Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Sustainable Biointensive Ecoforming" vs. "Permaculture"

This is going to be a wonkish post. Sorry about that in advance. There's a point to it.

"Sustainable Biointensive Ecoforming"  or SBE--is a term describing a system using an amalgam of both novel and traditional techniques with the intent of creating sustainable eco-habitats. The concept borrows heavily from all available sources and is centered around the core values of "best practice," "appropriate technology," and "sustainability."

"SBE" has a great deal in common with Permaculture, especially in the fact that both have tricky names that somebody just pulled out of his ass. With "SBE" that ass happens to be mine.

What SBE does not have in common with Permaculture is that in spite of the fact that I coined the term, I have no intent to trademark it. Nor to I have any intent to sell "SEB design course" certificates to suppliment my "sustainability." Certainly while there are remarkable and admirable examples of Permaculture techniques to be seen, there are also an awful lot of courses out there with nothing more to show than a spiral herb garden, a few straggling fruit trees, and a bunk house full of trustfund kids from Mendecino County all paying 500 bucks a week to hoe weeds. SBE is far more concerned with profitably farming produce than farming youthful good will for a profit. In fact we here at the "SBE Institute of Hawaii"--LOL--advocate staying as far away as is possible from anything that might resemble green profiteering. It smells of gimmickry, threatens the integrity of the concept, and ultimately isn't sustainable anyhow.

Personal sustainability is impossible without a larger sustainable community. I personally cannot reconcile the notions of "certification courses"--especially expensive ones-- which practically for most people stand as a barrier to the access of knowledge--I cannot reconcile this sort of practice with the very real need to educate and advocate. It is in my self interest to involve as many others as I can, even at my own personal cost, as without critical mass sustainability is bound to fail.

Anyway, I think it's worth thinking about.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Psst. . . Hey Buddy--you need a carrot?

In the past I've written a lot about a couple of terms--"mainstream" and "counterculture"--and their values as opposed to "extra-cultural" values. In any given society you have the consensus majority values, and you have a group of people who rebel against those values. In the sailing world which is notorious for its factionalism, you have "racers" and "crusiers"--one group that makes a virtue out of going fast and the other reactionary virtue of going "slow." You also have the "high tech" sailors and the "traditionalists"--one group that makes a virtue of using every possible conceivable technological advance and the other group who goes out of their way to use the most ancient and even obsolete tools--except of course, engines. Racers, crusiers, the high tech and tradtionalists are all about those engines. When you find yourself in the crowd of those who "sail" without relying on engines at all, you find yourself in a completely different crowd with completely different values. And, by and large, values that are more explicit and practical. This is the "extracultural" essence of real sailing. It involves wholly different values than what is mainstream and pursues wholly different ends. You'll find few debates about "wood boats" vs "plastic" boats or full keel vs. fin in the real sailing crowd. Use laminate sail cloth, or blue tarps, or coconut husks. No one cares. These aren't ideological issues, they're completely practical ones, and by and large no one really cares how you go about your sailing as long as you do. It's only the mainstream groups--both the pro and con ones--who squabble about such stuff. And squabble they do, especially because they're going out of their way to make a set of values that are pretty silly in the first place more "emotive" and personally meaningful, I guess, by creating artificial conflict. And bickering about those sorts of things at seemingly endless length is a lot less work than actually learning how to sail a boat, for real, in a meaningful fashion, without cheating. I guess that's the appeal.

Once you pull the engine out of the boat the whole gig changes completely. It reminds me a great deal of my current project--sustainability. Once you educate yourself of what sustainability is, and what it takes to achieve it, not only on a personal but a global scale--and you do so in a well informed manner that relys on numbers and not adjectives--the whole gig changes as well. You'll find yourself not in either a mainstream or counter-culture position but an extracultural one. The comparisons one can draw from sailing to sustainability are near endless. And the conversation, among those who are endeavoring to learn such a lifestyle(with all the perils one might face abandoning the engine) involve primarily practical issues. Where the squabble comes in with the mainstream and countercultural crowd who are fighting about the best way to keep their "engine"--ie., a consumptive lifestyle--it seems that here too the commentary on that issue is near endless. As for me, and a growing number of people who have manifest other values, well, we're just planning to get along without all that.

