Principles for society

by Arthur Noll

1. The first principle for society is science. We need to make decisions based on repeatable, observable understandings of how things work. Currently, this is frequently not done, is often not done by scientists. That might seem like a strange claim to make. But it is a simple matter. Whenever people say that scientists will find solutions to various problems facing humanity, they are expressing their faith in the existence of things that may or may not exist. We have no evidence either way, and to have faith in things without evidence is literally beyond reason and not scientific. There is no functional difference between believing in mystical forces for which there is no objective evidence, and believing that currently unknown technologies and understandings will be found to solve problems. Current culture has been largely built and run on this kind of religious faith in science. Many scientists accept this completely unscientific faith without question. They live their lives in objectively unsustainable ways, yet are unconcerned because of this faith that things will be found when needed. It is irrational.

2. The second principle for society is interdependence. Human beings are social creatures, who live by teamwork or die. This is an easily verifiable statement. If you wish to test this statement, you have the naked body to do the test. To be biologically successful as an independent organism, you must live and reproduce without any aid from a social group, and successfully compete with social groups as needed, as well. If you can do this you don’t need to be reading this essay and it is odd that you would be doing that. An independent hominoid would be a different species.

3. Since we need a social team to live, it follows that it is best that this social team be efficient and sustainable in how it functions. Scientific measures of value can be made for this. A fundamental measure of the value of behavior and people, is food EROEI. EROEI stands for Energy Returned over Energy Invested (eaten). Like all living creatures, human beings eat and they use some of that energy to move in ways that brings them more food. Tying in closely with that is movement to obtain shelter from excessive energy loss or gain. Organisms must also move in ways such that they reproduce sufficiently. Food EROEI defines life and death. The ratio over time must be at least one or above one. If it is below one for too long, the organism dies. For a social organism, the individual has a food EROEI, and the social body, social group, also has a food EROEI, and both need to be a ratio of one or above.

A ratio of one is living hand to mouth and is instinctively seen as unsafe, too close to the edge. People and other organisms are generally always looking for ways in which they can get more food and shelter for less food energy spent. They also store food energy from times when food EROEI is high, for times when it is low. Having a high food EROEI is generally an instinctive requirement for reproduction.
People have learned various ways to increase food EROEI and to better store food. Tools made from better materials, and machinery running on non food energy, for example. These things can amplify muscle movements and give better food EROEI. But at this point we must consider the sustainability of food EROEI as also a life and death situation. For the sustainability of a food EROEI, you need to look at the rates at which all the resources are used, and compare those rates with possible rates of renewal-replacement. If resources are used faster than they can regrow or be replaced, that can give an attractive food EROEI, but it may not last and can go below one in the end. Only if the resources used up can be replaced with something else, can it continue. Obviously, with that observation, we are often back to the matter of having faith in things that have no evidence. This situation is quite likely exacerbated by the fact that for eons as hunter gatherers, a common pattern was that people took all easily available resources in an area and moved on. I think we may have instinctive expectations that for all resources used up, you just have to go looking for more and if you look hard enough you will find them. But this instinct fails when it comes to using non renewable-non replaceable resources, and when we are able to look objectively at the whole planet and understand that a large enough population can use resources too fast.

When considering the future, the complexity of factors means it is impossible to predict it exactly. Future supplies of food and other resources can be seriously impacted by droughts, floods, and other similar events that are difficult to predict exactly. This is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. The simple concept of using a factor of safety, in the amounts of resources used, can do a great deal to mitigate this problem.

In addition to technology being able to increase food EROEI, there are other ways to increase food EROEI, and that is to have other people or animals do the work. Combinations of things have often been attractive. People can be made into slaves using the technology of weapons, for example, and forced to work for others. Slave masters can have a higher food EROEI than the slaves. Of course, they are also ignoring the basic principle of interdependence and the need for smoothly operating teams over time. Teams in which some members are forced, are inherently less efficient than teams in which behavior is voluntary. And if the weapons to control others were made by using resources at unsustainable rates, while the situation of one group dominating another might last for generations, it could easily come to a halt in the end.

Another way to have good food EROEI, is to be rich in a society operating with money-market systems. To be rich in such a system gives much better food EROEI than being poor. Being rich in such a system is very similar to being a slave master. Often, the two things have been combined, with outright slavery just another component of a monetary culture, and to be poor in such a culture is just one step above slavery.

Monetary systems have a veneer of being scientific and rational, but it takes only a brief scratch at the surface to reveal the many ways that monetary systems are irrational to the goal of continued existence. Let’s take a look.

People behave as independent agents with their money, which causes confusion and inefficiency about whether people are independent of each other or not. There tends to be endless argument about where individualism ends and social concerns take over. Monetary systems always go to situations of a few rich and many poor, and this is not an efficient use of resources. There tends to be constant friction of wage slaves revolting in either passive aggressive or overtly aggressive ways, which can be a serious waste of resources. While competition is a normal part of life, monetary systems often take this competition too far. Within a society, competition can sort out what person is best suited for particular jobs, and everyone benefits in the end to have this done properly. But if competition hurts potentially valuable people, everyone is hurt by this loss. When only a few people win huge amounts of control over resources with money, it is clear that statistically, such winner take all systems are likely to be hurting others with good abilities. In addition, winning this control can involve luck more than merit. It very often comes from exploiting resources unsustainably, including human resources. Being rich may also have nothing at all to do with merit in that the money is inherited. So it becomes clear that this method of finding the best in society is seriously flawed. Having incompetent people in charge of large amounts of resources can be a serious danger to everyone.

Another extremely serious flaw of monetary systems is that they inherently push unsustainable behavior. Abundant things are measured as cheap, and cheap things are not conserved in ways that would preserve the abundance. People often reproduce freely on “cheap” resources, and then find themselves trapped with overpopulation and resources no longer cheap. On the selling side of the money game, if someone conserves resources, they will not bring as much to the market, cannot sell as cheaply as someone who ignores conservation, and they are very likely to go out of business, lose everything, and end up working for people who don’t conserve. Conservationists are not rewarded in the money game. Blindness and ruthlessness are rewarded. This feature of money market systems makes it long term engine of destruction. It might take many generations to fully destroy some resources. Eventually, however, on a finite planet the system must find ways to expand off the planet, or self destruct. The rewards of blindness and ruthlessness, are temporary.

Monetary systems have other inefficiencies. They constantly struggle with counterfeiting. They struggle in vain to avoid inflation and deflation as the money supply does not match fluctuating resources. No way has been found to fairly put more money into circulation or take it out- and the rich people who get in control of this generally do not even try to be fair about it. Inflation is the general trend as resources are used up but the same amount of money, or more, is in circulation. There is an energy cost to simply making money. There is a large amount of energy spent accounting because the units are not stable.

