Tinkerers on the scaffolding, or the recovery of ecstasy

by Sandy Krolick, who blogs at kulturCritic

The tame and domesticated contours of civilized life have eclipsed our sense of the feral in everyday experience — that irrepressible anchor of human embodiment, our elemental interlacing with nature, “that subtle knot which makes us man.” Neglecting this wild core, we’ve abandoned our original gift of freedom, the inherent power of just being-there, outside the chains of time and the terror of history. Forsaking this primal autonomy, the groundwork was laid for our own entrapment, the beginning of our enslavement. But we might again reawaken that sense of primitive sovereignty, and experience the untamed, ecstatic undercurrent of life.

Ever since discovery of the appearance of Homo habilis approximately two million years ago, humankind has been defined as toolmaker, technician, and tinkerer. Whether or not a direct link to Homo sapiens can ever be definitively unearthed is a moot point. Clearly we humans live and die by our tools. But, while necessity may be the “mother of invention,” what manner of need could have led to the never-ending flow of new tools and technologies evidenced today? What of this unyielding pace of technological innovation that seems to be of another, qualitatively different order?

The Greek “techne” suggests “craft” or “art,” the practical discipline of making things. Technology, then, would refer to the results or products of techne — artifacts, devices, tools, and other handicrafts — the artifices of human culture. This sounds like an old story, about which we can be neutral. But we are not neutral; we adore our modern technologies excessively. Is it because they create nice, clean, artificial surfaces, insulating us from the wild and uncultivated underbelly of life, of nature, of our own embodiment?

With America leading the way, the path charted and engineered by Western civilization has spawned a hegemony that is rapidly overtaking the globe, socially, economically, and culturally. This unheralded ascendancy has unleashed a domination of values, which unlike political hegemonies of the past, is lightning fast, wide ranging, and spreading insidiously, artfully enabled by those very technologies to which it has given birth.

Engineering and technological sophistication now appear to constitute the religion of a new epoch. The foundation stones of a nascent techno-theocracy, they march us, hyper-rationally, to a contrived and perhaps apocalyptic Eschaton. Their dominion is so complete that they have undermined our very enjoyment of a more spontaneous life, lived naturally on Mother Earth. After all, the “virtual reality” they promise seems less messy than the real thing.

With an implacable call for progress in our visually dominated world, it is no wonder we are so enthralled by the steady array of new toys and tools paraded before our eyes. But why do HDTVs, TiVOs, iPhones, iPods, cell phones, Blackberries, electronic notebooks, and a myriad of other digital gadgets hold such sway, and command our rapt attention? Some might call it convenience; others would say it’s just the fulfillment of the American Dream — the Holy Grail of our continuously advancing civilization.

A large part of this digital delight may simply be a function of its visual appeal, the marketing hook that drives our consumerism. Perhaps it really is all about the spectacle. Or maybe it’s the continuous enhancement in microchip effectiveness and processing speed, betraying our “end user” mentality — to accomplish more things more quickly so we can buy more toys and move more rapidly into a brighter future.

More pointedly, perhaps, these technologies serve as valuable tools of social, economic, and cultural control. They encourage and validate our fixation with civilization’s fundamental construct, unilinear time and its underlying implication — the necessity of historical progress. This insures our continued dependency and our unquestioned faith in a certain path or trajectory, let us call it the curriculum of the West.

All the while, these same technologies distract attention from the inchoate, but developing sense of our own anonymity in today’s digitized, urban landscape. They signal the arrival of a new world, the global village, where we all share common values and concerns. But it is an erector set village, artfully crafted from our own infantile dreams of omnipotence — Western domination — now exported around the globe. These technologies claim to “connect us.” But, it is a hollow promise aimed at disarming a potential epidemic of cultural alienation that might otherwise expose the tinkerers on the scaffolding propping up the gloss of our blueprinted lives.

So our suspicions go undetected and our faith in the curriculum remains intact. We continue on, accepting as axiomatic that the paths of technological advancement, happiness, and righteousness coincide; in fact, we take for granted that progress is a good in itself – the only legitimate means of achieving happiness and living the good life. But why can’t we jettison this belief? Why this insatiable need for novelty? Why is it we have so little regard for what is primal and founding? And, why do we attempt to light up every corner of the globe, demystify the naturally chiaroscuro quality of life, making everything one-dimensionally bright? What is it about the curriculum of the West that is so captivating?

It may be that this race for technological innovation is nothing other than the best efforts of our civilization to ensure that we citizens keep producing and consuming, and remain focused on the future. We are being led to the abattoir of our own planned obsolescence by a marketing wizardry that locks us firmly onto a path of never-ending progress. Could this also explain our disproportionate emphasis on free will and unrestrained choice in America? After all, it provides an unassailable platform from which to produce and market an inexhaustible stream of saleable products and commodities that in turn validates our freedom, again keeping us future-oriented and chasing the ever-receding horizon of our Dream.

Who could argue with the shrewdness of such an agenda, or its efficacy in herding us into quiet submission? I was just as susceptible, just as committed to the plan, as were my fellow citizens. But I also sensed that this driving “will” to consume was not part of my natural constitution. It seemed to be the result of a story we had all been told about the future, about “making something of ourselves” and “getting ahead.”

