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Kevin's Thoughts!

Maybe you agree, maybe you don't… find out!

Captain and the Kings by Taylor Caldwell

This 1972 book is a “must read” for anyone interested in understanding the concept around a “New World Order”.

Its long, at 816 pages, and drags a bit in the middle, but its message hits home.

Although fictional, with echos of the JFK story, it remains eerie, and frightening from a Geo-political standpoint if its even remotely true – and I suspect there is more truth in it than most would care to admit, much less think about.

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Over the past few decades, but especially the past few years, I’ve read a lot of books on why things are going downhill. Several of those are mentioned elsewhere in the book section of this Blog. However, only ONE man has offered a well thought out, if contrarian, solution to this problem: Wendel Berry.

If you only read one book from all of them listed on this blog, please beg, borrow, or buy and READ this one. I don’t normally post the full Amazon “Buy now” link, but for this book I think its worth it. The book is not expensive, and not the least bit laborious to read cover to cover.

Basically, Wendel details why we MUST return to sustainable small-scale farming and how that will  both invigorate the rural economy an led us back to locally produced food for our cities.  One example concept is “acres per eyes”: If a man is plowing a field of 10 acres with a small tractor and sees a 1/2 acre of ground that is too wet – ground which if plowed would be compacted and damaged – he will go around it and perhaps plow it when conditions are better. If a man is contracted to sit on a 250 HP tractor and plow a 1000 acres, he is never even going to see that 1/2 acre. Even if he did, he was hired to plow and plow he will.  That year, one small piece of ground is damage, year after year more and more ground is likewise damaged.

I’m not doing the book justice with that example. Please find a copy and read it for yourself. I simply can not recommend it highly enough.

Kevin

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Buy land…

Posted by Kevin on August 22, 2011
Posted in EconomyFarm & PrairieLife in General  | Tagged With: , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Buy land...

/* Originally posted on June 22nd, 2010 */

I think the future definition of wealth will be based on what ones physically owns, not numbers in computers. The wealthy will have nice homes on large farms (hundreds of acres, but not thousands unless your talking sparse Texas range ranches).

Family and community will become much more important as interdependancies grow. People may actually become nicer to each other since pissing someone off may prevent them from helping you someday when you need it.

People will become valued for the services and products they can produce locally, and exchange locally for things they need.

Too that end, we have bought the 121 acre farm mentioned extensively elsewhere in this system. I’m trying to establish it as the traditional old-time family farm and fully expect it to be complete with cows (done), chickens, perhaps some pigs and/or goats, etc. We have planted enough fruit trees to actually significantly suppliment our diet and continue to plant more. We have bee hives for honey and have found honey works pretty darn well as a sugar replacement (duh!).

We still need to build the real house out there, although what we have would suffice in an emergency (say the collapse occurs in 18 months instead of the 5-10 years I’m hoping for).

I’d like to add a 10,000 gallon rainwater cistern, and get enough solar/wind power together to at least keep a freezer and refridgerator working. CFL lighting requires a trivial amount of relative power, as does a few ceiling fans for comfort.

All it takes is time and money.

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On Consumerism and the American Way

Posted by Kevin on August 22, 2011
Posted in Economy  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

On Consumerism and the American Way

/*  Originally posted on November 14th, 2008, but I still agree! */

Somehow, I think we Americans took a wrong turn many decades ago. Its my understanding that near the end of the Great Depression, we were encouraged by the politicians of the time to go out and buy something to spur the economy. It worked! However, back then, most things we bought were American made and therefore the money circulated within our own economy. Over the years, the percentage of our economy that has been based on consumerism has grown, and the percentage of products we purchase that are American made has shrunk (just try and find non-food staples that are Made-In-America these days).

This just seems wrong. Consumerism should be the fruit of our labors, not the most significant economic factor. We need to get back to making things, producing, and using that income to buy things.

Of course, having a balanced budget, and making payments towards retiring our national debt (now over $28,000 per man, woman, and child), are priorities closely related to shifting the balance of our labors.

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On sustainability, oil, consumerism, and the American way of life...

Originally posted on November 28th, 2007.

Yeah… that’s a lot to talk about, but I have some strong feeling that I thought I’d post.

First, sooner rather than later we need to learn how, at least as an American society but eventually as a species, to live in balance with the planet. Its my understanding that approximately half of the oil predicted to be contained in the planet has already been pumped and burned. We did most of that since about 1920. For a large part of that time, the USA was the biggest consumer. In the last decade or so, China and India have been trying desperately to catch up. Some provinces in China, for instance, have banned e-bikes on the flimsy excuse their lead based batteries pollute – but cars are just fine! In any case, we are sucking the planet dry much faster now than in years past. What took us 80 years to do (the first 1/2 of the planets oil), I fear we are likely to match in the next 15 or so years.

Of course, hydrogen is the long term solution – but hydrogen takes power to produce, power generated today by gas, coal, and oil. Nuclear Fission plants could help – but I’m believe this is only about 100 year supply of Uranium on the planet AT CURRENT UTILIZATION RATES. E.g. Use the Uranium 10X faster, and 100 years becomes 10. Nuclear Fusion would be a nice long term solution – but we have been working on that for decades with little progress.

Wind and solar can make up about 15% of our need, shy of some unparallelled improvement in solar cell performance.

Conservation, as most people think of it, isn’t going to do it either. I think we need to learn to live on something like 1/5th the power we use today, not just a little bit less – a WHOLE LOT less.