All of this makes monetary systems inefficient, unstable, and unsustainable. But since people, both rich and poor, generally refuse to be scientific about it, the system continues. The poor often like the system even though they are exploited by it, because they have dreams of doing a little better, or a lot better. Also the production of things with unsustainable resource use can be just as attractive to the poor as to the rich. Mystical beliefs are common. Another thing that locks the system in place, is because just as conservative individuals fail inside the system, competitive conservative systems tend to be crushed by it as it grows. The only thing that seems likely to destroy it is itself. However, as I go over at the end, this might be given a psychological kick in the rear to help it along.

Often it is argued that while it is not a perfect system, there is no alternative. But this is not true, and I think this is more because most people don’t bother looking, than anything else. All that has to be done is notice these principles, that people must live by teamwork, that value can be scientifically measured with food EROEI and the sustainability of that ratio. And it can also be noticed that evolution has over and over selected a model for complex exchange systems, in how individual bodies are organized. Each specialized part of the body is basically trading its particular goods or services, to the whole rest of the body. There is no bartering solely between specialized organs. That would be far too cumbersome for a body to function, just as it is too cumbersome for specialized individuals to manage by bartering. But such awkwardness vanishes if specialized individuals barter their abilities to the team, which in turn has the ability to collect the variety of resources all the individuals need.

Nor does it have to end with small groups of people. Just as you have the teamwork of organelles in a cell, and cells in turn team together to make body organs, and groups of organs form an individual, and teams of individuals form social groups, yet another level is groups of individuals specializing like organs, and exchanging their goods or services with groups of other specialized groups.

Interestingly, monetary systems do the latter kinds of grouping. The problem is the system of values.

4. The fourth and last principle to be aware of with all this, is evolution. While a conservative system cannot be formed while the cancerous one is growing, as it fails a window of opportunity should arise to set up new systems in its declining moments. And in theory, once established, the conservative system might then prevent cancerous growth from happening again.

There is quite likely precedent for this sort of evolution to be seen in the existence of complex organisms. In the evolution of life, single celled organisms came first, and reproduced without any limits to growth. Growth is a fundamental part of life, it is simply adding one element to another via chemical attraction. Mechanisms to limit growth are necessarily secondary to this process. But how would cells with such limited growth mechanisms, ever compete? They could compete by linking up to make complex organisms that used resources more efficiently. A single cell that has good capability of moving around to find food, might team up with another cell that doesn’t have such good ability for movement but has better ability to efficiently digest and use food. Yet another cell might have good abilities to sense where food is, but limited abilities to move and to utilize it. Together, they work better than separately- but they must share resources fairly or the system falls apart, and mechanisms to limit cell growth are part of that appropriate sharing of resources. If mechanisms for limiting exist, however primitive they might have been at the beginning, the complex organism formed could compete, and especially could compete in situations of relative scarcity that would periodically come from the extreme up and down cycles of non limiting organisms. Efficiency in getting and using resources is not as important when resources are abundant, as they are when resources are scarce. While complex organisms have not completely abolished simple, cancerous growth models, and probably never will, immune systems are felt to generally be quite successful at recognizing it and destroying it within a body. It is only when the immune system fails at this job, that cancerously growing cells can overtake and kill a complex organism.

It is ironic that complex organisms can themselves become cancerous on the species level, but again, mechanisms for limits to growth would necessarily be a secondary feature added to a complex organism. Obviously, ecosystems have grown to provide limits to growth of the species that make them up. The problem is that humans have found ways around these limits. Logically we must limit ourselves or we face the real danger of extinction. If only a few have the emotional programming needed to limit themselves and thus make themselves more efficient working with others, they have greater odds of surviving the scarcity caused by relatively selfish behavior that creates the scarcity.

So there are the main three basic principles. Science, interdependence, and food EROEI and the sustainability of that ratio are the first basic principles. And finally evolution, as the way in which a society consciously based on these first principles, might logically come into existence.

Let’s go over some more details of how various things fit into this. How does reproduction fit into all this, with some more detail? Well, very simply, the same as everything else, couples barter with the group to have a child. The group says yes or no, and they might have problems with one particular couple but not another, with potential health issues involved. With interdependence, these things are logically an issue for the group.

The amount of reproduction the group and couples would logically want fits into maintaining favorable food EROEI for the group.

It should also be obvious, that population levels also fit into the understanding of using factors of safety. You want to maintain fewer people than average conditions can maintain. Our life cycle is too long to quickly and easily adjust population to rapidly changing conditions.

There are other angles to look at reproduction and evolution, that support all this. Selection for ways of reproduction that are more effective is very common. Animals that breed seasonally, for example, have been selected because they did not waste themselves trying to have babies during the middle of winter or the middle of a dry season. With animals, mechanisms of cues for when to mate, can involve things like light levels and moisture levels. But it does not matter what the mechanism is; only that it works. The mechanism I see working here, is the ability to use the neocortex to look ahead, and that the emotional strength to respect the neo cortex calculations is strong enough override, at need, older instincts about reproduction.

However, there is a problem here of timing. Knowing when the collapse is coming is very important in order to make rational decisions about this. Having the ability and desire to control reproduction, does not mean that one should not reproduce. But while the collapse of complex systems can be easy to predict in general terms, making exact predictions of timing can be virtually impossible. If a system is using vital resources at unsustainable rates, destroying carrying capacity at the same time that it grows, collapse is easy to predict. But to say precisely when it will collapse is a completely different matter. Yet it needs to be known if one is going to make rational reproductive decisions with regard to it. I intend to deal with this problem, as I feel there is a solution, but I will do so later on.

In a collapse of current society, common methods of birth control will not be available, and in times of stress like these, it would probably not be a good time to experiment with methods that use very little technology. While some people should be able to control their sexual impulses enough to stop having intercourse, it is far less likely, if they are healthy and fed enough, that they will be able to turn off sexual impulses entirely. People in this situation are going to masturbate. It isn’t the ideal solution with regards to energy use, but it seems doubtful to me that any bigger evolutionary step can be made at this time. Of course, in emergency situations where the adrenaline is flowing and food is scarce, sex not likely to be on anyone’s mind. But if a collapse took two or three years to be triggered, and then lasted another several years, there could well be fluctuations of food supply that have people feeling well enough for sex, though the situation is still not nearly stable enough to consider having children.

