Archive for February, 2016

Climbing the Ladder of Awareness

February 28, 2016

This is the title of a post by Paul Chefurka whose website I just re-found, thanks to a post from Mike at Damn the Matrix.

I’ve reproduced the article below. Thanks to Paul for allowing it.

In the five stages of awareness he lists, I can confidently say I’m at stage five and have been there for quite some time. And I can confirm that having arrived there, there is indeed a real risk of depression.

So, from here, according to Paul, I can take an Outer or an Inner Path. On the Outer Path he mentions the Transition Network and permaculture as two examples.

Years ago, I bought Rob Hopkins’ Transition Handbook and toyed briefly with the idea of trying to start a Transition Town where I live. But we have a local council strongly geared towards growth and development. I quickly saw that there would be no interest or help from that quarter.

I looked into permaculture and that’s where I’m at now and although I think its ideals and practices are worthwhile, I’m starting to tend more towards the Inner Path. Getting older, and understanding that I won’t be around to see most of the coming crises, helps too!

I can recommend all the articles at Paul’s site.


Climbing the Ladder of Awareness

When it comes to our understanding of the unfolding global crisis, each of us seems to fit somewhere along a continuum of awareness that can be roughly divided into five stages:

  1. Dead asleep. At this stage there seem to be no fundamental problems, just some shortcomings in human organization, behaviour and morality that can be fixed with the proper attention to rule-making. People at this stage tend to live their lives happily, with occasional outbursts of annoyance around election times or the quarterly corporate earnings seasons.
  2. Awareness of one fundamental problem. Whether it’s Climate Change, overpopulation, Peak Oil, chemical pollution, oceanic over-fishing, biodiversity loss, corporatism, economic instability or sociopolitical injustice, one problem seems to engage the attention completely. People at this stage tend to become ardent activists for their chosen cause. They tend to be very vocal about their personal issue, and blind to any others.
  3. Awareness of many problems. As people let in more evidence from different domains, the awareness of complexity begins to grow.  At this point a person worries about the prioritization of problems in terms of their immediacy and degree of impact. People at this stage may become reluctant to acknowledge new problems – for example, someone who is committed to fighting for social justice and against climate change may not recognize the problem of resource depletion.  They may feel that the problem space is already complex enough, and the addition of any new concerns will only dilute the effort that needs to be focused on solving the “highest priority” problem.
  4. Awareness of the interconnections between the many problems. The realization that a solution in one domain may worsen a problem in another marks the beginning of large-scale system-level thinking. It also marks the transition from thinking of the situation in terms of a set of problems to thinking of it in terms of a predicament. At this point the possibility that there may not be a solution begins to raise its head. People who arrive at this stage tend to withdraw into tight circles of like-minded individuals in order to trade insights and deepen their understanding of what’s going on. These circles are necessarily small, both because personal dialogue is essential for this depth of exploration, and because there just aren’t very many people who have arrived at this level of understanding.
  5. Awareness that the predicament encompasses all aspects of life.  This includes everything we do, how we do it, our relationships with each other, as well as our treatment of the rest of the biosphere and the physical planet. With this realization, the floodgates open, and no problem is exempt from consideration or acceptance. The very concept of a “Solution” is seen through, and cast aside as a waste of effort.

For those who arrive at Stage 5 there is a real risk that depression will set in. After all, we’ve learned throughout our lives that our hope for tomorrow lies in  our ability to solve problems today.  When no amount of human cleverness appears able to solve our predicament the possibility of hope can vanish like a the light of a candle flame, to be replaced by the suffocating darkness of despair.

How people cope with despair is of course deeply personal, but it seems to me there are two general routes people take to reconcile themselves with the situation.  These are not mutually exclusive, and most of us will operate out of some mix of the two.  I identify them here as general tendencies, because people seem to be drawn more to one or the other.  I call them the outer path and the inner path.

If one is inclined to choose the outer path, concerns about adaptation and local resilience move into the foreground, as exemplified by the Transition Network and Permaculture Movement. To those on the outer path, community-building and local sustainability initiatives will have great appeal.  Organized party politics seems to be less attractive to people at this stage, however.  Perhaps politics is seen as part of the problem, or perhaps it’s just seen as a waste of effort when the real action will take place at the local level.

If one is disinclined to choose the outer path either because of temperament or circumstance, the inner path offers its own set of attractions.