Expect however, as the anchor comes aboard in the chill morning just as the fog starts to lift in the still dark morning--and the steamy mists from one's cup of rapidly cooling coffee are the sole telltails of the day's weather to come--as you drift from the anchorage on the ebb tide in the manner of sailors for centuries past. . .expect no company but the terns. While can be hard and lonely indeed to live on the frontiers of humane integrity, intimate at once personally and with the world--don't unduly begrudge those warm and comfortable ashore. They sleep.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It was a few years back, and I was walking back from some project to the boat along the IU trail in Bellingham, when I saw a little shitty dog break loose from its oddly misshapen owner's grasp and sprint across four lanes of traffic. Initially aghast, the misshapen fellow pursued in obvious terror for his pet's life, and did so in a state of agitation and heroic fearlessness that I would have never thought this pudgy wonker capable of. Stopping a freeway he rescued "Fluffy" from the jaws of death and tenderly carried his beloved animal to the side of the road, where he proceeded to give it the cruelest beating perhaps I've ever seen.

My dad was an undertaker, and I grew up in that biz as many of you know, and you get to see some stuff, alright. It does change how you look at things. While I never pursued the "playing dolls" with dead people part of the business, I did have a hand in estate and funeral planning for a couple of years--this is where I caught the bug to watch finance--but all in spending time with families there was a central lesson to be learned.

And this is it. In spite of all the talk, people don't much give a damn about their kids. They really don't. Not any more than they do their pets, IF it's that much.

You must realize that even if you're talking estate planning to a couple, you're in a very small subset of people. The majority of people don't plan at all. The reason for this is very simple. They don't want to talk about it. It's scary to them to expect that they might die, even though it's obvious that they will, and they'd much rather not talk about it and in so doing let their kids be stuck with the bill, the taxes, the mess, the anxiety, and all the rest that comes from not planning or being honest. Even of those who do plan this is a huge obstacle. A few do, and do plan, and do care, but it's probably less than 5 percent of the population that has the level of maturity to deal with issues like this in a responsible manner. For most, however, it's much easier to deny and evade and play silly and just let the issue take care of itself, as, after all--they won't be there to see it, ha ha!

So, don't be too surprised when climate change--something more complicated to understand than death, I guess--has so little steam with people. Or at least meaningful steam. There are very few ways to escape the reality that as a parent--one had, and enjoyed the benefits of, a completely complicit hand in destroying their children's future. It is possible in the past that one may have been innocently ignorant of the effects of one's actions. No longer. Today you must be willfully ignorant to be unaware. So what are people doing? Or at least most? Nothing at all. And the reason is exactly the same as above--it's simply too painful to bear the emotional cost of the responsibility of destroying one's childs future.. So, as long as is possible, people will ignore it. As I say, I've seen it before, and I expect nothing else.

Look, love is an action, not an emotion. No body experiences what you might feel, they only witness what you do. . .

Do we love our planet and our future generations or not?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Truth Always Prevails:

Unfortunately, it generally prevails far too late to matter. . .

In the interest of education, I have found a wonderfully thoughtful source for a very sensible and rigorous look into sustainable energy. Many of us have a high degree of technical illiteracy when it comes to such things--and we can't expect to make either good personal choices or have an understanding of policy choices without being conversant in the details. I'd really recommending either purchasing--or taking advantage of the free PDF. download here. Print yourself a copy, and form an informed opinion before it's too late.

Really, it's a valuable a piece and is worth a look.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seeking the Farms of the Future:

Here is a great video from the BBC that sums up our situation very well.

The future is in small high intensity sustainable farms managed primarily by manual labor. There's really no other answer that I can see.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Greater Fool's Game:" Peak Fool?

Not hardly. I asked myself, where on earth could you find investors stupid enough to get involved with the TARP program. I mean, really really stupid and with a lot of money to spend too?

Ah, well, of course.

I mean, you really couldn't make stuff like this up.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Darwin Sez:

"It's not the strongest, nor the most intelligent that survive and evolve: It's the most adaptable."

Hmmmm. This duck saw the front approaching and flew south.

Storm clouds?

We live in a nation that thinks it can run an economy on debt. . .not credit, mind you, but debt. It's credit if you borrow to purchase an asset. It's debt if you borrow and piss it away.

. . .where we now have more people that work for government than work for manufacturing. . .

. . .where we now have more people in prison than work in agriculture. . .

Your share of the US debt, if you take into account the federal deficit, and your share of the private sector debt, and you add in your share of the un-funded liabilities of social security and the rest--although a bit hard to wring out the numbers, can credibly be said to approach $500,000.

If you've got a little time on your hands, this video will give you something to think about.