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Another problem I’d like to address in a little more detail here with regards to these principles is agriculture. Human beings have some very serious problems with agriculture. People generally love annual crops. Annual crops have been easily selected to get rid of unpleasant tastes often found in wild plants. The feature of annual crops in having a life cycle where the plant dies and puts a great deal of its solar energy conversion into seeds and tubers, is also very attractive. The fundamental problem is that annual crops inherently do not have a large root system. It starts out at zero with a seed or tuber in bare soil, and at the peak of growth the root system is still small compared to perennial plants. Such small root systems are inherently bad at recycling plant nutrients, and are also poor at holding soil against erosion. Annual plants are also relatively smaller above ground, and so are poor at producing large amounts of dead vegetation that prevent impact erosion and create huge sponges to soak up rainfall. This slows runoff, slows erosion by gullies, and gives the much larger, denser root system even more time to recycle nutrients.

Many people talk about organic farming of annuals as being sustainable, but except in some relatively rare geographic circumstances, this makes no sense. Organic farming of annuals is merely taking nutrients from one plot of land to feed the cultivated plot of annuals. This generally has to be done, even with recycling as much as possible, because of the inherently poor ability of annuals to recycle. And while the manure and/or green manure may well be taken from land under perennials, perennials are not a magical source of nutrients. The soil they are living in gets depleted to continually take away nutrients.

There are ways in which nutrients can be naturally replaced, with breakdown of rocks, and ultimately tectonic forces are lifting sea beds up into mountains. Healthy ecosystems can also move nutrients up watersheds. But the rate at which soil nutrients can be replaced with these natural movements can easily be exceeded.

The emotional attraction to annual crops means that these problems are ignored or brushed over, vague beliefs that science will find a way, or that “God will provide”, are invoked. Dealing head on with this issue is something people have refused to do. Again, dealing with it on the basis of what we know to be true, not what we want to be true, would mean radical changes in behavior, in this case with diet. Annual crops would cease to be the mainstay of most diets. Annual plants left to themselves, have a relatively small niche in nature, and the amount of food obtained by them would go down to reflect that small niche.

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Another problem driving many people crazy these days, is health care. How do we look at health care by these scientific principles? The first thing to consider is that it takes a large amount of food energy to grow a new person to be a functioning adult, to replace someone who has died. If health care can prevent premature deaths, they can save a lot of that replacement cost. Since the cost of replacement is so high, groups can spend a lot of food energy and other resources on saving someone, returning them to health, and have it a worthwhile activity. Of course, the care has to be successful in order to get this savings. Merely keeping someone alive but in state unable to be productive in any way, does no one any good. And while the cost of replacement is high, it is not infinite.

And no different than has been observed today, prevention of problems generally has even better returns than giving care to people after they have gotten hurt in some way

It also has to be noticed that some people are easier to replace than others. Education is resource expensive. To educate one person to fill a job, usually means educating several, because not all of them will go the distance. With education systems we are running a moderate level of competition to sort people out, which has an energy expense. So with health care, we notice that this scientific society is not completely egalitarian. Some people represent greater potential loss to the group than others, and are worth more protection. This should not be surprising when we consider the model of the individual body, where the different organs have similar ranges of value. The heart is a lot more important than fingers and toes, for example, and is better protected. People will instinctively throw up their hands to protect eyes and the brain, instinctively ready to sacrifice hands to keep these other organs intact. Particularly as human society gets more specialized, similar differences of value can pop up between people. But at the same time, no sane person treats his hands and feet as easily expendable. They are still highly valued and protected.

The least valuable of society, are worth more than to be set to living on and in garbage and trash, often starving, exposed to the elements and diseases. Only a very sick person treats their body with carelessness, and only a very sick society treats their least valuable members with such little care. There is an interesting parallel where addicts often seriously neglect their bodies, abuse them in the attraction to a drug. Addiction can easily be seen as basically any attraction that has grown to such levels that other vital things are neglected or even deliberately abused. Complex organisms have many different needs to be filled and focusing too strongly on one or more and neglecting others, always causes problems. Addiction perfectly describes a lot of current human behavior and social problems.

Another thing with measuring health care values this way, that is completely different from what happens in monetary systems, is that people gain in value as they grow from conception, and reach the height of value as adults who have mastered a job, and then they slowly lose value as they age and lose their ability to function. It makes little sense to pour resources into trying to heal someone who is old and is going to die soon regardless of the amount of care given them. In a monetary system, old people tend to have the most money, and get the most care, which is crazy from an energy standpoint. A society that wastes resources on the nearly dead is leaving itself vulnerable to being unable to take care of more objectively valuable people. Only a society that imagines itself to have infinite resources can behave as current industrial societies have with health care.

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Something that people often ask about, is how artwork might be valued in this system. I put artwork in a more general category of entertainment. Entertainment can have value for people in a lot of situations. It helps people relax, rest, and come back ready for more work. However, the more stressed people are by their work, the more entertainment they are likely to want. Less stress means less need for entertainment. And even in highly stressed situations, entertainment can be very cheap in food energy. Jokes, singing, simple reenactments of history where much is left to the imagination of viewers, are things that do not cost much food energy.

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So, this briefly covers some of the main problems with agriculture, reproduction, health care, entertainment. A lot more could be said about these things, of course, but space does not allow it. The big thing I want to go over next is the loose end with reproduction and timing. Timing is a serious problem. Knowing even roughly when a collapse is likely to start could be very helpful to surviving it, and people cannot put off reproduction for too long. A collapse that went very slowly, lasting decades, could destroy any advantage of putting reproduction off.

There is an answer to both of these problems, and it has to do with common human psychology. People generally hate to look unreasonable, they hate to look stupid. Leaders are especially vulnerable to this. But obviously instinctive drives push most very strongly to do objectively irrational, stupid things. When very simple, fundamental observations about reality are made, people can be put under terrific mental stress, their brains pushing two very contradictory behaviors. This state cannot generally last, it is unstable. It eventually breaks to one side or the other. The genetic potential for growing greater neural strength for one side or the other will prevail. A person will start acting more rationally, or they break the other way and start behaving even more irrationally, with greater fanaticism in their behavior. And the latter behavior is very apt to be self destructive, again, especially when it involves leaders and followers, much more quickly self destructive than would otherwise happen.

In a world with thousands of weapons of mass destruction, combined with a huge overpopulation that is vitally dependent on world trade in finite resources, wars launched in fanatical desperation, using weapons of mass destruction, pose a very serious danger. Cutting off or crippling world trade in food, fuel, fertilizer, metals, machine parts, could put many millions in danger of immediate starvation, and put billions in danger of starvation within a year. It does not seem unreasonable to expect waves of violence to propagate from initial large acts, given this situation

This looks extremely likely to happen whether fundamental arguments are made widely or not. But if the fundamental arguments are widely made, it can find the people who can hear, and push the rest over that edge of desperate fanaticism much quicker. It would be a trigger and would also get things over with much quicker, as well. And since there are an unlimited number of things to believe in if evidence is ignored, all these desperately crazy people are not unified enough to make large exchanges of weapons of mass destruction. Some are likely to be used, but mostly the end would be an implosion rather than an explosion.