Certainly, no one could deny that America had achieved great distinction for its material advancement and its extravagant pursuit of innovation. Nor did I wish to underestimate the value of specific advances in medical science and biotechnology. But that did not mean all progress was necessarily good, or even necessary.

Could I let go of my MacBook or do without email? No. Not completely. But, I refused to buy the iPhone, the TiVo, or the Blackberry; and I rejected a host of other gadgets and toys. I knew that I was being ensnared in a vicious cycle of work-buy-owe, and that I was partly to blame for the entire arrangement. I was a willing accomplice, collaborating with our clever cultural missionaries. I had become just another spokesperson trying to sell the Dream to the rest of the world, perpetuating the illusion.

Yet, along with most of my fellow citizens, I could not just renounce all the “benefits” of this way of life without consequences. The social covenant our ancestors had entered into long ago guaranteed that each and every one of us would come to rely on these tools as a matter of simple survival. I recalled what Rousseau, perhaps the single most important Enlightenment figure, had written centuries before in his work, On the Social Contract:

[Civil society] must transform each individual into a part of a larger whole … deny man his own [natural] forces in order to give him forces that are alien to him and that he cannot make use of without the help of others.

As I now saw things, we had proceeded too far down this road for anyone to turn back. If I, or anyone else, were to survive in civilized society — and really, one could no longer leave it because our own natural forces had long ago been replaced by civilized ones over generations of indoctrination to the curriculum — then I had little choice but to make use of the tools provided, or perish. I was in a double bind from which I could not easily escape. But at least I understood the game, some of the rules, and the potential consequences of playing it. Such awareness enabled me to develop healthier positioning with respect to the curriculum and its artifices; I no longer permitted them their insidious and unchecked control over my life.

But, how was I or anyone else to survive as a citizen in the twenty-first century, yet learn to live again, ecstatically? How to recollect that feral core, that elemental intertwining with nature? I was certain only of the most rudimentary aspects of such a return and recollection.


Excerpted from The Recovery Of Ecstasy: Notebooks From Siberia, Sandy Krolick, Ph.D.

Comments 68

  • “Engineering and technological sophistication now appear to constitute the religion of a new epoch”

    Unfortunately for us, the arrogance of man and science will very likely be brought low by mother nature. Ask the people of Fukushima. Besides, despite all the brilliance of mathemeticians and economists the world over, they have created a system whereby most people on our planet are beholdent to debt and those who print money. I often wonder if any of our lives are better than the lives of the Sioux or Pawnee before the arrival of the pale faces. We’ve lost our connection to the earth. One day soon enough, as the tagline goes, nature will bat last.

  • Beautifully crafted essay. Thanks.

    Members of my family are continually foisting upon me old and outdated computers and cell phones and other gadgets. When I try to refuse them, they seem hurt and bewildered; as if to say, “Why on earth would you refuse an upgrade in technology? A better phone? A better computer? A computer in more than one room of the house? Enhanced communication with US?” So I usually just accept the gift, and stow it away, and it is gradually forgotten, until the next one.

    It’s kind of like peer pressure in high school. If you don’t follow the herd, something must be wrong with you. By that token, I’m really messed up, I suppose. :)

  • All “progress”,all technology, all that of industrial civilization can

    be shown to be inevitably self-defeating,either impiricaly or by way of
    reasonable projection.

    You can’t fool mother nature.

    Double D

  • Thank you for a very insightful post. 
    It reminds one of the tale of “The Socerer’s Apprentice” in which the apprentice used some magic that he had not mastered to make daily chores easier: he could not control the runaway effects. Likewise, humanity – some significant segment thereof – has harnessed technology, lacking the wisdom to realize that its control would be so problematic that runaway technology might become the master. 

    Although it is preached that it enables us to better connect and communicate with our fellow humans, some see it in a different light.
    TED Talks: Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”
    And from another perspective, human technology is yet another emergent phenomenon in Nature that enables the same Overshoot & Collapse seen at lower levels of emergence – as with yeast in a vat.
    That course might have been avoided with an endowment of wisdom, both individual and collective, commensurate with the force of the technology. One can hope that the impending bottleneck will select for such wisdom.

  • Robin, I sort of think the bottleneck will force humans back to somewhat close to hunter-gatherers on a resource depleted planet and thus all human skills to use whatever low level technology they can reinvent will be needed. Wisdom to avert overshoot may not be necessary as nature will be the enforcer of limits.

  • A measure of wisdom may help enhance survival under any conditions.

  • No. The coming bottleneck will select for the techno-elites, who will kill all the primitives off with their technologies and live happily every after on a much less crowded planet with their solar-powered robotic farms and factories.

  • ‘But, how was I or anyone else to survive as a citizen in the twenty-first century, yet learn to live again, ecstatically? How to recollect that feral core, that elemental intertwining with nature?’ -sandy

    civilized sheople aren’t allowed feral freedom. we have victimless crime laws, puritanical prohibitions, and cultural taboos against too many things which are natural to us. this is the main silver lining to the dark cloud of collapse, imo: the probability that at some point we or our descendents will be free from ‘authority’. free to be wild, authentic, spontaneous, natural.

    ‘One can hope that the impending bottleneck will select for such wisdom.’ -robin yes robin, one can hope. it is human to do so.

  • bottleneck survivor. how appropriate your initials! the latest incarnation of surreal sean, i think.

