Aug 062022
 
 August 6, 2022  Posted by at 12:28 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  31 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Beach at Scheveningen in Stormy Weather 1882

 

 

It is very simple: if you’d ask most citizens of whichever EU country if they are willing to risk being unable to feed and heat their children in order to support Ukraine and Zelensky, they would say NO. Hell no! But that is what they’re all being pushed towards. Food prices look to at least double from here, after they’ve doubled once already, while energy prices are set to triple or worse. And there’s no logical reason for it.

This is not due to some inevitable market mechanism, it’s because the west decided to halt all Russian imports after the latter’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine. All western leaders found that reason enough to cut all, or nearly all, imports from Russia. Gas, oil, fertilizer, food. Essentials. They could have been sitting around a negotiating table, but chose not to. Which only works as long as things remain sort of affordable. And then, it does not.

Problem is, they had and have no alternative to the Russian supplies of these goods (and there’s many more). See, this is how we know they don’t make their own decisions. Those are made in Brussels and Davos, and then the “leaders” have to carry out the preconceived programs, and they will.

No elected official on his/her own would risk to destroy their own country’s energy or food safety, with elections coming up every few years. But their WEF/Davos connections have changed that “logic”. The WEF makes sure no western leader gets elected who is not a member of their club. There’s only one path to power these days.

 

But these people grossly underestimate the effect that hunger and cold -will- have on their citizens. The first signs of that are visible in the protests of truckers and farmers, but that’s just a start. You just wait till the cold sets in, and the running blackouts, and the hunger. Wait till people have to feed their kids scraps from a bare table in a cold dark home.

That’s when you will see who people really are. People in the west are overfed, and lazy, and not too sharp, but wait till their kids, and their families, are truly suffering. They’ve seen the example of the farmers and truckers. Wait for people to see the link between their own lives, and the farmers; then you will see who they really are.

“Leaders” like Trudeau and Rutte think they have this under control, that they can make the farmers do what their governments say they must, if need be with assistance from police or even the army. But you cannot send cops and soldiers against your farmers, because 1) they make your food, 2) the people support them, 3) they have a centuries-old democratic right to be farmers, and 4) they don’t take no sh*t for an answer.

This goes back 100s of years, much longer than the right of any politician to tell them what to do. The Dutch farmers on Friday told Rutte to prepare for the hardest actions yet, and they’re still not joking. My guess would be this time they will paralyze the country. Not because they are crazy; 10,000 of them would need to close shop if Rutte gets what he wants, and they won’t let that happen. Farmers will not idly stand by while their neighbor is forced out of business.

No, they are not crazy. They refuse to talk to Rutte, in a sign a of how much they trust him. He assigned a mediator, from his own political club, and all farmer org’s but one refused to talk to him too. The one that did, found the talk useless. Rutte wants the 10,000 scalps no matter what, but it’s just not going to happen. He is shown the limits of his power. Having been PM for 12 years, that’s a bit of a shock.

 

Obviously, this is all strongly connected to the past 2,5 years of measures and mandates and all. The political class got a taste of power that they did not have before, and got carried away. Well, they went too far this time. One telling number was that of US parents letting their youngest kids be vaxxed: what was it, 0.45%?! And 220 million adult Americans have either never been vaxxed or never boosted. No connection to the farmers? You wait and see.

The game is over. People’s patience with their politicians is ending. But the politicians themselves don’t see that; how could they when they censor all discontent and reports from doctors and scientists who don’t follow the “official” line? They’ve lost touch with the very world they’re supposed to represent. All they get to see is the info that is left after their own “norms” have censored the rest. They see only what they like to see.

 

In Europe, the Germans and Dutch will manage to be sort of OK, but only at the expense of poorer EU countries. And that won’t even be their main problem; that problem will be at home; their own farmers will come for them. And their poorest. Countries will leave the EU (and the euro). Hungary first to go?! In Greece, there’s already talk of rolling blackouts this winter, and they get most of their electricity from hydro. Italy is a shambles. How many present “leaders” will still be in place January 1 2023? How about June? After a winter of great discontent?

And they’re all telling you that “we” have to win in Ukraine first, and everything will be alright. But “we” have already lost in Ukraine, we did on February 24, and “we” should be talking to, and making peace with, Russia. Why are we not? Because we don’t want food and energy? The folks in Brussels and Davos will not be hungry and cold. But in other EU places they will be. And they will come to balance this thing out.

As for the US, I’m scared there too. Energy prices may not get as bad as in Europe, but food will be real bad (and how about housing?!). And there’s this fight between two factions going on, that starts to feel like what went on before the Civil War. I hope I’m wrong, but I feel it everywhere: Overreach.

