Posts Tagged ‘biointensive agriculture’
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism
Like many sustainability activists, I strongly believe that with advanced planning and preparation, the demise of capitalism could be an extraordinarily positive change for most of humankind. As I have blogged previously (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/07/18/global-capitalism-a-house-of-cards/), I agree with Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute that global resource scarcity, aggravated by catastrophic climate change, will force the break-up of large nation-states into small self-governing regional units. As a strong proponent of participatory democracy, I maintain that it will be up to the inhabitants of each region to determine how they will govern themselves and provide for their basic needs. At the same time, I feel that some features of post-capitalistic society can be predicted – either because they are dictated by resource scarcity or because they are fundamental to true political and economic democracy:
1. The end of capitalism’s insane perpetual growth paradigm – the drive for continual economic expansion (and resource depletion)
If society commits to an equitable distribution of the earth’s remaining resources, work and production will be limited to provision of basic needs and the rearing and education of children.
2. Equal division of labor
Work will be shared equally among everyone, instead of shifting vast amounts of unpaid and low paid work to blue collar workers, women and minorities.
3. Reintegration of fathers into family life and child rearing.
A reduction in work hours will mean an increase in leisure time, freeing up men to involve themselves in family life and child rearing, as they did prior to the industrial revolution.
4. The end of oppression of women and ethnic and sexual minorities.
The oppression of women and minorities plays a distinct economic role under capitalism, owing to the vast amount of unpaid and low paid labor they perform. To a large extent, current population pressure is driven by the elite’s perpetual growth paradigm and the corporate media (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/10/08/addressing-overpopulation-too-important-to-leave-to-government/). With the demise of capitalism and the growth paradigm, the current economic pressure on women and sexual minorities to conform to stereotyped sex roles and produce children will cease. Moreover ethnic minorities will ceased to be exploited as surplus workers to be moved in and out of the labor force to control wages. Indigenous minorities will particularly valued for their knowledge of pre-industrial survival skills.
5. The restoration of extended families and communal child rearing
When the corporate propaganda driving mindless reproduction ceases, fewer people will have fewer children. This, along with an increase in leisure time, will create a strong incentive for childless community members to participate in communal child rearing and education.
6. Equal access to education
With fewer children and more community involvement in their education, bright and curious of children of both sexes and all ethnicities will have the potential to become little Einsteins. Unlike capitalism, where quality education is reserved for children (male children, in many cultures) of upper income Caucasian families.
7. Reduced global population
Without access to cheap fossil fuels, industrial agriculture will end. Heinberg predicts that without cheap oil and natural gas (for fertilizer and pesticides and to run farm machinery), the planet can support at most two billion people. Organic farmers in the Biointensive agriculture movement dispute this figure, based on twenty years of research showing that Biointensive methods yields can produce considerably higher yields (150-200%) those of traditional agriculture. However none of these studies take into account the massive land area required to produce meat.
I am extremely optimistic (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/10/08/addressing-overpopulation-too-important-to-leave-to-government/), about humanity’s potential ability to control their own fertility. Fertility levels are already plummeting in both the developing and industrialized world, owing to increased, urbanization and female literacy, as well as women’s large scale entry into the workforce.
8. Drastic dietary changes.
Without the cheap transportation made possible by fossil fuels, we all be forced to adopt the 100 mile diet – limiting ourselves to the locally grown foods that happen to be in season. Moreover based on equitable distribution of food and energy resources, all of us will most likely become vegetarian. At the moment the planet is only capable of providing a meat diet for 1/3 of the global population.
I discuss the controversial meat- population dilemma in more detail in my next blog “Confessions of a Carnivore.”
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.