  • Robin, wisdom is perhaps just another fiction to convince ourselves that we are not animals or that we are something more than animals. When we can no longer get baby bottles and baby food women will once more nurse their babies longer and thus have more protection against too many pregnancies. When we no longer have vaccines children will once more die of childhood diseases. When we no longer can ameliorate local famines by shipping food long distances, famine will once more preform the function of preventing overshoot. When our weapons are no longer powered by gunpowder, animal predators will do their part in human population control. When we no longer tear great holes in mother earth to plant our seeds, we will once more have our population limited by that we can hunt or gather.

  • VT, yeah I would guess Sean in a new incarnation. Well one thing you can say for him, he has a great imagination. But just as Harold Camping’s predictions of the rapture (and zombies for us unsaved to deal with), Sean’s predictions have no basis in reality. Those wishing for rapture hope to cheat death and get to heaven without the nasty business of actually dying. Sean hopes to cheat death with technology. Both are the visions of fools.

    Increasingly however I see the great powers choosing the game of Last Man Standing, which well may mean no man standing. Well the planet existed without our human wisdom for quite some time and did just fine. Wisdom is not necessary for life.

    Sibel Edmonds writes of what may be the next project of the neo-coms “Bin Laden Death Script & the Needed Trigger for Next Step-Pakistan” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28146.htm

  • The human race now stands at 7 billion and adds 220,000 more every morning of every year. The human race has decided by default to consume all resources until there is a critical shortage and then they will fight over the remainder. This decision by default means that to be worried about climate change,species extinction or any other issue is a waste of time. The path we are on is set in stone and always has been. We will keep doing what we are doing until we cannot.

  • ‘to live again, ecstatically? How to recollect that feral core, that elemental intertwining with nature?’

    very nice essay. thanks for the clarifying/connecting reminders.

    visits to the few remaining secluded; special places in wilderness/ nature have been my best reconnecting. usually limited to at most 2 weeks of ‘hanging out’ [ i liked to get to know one area/site when possible, & less use of tools]; it always took a 2-3 day period to move into a different consciousness [no billboards/very few people/no cars/very limited tools etc.]. i’d also get aware of my inability to sustain myself in such places.very limited, brief treasures. in a more natural way of life these moments would increase to, off & on… most of the time. my challenge now is to hold onto the very transient moments when i am aware of nature…a hawk close by, an inch worm on a stump, 3 bullfrogs in the cistern, etc….over the drone of accelerating cars, worry about the bills, the bad balljoint.

  • Sam, yes we can best get hold of those connected moments by clearing the brain and listening, looking, smelling, focusing on what is around us. While I find meditating not at all helpful, I find shifting awareness to the natural world very helpful. It can be done in a moment. And last as long as you like. We don’t get away to secluded places for long because of our chickens. But their one acre of the world and my garden have plenty of awareness delights.

    Last night we had a momma with 3 week old chicks out from a pen for the first day. We went down to close up and be sure she had found a place in the coop. No momma. 6 out of 8 chicks running around hollering. I was sure something had gotten her and 2 of the chicks. But lo, she was on a small branch about 6 feet up with the 2. Not sure yet how they got up there – not sure what she would have done about the 6 if we weren’t around to sort it out. But she looked so lovely up there … not an exactly calm moment as we sorted it out. But one of the unexpected moments we have learned to expect from our birds.

  • Greg [We will keep doing what we are doing until we cannot.] That sounds about right…unfortunately

  • kathy
    i wonder if a predator is nearby; & she chose the ‘safer’ feral…instinct-wise place. hope not!

    i had an day of no eggs; after avg. of 8 or so. snakes? it was one of our first warmer days; never seen a snake w/ more than 2 eggs…no shells around either. i’ll check midafternoon.

    re your feeding bird seed etc. i’ve been experimenting w/ some wheat i have. they choose…store bought pellets, or wheat…the wheat is all gone, daily; & the pellets left.

  • kathy…how did she get her biddies up there?

  • One of the most insightful and comprehensive essays that I have come across, and on-topic for this post:
    The Thermodynamics of an Intelligent Living Universe

  • Sam, we have been watching for snakes but haven’t caught any yet. We usually get two or three a year. I presume you have rat snakes?

    Yes, I think you will find they much prefer the grain to pellets. And any pellets that get wet are lost, while the grain either drys out or sprouts and they like the sprouts too.

    How did she get the kids up. Well there is a compost pile nearby where we compost the litter from the coop. They may have worked their way up the wire but still had about 2 feet to fly to get to the branch from there and they are just 3 weeks old. They are part game banty as is the brood mom and any bird with game in it tends to fly better. I think she didn’t get scared. Some mother hens just want up.

  • Three articles that talk about China warning the US off of Pakistan

    Bin Laden Death Script & the Needed Trigger for Next Step-Pakistan
    by Sibel Edmonds

    Paul Craig Robbert
    How many SEALs died

    And Webster Tarpley who I don’t entirely trust
    US, Pakistan Near Open War; Chinese Ultimatum Warns Washington Against Attack

    No Zombies on Saturday but that is because WE are the living dead and may soon all be more dead than living if the game of Last Man Standing is all the Powers know how to play.

  • The InformationClearingHouse link to an an earlier page to a video interview in Urdu was like a time machine back to when and where it was the lingua franca.

