GU Oracle Update

It’s really happening! The Girls Underground Story Oracle has reached full funding on Kickstarter!

There’s still time to be part of this project! If you’re interested in a unique divination method, or perhaps thinking ahead to solstice gift-giving (the oracle is slated to ship out in time for the winter holidays), please join 100 other backers and pre-order the deck. The campaign ends on Sunday night.

My friend Dver has put out a REALLY neat oracle deck based on her work with the Girl Underground archetype, and I recommend those of you interested in unconventional divination methods definitely jump on the pre-order for this deck.

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I’m Removing “Sustainability” from My Vocabulary

I’ve seen a few criticisms of the word and concept floating around recently, but this is the passage that’s officially made me put the term to rest:

Then there’s this idea of sustainability. What exactly does sustainable even mean?

In breaking down the word “sustainability” to try to flesh out what it really entails, Toby Hemenway’s lecture How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and The Planet, but not Civilization, illuminates the conversation. What he posits is that sustainability is, in fact, a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really something that relates to a healthy ecology, but rather survival amidst destruction. For example, so-called sustainable logging may not directly affect the logging of other forests outside of designated sustainable logging coup, but it doesn’t help heal any of the destruction that has been, will be, and is currently waged on these forests. So Hemenway places sustainability as a halfway point between what he refers to as degenerative and regenerative practice. The former relates to actions that facilitate the degradation of ecosystems (i.e. everything the dominant culture does), whilst the latter facilitates ecosystem healing (i.e. everything the dominant culture doesn’t do). It’s an interesting point, and in fact helps break down the façade that claims that this buzzword, sustainability, is helping to save the planet. It’s greenwashing again, trying to excuse our destructive lifestyles. So in permaculture, regenerative practice attempts to mimic natural ecological functions that help repair the different types of damage that have been inflicted by civilisation. The message is clear; ceasing civilisation’s damage to the earth and being “sustainable,” will not save the earth. Until you find me a solar panel that doesn’t require mining, the damage is still being done.

From Uncivilizing Permaculture: An Anti-Civilization And Anti-Colonial Critique Of “Sustainable Agriculture”

Realized that I haven’t written an intro post for permaculture yet. I’ll do that soon.

Beyond Civilized and Primitive: Some Favorite Quotes

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about this post-civilization anarchist theory stuff lately, and I’m really, really impressed by what I’m finding. It’s a newer philosophy of anarchism so there’s not too much out there on the subject yet, but here are some favorite quotes from a piece called Beyond Civilized and Primitive.

Americans think freedom means no restraint. So I’m free to start a big company and rule ten thousand wage laborers, and if they don’t like it they’re free to go on strike, and I’m free to hire thugs to crack their heads, and they’re free to quit, and I’m free to buy politicans to cut off support for the unemployed, so now they’re free to either starve and die, or accept the job on my terms and use their freedom of speech to impotently complain.

We like hot baths and sailing ships and recorded music and the internet, but we worry that we can’t have them without exterminating half the species on Earth, or exploiting Asian sweatshop workers, or dumping so many toxins that we all get cancer, or overextending our system so far that it crashes and we get eaten by roving gangs.

I think the root of civilization, and a major source of human evil, is simply that we became clever enough to extend our power beyond our empathy. It’s like the famous Twilight Zone episode where there’s a box with a button, and if you push it, you get a million dollars and someone you don’t know dies. We have countless “boxes” that do basically the same thing. Some of them are physical, like cruise missiles or ocean-killing fertilizers, or even junk food where your mouth gets a million dollars and your heart dies. Others are social, like subsidies that make junk food affordable, or the corporation, which by definition does any harm it can get away with that will bring profit to the shareholders. I’m guessing it all started when our mental and physical tools combined to enable positive feedback in personal wealth. Anyway, as soon as you have something that does more harm than good, but that appears to the decision makers to do more good than harm, the decision makers will decide to do more and more of it, and before long you have a whole society built around obvious benefits that do hidden harm.