So telling people the objective truth about fundamental things can potentially solve many problems simultaneously. It finds those with the potential for some rational self control, it makes the rest insane and divides them so they self destruct in the safest way possible. And it solves the problem of timing. Instead of waiting for something to trigger this growing instability, we trigger it. And at the same time, we shorten the days that the collapse is likely to last.

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This is a very basic look at my understandings. Many more observations about all this can be made. One can go a lot more deeply into all of these issues and others. I have studied and thought about things more deeply and widely than I’ve written here, and I think others can take it much further than I have gone. But in the limited space here, this seems like a good start, will hopefully provoke some thought, discussion, and action.

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Arthur Noll’s formal education culminated with a bachelor of mechanical engineering technology, from Northeastern University in Boston. A philosophical determinist, he has worked in fossil fuel-based industry and a wind turbine company. He’s been a framing carpenter and built a passive solar house, as well as a fabric-covered yurt in which he lived for three years in northern New England. He’s experimented with growing crops and tending animals, and he’s herded goats, worked with draft horses and donkeys, and helped with the chores and haymaking on a commercial dairy farm. He’s been a substitute teacher, maintenance man for an apartment complex, and home remodeler, and has been credited with several minor inventions related to appropriate technology, which may or may not have practical use in the end. He’s had relationships with women and has helped raise children, though none of his own.

Interspersed with these eclectic pursuits have come some very difficult challenges related to Arthur’s health. He was finally diagnosed with celiac disease, a process from which he learned a lot about health, wellness, and philosophy. He doesn’t recommend his parents’ approach (Christian Science) or many of the poorly thought-out failures of his own. Contemporary medical science was hardly a shining exemplar, either. His experiences with Christian Science taught him about the problems of fanatical religious belief, and the danger of trying to please people who you might love but are basically insane. But his own failures taught him very painfully about being sure your facts are lined up correctly. He explained a little about the health-care system above, in his essay.

Arthur has been fascinated with understanding how things work since a child. When things did not make sense, he’s pursued his propensity to gnaw on them, off and on, for decades. This was the case with most topics in the essay above. He started thinking about some of these problems as a child of 10 to 12, and did not get satisfactory understandings and solutions until his mid to late thirties.

Comments 125

  • I too thought there must be ways for mankind as a species to survive. But why?

    The reason(s) usually proffered are in the realm of the exclusive possession of intellect, and even sentience.

    But sentience is manifest in animals, too: it is common knowledge that there are stories of animals sensing earthquakes, tsunamis, and (remotely) death of or danger to their owners, etc.

    With regard to intellect, animal nerve cells (including those in our brains) function at speeds measured in milliseconds. What if there are equivalent processes that run at speeds better measured in hours or days? The processes would be all but imperceptible to us.

    One candidate could be the underground network of the “honey mushrooms” covering 3.4 square miles and 2,400 (or more) years old. They attack and kill certain trees, but they do so only after the trees have reproduced, reulting in a continuing supply of trees.

    And in science fiction is the intelligent inorganic form, Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud.

  • ‘I do not believe most people, even those we call “doomers” today, have any idea of the massive and unstoppable tsunami of destruction that is coming at us. -victor, part of his extremely sobering and thought provoking commentary.

    the changes coming are unimaginable, victor et al. how can one have any idea what it’s like to starve, or be victim of violence, etc., without previous experience?

    more victor: ‘I don’t share your views on children. Whilst no one wants a child to suffer and/or die, that is no reason to prevent their life.’

    i think perhaps here different life experiences account for different viewpoints. i can only speak for myself fully here. i have often wished i’d never been born. my life has usually been like it is now: unhappy and unfulfilling. u, victor, on the other hand, seem to have and had a better life. i take it u’re happily married, among other things. u have probably rarely if ever rued the day u were born. therefore perhaps it’s only natural u find it hard to identify with those now and in the future who will have abundant reasons to rue their lives.

    victor again- ‘We must bring children into the world before and after the Bottleneck. The future of humanity depends upon that’

    there’ll be plenty of fools having children at all times, victor. no need to fear about that, nor is there any need to encourage more to do so. here u’re exhibiting the same crazy split-personality disorder i’ve pointed out in others. u acknowledge and detail so very well how life will soon be a living hell for virtually all, including those who have done their best to prepare, but u can’t acknowledge the immorality of creating a life that will become a part of this living hell.

    ‘TVT: thanks for the chuckle. I’m happy to be TSDH. :-)’ ….

    u’re welcome, tsdh. and with this: ‘Have a surreally great day everyone!’ u just returned the favor, twice over.

  • here u’re exhibiting the same crazy split-personality disorder i’ve pointed out in others

    TVT

    I take that criticism on board. I understand your position and I agree that there is an element of seeming contradiction there. I suppose my point was that if we are to survive this, we have no choice but to have children. We will have children before the Bottleneck because that is what we do – that is “surreality”. We will have children after the Bottleneck because that is surreality as well. There are basically two reasons for this – we have an innate drive to survive, and to survive means children. Though I recognise the horrors of the Bottleneck itself, which is what I described, I also recognise both the desire on my part for people survive that, but I also recognise the particular fitness of young people to do just that – survive. If we have no young people, we will not survive.

    Recognising approaching disaster and knowing that many will suffer and perish is not reason enough in my mind for humanity to commit suicide by not having children. It rather represents an opportunity to learn from our violent and excessive past and to create a new way of life, a return to the bounds of Nature (in our case, a forced return!).

  • u, victor, on the other hand, seem to have and had a better life.

    In many ways you are correct. I have never suffered real hunger or thirst. I have always received medical care when needed. I have nearly always had shelter over my head. I was given opportunity for a higher education (if one wishes to classify that as “education” and/or “higher”). I had a successful career with a major corporation. I have children and grandchildren.

    I am currently housed, clothed and fed adequately. My life is a constant and satisfying pursuit of knowledge. It is so because I am blessed with not having to forage for food, water and shelter every day of life like so many of my brothers and sisters of this world.

    My early years as a teen and a young man were not happy at all – indeed, I see many similarities between yourself and me when I was young, probably for different reasons perhaps.

    So in the end I can not complain about my life to this point. When compared to Kathy’s children in Haiti and so many deprived parts of the world, I am truly thankful for the relative life of ease I have been afforded. I have struggles and will continue to have struggles, even more so as I see what is coming my way so clearly now that I wonder that I am able to maintain a bit of sanity. It is almost like the person who has been given a vision of the means and the time of his death – he must now live with that knowledge through his remaining life.

