Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Energy & the Future of Food

November 23, 2014

I’ve recently found a new blog. It’s called How Eric Lives and it’s excellent.

Check out his latest post—Energy and the future of food

I’ve always maintained that most people don’t understand energy. They don’t know or understand the Laws of Thermodynamics and their application to how life on earth functions. They think that anything is possible if you throw enough money at it. But money is a human construct and the planet does not need it to function (nor does it need humans). Energy is what powers life on Earth.

If only the people in power who control all our lives could be locked in a room together and be made to read this post and not be let out till they understand its implications. But they will never understand because their brains are not wired that way. And while we, the sheeple, are still stupid enough to vote them into power over us (not me; I don’t vote), nothing will change.

Some of us do understand and we are changing the way we do things. We’re building resilience into our lives by growing our own food and providing our own water and fuelwood. Given the stupidity of the majority, we might not survive, but we’re giving it our best shot.

 While no one can wave a magic wand and change food systems today, we each have the power to shape the future of food production, processing, distribution and consumption by abandoning old problem-solving strategies in favor of new, more innovative ones. There are many approaches to food provision that are far less energy intensive than our modern industrial approach, and a healthy mix of acknowledgment, discernment and investment can turn currently marginal approaches like wildcrafting, natural systems agriculture and permaculture into tomorrow’s mainstream ideals. While the challenges of producing tomorrow’s food are many, the future of food will be what we make it.

Energy & the Future of Food

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Cheesed off!

June 14, 2014

This isn’t a post about cheese.

It is really about being cheesed off (angry/annoyed/fed up).

I read this post about growing a shiitake mushroom log, by Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture and decided I’d like to give it a go. There were three suppliers of mushroom spawn linked to (the third didn’t post to Australia). The two that did were:

I looked at both sites and chose the second one, ordered a batch of shiitake plug spawn, paid by credit card then sat back and waited for the card that told me AusPost had a parcel for me to pick up.

Over two months later and I’m still waiting.

I’ve checked the status of my order and it says ‘processing’.

I’ve emailed twice and haven’t had an answer.

I’ve tried ringing the freecall phone number at the site and I’m getting a ‘cannot connect’ message.

So I’m cheesed off. Mightily. I want my $48.50 back.

(Note: this is no reflection on Kirsten from Milkwood. I’m sure the link was given in all sincerity).

 

Damn & blast!!

May 29, 2014

Steve Marsh Loses His Case to be GM Free

I really thought he had a chance.

All the more reason for growing your own GM free food.

It makes me angry to think that his nasty, selfish neighbour has gotten away with it!

 

 

He told us so

January 14, 2014

<anger>

Back in 1896 the Swedish chemist Arrhenius warned that if we continued to burn fossil fuels we would heat the Earth.

And we didn’t listen. We never listen. We continued to burn fossil fuels with a vengeance. And because of that, in Melbourne at the moment, we are experiencing 4 consecutive days of temperatures above 40 °C. The weather bureau claims that in 150 years of recording, we haven’t even averaged one 40 degree day a year. Now there are four in a row.

I thought I was watering adequately. This morning I covered up some of the more tender-leaved vegetables with shadecloth. I watered all the others. I stayed inside all day, only venturing out to hose down the soil in the chookyard and to keep up a supply of iceblocks in their drinking water (it’s said they won’t drink water that’s above their body temperature and if they don’t drink they’ll die). The Girls were stressed out, panting. I apologised to them for the human stupidity and ignorance that had caused their discomfort.

After dinner I went down the back to check on the food forest. The leaves on the five tamarillos were hanging limply beside their stems. I can’t afford to lose them. They’re covered in developing fruits.

The leaves on all the citrus trees were curled up and burnt. The redcurrant leaves were crisp and crumbled away when I touched them. The developing apples were all showing burnt spots. They will rot away on the trees. Luckily I had the foresight to pick all the plums, even though they weren’t properly ripe.

I put a thermometer on my workbench in the shade. It went straight to 44 °C and stayed there. I connected the hose to the tap (the tank is too slow) and watered everything. There are two more days of this to go. It is unprecedented. It is the future.

I’m angry.

Thirty years ago I learned about the connection between fossil fuel burning and climate change. I went out of my way to use less energy and tried to encourage other people to do the same. I was called ‘ratbag greenie’ for my trouble.  I won’t ever forget or forgive those stupid, ignorant morons for that. I hope they’re still around, still living in Melbourne and that their gardens are burned to a crisp like mine. Not that they’d care. They’re probably living in air-conditioned luxury and shopping at the supermarket. Why trouble to grow your own food when the shops are full of it and you can drive there (wasting fuel) just for a litre of milk (like my neighbour does).

I watch the people around me still using energy stupidly, still either unconcerned or too stupid to make the connections. I don’t own an energy-guzzling air conditioner or a plasma TV.  I keep driving to a minimum, I’ve just installed solar, I will never fly again.