Perhaps technology will help, at least for some workers. The Information Age employees a large number of people that honestly could work from home if they had good teleconferencing and collaboration systems. If those folks could truly never have to come into work, they could forgo cars altogether if they lived in a city with other services within walking distance.

Such changes will not be popular. The “Will of the People” can not be served and achieve this. Democracy is going to have a hard time doing this. Imagine a politician that recommended highways be REDUCED in traffic capacity to encourage more people to work from home! If he wasn’t shot, he sure would never get re-elected.

Running out of oil will probably be the savior of many politician’s careers though. It will be SO dramatic, it will overshadow our consumerism economy collapsing. Sure, in the great depression, buying things was a great way to reignite the economy – the vast majority of the money simply flowed from hand-to-hand. Today it flows from hand-to-China. We gave them the money, but buying their lower cost products, for them to in turn buy $1T (yes, that’s 1000 Billion dollars) of our debt. Now we can’t afford to tick them off, or they can retaliate and crush our economy. We basically sold them the USA one Barbie Doll at a time. We don’t need a balanced budget, we need a healthy surprise to pay down our national debt!!! Only then will we truly be in control of our economy, and our national priorities, again. Instead, today we fight a $250 Billion/Year war in Iraq that we borrow money to fund. It was recently reported that next year, its predicted we will spend about $1 MILLION PER SOLDIER in Iraq! This is not sustainable. We will bankrupt ourselves trying to do the “right thing”.

I’d like to think the world will be a better place for my children, but I fear at best it will be a very different place. I suspect the Amish have it right – or at least they are closer than we are. Faith aside, they live a much more sustainable lifestyle than most of the rest of the USA.

Me? I’m planning on exploiting the system for the very selfish goal of providing a foundation for MY family to survive the upcoming change. Surviving is fundamental. I seriously fear many will not. I can’t guarantee my family will – but I can try and tip the balance in their favor. This is at least part of why we have recently purchased land, and will soon be domesticating it into something like an Amish farm – fairly self supporting. Good luck to the rest of you.

Kevin

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Life Beyond Oil? Whats that all about?

Posted by Kevin on August 19, 2011
Posted in EconomyEnergy  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Life Beyond Oil?  Whats that all about?

The world has peaked on oil production. Consumption rates are up, and oil, as a non-renewable resource, is rapidly being depleted. A few points:

1) New Technology: Yes, new methods of extraction will probably be able to recover a fraction of the 1/2 or so of oil left in the planet. However, the easy, cheap-to-get-to-half has already been burned. Where we once extracted oil at an energy cost ration of 28:1, its now closer to 3:1. At 1:1 it makes no sense to continue even if its technologically possible.

2) Shrinking Planet: A common concept is that the world is shrinking – not physically of course, but its becoming easier and easier to teleconference around the world, get fresh fruit from other hemispheres, etc. In fact, compliments of cheap oil and Internet technology, I meet and married my wife from half-way around the world. Once oil becomes rare, and the cost goes up, the world will get bigger again. The airlines are struggling now, what will happen to them if fuel cost skyrocket? They simply go out of business. Atomic powered airplanes are not likely…

3) Growth: Growth is good right? Its required by common thought: City’s must grow to thrive, companies are either growing or dying, New Home Starts are a primary indicator of economic well being. Its all based on cheap oil. We saw it briefly around 2008-2009 when gas jumped to $4/gallon. What happens when its $10/gallon? Will people still want to commute 50 miles a day to work?

4) Food: Modern agriculture has been defined as the process of turning oil into food. We use natural gas (methane – often found under oil where the pressure and temperature break down the more complex oil hydrocarbons to simple CH4) as a feedstock for nitrogen fertilizer (via the Haber process that converts nitrogen gas (80% of air) and hydrogen into ammonia). We use massive amounts of diesel to power water pumps, plow fields, spray chemicals, spread fertilizer, cut hay, bale hay, move hay, ship grain, dry grain… not to mention trucking and flying the products to where they are needed.

5) Electricity: Natural gas is viewed as the “clean” fuel for running electric generators. Alas, its non-renewable. Recent discoveries have bought us some time in the USA, but that too will run out. The USA has NO new nuclear plans in progress (an Apollo class effort to use our remaining oil to build breeder reactors and power plants would help a lot). Fusion would be great, but other than H-bombs, we haven’t made a lot of progress in that space in the past 30+ years.

6) Plastics, pharmaceutical, etc.: Oil is the basis for Plastics, and for many pharmaceuticals.

So what happens when oil becomes rare?

A) The world gets larger again. More things will need to be done locally. Walmart’s “Rolling Warehouse” stops rolling.

B) Mechanized “efficiency” dies: Manual labor replaces or augments mechanized labor. Farms become MUCH smaller, possible horse driven again. Mega school districts break up into smaller ones with walking distance of homes as the school bus system breaks down. On the positive side: Many new jobs will be created. Suburbia contracts, painfully, towns need to be (re) created with smaller shops within walking distance of most homes. Can’t do that when the homes are spread around on 1/2 acre lots.

C) Big cities are in real trouble. Any building over about 5 stories tall becomes unusable.

D) Life expectancy will probably go down. More manual labor means more accidents – there will be a toll in human life.

E) The population will decline to the solar and natural carrying capacity of a region. Good-by Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc.

So when will all this start? How long will it take? Thats anyones guess, but my feeling is that we are at the proverbal “knee in the curve”. I doubt we have 10 more years of life as we know it.

Thoughts?

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