Choosing the inner path involves re-framing the whole thing in terms of consciousness, self-awareness and/or some form of transcendent perception.  For someone on this path it is seen as an attempt to manifest Gandhi’s message, “Become the change you wish to see in the world,” on the most profoundly personal level.  This message is similarly expressed in the ancient Hermetic saying, “As above, so below.” Or in plain language,  “In order to heal the world, first begin by healing yourself.”

However, the inner path does not imply a “retreat into religion”. Most of the people I’ve met who have chosen an inner path have as little use for traditional religion as their counterparts on the outer path have for traditional politics.  Organized religion is usually seen as part of the predicament rather than a valid response to it. Those who have arrived at this point have no interest in hiding from or easing the painful truth, rather they wish to create a coherent personal context for it. Personal spirituality of one sort or another often works for this, but organized religion rarely does.

It’s worth mentioning that there is also the possibility of a serious personal difficulty at this point.  If someone cannot choose an outer path for whatever reasons, and is also resistant to the idea of inner growth or spirituality as a response to the crisis of an entire planet, then they are truly in a bind. There are few other doorways out of this depth of despair.  If one remains stuck here for an extended period of time, life can begin to seem awfully bleak, and violence against either the world or oneself may begin begin to seem like a reasonable option.  Keep a watchful eye on your own progress, and if you encounter someone else who may be in this state, please offer them a supportive ear.

From my observations, each successive stage contains roughly a tenth of the number people as the one before it. So while perhaps 90% of humanity is in Stage 1, less than one person in ten thousand will be at Stage 5 (and none of them are likely to be politicians).  The number of those who have chosen the inner path in Stage 5 also seems to be an order of magnitude smaller than the number who are on the outer path.

I happen to have chosen an inner path as my response to a Stage 5 awareness. It works well for me, but navigating this imminent (transition, shift, metamorphosis – call it what you will), will require all of us – no matter what our chosen paths – to cooperate on making wise decisions in difficult times.

Best wishes for a long, exciting and fulfilling  journey.

Bodhi Paul Chefurka
October 19, 2012

2 C Coming On Faster Than We Feared — Atmospheric Methane Spikes to Record 3096 Parts Per Billion

February 27, 2016

I used to think I’d be pushing up daisies well before climate change got really nasty. Now I’m not so sure.

Maybe it’s time to start stocking up on the Peaceful Pill?


It’s essential that policymakers begin to seriously consider the possibility of a substantial permafrost carbon feedback to global warming. If they don’t, I suspect that down the road we’ll all be looking at the 2°C threshold in our rear-view mirror.Robert Max Holmes


Unraveling the global warming puzzle is simple at its face, complex when you pierce the surface.

We know that burning fossil fuels, that the activity of mining coal, fracking for gas, and drilling for oil all result in dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. We know that the vast majority of these warming gasses are coming from fossil fuel based sources. We know that, now, the burning and mining and fracking and drilling have pushed atmospheric CO2 above 405 parts per million and the global concentration of all CO2 equivalent gasses to an amazing 485 parts per million CO2e (levels not seen in at least 15 million…

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Not going to be a happy country as oil runs out

February 18, 2016

And neither are we.

Young Saudis See Cushy Jobs Vanish Along With Nation’s Oil Wealth

Drying tomatoes

February 17, 2016

Late summer to early autumn is tomato drying time for me. I grow lots of cherry varieties for this reason. Three of my favourites are Black Cherry, Reisentraube and a red pear-shaped one whose name I don’t know. It came up as a seedling down the back of our property many years ago and I’ve been growing it ever since. I suspect it came in from a neighbouring property.

So I go from this :


To this :


To this :


Those two jars are 2-litre jars. I attempt to end tomato season with both of them full of dried goodness (you’re looking at last year’s efforts there). So far this year I have filled one jar and have slightly less than half a jar left over from last year. I use them in cooking—casseroles, omelets, scrambled eggs, whatever; sometimes just a bowl beside the computer for nibbles while surfing.

I dry them in the sun when I can and when conditions aren’t suitable, they go in the Excalibur dryer :


I cut them in half and add a sprinkling of salt to the cut surface. It helps to draw out water and if I want to use them as nibbles, it’s imperative. I once dried some without and they were soooo bland. It doesn’t matter if they’re going into something cooked.