What’s the point? Why not just join the masses in their energy-guzzling lifestyles. It may cause the human race to drive itself extinct just that little bit sooner.

And that will be a good thing.

</anger>

I’m off to bed. To try and sleep in a room where the temp is 36 °C.

Understanding collapse

January 4, 2014

Gail Tverberg over at Our Finite World has another really excellent post about Why a Finite World is a Problem.

I wish more people, particularly the world’s brain-dead  politicians, understood this stuff.

Meanwhile, those of us who do, can only continue to prepare for the coming crises as best and as quickly as we can, by becoming self-sufficient in food, water and energy and encouraging as many people as will listen, to follow suit.

Help this farmer fight Monsanto

December 21, 2013

I’ve been following this case for a while.

Like most people who grow their own food, one of the reasons I do it is so I don’t have to eat genetically-modified food. I don’t like Monsanto (who does?). They’re insane. Someone’s got to make a stand against them and maybe this guy can do it.

It’s the end of the year and my personal spending budget has wound up in the black for once. Instead of buying myself a present I’ve donated $50 towards Steve Marsh’s fight against Monsanto. He deserves all the support he can get. Here’s hoping for a good outcome.

Growth is over

September 9, 2013

Most of the blogs in my feed reader are either peak oil blogs or self-sufficiency blogs. I guess I’ve been assuming that people who are working towards self-sufficiency know something about the coming energy decline and that’s why they’re doing it.  Trying to build resilience into their lives in the face of the collapse of industrial civilisation which will follow as the world runs out of oil energy.

I also assume that they also have some biological knowledge about how the world works; the fact that Earth is a finite system and that no organism can grow forever in a finite system, i.e. continuous growth is impossible. Sooner or later an organism whose numbers and consumption of resources is growing will be cut down by what is known is these circles as ‘overshoot and collapse’.

So I was disappointed to read in one of my feeds this morning (I won’t mention the blog, but the writer lives in Australia and not far from me, in fact), this comment on last Saturday’s federal election: “let’s hope everyone will get some confidence back and start generating some economic growth”.

It seemed like a serious comment and not tongue-in-cheek.

Growth is the last thing we need. Growth in human numbers, growth in the consumption of non-renewable resources (many critical ones, like oil and phosphorus, already becoming scarce), increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, increase in pollution, loss of the biological diversity that keeps Earth’s temperature and chemistry in homeostasis; I could go on.

Maybe a dose of information via Richard Heinberg’s recent book The End of Growth is needed by this blogger.

Growth in human numbers is killing us and the planet. Growth is the last thing we need. Calling for continued growth is depressing enough when it comes from biologically ignorant politicians and business leaders.

I want something more encouraging and intelligent from the blogs I read. I’ve deleted that blog from my feed.

Dumber than dumb

July 31, 2013

Here’s another one of those dumb articles by a so-called ‘environment reporter’ who simply doesn’t have the background knowledge or the brains to think deeply about what he’s writing.

Can you see the problems with the scenario?

1) Algae need sunlight, CO2 and water to grow. If the tanks containing the algae are sealed, that means no sunlight, right?

2) Using the CO2 emissions from the power station to grow algae and then converting that algae into biodiesel to fuel cars, puts that same CO2 back into the atmosphere via the car exhaust when it’s burned. It’s really just extending the exhaust pipe of the power station. The algae would be better returned to the soil where the carbon should be stored.

3) Power station emissions contain a lot more than just CO2. Oxides of nitrogen and sulphur and toxic mercury, to name a few. How’s the algae going to like that?

What annoys me about this type of reporting is that it sounds good to the layperson without the background knowledge to see the flaws in the idea. So the average man in the street gets the idea that all is OK and we can resume BAU (business as usual) without any worries.

Big picture stuff

June 29, 2013

This article appeared in this morning’s Melbourne Age newspaper.

Read it. Sounds good? Melbourne could live on 100% renewable energy made from waste. Hallelujah, we’re saved!!

Aaaaarrrrgh!! I could scream!! (I did).

This is the sort of ignorance that should be a criminal offence. The writer is environment editor for the Age and yet he hasn’t a clue about big picture stuff.

Look at these paragraphs exerpted from the piece:

“Biogas is the great, and largely untapped, energy resource that offers the simplest transition away from coal. It is synthesised from biomass, or anything organic that decomposes – typically crop husks, wood offcuts, animal dung, and sewage. Put simply, our cities could run on a resource that they will never run short of – our waste.

The City of Sydney surveyed every potential source of renewable gases within a 250-kilometre radius. After scouring hundreds of piggeries, waste dumps and forestry sites, it was able to show that there was more than enough decomposing matter within easy reach of the existing natural gas pipe network to disconnect the central city from the coal-fired power grid. Melbourne, with even more farmland close to its centre, is thought to have greater resources.