 

 

 

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Aug 212016
 


Dorothea Lange Home of rural rehabilitation client, Tulare County, CA 1938

 

Our by now regular contributor Dr. Nelson Lebo III, the New Englander ‘lost’ in New Zealand, sent me another article, and it’s great (well, in my view). His title for the article may put some people on the wrong foot, but I think that’s alright.

I’ve been to New Zealand a few times, and Nicole of course has even moved there, so I was aware of how poorly constructed many homes are -and often made of wood-, but I’d never heard of ‘curtain banks’. Still, they exist all over the country. Turns out, lots of New Zealand homes are so damp and moldy that curtains can literally save lives, and certainly make them more comfortable/bearable. But many people are too poor to be able to afford curtains. Hence the curtain banks. I’d be curious to know if similar initiatives exist anywhere lese on the planet. Do let me know.

Nelson’s second ‘bank’ is made of/filled with water. Agriculture, in particular the one-trick pony of the dairy industry, has caused the land to deteriorate so badly that water washes off the hillsides and the land without natural barriers like trees and shrubs left to stop and naturally regulate it. In other words, there is no ‘water bank’ or ‘stream bank’ left. I really like Nelson’s comparing this velocity of water to the velocity of money in a financial system.

 

 

Dr. Nelson Lebo III: Banks…what is there to say that hasn’t already been said? If you read the Automatic Earth, if you watch Max Keiser, if you’ve followed The Crash Course, there is no comment about financial institutions I can make that would add to the critique. That’s not my gig anyway. My gig is to offer realistic, achievable, grass roots, no-excuses alternatives to the dominant neoliberal consumerist paradigm. One approach I’ve gravitated toward over the years goes by the name of permaculture.

Permaculture has been around for decades. You’ve probably heard of it but do you know what it is? Yeah, that’s the problem. My observations are that the eco design methodology known as permaculture suffers in two fundamental ways: a confusing name and dogmatic application by inexperienced converts. The name is the name – no changing it at this point – and there is no antidote for dogma. But for a general audience of readers I’d like to lay out the ethics and practice of permaculture in the clearest ways possible – by using concrete examples.

 

Example One: The Permaculture Ethics

When engaging with permaculture as a design methodology, practitioners are bound to follow a simple code of ethics: care for the environment; care for people; and, share surplus resources. I appreciate this ethical code because it helps distinguish a permaculturist from anyone else who may be involved in some aspect of the ‘sustainability movement’ such as an organic farmer, recycler, green builder, eco-entrepreneur or local currency advocate.

This is not to say that a permaculturist cannot engage in all of these (indeed they do), but that anyone who practices one or more than these is not necessarily engaging with the permaculture ethics. Think of large-scale organic farms in California that truck in “certified organic” inputs and ship out bags of lettuce thousands of miles to the East Coast. Not permaculture.

People may take a permaculture course or buy a permaculture book for various reasons, but these do not necessarily make them a practicing permaculturist. I like to make the point that the difference between a permaculturist and a survivalist is 100 cases of baked beans and a gun. If you ain’t sharing, it ain’t permaculture.

I also appreciate the ethics because they are an integral part of the design process. In other words, the ethics can be used to help shape a larger project. An example of this is the ‘curtain bank’ that we recently opened in our community.

 

 

Those unfamiliar with curtain banks can be forgiven as many developed countries around the world have decent standards for housing that include high performance windows and central heating. But most of the New Zealand housing stock has been variously described as “sub-standard”, “abysmal”, “horrid”, and “a joke.” Mind you, that’s a bad joke instead of a funny one.

The majority of homes in this country are so cold that curtains must be used as a serious way to reduce heat loss. It is not uncommon for overnight indoor temperatures to drop into the mid-single-digits Celsius and daytime indoor temperatures to barely reach double-digits. I’ve heard stories of frost on the inside of windowpanes.

To add insult to injury, we also suffer from wealth and income inequality that make the purchase of new or even second-hand curtains out of reach for many families. As a result curtain banks have popped up in cities around the nation to redistribute second-hand curtains free of charge.

 

Applied Permaculture Ethics

Sharing surplus resources : People of means replace their curtains for various reasons, but most often for aesthetic ones. If the curtains are still in good condition and free of mould, they can be dropped off at the curtain bank, which makes them available for other households. Like any bank it accepts deposits and grants withdrawals. No fees. No contracts. No interest rates.

While traditional banks have the privilege to ‘lend money into existence’ we cannot lend curtains into existence, although it would be nice. We rely on donations from good people in our community to be passed on to other good people in our community. Which brings us to the next ethic.

Caring for people : It’s no secret that there is a link between sub-standard housing and illness in New Zealand. Sadly, most of the housing in our city is cold and/or damp. These unhealthy homes are especially hard on children and seniors. Many lack adequate curtaining.

Getting properly installed curtains, insulating blinds and window blankets into as many homes as possible helps make the occupants more comfortable and healthier. This is straight up caring for people by addressing some fairly basic needs.