  • Sandy, I enjoyed thoroughly this essay. It puts into words, far better than I could do, my exact feelings on this subject. In so many ways we are trapped by our technology. We can’t do without it until everyone has to do without. I was fantasizing this weekend how nice it would be to simply disconnect myself from technology; cancel my iphone contract, have the internet disconnected, trade in my car for a horse and buggy, on and on it goes until there is no more technology complicating my life. But, I live in the world so, to a certain degree, I have to live like the rest of the world does. It’s sad. I want off the merry-go-round, but I can’t get off without breaking my neck until it stops.

  • Sandy

    Very insightful post. And I agree with Dr. House that though we might want to get off the merry-go-round, we can’t, not as individuals, not as a society. I am always prone to say We can’t hang on, and we can’t let go. There is no moving forward without the inevitable depletion of vital resources. And we have no time to scale the technical mountain described by BS, or whoever he is today – besides, what must understand is that every introduction of new technology comes with a resource (esp energy!) cost, resources we can no longer afford.

    Further, there is no moving back to a simpler society based upon simple tools. That entire infrastructure with its accompanying tools, knowledge, skills, and social fabric is long gone now, and as inaccessible to the masses now as are the stars. Besides, that infrastructure relied heavily upon not only the knowledge and skills of “everyman” but on technology produced from rich sources of minerals, metals and later, fossil fuels. Today, all those rich resource deposits are gone as we have almost completely extracted them from the earth, leaving the much more difficult to process, intensive energy reliant resources behind. Such resources will be impossible to refine in a world devoid of cheap and available energy sources.

    Finally, we may want to exit this room, but we were born in it, raised in it, lived our lives in it, and have little if no ability to understand life outside the room.

    Man left God and struck out on his own, becoming in his own eyes god himself, pursuing the conquest of Mother Nature, the destruction of the earth and re-defining his habitat in the process. And now he is at the end of his road with no one to blame but himself and his arrogance. Now Nature is up to the plate, and taking practice swings – look out!

  • Upon arising and learning of another deadly tornado I thought this year is much worse than I ever remember. To check my perceptions I turned to NOAA

    The answer is that my perceptions are correct. http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/online/monthly/newm.html

    ..2011.. 2010 2009 2008 3YR 3YR 3YR
    PREL ACT ACT ACT ACT AV 11 10 09 08 AV 11 10 09 08 AV
    JAN 10 16 30 6 84 40 0 0 0 7 2 0 0 0 4 1
    FEB 61 61 1 36 147 61 1 0 9 59 23 1 0 2 12 5
    MAR 95 – 33 115 129 92 1 1 0 4 2 1 1 0 3 1
    APR 875 – 139 226 189 185 361 11 6 0 6 45 2 3 0 2
    MAY 35 – 304 201 462 322 0 7 5 44 19 0 4 3 10 6
    JUN – – 324 270 292 296 – 12 0 7 6 – 6 0 4 3
    JUL – – 146 118 95 114 – 2 0 1 1 – 1 0 1 1
    AUG – – 55 60 101 72 – 1 0 0 0 – 1 0 0 0
    SEP – – 57 8 111 59 – 2 0 2 1 – 2 0 1 1
    OCT – – 108 65 21 65 – 0 1 0 0 – 0 1 0 0
    NOV – – 53 3 15 22 – 0 0 2 1 – 0 0 2 1
    DEC – – 32 48 46 48 – 9 0 0 3 – 4 0 0 1
    —- —- —- —- —- —- — — — — — — — — — —
    SUM 1076 77 1282 1156 1692 1376 363 45 21 126 64 47 21 9 37 22

  • Kathy, practitioners of meditation anxious to show off have always rankled me. Zen Buddhists are the worst, competing with each other on who can sit zazen for longest. One of my favorite parts of Ray Mungo’s Famous Long Agotakes place at their meditation retreat in Idaho. It is a momentous occasion that they have long anticipated, and have been practising toward. They are going for an especial meditative trial, and have taken LSD as an especial sacrament, and suddenly, just as they start to sit zazen, Ray finds that he needs to take a dump …

  • Sorry about the mishmash of numbers of tornadoes – before I hit submit it was a nice little chart. At any rate at the link is the chart.

  • Martin, nice story, very nice. As I age I find that taking a dump can be a profound experience :) So wonderful if all comes out OK.

  • Jim Rogers is one of the very few who knows what he is talking about.

    Jim Rogers: Oil Price Will Keep Rising; Silver to Fall.Go to CNBC.com
    for full story.

    Double D

  • Christopher, Robin, Victor and the REAL Dr House, I appreciate your kind words, and I am gratified you found value in the essay. It is true, as Rousseau noted, once we lost our natural abilities we became stuck with these new tools without which we could not survive in society. For your further investigation (consideration) I provide you with the additional reflections from my blog. best, sandy


  • One of the technologies that is now causing grief is flood control. Here is a nice op-ed from someone who seems to really get it – the connection with climate change, and the insanity of building in a flood plain.

