Where it gets irritating to the rest of us when one is a hypocrite as well as a fake.

So let's talk about environmentalists and the "sustainability" movement.

When I mean that I'm striving for "sustainability" I mean exactly that. I mean sustainability as a measurable and objectively emperical quantity. I mean precisely that I'm attempting to live a lifestyle that definitavely does no ecological nor social harm, and is infinately perpetual. The social harm aspect is especially important, as if my lifestyle, if ecologically sustainable, is still so consumptive that it forces others through my acquisition of resources into lives of unsustainable deprivation--well, that's being a cheat. As has been discussed here at the moment we do indeed know what sort of land is availiable at the moment for 
each and everyone, and what our fair share of the earth's resources really is. It isn't a great deal, but it's all we have and any level of consumption above what is sustainable isn't sustainable. Period. Do you care about that? I do. A whole lot of other people claim to, but as far as I can see in the vast majority of cases this attitude is wholesale bullshit. Do you care? No one is going to make you care if you frankly don't. Still, as was the case with sailing--when one demonstrates the ability to reliably cruise port to port without relying on an engine--well, it make the nay sayers really look like asses--Certainly when one demonstrates real sustainablity it makes these "green" pretenders look like asses too. Don't give me any of that "change a lightbulb step in the right direction" horseshit. If you need to go west, taking pride in the fact that you walk very slowly east is nothing to brag about, even if you're walking very much slower than others. Especially when just the shortest distance to the east is an unthinkably dangerous abyss.

I am not there yet, but I'm getting very very close. I'm very certain that I'll be 100% carbon neutral by the end of the year, and carbon positive thereafter. All the ducks are in a row; all the pieces are there. At this point it is simply scale, and I need one more growth cycle in the taro and two in the sweet potatoes and I'm there. Measurable, uncontestably, by any sensible metric. Critique is invited. If you can find holes in my project, I'm more than eager to hear about them, in the same manner that I'd appreciate hearing the there was a hole in my boat. Again, I'm not only doing this because I'm compulsively ethical and really do care about the ecology and my personal integrity, but because the way things are going in the world it's going to save my ass. In the same manner that no matter how big a sailor you think you are, Posideon is the one who you'll need to turn your "final" into for grading--I'm afraid Gaia is going to be a real hardass when it comes to grading this final project in "ecology 100" and a lot of people are going to fail the course.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back among the living. . .

Finally, 3 hard drives and a motherboard later the computer returns from wherever, and it works, mostly. Certainly over the last month have been very busy and indeed productive, and will have a lot of progress to report, most likely later in the day after I catch up a bit!