Care for the earth : Improving the ‘thermal envelope’ of a home is the best way to save the energy required for heating and cooling. Saving energy is generally considered good for the environment by reducing carbon emissions or reducing the number of rivers dammed or even reducing the number of solar panels that need to be manufactured.

In these ways curtain banks tick all of the boxes for the permaculture ethics.

 

Example Two: Applied Eco-Design

The other example I’ll share is a direct application of eco-design: imitating nature to develop or reestablish robust ecological systems. The latter of these is sometimes called ‘regenerative design’.

Most of New Zealand is plagued by a legacy of bad farming practices most easily described as overgrazing steep slopes and allowing stock to foul streams.

We took possession of our small farm two years ago and have been working persistently to – dare I say it – ‘heal the land.’ Currently we are in the process of reestablishing a wetland and protecting the streams from stock. Additionally, we are planting native trees and poplar poles on steep hillsides to prevent slips, reduce erosion and provide bee fodder.

We are doing all this because that’s what nature wants. In other words, that’s the way the land was 1,000 years ago (less the non-native poplars) and given enough time that’s what it would revert to after the permanent removal of large hooved mammals. Our work just speeds up the process and allows for a continued agricultural function, which we are still figuring out.

All of this work is supported by our amazing Regional Council, which offers expert advice, low-cost poplar poles, and matching funding for fencing and native plantings. I cannot speak highly enough of these programmes. Horizons Regional Council does a fantastic job of looking at the big picture and applying holistic solutions. Unlike most government bodies and agencies, they get it.

 


Lake Horowhenua Planting Day

 

Forests and wetlands play important roles in moderating seasonal water flows across large land areas. In other words they store water high on the landscape during wet periods and release it slowly during dry periods. It works like a bank by accepting deposits and granting withdrawals.

Much of the farmland in our region suffers from extreme weather on both ends – wet and dry. Neither is good for stock, nor good for farmers, nor good for water quality, nor good for anyone living downstream. It’s a lose-lose-lose-lose situation and the reasons are clear: not enough trees on hillsides and streamsides. That’s basically it.

The solution is to build resilient waterways by imitating nature. Projects like ours are the best way that landowners and supportive communities can directly address the extreme weather events associated with a volatile changing climate.

The restoration work on our farm will help – to a tiny degree – everyone who lives and works downstream and downriver from us by keeping water out of the system during peak rain events. This is critical to our community that already faces tens of millions of dollars in repair bills from the last two major rain events that occurred just 13 months apart.

Given enough farmers with enough will and enough government assistance there is no reason we could not fence off all the streams in our region and plant all the steep hillsides to appropriate species. It’s much cheaper than cleaning up over and over again after serial flood events.

 

Alternative Banking

So what this is all about is developing alternative banking systems – stream banks and curtain banks among others – and getting communities involved. This is what resilience is all about (see also Resilience is The New Black and Climate, Energy, Economy: Pick Two)

This is the heart and soul of permaculture design thinking, and it is the best way to address the two biggest issues facing humanity: wealth inequality and climate change.

When I dip my toe into the financial news media on occasion I hear this phrase: “the velocity of money” as it pertains to the “health of the economy.”

I thought of the phrase the other day while meeting with a client on managing storm water on their large rural property after they had already done everything wrong. Yes, they had done absolutely everything wrong and I was trying to get them to understand that channelizing water only makes it go faster and cause more damage. The damage was obvious after the last major rain event – that’s why they called me in for an assessment.

As I explained the biological – rather than engineering – solutions, I felt we were going around in circles because they did not really want to hear what I had to say. They just wanted to be rid of the water. Sorry, but that’s not an option without over half a million dollars to spend on massive underground drains, which don’t solve the problem but simply pass it on to everyone downstream. And besides, they don’t have the money anyway.

Finally, I simply said, “The only possible solution is to slow the water and spread the water. It’s the only way to stop the damage.”

And that has me thinking. Should we apply the same approach to dollars?

I reckon a critical piece of the puzzle for neglected rural economies like ours is to slow and spread the flow of money as much as possible before it inevitably drains back to the major centres of power and wealth.

 

 

Dorothea Lange wrote about the photograph at the top, back in November 1938:

“Home of rural rehabilitation client, Tulare County, California. They bought 20 acres of raw unimproved land with a first payment of 50 dollars which was money saved out of relief budget (August 1936). They received a Farm Security Administration loan of $700 for stock and equipment. Now they have a one-room shack, seven cows, three sows, and homemade pumping plant, along with 10 acres of improved permanent pasture. Cream check approximately 30 dollars per month. Husband also works about ten days a month outside the farm. Husband is 26 years old, wife 22, three small children. Been in California five years. ‘Piece by piece this place gets put together. One more piece of pipe and our water tank will be finished’. From Shorpy.