    “Since the Mississippi is experiencing its greatest flood in more than 80 years, hitting the US breadbasket with a yet-to-be-seen spike in those already surging food prices, Americans must begin facing a hard reality.
    Global warming, climate change or changing weather patterns may be hot-button topics for some, but for all the reality is extreme weather events are causing, and will continue to cause, major disruptions for Americans, from the gas station to the supermarket.
    As the absurdities of living in a known flood plain become increasingly apparent with each passing day, people are asking for tax money to assist in such absurdities. But the US government, already consumed with its two imaginary wars on drugs and terror, along with a record deficit, in addition to a more than $14 trillion debt ceiling, and with the country’s infrastructure crumbling, the question must be asked, where does the money come from?…As some members of the human species continue attempts at altering natural flooding events, the toll on taxpayers takes a hit as levee construction, levee destruction, diminishing food supplies and extreme weather events begin taking center stage.”

    Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/307063#ixzz1NDeEhSwH

  • I’ve been rather quiet lately because there seems little to add. We all know what the problem is, we all know what is required, and we all know those in power will not implement what is required. We also know that the bulk of the populace of most nations remain almost completely clueless about everything of significance. So we wait for the system to collapse, taking down most of humanity and much of the natural world with it, the ever-greater imbalances that result from humanity’s assualt on nature assisting in the demolition.

    BBC World broadcast the rather sickening display of imperial hubris of Obama’s visit to Ireland, in which he was introduced as ‘The American Dream’, and in which he declared himself to be an Irishman. I found it particularly depressing that ordinary people would assemble to participate in the lunacy, cheering when they heard empty rhetoric and waving little flags that were presumably made in China. I normally avoid watching such ghastly spectacles, but did manage a few minutes, mainly to watch the body language and to understand how evil manages to present itself as good.


    I see another swarm of tornadoes has hit the US. Nature seems to be dealing with the problem of civilisation, much as expected.

    From the Independent ….

    Weather disasters in the poorest nations ‘have trebled since 1980s’

    By Steve Connor, Science Editor

    Monday, 23 May 2011

    The number of weather-related disasters reported each year in the world’s poorest countries has more than trebled since the 1980s and the increase cannot be explained by better reporting or an increase in population, a study by Oxfam has found.

    An analysis of the natural disasters reported to international relief agencies since 1980 has revealed that while the number of disasters relating to geophysical events – such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions – remained fairly constant, disasters caused by flooding and storms significantly increased. Oxfam looked at disasters in more than 140 countries and found a clear increase over time, rising from 133 disasters a year in 1980 to more than 350 a year in recent years. Steve Jennings, the report’s author, believes the increase could be the result of climate change.

  • Kevin, right the tornado deaths so far this year before adding in the latest 100+ were at 365 – the three year average for the prev three years was 64. They are not only more frequent but more deadly this year.

    The Oxfam study confirms what many of us have suspected – things really are getting worse in the natural world for human civilization.

    And as you note there is little to add to what has already been said here about the state of the world.

  • Want to reconnect? To let go? How about this: Go out deep into a forest at dusk. Walk up a hill so that you’re breathing hard, making too much noise, not paying close enough attention. Look finally to your left. That rustling you were too tired to look at, that scraping that was surely wind and tree, materializes 30 feet away as a very large light brown black bear, digging furiously into the earth, with a power you can’t even understand. And standing absolutely upright, next to this mama bear is a new cub, filled with curiosity, watching your every step, unaware that your heart is beating in your throat. Not yet knowing, that you too, are something good to eat.

    That’s what I did last night. Today I feel much better. More Human. More alive.

  • Mike, sounds good. Unfortunately all the black bears in south Mississippi, where I live, were extirpated a couple generations ago.
    :( Last time I saw a bear was in Glacier NP, in 1995.

    I did, however, get a good look at a Great Horned Owl in my backyard, at dusk yesterday. He was being mobbed by a pair of blue jays, high up in a longleaf pine.

    I love owls. Such quiet power. I hope those owl species still around will survive us.

  • Mike, your story left me thinking. We have been learning about auto-immune diseases and one hypothesis is that our body is primed to fend off germs and parasites and when we are raised too clean our body then turns on itself. I wonder if we are also primed for danger, and when we don’t have real adrenaline producing events something goes wrong in our mind and bodies. At any rate the lack of natural danger events probably is why so many people like scary movies.

    Glad you had the experience, but also glad you didn’t turn into meat. :)

  • browsing a book today about earthquakes/tsunamis, i was reminded the great one in the indian ocean christmas eve 2004 killed 230,000 people. that’s just a bit more than we’re currently adding per day in populatio growth. it took something like that great disaster to simply halt population growth for one day! it’s unimaginable what it’s going to take to bring population down from it’s peak in a few years/decades, i mean steeply down, as will almost certainly be the case later this century. something like 2 or 3 or 4 great natural devastations on a daily basis?

    it’s impossible to bear this knowledge without becoming hardened in heart, like some well off person might from having to ignore miserable suffering homeless people every day. hardened to the suffering of others. disconnected.

    apologizing for whatever confusion my comment at the end of the last thread may have caused. it was poorly conceived and edited. what i meant to say at the end was how much i appreciate u all.

  • We now have a new euphemism for peak oil: ‘disappointing levels of producrion’.

    Independent UK.

    Goldman U-turn fuels surge in oil prices

    By Nick Clark

    Wednesday, 25 May 2011

    Only weeks after calling the top of the oil market and advising clients to sell up, Goldman Sachs has performed a dramatic U-turn, pushing the price up to $112.10 a barrel in London yesterday.