The sun-drying frame is just 4 lengths of 42 x 19 mm framing pine, or you can use any scrap timber available. The flywire is the metal stuff—I didn’t ever try plastic.  I assumed it would soften in the sun and all the tomatoes would roll into the centre. You’ll need an extra frame to go over the top to keep birds and insects at bay.

I store them dry, meaning I don’t add olive oil as you would usually buy them. They must be very dry (but still chewy)—the slightest amount of moisture and they will develop mould. I’ve had mould develop when they weren’t dried quickly enough, before I had the dryer to finish them off.

Strawberry wicking buckets

February 10, 2016

I wrote about how I made these in this post.

They’ve been in service now for two growing seasons. This season (spring/summer) they’ve been producing so many strawberries, I was amazed. Fresh strawberries every morning on my mueslii was almost too much for anyone to bear (I bore it well, though).

But the plants were originally planted into semi-rotted chook poo compost. In two years it had fully broken down and the mix had sunk in the buckets, so that the growth points were a good 10 cm below the rim of the bucket. They needed topping up with new compost but to do that would have meant burying the growth points which could have caused the whole plant to rot.

So the only thing to do was to lift the whole plant out of the bucket, add new mix to the bottom of the bucket, then put the plant back. Normally they die back in winter, which would have been the best time to do it. They’re still producing plenty of fruit anyway, but one wasn’t, and being impatient, I decided to do just that one. What I was keen to see was the root system and whether it had grown right down into the permanently boggy area below the drainage hole, or whether the only healthy roots were in the area above the drainage hole. In a wicking bed system you can’t see what’s going on below the ground. Are the roots happily growing in the wet soil or are they shying away from it and only growing in the top section where it’s just damp?

I let the bucket get as dry as I dared so the plant and its root ball wouldn’t be so heavy to juggle and tipped/pulled it out carefully. In the photo of bucket next to plant you can see how far down the plant had sunk and the location of the drainage hole in the bucket. Below that level are healthy, white roots. That was satisfying to see. Strawberry roots at least, will  grow in saturated soil :


I put fresh compost into the bottom of the bucket and tamped it down well with another bucket. I wanted to compact it so that when it rotted there wouldn’t be so big a drop in level. Of course when I put the plant back, there was a gap of a couple of centimetres all around the top, which I filled in with some friable potting mix.

All done. Ready for another couple of seasons of strawberry production :


I won’t feed this plant again till next spring when it will get a small handful of Dynamic Lifter and some seaweed fertiliser. The new compost in the bottom may even promote some more flowers before then.

The thing I really love about wicking buckets is that they’re so easy to move around. Just pick them up by the handle. The ideal thing to give someone for a Christmas present—a bucket laden with ripe strawberries cascading over the edge. And if you really want to be stylish you can colour co-ordinate bucket colour with strawberry colour. I went for utilitarian black because I’m not stylish (it does warm up early in spring though).

Questions & answers

February 4, 2016

Back in the dim dark ages, the early 80’s to be exact, I read a book by American ecologist, Paul Ehrlich, called The Machinery of Nature. It was my first introduction to ecology—the study of ecosystems and ecosystem functioning.

It blew me away. While biology had been my favourite subject at school, I had never been taught to consider life on earth from a holistic, systems-oriented approach. Science in those days was inherently reductionist and still is to some extent. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never met anyone of my generation who thinks in systemic terms.

Ehrlich’s book was a library book. I desperately needed a copy of my own, so I could read it again and again. The local bookshop didn’t have it. I seriously considered telling the library I’d lost it and offering to pay for it, but luckily, I eventually bought my own copy. I still read it regularly (somehow I missed the most famous systems-thinking book of the time, The Limits to Growth, published in 1972).

The 80’s and 90’s were a period of growing environmental awareness for me. I read dozens of books on the subject. With an awareness of how human life-support systems functioned, it became obvious that human activities were in the process of destroying them.

I asked myself why would an intelligent species deliberately destroy its own life support systems. I’ve been searching for the answer ever since.

This video goes a long way towards providing answers. It’s long—an hour and a quarter, so perhaps many of you won’t bother with it. But do please share it on social media if you can (perhaps it’s a reason for me to finally embrace the joys(?) of the dreaded Facebook). I think people need to see it and understand where we’re going and why. Then maybe we can make the changes we need to make.

The speaker is William Rees.

William Rees is a bio-ecologist, ecological economist, former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. His early research focused on environmental assessment but gradually extended to the biophysical requirements for sustainability and the implications of global ecological trends. Along the way, he developed a special interest in modern cities as ‘dissipative structures’ and therefore as particularly vulnerable components of the total human ecosystem.