  • Victor:

    You wrote: “Actually, Arthur, I think your herding suggestion is exceptional. With a couple of good dogs and a small herd of sheep, goats and perhaps a few cattle and a horse or two, a family or small tribe could have a chance.”

    Count me out on that deal.

    Access to fresh water and pasture would be the least of your problems.

    The goats beat up the sheep. The cattle beat up the goats and sheep. The horse kicks and bites the hell out of everyone. The dogs, thrilled with the frenzy, run the lot to exhaustion (whether you order them to stop or not).

    At the end of the day, the cows and goats have little milk to give, the sheep are missing whole swathes of wool,and the horse has learned its teeth and hooves are King. (The dogs sleep well.)

    So you tie up the dogs, tether the horse, separate out the cows, and pray the goats and sheep (eventually) buddy up (fat chance!).

    Now there’re four groups of animals to feed and water and protect.

    A thief would be a relief.

  • Thanks Resa. Perhaps I got a bit carried away in my enthusiasm? As usual I am both humbled and returned to reality by your seemingly unlimited expertise…. ;-)

  • I can certainly see where a single family might have a problem with multiple herds as described, but on the other hand, if the tribe is large enough (multiple families), it would seem to me reasonable that multiple herds of varying animals could be supported, could they not?

    It is not necessary that the herds be mixed as you imply.

  • Trial and error, Victor, trial and error.

    Mixed species herds are always a problem. Different social and sexual behaviours. Different eating habits. Different sleeping preferences. Even mixed herds that grow up together. Lord forbid you introduce a “stranger.”

    If I had to convert to a herding lifestyle, I’d narrow down the number of species.

    Probably do so even as a small nomatic tribe.

    Once you start divying up tribe members to care for different species you’ve effectively scattered the tribe. I have to wonder how long the tribe remains intact, especially if conditions are stressed and different species are competing for diminishing food sources(such as during an extended dry spell or overwintering). Who wins? The tribe member with the milk cows or the tribe member with the sheep? The tribe member with six kids to provide herd care and protection, or the tribe member with none?

    Cooperation tends to go down the tubes once disputes emerge.

  • Oops.

    “small nomatic tribe” should be “small nomadic tribe.”

  • “The Devil (Mother Nature) Made Me (us) Do It !”

    The Brain On Trial

    “When your biology changes, so can your decision-making and your desires.

    The drives you take for granted (“I’m a heterosexual/homosexual,” “I’m attracted to children/adults,” “I’m aggressive/not aggressive,” and so on) depend on the intricate details of your neural machinery.

    Although acting on such drives is popularly thought to be a free choice, the most cursory examination of the evidence demonstrates the limits of that assumption.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2011/07/the-brain-on-trial/8520/

    ———————

    Scientists Discover Mother Monkeys Who Kill Their Babies

    Infanticide is disturbingly common in nature, typically committed by males that take over a pride or pack and kill whatever babies are present to make room for the ones they plan to father.

    It’s not nearly as common for parents to behave as murderously toward their own babies, and it’s much rarer still for mothers to be the attacker – especially among primates.

    Now, a study in the journal Primates has revealed that in a species of monkey known as mustached tamarins, the mamas can be a deadly menace indeed – and their infanticidal tendencies can provide some insight into human behavior too. (See pictures of the primate species facing extinction.)

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110615/hl_time/08599207678600;_ylt=AqmsPXxi7uBWbMexUgM00M2s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNraGZqbDFyBGFzc2V0A3RpbWUvMjAxMTA2MTUvMDg1OTkyMDc2Nzg2MDAEY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwM5BHBvcwM2BHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5faGVhZGxpbmVfbGlzdARzbGsDc2NpZW50aXN0c2Rp
    ———

  • Peter Singer has an interesting op-ed/review on Truthout today, defending moral objectivism against relativism. If I understand him correctly, he’s saying that right and wrong exist as absolutes, independent of context.

  • John,

    “Unless he can show that objectivism is true, he believes, nothing matters.”

    … What we gain from Parfit’s work is the possibility of defending these and other moral claims as objective truths.”

    What is the difference between a politician, a professional wrestler and a bioethicist?

  • navid:

    No difference. Put them in the right order and you get Jesse Ventura.

  • Not to upstage Peter Singer’s opinion piece on Truthout, but while on that webpage, check out Timothy Wise’s op review on “What Food Crisis? Measuring Global Hunger.”

    I’ve often questioned the validity of 1 billion starving people, not because I know any better, but because the numbers haven’t always added up.

    Anyway, some interesting issues are raised.

    I have no desire to underscore the importantce of global food insecurity, but I wouldn’t mind better understanding it’s implications, especially from the perspective of a North American farmer. I do have a field of wheat headed overseas.

  • LOL John. Yes, Jesse is just an honorary degree away.

  • Some comments on Resa’s points about perennial grains and growing annuals without draft animals, fossil fuel.

    Perennial grains exist but they are not significantly used because there are some serious physical problems. They yield significantly less, for one big one. Wes Jackson has worked on this for years but I do not expect him or anyone else to improve things. You have a certain leaf area possible on a plant, and that gives an energy budget for a growing season. The plant can put that energy into a large root system that is going to overwinter or live through dry seasons, or it can instead have a bigger crop of seeds. It is hard to do both with a small energy budget, as you have with a small grass plant. And a perennial grass that is bred to put a lot of energy into seeds and can do that under ideal conditions, won’t do so well with less than ideal conditions that often prevail. They won’t compete with wild perennial grasses that put less energy into seeds. You could end up faced with the problem of continually needing to plow up competition of wild grasses and start over, which can defeat the purpose of trying to breed perennial grains. Wes Jackson has thought that perhaps if you only had to plow every 7 or 8 years, it might work out, but when you start thinking about animal competition, and the problem of insects and diseases working on monocultures, I think the whole thing starts to look very dubious. It certainly isn’t an answer to the current population.

    Woody plants can produce quite large harvests because they get much bigger, have a larger energy budget to work with, and don’t have to regrow all their leaf support system every year. But as mentioned here, woody perennials can take some time to grow before they start producing very much. And as I’ve said, the problems of monocultures and competition for what they produce, also mean to me that they are unlikely to support large human populations. Which are themselves vulnerable to the problems of disease.

    With regard to you, Resa, and your claim of growing annual grains without draft animals or fossil fuels, and thinking you have a sustainable situation, I have to shake my head. Somehow I don’t think so, having lived many years with animals like goats and cows myself. Sure, you hold them in a pen long enough and they will eat and trample everything to death. And since there is very quickly not enough for them to eat while doing that, especially for five months, this means you are feeding them from outside the pen. Where did your feed come from? What is maintaining the long term fertility of that soil? And did you cut it with a scythe smelted and beaten out with charcoal, rake it with a wooden hand rake, haul it to the cows in a hand cart made with similar levels of technology? Or did you use a tractor and haymaking-silage making machinery, or buy feed from people using such equipment?