    Goldman, the world’s largest commodity trader, has been known for making bold predictions on the price of oil and occasionally getting its fingers burnt in the process.

    A month ago, it warned customers to sell oil, blaming record levels of speculative trading for driving up the price. Yet Goldman put out a research note yesterday raising its oil price forecasts, blaming the loss of oil production from Libya and disappointing levels of production outside the oil producing cartel Opec.

    Jeffrey Currie, the global head of commodities strategy at Goldman said these factors would “continue to tighten the oil market to critical levels in early 2012” prompting Goldman to raise its forecasts.

    Brent crude will hit $120 by the end of the year, it forecast, up from previous expectations of $105. By the end of next year, the investment bank believes a barrel of oil will be worth as much as $140, up from $120.

    The oil price has dropped from a 30-month high of $115 at the beginning of the month, but the crisis in Libya has brought the country’s 1.6 million-barrel-a-day production almost to a complete standstill.

    Goldman’s report said: “It’s only a matter of time until inventories and Opec spare capacity will become effectively exhausted, requiring higher oil prices to restrain demand.”

    This is not the first time the group has rapidly reversed its predictions for the price of oil. Shortly after US light crude passed $123, two years ago this month, its energy strategist predicted a price of $200 within two years. Arjun Murti said the demand for oil led by China would lead to a “super-spike” in the price. Yet the strategist was left with a red face only seven months later, when he slashed the forecast to $45, blaming “incredibly weak demand”.

  • kevin, the great tragedy is that it takes the enforcement of natural limits/higher prices to reduce oil demand, since the basic intellect/sanity to voluntarily live within durable limits is lacking.

  • The Sydney Writers Festival is running at the moment and there was an interesting talk called “You’ve been Warned” by Naomi Oreskes, Paul Gilding and Curt Stager. Each have written books about different aspects of climate change.

    Curt is a paleo climatologist and has written the book “Deep Future” where he discusses that we are now in the anthropocene epic, i.e. the age of humans, because we have had such a profound effect on the Earth. He also says that if we do the right thing and stop burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, the effects of climate change will only last about 100,000 years. Otherwise, it will take the Earth 500,000 years to recover. Therefore we have an ethical duty to do the right thing.

    Naomi has written a book called “Merchants of Doubt”, which talks about how 3 CEOs in the tobacco industry when confronted with the evidence in 1953 that tobacco causes cancer decided to use confusion and doubt to discredit what the scientists had discovered. This ploy worked so well that a handful of scientists because of their own specific fears decided to use the same method to raise doubts about acid rain, the ozone effect and climate change.

    Paul’s book “The Great Disruption” convincingly argues that the age of growth is over, but we haven’t yet found another paradigm in which to function.

    The three writers had been given the brief for the interview to show people there was some hope. They struggled to do so. I think Curt came closest when he said we have an ethical duty to stay around to try to stop the burning of fossil fuel.

    Although I am surrounded by people who would prefer to believe in business as usual, I also notice that the number of people is growing who are starting to feel the impending doom.

    Anyone interested in listening, choose the Sunday 22 May 4 pm slot of http://www.abc.net.au/rn/sydneywritersfestival/

  • Kevin

    And of course, Goldman is not making any money on these wild swings in oil pricing, is it? If a company like Goldman ( a member of the shark family), can convince people that oil prices will rise, then they can profit from that. If they can convince folks that prices will then drop, they can make money off that. It must be really satisfying to those sharks.

  • Some have figured it out. Reading the full article the author gets it far more than The UK Secretary for Energy, as he notes the problems with the gov’ts solutions
    full article at
    British Gov’t Faces Peak Oil by Chris Rhodes

    The UK Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, has committed to establish an “Oil Shock Response Plan” to cope with some of the consequences of peak oil. While there remains dissent as to the facts of peak oil, a growing body of experts think that the phenomenon will occur at some point during the next five years. On a recent BBC radio 4 broadcast a former president of Shell, John Hofmeister, reckoned that there was no problem with the production of oil meeting demand for it until 2050/2060. This kind of estimate includes various sources of unconventional oil for which the EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) is far lower than for the cheap readily available conventional oil on which the modern global world depends.

  • nicole
    thanks; for the summary, & for the link, a very good…but sobering listen. again thanks.

  • TVT,

    Regarding your comment on the tsunami in the Indian Ocean:

    Stark! Shocking! Another clear-eyed assessment of a future that must be the fate of mankind. We, as a species, cannot avoid it. We’re the protozoa in the test tube. There is no guarantee that the die-off will not lead strait to extinction. I’m reminded of the fate of the much of the mega-fauna at the end of the last Ice Age. In one geologic moment, little more than a blink of the eye, robust populations crashed completely, not to a lower level or a remnant, but to zero.

    I’m not sure I should thank you for your comment. It made me sick.

    Michael Irving

  • present surreality is sickening, m.i.. the coming crash is a necessary ‘correction’. if humans manage to avoid extinction, they better wise up, because even without the resources to create a new civilization, i’m afraid our descendents will find a way to remain their own worst enemies, which doesn’t bode well.

  • the virgin terry,

    “…remain their own worst enemies…”

    You have that right, either in the short or long term. In the short term when people realize they will have to eat grass if they are to keep from starving. Then, like a miracle, they discover, just over the fence, that their neighbor has been growing a garden. In the long term, if the species fends off extinction, ego will still be there whispering, “You could have more if…” And then we try to start another round.