”The research shows that you can go to 100 per cent renewable energy this way,” says Allan Jones, the City of Sydney’s renewable energy adviser.”

Look, it goes like this. Every time we take a crop off the soil, nutrients go with it. Otherwise why would we eat? Our bodies need those nutrients to survive. If we kept doing this without adding back those nutrients, eventually nothing would grow. In a diverse natural ecosystem like a forest, nutrients taken up by the plants are returned to the soil in fallen leaves and branches; in spent flowers and uneaten fruits and in large trunks when whole trees fall. Bacteria and fungi in the soil aid the breakdown process that recycles nutrients. Animals that live in the forest, eat the forest products and return nutrients to the soil in their dung and in their bodies when they die. This is often called the “balance of nature”.

As (non-organic) farmers we return those nutrients to the soil by adding (artificial) chemical fertilisers produced in a factory (this isn’t sustainable, but that’s a subject for another time). Organic growers add composted plant material (including the parts of crops not actually used as food) and animal dung. We cannot, repeat, cannot afford to turn that ‘waste’ material into biogas, to run cars and industry. Everything must go back into the soil, or else all growth stops; all ecosystems die.

Organic farmers and permaculturalists already know this. Why is it that so-called environmental editors don’t. It’s not rocket science if you’ve studied ecology. Maybe anyone who writes this sort of rubbish should be locked away for a year with a swag of ecology texts until the bigger picture becomes part of their psyche.

Of course, human bodies should also be returned to the soil when life ceases, but we don’t do that. Our nutrients end up in cemeteries where no food crops are ever grown. Another example where nutrients aren’t returned to the soil from where they’ve come.

Another thing that occurs to me is that in a diverse, balanced ecosystem only certain numbers of each organism can be supported by the available nutrients. Human numbers are out of balance with the Earth’s ecosystems. Because human birth rates vastly exceed human death rates, there are far too many nutrients tied up in living human bodies that should be in the soil, supporting other life.

Mother Nature will eventually fix that.

Collapse

June 27, 2013

I’ve just finished reading Dmitry Orlov’s The Five Stages of Collapse.

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Orlov’s blog is here.    It’s one of my favourite reads.

I’m not going to spend time waxing lyrical about this book, because I realise the imminent collapse of industrial civilisation is a taboo subject with most people, but I will say I found it unputdownable and the source of some stunning new insights into the human predicament.

Orlov’s five stages are: Financial, Commercial, Political, Social and Cultural. Although treated in the book in that order, there’s no guarantee they will occur in that order, or one after the other in an orderly slow succession. At the end of each chapter Orlov has added a case history to illustrate each of the stages: Iceland (financial); the Former Soviet Union (commercial); the Pashtuns (political); the Roma (social) and the Ik (cultural).

Orlov has posted some exerpts at his blog and I’ve pasted one of them here just to give you an idea of what to expect from his writing:

“Looking at the first three stages of collapse—financial, commercial, political—it is clear why financial collapse should, and to some extent already has, come first. Commercial collapse results from the disruption of the physical flows of products and services; political collapse occurs when governments are no longer able to fulfill their obligations to their citizens in the wake of commercial collapse; but all that is required for financial collapse is for certain assumptions about the future to be invalidated, for finance is not a physical system but a mental construct, one resembling a house of cards that, to stretch this metaphor just a little, can remain stable only while continuously adding more cards, in the sense of continuous credit expansion supported by economic growth. But we are entering a time when a wide variety of physical constraints are making themselves felt around the world, from the depletion of fossil fuel resources, metal ores, phosphate, fresh water and arable land, to massive disruptions because of droughts, floods and heat waves brought by accelerating climate change, to the political instability and upheaval which sweep the world in the wake of each food price spike. All of these elements combine to make a rosy projection for global economic growth untenable. In turn, an extended period of economic stagnation followed by a sustained, perhaps terminal contraction is fatal to a financial system that constantly requires more debt, and more growth.”

The remainder of the chapter goes on to describe ways of cashing out of the system before cash (along with all other financial contrivances) becomes worthless, how to trade in absence of banks or other financial institutions and what life without money tends to look like. All very fascinating stuff. Orlov’s book will be a permanent fixture on my bedside reading table.

If you’re interested in the subject of collapse (and you should be, for all past civilisations have collapsed and the present one will be no exception), and you want to do some thinking about how you might survive this one, then I can recommend this book.

If you need more background, then I’d also recommend the following:

Overshoot: the physiological basis of revolutionary change  (William Catton).

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Joseph Tainter).

Collapse (Jared Diamond).

If you’d rather watch than read, then the series of 20 short videos which make up Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, which deals with economics and finance is well worth it.