    And even when people cut hay with scythes and hand raked it, they generally used draft animals to haul it. I have to view this claim of no fossil fuels or draft animals used or needed here, with extreme skepticism. Just because your probable use of this machinery and fuel wasn’t directly used in growing these crops, doesn’t mean it isn’t vital to the process, and the long term sustainability of taking from plot A to feed plot B, also is involved. I can’t help but severely question this claim.

    And your comment about how you wouldn’t miss the deer, is something that caught my attention. When I was herding a few goats, I saw very quickly how similar to deer they were. I already knew this, but it ceased to be abstract knowledge. And in a real sense, I became part of the goat herd, and we were both becoming part of the wild in how we were behaving. Going feral. While I wasn’t completely dependent on living this way, hadn’t stepped into the wild completely, I could see how going completely feral would be a relatively short step, and could be done if I had the cooperation of enough other people. And probably a different species of animal, goats did not fit the climate of Maine well enough. I did not own the goats, had very little resources, and could not get cooperation from other people, so it could go no further. But I liked being part of nature like this, I wanted to take that step to go completely feral. The farming mentality all around me prevented that.

    Having had this experience, though, your attitude also goes beyond the abstract in another way- I can practically feel the gunsights on me with such words. Having been an intimate part of the rest of nature, even though it was only the warm months for about 9 years, was enough that I still feel part of it, and would like to return. But it is attitudes like yours that prevent me from that, would casually let it all die or even actively kill it as worthless. What I love and feel intimately a part of, is what you so casually talk about destroying. Hmm.

    Well, it isn’t something to get too upset about, because I don’t believe for a minute that you actually have a sustainable system going on, and that could easily do you in. Or you might listen to what I’ve said here, realized that you were fooling yourself about having a sustainable system, and come to value nature a lot more. Doesn’t seem likely, but what I do I know? Either way, the problem will be solved.

    Arthur

  • Also, Resa, looking at a later post, the problem you talk about is precisely something I thought about when herding the goats. Being dependent on one kind of animal didn’t seem wise, but you have hit the problem exactly- different kinds of animals eat differently, behave differently. That is another reason why I see the need for groups of people to work together. I tried to feed the goats and a pair of donkeys together a few times, and it was too much, they wanted to go different directions. The donkeys also much preferred to stay in the shade all day and graze all night, while the goats were ok with twice a day morning and evening, stuffing themselves to bursting and then chewing their cuds.
    Also had a sheep for a time, and it wouldn’t go with the goats, it fancied hanging out with the cows. I know that goats and sheep are often herded together, though. Growing up together is probably the difference.
    The cows seemed to have a more random schedule, they could be found eating or chewing their cuds at any time of the day or night.

    If I was spending time out with the goats, I wasn’t so able to take care of the milk. So someone needs to do that. It also wasn’t very practical to do a lot of gathering. I could do some, and I could notice when things were getting ripe, but the goats really liked me gathering a bit too much. I was getting stuff off that tree for them, wasn’t I? I couldn’t turn my back on them, couldn’t leave a basket or bag of stuff for even a moment, or they would be into it. I’d generally see what was getting ripe and go back later. To be able to have others helping would have been a big advantage.
    I would sit on a one legged stool and plait donkey harness, which eventually worked pretty well. I also would spin wool on a drop spindle, knit it, but while I developed some skill at this and what I made added up, it would have needed more and faster hands than mine, to keep clothes on me. I was learning something about tanning hides, and see that as having pretty good potential, though I was never satisfied with my efforts. “Breaking” a small hide, working it until it is soft, might be something you could do while watching the animals, but not a big one. Other tanning operations would not be practical while watching them. Some kinds of carving can also be done, but I mostly saved any woodworking I wanted to do for other times.
    If people are herding in damaged lands or arid or semi arid places, it would be a good idea to have people scout ahead for exactly where you are going next, make sure there is feed and water. That requires more people.
    The problem of controlling breeding has sometimes been done by having herds of male animals going with people in one direction, and the female animals going as a herd into different places. Not a lot different from how it works in the wild for some herbivoires, but again, more people involved. I had to leave our buck back in his pen, he liked to come but he wasn’t producing milk and was somewhat nonchalant about stuffing himself. He didn’t have to eat so much and would get interested in chasing the does or challenging me for his right to do that. I have a book on herding goats free, and the man says to take the buck by the horns and put him on the ground like bulldogging a steer, and he will leave you alone. Yes, he will leave you alone, but not very long, in my experience. It isn’t a lesson that stuck very well on any buck I tried it on. Maybe someone knows better how to deal with this, but from what I’ve read from other sources, they have been taken out separately and from my experience that is what I’d try.
    There is no way that I see this working without the close cooperation of groups of people. That is why I wrote as the second principle, interdependence, team work.

  • I know the next thread has been opened, but I am very interested in Resa and Arthur’s comments about herding animals. I graze multi-species of animals (cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of guard alpacas) together. That works very well most of the time. I’m just nervous around lambing and kidding time when the tiny babies quite happily put themselves under the hooves of the cows and occasionally get trodden on. However, I can imagine it might be different trying to herd them. Yet with a couple of good dogs, it could probably be done. Once the animals learn the boundaries imposed by the dogs, I would have thought they’d respect them as well as they respect the electric fence.

  • Thanks, Arthur, for your comments.

    Agreed. Perennial grains currently yield significantly less than annuals. I noted that several times in my comments. There would need to be significant R&D done before perennials could hope to compete with annual grains at the market level. Washington State University has a perennial wheat breeding program. Some of their lines yield about 60% of local annual varieties.

    I have to disagree with your plant energy budget limitation, however. Yes, wild perennials are genetically programmed to allocate a greater slice of their energy budget to a larger root system in order to withstand years of survival. In general, that results in a smaller sized seed and/or a smaller seed crop. However, in a managed, domesticated environment, not all those survival processes are needed and with recent advances in plant breeding techniques (not that I advocate some of them) the energy allocated to those “excess” processes can be reallocated to other parts of the plant, such as larger seeds or increased seed production. Plants are flexible. They respond to selective force. In addition, domesticated perennial grains would (probably) have a shorter lifespan than their wild predecessors. I live in a major seed production area. It is seldom that a perennial grass (or legume) field is cropped for longer than three years before being replaced with something else. There are many reasons for this, which I won’t go into in this response.

    In regards to sustainability, I said “I know how to raise enough meat and milk and vegetables and eggs and fruit and grains for those under my responsibility and can do so in a sustainable fashion.” Nowhere in that statement do I say that I use no fossil fuels or draft animals.