    Maybe now is the time to us to help our neighbor grow a garden and work toward a culture of community rather than individualism.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael Irving

    Maybe now is the time to us to help our neighbor grow a garden and work toward a culture of community rather than individualism.

    Absolutely! Excellent point. Taking pro-active action to begin building the trust and community now with those around you seems quite rational. The neighbours shouldn’t have to find out that you have a garden – they should be offered some of the proceeds and encouraged to participate and share in the bounty. Sharing knowledge, skills and food now would be a great way to begin. It’s when people are left out through fear and selfishness that trouble brews, and it’s at that point that they begin thinking, “Why should they have food, and not us?”.

  • 12 tornado warning areas; st louis mo.

    Wishing all 12 would hit Washington DC and Wall Street….

  • Michael Irving, Victor,

    I just looked at Dmitry Orlov’s powerpoint presentation “The Twilight of the Antipodes and the Cultural Flip” from the Northern Californian Eco-Fest. Drawn to the title because I thought he was talking about my side of the world, I was even more intrigued by his discussing the difference between human relationships based on trade and those based on gifts. He hypothesises that the gift relationship is the more normal relationship and what we need to return to. I realised that in the little valley we live in we have been functioning on the gift “economy” without really realising – and that is what has made it such a strong little community. Was it on this site I read just a couple of weeks ago someone else who is operating in the same way? Whoever wrote the entry (sorry I’ve forgotten), thank you. It was very powerful for me.


  • Nicole

    The ‘gift’ economy is simply a natural extension of the ‘network’ form of community – you scratch my back and when you need it, I will scratch yours. My wife grew up in Russia where networking was (and still is!) a vital part of community relations and the economy. It was critical that you did things for people, knowing that some day you might need them as well – it could mean the difference between life or death. You will remember the Godfather worked on this principle as well.

    It is indeed a more natural way of community. The idea that we will all be bartering has some validity, but those who propose that ALL will be bartered based upon arms-length exchanges are merely extending their own experience of raw capitalism into the community idea – understandable given our capitalist upbringings, but wrong. Indeed, it would never work, IMO. The whole idea of community is based upon sharing of wealth and services with those in need, taking care of your own, leaving no one behind. But it is not just that, some implicit obligation to the whole. It is much more. It is a frame of reference, a base paradigm within which all thought and actions occur on the part both of the individual and the group. The individual thinks in terms of the group, and the group corporately, thinks of its individual members. When a hunter finds and kills a deer, his first thought is not, “I have my dinner now.”, but instead, “We will eat well tonight”.

    I do not believe that our version of capitalism is aware of such concepts. In our culture, the person killing the deer would hold on to part of it for himself, and sell the rest to the highest bidder. To share it with those outside his immediate sphere (family, friends) would be unthinkable – more than unthinkable, a highly dangerous and aberrant social action!

  • kathy
    i have a broody hen; & want to let her raise chicks. of the 3 or so references i found they all recommend separating her from the flock. she has started setting on the regular laying nest; they use one corner…10 hens. this is day 2. have to separate her? thanks.

  • “We will eat well tonight”. There is somehow something very comforting about that sentence.

    We picked up meat from the butcher’s today. The steer had been born on our farm two years ago and as someone said of Joel Salatin’s animals, had had a wonderful life and one very bad day. We picked up 284 kg of meat and bones. What the hell does one do with 284 kg of beef! Although we’ll be selling the bulk of it, we’ll also be giving meat away to neighbours and friends. And learning to preserve meat. If it weren’t for the costs of living that require money to be coming in regularly, it would be so much more pleasant to treat a slaughtered steer as a community gift and let everyone partake in the feast and preservation for leaner times.

  • Victor,

    We will all barter vs. ALL will be bartered.

    From each according to their ability, too each according to their need.

    Michael Irving

  • Gift giving in our society has become perverse, often causing more angst than happiness. My husband and I have given up formal date obligatory gifting of unneeded objects and tried to get our kids to stop that form of gifting us with varying degrees of success. I have read Orlov on gifting and he seems quite wise on how it works best.

  • well i separated her in the end of the coop,yet i have an access door there. she is good & feisty, but a quick look & she has about a doz. eggs. i’ll candle at 10 days.

  • Sam, usually we separate hens, but this year we did not. We successfully hatched 7 nests of eggs in the coop. We moved them to separate pens only after they hatched. It depends on your hens and your set up. Probably what you have done will work.

    However if the other hens bother her or when she gets off the nest she gets back on the wrong one you probably should move her. When we move a hen on the nest we move her in a box – ours are all moveable. We move at night and if the hen is jumpy we cover her head with a light towel. Some move well and others just stop setting. We usually have an extra broody hen sitting on dummy eggs that we can substitute if the move fails. If your box isn’t moveable, ahead of your move you could put a moveable box next to hers, make a nice nest in it and move her eggs and see if she will move herself. Some hens get confused when you pick them up and are more content with things when they “choose” to move over to the new box with the eggs in it.

    Sorry I didn’t see your question earlier…. :)

  • The economy is everything….


