Monday, June 21, 2010

Gold Bouillon Securities

I invest in gold.

It only cost pennies per ounce.

I keep it safe, in my freezer.

I make it myself.

This gold came from the water I blanched my spinach in. Then I threw in the spinach stalks and the stalks of kale I had saved from an earlier kale chip making venture.

This is the best kind of alchemy. The kind I can eat.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A To Do List

Spinach from meadow plot- blanch and freeze
Heartsease- tincture
Feverfew- make liniment
Grape leaves- preserve in brine
Roses- make elixir
Currants- make cassis

Monday, June 7, 2010

Drinking the Automatic Earth's Kool Aid

I visit the Automatic Earth fairly regularly, though I must confess to not reading too deeply. There's just soooo much there, and much of it that I simply don't understand, nor have the time to wade through. But it's still one of my top go to sites. I especially appreciate Stoneleigh's posts for their clarity and description of the economic/political/ecological situation in terms that even I can understand.

The picture she paints ain't pretty and to fully grasp her vision of the near future is to flirt with despair and an overwhelming sense of loss. Her analysis is not for the faint of heart. But to turn away from it and insist that our current way of life can and should continue to chug along indefinitely, is to ignore a potential truth at a very great cost.

Stoneleigh's post from late last month particularly resonated with me. I haven't read all the news links, so I can't speak to them, but I think her essay on the nature of politics is essential reading.

Here are some excerpts:

"During expansionary times, larger and larger political structures -can- develop through accretion. Ancient imperiums would have done this mostly by physical force, integrating subjugated territories into the tax base by extracting surpluses of resources, wealth and labour. We have achieved much the same thing at a global level through economic means, binding additional polities into the larger structure through international monetary mechanisms such as the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF, World Bank and GATT, fore-runner of the WTO). The current economic imperium of the developed world is truly unprecedented in scale. can see that the available energy, in many forms, is a key driver of how complex and wide-ranging spheres of political control can become. Ancient imperiums achieved a great deal with energy in the forms of wood, grain and slaves from their respective peripheries. Today, we have achieved a much more all-encompassing degree of global integration thanks to the energy subsidy inherent in fossil fuels.

Without this supply of energy (in fact without being able to constantly increase this supply to match population growth), the structures we have built cannot be maintained (see Joseph Tainter’s work for more on this).

However, while energy has been a key driver of global integration and complexity, the structures we have created do not depend only on energy. Because any structure with a fundamental dependence on the buy-in of new entrants, and therefore the constant need to expand, is grounded in Ponzi dynamics, these structures are inherently self-limiting.

We have reached the limit beyond which we cannot continue to expand, there being no more virgin continents to exploit in our over-crowded world. The logic of Ponzi dynamics dictates that we will now experience a dramatic contraction, and that our financial structure, which is the most complex and most vulnerable part of our hypertrophic political system, will become the key driver to the downside during that period. Part of that contraction will be of our available energy supplies and ability to distribute energy to where it is needed, both of which will fall victim to many 'above-ground factors' in the years to come.

Our horizons will have to shrink to match our reach. The inability of any individual or institution to prevent this, or even to mitigate it much through top-down action, will be a major component of political crisis. What mitigation is possible will have to come from the bottom-up. While expansions lead to political accretion -forming larger and more complex structures- contractions lead to the opposite – division into smaller polities at lower levels of complexity.

As expansion morphs into contraction, in accordance with the very exact same Ponzi logic that underlies our present financial crisis, institutions may collapse along with other higher order structures. While they are eventually to be replaced by something much simpler from the grass roots, to serve their essential functions, this does not happen overnight.

The psychology of contraction may well inhibit the formation of effective new institutions, even much simpler ones, for a long period of time. The psychology of contraction is not constructive, and leads in the direction of division and exclusion as trust evaporates. Unfortunately, trust – the glue of a functional society - takes a long time to build, but relatively little time to destroy.

Elites (top predators) will have a smaller peripheral pool from which to extract the tithes they have come to expect. No longer able to pick the pockets of the whole world, they will very likely squeeze domestic populations much harder in a vain attempt to maintain the resources of the centre at their previous level. This will be very painful for those at the bottom of the pyramid, who will be asked, told and eventually forced to increase their contributions, at the very moment their ability to do so declines sharply."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Heart Diana Beresford-Kroeger

I recently listened to an interview with Diana Beresford-Kroeger on CBC's the Current (Part 3) and immediately fell in love with her.

"Tree-huggers may just want what's best for trees. But it turns out that hugging a tree might be good for the hugger too. Trees are the most visible part of an eco-system ... and the support system for a lot of the life in it. For example, we mammals wouldn't exist if it weren't for the oxygen trees provide.

But according to Diana Beresford-Kroeger, trees do a lot more than provide oxygen, food and wood. She says they have healing properties that we are just beginning to appreciate and understand even if our ancestors seemed to be aware of them thousands of years ago.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a botanist and biochemist based in Merrickville, Ontario about an hour's drive south of Ottawa. She's also the author of The Global Forest."

I went on to the internet to see what else I could dig up on her.

I found this.

"One hour from Ottawa in Merrickville, Ontario, is Diana Beresford-Kroeger and her husband’s 160 acre property. Over eight acres of the property have been carefully designed to provide a background for her substantial botanical research. Within this garden, Diana has trialed over 6000 species and varieties of flowers, shrubs and trees including varieties she has bred to withstand the rigours of a changing northern climate.

The garden compasses a number of diverse habitats including a water garden, a small vineyard, a North American medicine walk, a potager, a formal mixed orchard and an extensive perennial flower garden. Incorporated into all this is a collection of North American nut bearing trees, the "anti-famine’ trees of the past.

According to Diana, "These trees kept aboriginal communities alive during times of famine. Hickory nuts and others are very high in fat, carbohydrates, and protein and they would sustain a people when the animals disappeared".

Diana is passionate about the preservation of rare and near-extinct plants and the medicines they contain. Throughout her gardens are what she would name her "holy grails", trees and plants nearly lost from the earth. Some of these rare and beautiful specimens have been discovered during her travels into the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes forests. Others have come from places as far away as Japan, Siberia, and the Balkans. A strong believer in sustainability and diversity, she often collects the seeds from her varieties of rare trees and plants and protects them for future use through distribution to research institutions as well as members of the public."

I also got this book out of the library. It's lovely.

"Now to survive as a species ourselves, we must put nature back together, we must hold hands, one with the other, and enact the bioplan. And like the stars of the heavens, each one of us must light our own pathway. It is only then that our combinations of connections will make the magic of the Milky Way. This we can do, not solely because we are just human, but because we hold the noblesse oblige of another's hand."

I also learned that she is speaking in Ottawa tomorrow night as part of the Writer's Festival.

Who's the most excited person on this blog!?! Me! I can't wait to hear her talk in person.

Do you think it would be inappropriate for me to tell her how much I heart her? Would it be weird if I asked her to take me home and adopt me into her family? What if I just hid in the backseat of her car and waited until we were all the way at her place before popping up and saying, "Diana I heart you! Will you adopt me?"

How could she say no?

O.k. o.k. maybe I'll just politely ask her to sign a copy of her new book...

Update: I just found this PDF article about Diana and this radio interview. The interview is from just this past Monday and it's awesome!

(I'm not internet stalking her, I swear! It's just good, wholesome research is all. I'm doing it for the trees really. For the trees.)