Rees is perhaps best known as the originator and co-developer (with his graduate students) of ecological footprint analysis—the expanding human eco-footprint is arguably the world’s best-known indicator of the (un)sustainability of techno-industrial society. His book on eco-footprinting (co-authored with his former PhD student, Mathis Wackernagel) has been published in eight languages, including Chinese. (bio from



If you watched right through to the end you’ll have seen this on one of the final powerpoint slides :

“Privileged elites with the greatest stake in the status quo control the policy levers. Ordinary people hold to the expansionist myth. Society remains in paralysis.”

I remembered the photo I’d seen in the morning’s paper. One of the privileged elites. Not his best angle, perhaps. Arrogance personified?

I don’t want my future in the hands of people like this.


January update

February 3, 2016

It rained at last—48 mm in all—over the last four days of the month. Melbourne’s average for January is 47 mm, so a good result all round. Within a day all the tip growth on the native plants was showing fresh and green and the tomatoes, which I thought had been getting plenty of water, started to split their skins.

I’m getting plenty of tomatoes now, after a bad start when rats ate all the first lot of seedlings I put out (in one night!) and set me back a couple of weeks while I put down poison every night and watched and waited until it was no longer being taken. I found six dead rats and the chooks earned their keep by catching and killing another. I mixed the bait pellets with peanut butter, placed it on jar lids and hid these behind the line of wicking boxes and tubs which run alongside the base of the deck (which is where I’d planted the tomatoes). I put it out at dusk and removed any uneaten first thing in the morning. My only concern was birds eating it, but they couldn’t have entered the small space where it was hidden. I’d seen the rats running along there, so it was the best spot to put it. A good result and the next lot of seedlings I put out remained untouched.

Tomato harvest so far :


The cherries will be dried, the paste varieties frozen for winter casseroles and the rest eaten fresh and fried. Loving fried toms with my evening meal at the moment!

Recently I was gifted another second-hand bath from a relative who knows I collect them :


This makes three now. I use the first two to collect rainwater and grow azolla for the chooks. I need more growing space above ground, so I think I’ll use this one to grow veggies.

He also brought 3 bags of dried cow poo pats (they run beef cattle in Gippsland), so I’ll use those as a basis for the growing mix. That’s the black stuff in the bath.

I watered the cow pats to get them to absorb water and soften. I’ve covered them with all the organic material I can muster—mulched bracken, weeds, soft prunings, leaves, etc, and I’ve added some worms from the worm farm to let them break it all up. With any luck, I’ll have a whole new veggie bed to put my winter kale and broccoli in.

I would have liked to have made it into a wicking bed, but I wanted to get the material composting as quickly as possible and I didn’t want to spend time on the fiddly job of measuring and drilling drainage holes and getting it set up. Instead I’ve positioned it so the plughole end is higher than the other end, meaning that water won’t completely drain away, so a shallow, boggy layer will be maintained in the bottom. I can always stop up the plughole later and drill drainage holes to increase the depth of the boggy layer.

I’ve been growing New Zealand spinach for some years. It self-seeds readily and took over much of the bare ground around and under the fruit trees. I left it there because it was such a good ground cover, is green and lush through the winter and the rabbits don’t touch it. I pick the young leaf tips and steam them as a green :


But it’s shallow-rooted in the compacted soil there and doesn’t like to get dry, so with 3 months of below-average rainfall it died right back and became a tangle of dead stems. I decided to remove them as they were a tripping hazard and I knew it would regenerate from the thousands of seeds it had dropped, but when I got it all out I decided I liked the look of it better, walking wasn’t a hazard (especially not knowing if a snake was hidden under it!), so I’ve decided to keep it that way and not let it regenerate. I’ve raked all the litter up around the fruit trees as mulch, out to the drip line, which looks much nicer and makes it easier to add compost and wood ash and gives a cleared space for walking around them. I’ll just maintain a minimal layer of gum leaf mulch there to walk on and absorb the force of heavy rain. I’m still trying to find a ground cover to put under the fruit trees that the rabbits will leave alone. I don’t want to use Warrigal Greens again, because it grows so quickly and rampantly and will just take over again. I’d like to put comfrey there, but the rabbits demolished that too. Everything I like, they like.