I have a wild speculation about the origin of complex societies. The Great Pyramid of Giza is superior in every way to the two pyramids next to it — yet the Great Pyramid was the first of the three to be built. It’s like Egyptian civilization appeared out of nowhere at full strength, and immediately began declining. My thought is: the first pyramid was not built by slaves. It was built by an explosion of human enthusiasm channeled into a massive cooperative effort. But then, as we’ve seen in pretty much every large system in history, this pattern of human action hardened, leaders became rulers, inspired actions became chores, and workers became slaves.

Click here to read Beyond Civilized and Primitive.

And here’s a list of other articles written on post-civ theory: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/topics/post-civ

 

“Beware of Leo Babauta’s minimalist lifestyle”

Some interesting criticisms of the minimalist lifestyle:

I was talking with Leo Babauta a few weeks ago. The topic of the conversation was his new book, focus. But of course I am not good at focus. So here is a picture of a book I just bought that is not Leo’s book, but I really like it: The Selby is in Your Place. It’s full of photos of people who turned their apartments into art. Totally eccentric, often over-furnished, but always totally interesting.

I would not have bought the book if it didn’t match my house so well. More on that later.

I told Leo I thought it was BS that he is Mr. Minimalism and he moved to San Francisco. I told him that the biggest cultural shift for me from New York City to the farm is the surprise shift to extreme minimalism. So I am sure that his move to San Francisco means he is tossing in the minimalism towel.

Leo has great resources on his blog about leading a minimalist lifestyle. But I think minimalism is lifestyle porn. It’s something that people think would be nice to dream about for their lives, but in fact, there is the dirty flip side to minimalism: It’s scary boring, which, I think, is why Leo moved his family to San Francisco—to expand what’s available to his kids.

I have thought often about the slippery slope from minimalism to boring even though I don’t write about my own minimalism issues that much. First of all, my own minimalism is totally accidental, so I didn’t even know I was a minimalist until recently. Second, I think a minimalist life is a product of many small decisions rather than a single big one. (For example, losing all my possessions to bed bugs.)

Plus, I discredit all straight men who do not have a wife or kids and claim to be minimalists. They are not minimalists, they are just bachelors, programmed over thousands of years to use sex to accumulate possessions rather than shopping.

And anyone who is doing minimalist experiments—like not buying anything for a year, stuff like that—isn’t really a minimalist. It’s like doing a dog trick. People clap, and then you go back to stealing from plates on the dinner table.

Read the rest at Penelope Trunk’s blog.

Just The Right Amount

In an essay on water in his classic book Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey poses a question: Is there a shortage of water in the desert? No, he says, there’s no shortage of water in the desert. There’s just the right amount.

For a long time, the wisdom in such an observation could be ignored. A great nation had to be built, an industrial economy created, foes of democracy defeated. Resources–timber, minerals, oil, water, soil–were virtually unlimited, and waste sinks–where the residues and runoff and combustion gases went–an alien concept.

That time is over. What was perfectly normal in the past–harvesting a resource until it was depleted, then moving on–is fast becoming abnormal. What were once strictly local environmental problems now quickly bump up against global constraints. Yesterday’s living well is today’s living well beyond our means.

— excerpt from the preface to Thomas Princen’s Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order.

Bought this book recently. It’s got mixed reviews, but we’ll see when I actually dig in.

Our sages taught:

A man should not move stones from his ground to public ground.

A certain man was moving stones from his ground onto public ground when a pious man found him doing so and said to him, “Fool, why do you move stones from ground which is not yours to ground which is yours?”

The man laughed at him.

Some days later, the man had to sell his field, and when he was walking on that public ground he stumbled over those stones.

He then said, “How well did that pious man say to me, ‘Why do you move stones from ground which is not yours to ground which is yours?’ ”

—Talmud Bavli, Masekhet Bava Kama 50b

Illustrations of the ownership vs. stewardship idea don’t get much better than this.

The sobering truth is when the oil is gone… the maximum energy we will ever be able to use is what the sun can photosynthetically give us in a day… There is no ‘next’ to cure our oil addiction. There is only the realization that eventually we will have to drastically change our energy consumption, and our way of life. We will have to abandon capitalist dictated expansion and opt for systems of locality with our primary focus on sustainable living.

Nothing grows forever.

A Post-Oil World: Green Energy Is But Part of the Answer