    Sustainable agriculture is the integrated practice of plant and animal production to satisfy food and fiber needs over the long term utilizing the most efficient use of non-renewable resources. (I suspect your definition differs.)

    In the interest of maintaining pasture health, I confine my livestock during the winter months. Cows are big, heavy animals. My winters are very wet. My soil has no rock. Allowing my stock to over-winter on grass would destroy the fields. Their hay comes off two plots, one adjacent to the barn and the second about 500 feet away. All the fields are a perennial grass/legume mix. The last thing any of those fields need is additional fertilizer. My cows are for my own use. So is the hay. Neither leaves the property. I have several scythes and sickles, which I use all spring and summer to keep grass under control around the house and barns and garden. But for haying, a 50-year-old tractor with equally aged implements does the job. It burns a couple gallons of gas. I only take one crop off the hay fields so that the grasses and clovers have an opportunity to regenerate. The livestock is rotated between four fields. What manure they drop in the barn is wheel-barrowed out to the garden beds and fruit trees.

    I will admit to saying, “If, however, you’re interested in raising grains (annual or perennial) for yourself and a few others then doing so is possible without fossil fuels or draft animals,” which is a true statement. With today’s seed, you don’t need a big plot to grow a bushel of wheat. You can turn the ground by hand, broadcast, rake the seed in, water as necessary, cut the heads off by hand, thresh by hand, winnow by hand, and grind by hand. Straw can be hand cut and used for bedding or compost.

    As for my comment about the deer. Yes, if collapse occurred, a dozen hungry people with a dozen gunshots would make short order of the local herd. And no, I wouldn’t miss them. I’ve tolerated their damage upon my berries and grapes and fruit trees for sixteen years. In addition, those deer carry a mite that causes them to lose their hair. Last winter many died of hypothermia. I saw a wasted doe two weeks ago with a set of twins. Both fawns, cute as could be, will be hairless by winter. Nature does indeed deliver the cruelest (and final) blow.

    In summary, my place is sustainable, I do value nature plenty, and I have no delusions about the future.

    I wish you success in your feral ways, although I don’t understand why “you need the cooperation of others” to take that step. If I still had goats (I raised them for years), I’d send you a pair to get started.

    You wouldn’t need to return them.

    BTW: controlling breeding by having herds of male animals going with people in one direction, and sending herds of female animals in the opposite direction is, to say the least, a recipe for failure if you think you can keep a hormone-driven male from a receptive female. They better be a looooooooong distance apart and well out of scent or hearing range to be effective. I doubt it would work well. Those wild herds of same sex herbivores generally occur outside the rutting season.

  • Nicole:

    You sound like a reasonable person, so even though it’s the weekend and I have a ton of (sustainable) work to do, I’ll take a few minutes to discuss herding livestock. If I appear blunt it’s because I’m a bottom-line-it type of individual. I’ve been told that my personality would never cut it in the Southern states were preamble is revered. Then again, I’ve never lived in the South, so don’t know how true that statement is. I’m sure some southern NBLers could set me straight.

    I’ve grazed multi-species of animals together for decades. It’s a royal pain in the butt. I’m currently down to a single species (cattle) because I need a break from the bickering.

    I’m enjoying the break.

    I always had to separate out the horses. The llamas, cattle, goats and sheep tolerated each other reasonably well as long as they had plenty to eat and plenty of room to get out of each other’s way. Even then they were never a content and cohesive bunch. Even when they’d been raised together from birth. Somebody was always beating up on someone else, and yes, a 1500-pound cow with horns is smart enough to figure out it’s not a sheep or a llama or a goat, and its size and weight are good for something other than a side of beef. My electric fence, however, (thank God for electric fence) kept them constrained once they’d been conditioned to respect it.

    It’s a whole different story once a dog (predator beast) gets involved and the cattle and horses and llamas and goats and sheep are in strange territory and have no electric fence confining them (which is basically what herding is … moving animals around unconstrained in new territory … every day … all year round). I’ve had cats scatter the hell out of everyone because one animal freaked and took everybody else with it. A well-trained dog (or even two well-trained dogs) cannot contain a half-dozen different species going in a half-dozen different directions simultaneously.

    Each species has a different flight / defense / herding pattern.

    I’ve tethered out horses and cattle day in and day out for months at a time as a kid to keep them fed. It’s major work. Never again.

    I’ve searched down animals that have scattered (and vanished) in open and wooded areas. Again, major work. Never again.

    So, yes, I’m passing on the multi-species herding lifestyle. But don’t let my experiences sway you if you want to give it a go. I don’t know your animals. I don’t know your dogs. I don’t know your herding environment.

  • Thanks for that Resa. Herding sounds to be a completely different kettle of fish to having electric fences. Damn! I thought we’d be able to do it. I’ve had trouble keeping horses with our other animals even in the electric fence system. Total chaos!

  • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Resa. Last things first, in what I’m thinking of, I’m not thinking of doing a lot of control of the breeding. Mostly what I’m looking at is control of the males during the non breeding season. If I took a buck out with the does in the off season, they saw me as the head buck, and continually wanted to challenge me on that. Since it was the off season, it was more play fighting than real, but extremely annoying and potentially dangerous behavior nonetheless, and if you let them do what they wanted, they chased the does and wouldn’t let them eat. I’d bulldog him, and in ten minutes he’d be back, saying in effect, I think I can take you, wanna see? Come on, lets tussle, I think you are a wimp, you can’t take me, I know it, can’t you do any better than that? and pushing his head on me or my staff, harder and harder. All memory of being put onto the ground ten minutes ago completely forgotten. Maybe a squirt bottle would have worked, I never thought to try that. But it wasn’t enough to get him off me, I also had to stop him from chasing the does. I could whack him with my stick and send him away and he’d chase does. I’d stop him from doing that and he would challenge me again.
    I thought once that two young bucks might occupy each other, but that didn’t work. They both chased does, they both saw me as head buck, they didn’t bother with each other very much.
    In nature, I think there would be one head buck and he’d chase away the rest on threat of death. I’ve mused that I probably needed to be a lot tougher than to wrestle a buck to the ground. He needed to be chased off with a stick, chased away from the herd in fear of his life- but then where is he going to go? I’m not really as uncaring as a head buck would be. I want this guy alive, he may actually be my head buck as far as really breeding. He needs to go to a bachelor herd, that is separate from the does, and someone else needs to be with them.