    This is the reality of the human species. It matters not if it is rainforests, CO2 emissions, nuclear energy, oil, gas, coal, the oceans, biodiversity, human rights, peace in the world, multi-national corporate growth, politics, whatever – if people perceive their livelihoods are threatened, the economy wins hands-down. We are killing ourselves and the environment as well, and nothing will stop that.

    The USA/UK and Europe are beginning to consolidate their colonial war powers and becoming more and more aggressive on a daily basis. They are moving closer each day towards an international police state. The bankers continue to consolidate their wealth and power at the expense of the people of the world. The multi-national police state and the banker consolidation are not unrelated.

    We are now entering a very dangerous period in human history. The outlook is grim.

  • Apologies for the outburst. Sometimes I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Seems to be happening with greater frequency of late.

  • kathy
    ‘We moved them to separate pens only after they hatched’


    i was thinking i would possibly undo the separating wire asap [like when they establish another laying nest…i was able to wire her in where she was]due to the snake problems we have had; so the rooster could help protect…at the least when they hatched. i will set up a way to catch the next snake i see, to relocate.

    anyway thanks for the info, as i have not had a successful clutch the one year i tried.

    we will burn down every tree, piece of asphalt, etc….so u didn’t seem so off the mark; just strong emotion.

  • Sam, we let then nest in the coop this year because of the weasel attack. But we move them after hatch to pens so they have at least three weeks before facing the danger of hawk attacks. Also very young chicks can get killed just by adult birds landing on them coming off the roost. We have two broods back in the coop now and I get up earlier to monitor “getting out of the coop” and “getting food before the big hog adult birds get it”.

    We pulled the half banty hen out of the tree at night a second time and put her chicks in a bucket, but rather than taking her to her nest for the night we put her out at the door and made her walk in and pick where she wanted to go. End of problem.

    Hens do better if they can get up once in a while to get somewhere to take a dust bath. If they don’t sometimes they get weakened by parasites. We had one hen this year that we never saw get up but we figured that she must do it when we were not there. The day before hatch she was up, weak and the eggs cold. We put her eggs under a second we had who was sitting on a few dummy eggs and they hatched. New momma was slow to get up with them, probably confused by her very early hatch. But she is doing fine and the other hen is recovering.

    Good luck. I hope you get a good hatch. IMO there is nothing more exciting and satisfying than watching a good momma hen tend her chicks. WE have had a few real duds for mothers, but by and large if they go broody they have the right programs still in their brains for doing the rest of the job. As we have crossed breeds with abandon, more and more of our hens go broody which means for us penning most up for a week with one of our penned roos (roos we want to breed but don’t want adding to the rooster population of the yard). They get over the feelings when they can’t plop on a nest.

    Oh BTW we take our seed mix and run it through the blender quickly to cut seeds up a bit for the chicks. This is the second year doing it and it seems to work fine. I never feel I get it quite right – too fine or too coarse, but we raise chicks so….

    We always hatch more chicks than we should, but this year we really lost control. We have 50 chicks to an adult population of 88. Well that is 25 roosters in the pot, but that still puts us over our goal of not going over 100. But in the back of my mind was the thought, this might be the last year. :(

  • thanks lots kathy…nothin like the real deal…experience!
    i’ll open the broody hens door for spells for dustin.

    now i’ll go make that snake-loop stick!

  • All of you hunters and gatherer types will find the following two books well worth the money.
    The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden both by Samuel Thayer. They were highly recommended on a permaculture site, and we just received them yesterday. We have alot of forest farming, edible landscape type books but these appear to be so much better. 50 pages just on acorns. Great color photographs as opposed to the drawings that you get in alot of books, and lots of details on how to process what you forage. The two of them UPS’d were $47.00.

  • Thanks Ed, I will probably purchase. One problem for those of us who live in the south however is many garden books and wild edible plant books are geared towards the northeast. What areas of the country do these books cover.

    I have learned a lot about wild edible plants in the Southeast from this site. http://www.eattheweeds.com/www.EatTheWeeds.Com/EatTheWeeds.com/EatTheWeeds.com.html

    “Green Deane” who has put up the site has a lot of info and some fun videos as well. I learned that a weed that came up in my garden (apparently from roots that someone threw out in a bag of leaves I picked up) is called florida betony. http://www.eattheweeds.com/www.EatTheWeeds.Com/EatTheWeeds.com/Entries/1945/5/15_Florida_Betony:_$150_A_POUND.html

    It has tubers that taste similar to radish but milder, sweeter and more juicy crunchy. We have been enjoying them in salad all spring. I had not seen it in any of my edible wild plant books probably because it is a southeast plant. It is in the mind family and covered with pollinators as well.

  • For fun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mKTbXSBH98&feature=digest
    RAILROADED – versusplus.com song econoparody about SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE

  • Would recommend this multi-part history of the banking system on The Burning Platform. Each part is named after a Clint Eastwood film… ;-)

    The current one, third of the series is entitled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – covers the creation of the Federal Reserve. Links to the prior segments are there as well.


    I believe that if anything was done to truly benefit the world in the long term, it would need to start with the overthrow of the world banking system and the few multi-generational families who control it.

    If we could find the one common issue that would unite environmentalists, political activists, anti-war activists, economic reformers, and the people of the world, it would be this – take down the banking system. Only then can the world hope to begin the process of a major clean-up. Of course this would mean the Collapse of life as we know it….. :-) But if we are to collapse anyway, what a way to go!