I’ve had one zucchini from six plants and that was one I hand pollinated. When there were male flowers open, there were no females. Then when the females came along, the males didn’t show. They’re getting regular water and fertiliser, including extra potash and they’re varieties that have done well in the past. I’m really wondering if it’s worth growing them in future. It’s annoying, when others seem to have zucchini coming out of their ears.

I had a pepino growing in a wicking box on the deck for a couple of years. I pruned it back very hard, not really caring if it didn’t re-sprout and it didn’t. So I put another in a wicking box beside the chook run. It’s doing really well and there are some huge fruits forming (arrowed) :



When the pepino was still small, I planted a tomato at the edge of the box. It’s been overshadowed a bit (well squashed out of existence really), but not to be outdone, it’s produced a couple of huge fruits. From memory, it’s a Black Krim :


Always curious as to what that black thing is she’s pointing at us. Is it something to eat? :


The Girls have been laying continuously since March last year. I lost the second of the original three in that month so was down to one original and the three New Girls, who arrived in November 2014. Last year the four of them managed 339 eggs between them and I didn’t have to buy eggs at all over winter. Since Christmas only Bonny has been laying but I’m expecting her to stop any day. Who me? :


With four consecutive spring/summer months of well-below-average rainfall, I’m learning some valuable lessons about growing my food. The main one is to keep fruit trees small by regular pruning, or else buy plants grafted onto dwarf rootstock. Small plants means a small root area, so it’s easy to keep the water up to the plant in dry times. It’s also easy to get a net or shadecloth over the plant when it’s fruiting, or a scorching 40+ temperature is forecast.

This was bought as a dwarf nectarine. It’s been in the ground four years and is still only 80 cm high :


Mind you, it hasn’t had a lot of attention; it’s in sandy soil without much nutrient, but it’s behind a row of wicking boxes and tubs so probably receives some nutrient run-off from them and gets watered when I water them. In its first spring it produced flowers along every branch :


Because it was so small I didn’t allow it to set any fruit. The following year there were many fruit, so I thinned to just a few. As you can see the leaf growth has a compact weeping habit. The fruit was hidden under the leaves so I didn’t bother to net. Bad decision! The birds (or tall rabbits), got them all.  This year, as soon as it started to set fruit, I put a net over it. There weren’t many, but they were bigger than any of my other stone fruit and they ripened beautifully on the plant :


I’m giving it regular feeds and water now, to try and speed up its growth a bit. This winter I’m going to buy a couple more. It’s a variety with white flesh and I’d like one with yellow flesh if they’re available.

Oh, and the label said it would get to about a metre and a half tall and wide. Just right!

I finally got around to pruning my Red Delicious apple so I could get a net over it. It didn’t set as much fruit as in previous years (the pruning was a bit drastic), but I was determined not to let the parrots have it :


Only about two dozen apples in all but worth keeping for myself. I’ve been keeping the water up to it to swell the fruit and the rain helped, too. I tried one after taking the photo and it was crisp and crunchy and sweet enough that I can begin harvesting. I’m not a great apple eater, but I’ve set myself one a day :


So the second month of official summer has passed. My calendar follows the solstices and equinoxes, so my summer started on the December solstice and ends on the March equinox. I’m counting the days—48 to go. It’s not that I don’t like the warm weather, but being on a bush block in a designated bushfire zone, summer is always a worrying time.

No One Gets Out Alive

February 3, 2016

Another excellent post from xraymike79 at Collapse of Industrial Civilisation blog.

So many people have no idea what’s ahead.

So many stupid, ignorant people in the world, actively facilitating this collapse.

The mind boggles.

Collapse of Industrial Civilization


As China’s appetite for resources wanes with the bursting of its real estate bubble and America’s shale oil boom fueled by easy credit comes to an end, floundering petrostates are beginning to queue up for bail-outs. Financialization appears to have exacerbated the collapse in oil prices. Of course none of this capitalist boom-bust cycle negates the fundamentals of peak oil; prices will swing upwards again in a few years as marginal producers get weeded out. After all, the world still consumes nearly three million gallons of oil per minute, and only a relatively thin margin separates surplus from a shortage. Most of our energy usage does not involve electricity which is what alternative energies like wind and solar produce. Electricity comprises just 18% of the total global energy consumption of which alternatives make up a tiny sliver. 250 new human beings are added to the planet every minute; each born into a world of depleting resources and mounting pollution; each scrambling…

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