    During breeding season, I agree, you will not likely keep them apart. I’ve had does in heat leave the herd, run alone for a half a mile or more, something they would normally never do, they’d be terrified to go so far alone, then go through an electric fence- though they they will do that just for attractive food- and stand outside the buck’s pen- which had to be very solid. I’ve heard lots of similar stories from others about other kinds of animals. Horses that are generally a lot more respective of electric fence than goats, but I knew someone who had a mare in heat going through more than one fence of it, for example. I’ve heard of a buck breaking a 2×6 to get out and saw the broken lumber. I understand very well this is a problem.

    In fact, one of the reasons I felt that goats were not suited for Maine, was the great difficulty of controlling timing of breeding and births, with this problem. For their five month gestation, breeding in the early fall, as they would start cycling then, would be giving babies in the middle of winter. Babies in the middle of winter- my family was wanting to do that to have more milk to sell in the winter, and I felt it was a nightmare. Very easy to lose babies. I remember one I tried to rescue, I spent about 4 or 5 hours holding it in a tub of warm water, it finally warmed up, was standing on its own, drank some colostrum, I left it in a box with bedding near the stove, next morning it was dead. Damn, damn, damn! Years later, I still remember that one. But others never got that far. Winter babies are not at all a good idea as far as I’m concerned. It isn’t the way nature works.
    I wanted to concentrate on bigger animals than goats, bigger animals handle the cold better, and Highlander cattle looked good to me, also felt they could be bred to the seasons easier, but my family was all mixed up on what the heck they were trying to achieve. I wanted to figure out how to live without fossil fuel and was pretty radical about my standards on that, though willing to compromise. I just wanted to know if something was a compromise, and if it was, I was thinking about how to fix it eventually. But others wanted to make money, or my parents just wanted to enjoy being retired. People have to share goals or it just doesn’t work.

    I can’t go feral for several reasons. In no particular order- One. My health is not so great. As I’ve said, celiac left some serious marks on me, and I’m 56. People who have been hurt like me, generally don’t live as long as they otherwise might. I think I can do better with what is left of my life by communicating with people about this possibility and about my other ideas about social structure, etc. I’ve learned some things and would like to pass that on. Two, nomadic herding was outlawed in the 1930s, and while current society is in serious turmoil and ability to enforce that could be quickly fading as budgets are cut, for the moment I don’t see that door as open as I’d like. Three, this is not something to do alone, and nobody is yet desperate enough to try it. I think that the desperation and willingness to try, and the opening door of current society failing, will coincide. People still take a lot for granted, they still have hopes that something will be found to let their lives continue as they are. I know that behavior of living on false hopes, I’d done this. It is rather stupid but it is what we tend to do. When backs get put to the wall, then some might make such radical changes, let go of the false hopes, but not before.

    I like the metaphor of how the foxes were selected for flight distance, I think it fits what I want to do quite well. But at the same time, I know it is a more complex situation that how I’ve painted it. I don’t expect anyone to read the principles, talk to me for awhile about them, and then join. That isn’t realistic. People have spent their lives learning how to get to their current niche in life. They know the values of this society, they know dimensions of their job, their coworkers, bosses, customers, they have their families, friends, hobbies. They have accumulated money and sometimes land and houses, farms, businesses. I’m saying that you need to possibly dump all that and start over? Not likely someone anyone is going to do with a brief read and discussion of an alternative. What has to happen is that people feel seriously threatened by losing it all anyway, and they also need time to think about the alternatives, as of course I’m not the only person pushing ideas. What I’m talking about is an unknown. Neither people or animals go unhesitatingly into the unknown, the unknown is always frightening. Anything can be in a dark hole. I remember trying to load a cow into a trailer, and she simply would not go. Friendly cow, you could lead her anywhere, but not that trailer. Finally we realized what the problem was and put a light in there, and she immediately walked in. Well, for what I’m talking about, it is no different, a light needs to be shined. All this recent discussion is about questioning what this path would involve. It is trying to see what might be down this path. And not surprisingly, most have problems with it, but I think it has made some people think a little. And of course, all of you in turn make me exercise my brain in turn. Most of what has been said here is quite familiar to me, but every group is slightly different. There are always individuals to try to see as individuals, try to see if I can explain things better. Sometimes I’m obviously too short, too rude, and often I wish I could draw diagrams and pictures, but I’m stuck with words. Some things like philosophical objections I have very little patience with- perhaps you’ve noticed. ;-) But in any case, the idea is to try and do the very best I can to explain something that has a lot of complex facets to it. And then leave it to percolate. When things do start falling apart to the point that people suddenly realize that this is no longer abstract, but something that must be dealt with, perhaps some of what I’ve said will be remembered. Someone with the status to make views public, might do so, and what I hope for might come about. With status behind me, and peoples backs to the wall, that could make some people make up their minds faster to join or not, but I’d still expect a good bit of thought. I’d think that publishing widely would be the first step, and then follow up by giving the opportunity of people to talk face to face with someone, deal with a human being, not just some writing, and with all that, I think some people would chose to try this. As I think I’ve said, I wouldn’t expect all to succeed, not at all. But I think some could make it work.
    I could write a lot more here, there are lots more topics to discuss, but it seems that it might be enough. I’ll leave all this for folks to think about. If you want to write to me privately, my email is arthurcnollatgmaildotcom. Just use the proper symbols for “at”, and “dot”, of course. ‘Bye for now.

  • i found the end of this thread fascinating and learned a bit, as well as was made to think in new directions. thanks to all, and arthur, i hope u’ll become a regular participant here at nbl.

  • Arthur:

    Glad to see you have some hard experience to back up your words. Most times I deal with the obvious lack of such.

    What you experienced with that head buck is what you’ll experience with other intact males of other species. Potentially dangerous “play” outside of breeding season, serious aggression around receptive females.

    Most breeds of goats and sheep (there are exceptions) are seasonal, which (somewhat) contains the issue. But cattle breed all year round, which means if you have a bull around females coming into heat every three weeks (they’re never synced up) then you have a bull perpetually on the prowl, at least until everyone is bred. Then that first cow calves nine months later and the cycle (promptly) begins again. There isn’t much of a break, and it’s difficult to contain a bull if his hormones dictate he be elsewhere. Personally, I stay out of his way. I also stay out of the way of rams and bucks and stallions. In many respects, females in season or females with young don’t behave much better.

    I’m not a good candidate for your feral program. It would be the last thing I’d attempt in a collapsed world. And not because it frightens me. More importantly, I’d do everything within my power to prevent such a lifestyle, which would work against what you’re trying to accomplish. Thus, even though sustainability may be both your and my goal, we’re not a fit.

    I wish you luck

  • I second the virgin terry. I feel like a kid again, sitting back from the camp fire, pretending to be doing something important so I can listen to the discussion of my much more experienced elders (I remember never to look at them or talk to them, just listen or I’ll be shoo-ed away)…