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Archive for the ‘Ecodemocracy’ Category

In order to solve the current economic crisis we need to put many unemployed and/or underemployed people back to work rebuilding small/medium-sized towns, farms, villages, and hamlets.  There are hundreds if not thousands of small to medium-sized towns across the USA with declining populations that could be revitalized with an influx of people in to them (from America’s overgrown cities) which would revive local/regional markets.  People keep cramming in to cities/suburbs (major metro areas) where the employment market is vastly over-saturated and this only serves to exacerbate employment problems.

Small and medium-sized farms which surround towns and villages should be re-started to provide employment opportunities and secure America’s food supplies for the future.  We should also work to revive local/regional factories and artisan shops in towns and cities, rebuilding America’s domestic manufacturing base.  There are far too many paper shufflers in the American economy and as such we must begin to revive key hands-on industries – agriculture, manufacturing, focus on long-term ecological sustainability, etc – which actually produce things locally and regionally.  The USA manufactures more than it ever has yet industry/manufacturing has become so overmechanized that one machine now does the work that dozens (even hundreds) of people used to do by hand; as such, we may also need to begin to de-mechanize certain manufacturing sectors in order to provide more jobs, i.e. begin to make and produce more things by hand as in the past (artisans of yore like the local butcher, baker, and candlestick maker) instead of relying too much on machinery in far away places.

This economic crisis and only be solved by de-centralization, re-localization, and re-regionalization of people, industry, artisanry, manufacturing, and especially agriculture.  In a mature American market facing the typical and predictable capitalistic crisis of overproduction, oversupply, and overmechanization (along with almost total agricultural and industrial monopolies), so called ‘green collar jobs’ are the only way to fix the current mess now and in the coming decades/centuries.

Cousin Charles’s feeling about the depression is that it serves the “industrialists” right. He pointed out in a magazine article seven years ago that the present trouble with the country was that the cities were getting overgrown – Megalopolis, as Spengler calls it. Strange that it should have been left for a German to diagnose our American disease. But the effect of the depression should be salutary, because it ought to make the government get rid of the high tariff and send people back to the land. There’s always a living on a farm – and he himself has been a dirt farmer, not a white-collar farmer. – http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/White/anthology/tennessee.html

Even the apologists of industrialism have been obliged to admit that some economic evils follow in the wake of the machines. These are such as overproduction, unemployment, and a growing inequality in the distribution of wealth. But the remedies proposed by the apologists are always homeopathic. They expect the evils to disappear when we have bigger and better machines, and more of them. Their remedial programs, therefore, look forward to more industrialism. … Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige-a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may. But an agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers. – http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/White/anthology/agrarian.html

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“Pied Beauty” by G. M. Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:

                                                Práise hím.

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It is increasingly obvious that American suburbs – as well as the suburbs of other nations – are environmentally and socially unsustainable on many levels.  As such, an immediate mass-retrofitting and greening of American suburbs must begin in the coming years due to the increasingly unsustainable American transportation system, food production system, and so on; this retrofitting must begin to transform suburbs again in to centers of production instead of solely centers of consumption.

Each suburban neighborhood must begin to think of itself as a village of sorts, as a semi-self-contained town within a town.  Suburban neighborhoods should immediately begin to incorporate a certain amount of walkable retail space as opposed to solely residential space — a few houses from each neighborhood could be removed to build a few shops or a neighborhood mall of sorts which carry the basics and essential goods and services needed for each neighborhood, i.e. food, tools, childcare, local shops and places of employment, etc.  Each house ought to plant to a garden – or the neighborhood as a whole should have a well-kept community garden or gardens – to supply a steady amount of fresh local produce.  Land surrounding the neighborhood, if available, could be used to raise a certain amount of livestock, thus supplying fresh local meat.  Additionally, as solar panels and wind turbines come down in price due to increased production in the coming years each house ought to also become as self-sufficient as possible in terms of energy production, producing a certain amount of energy on-site via solar panels, windmills, water wheels, and so forth.  The cars found in suburban driveways in coming years ought be filled with electric cars, electric-gas hybrids, 2-seater smart-cars, and other fuel efficient automobiles.  All of this would serve to create jobs and also stimulate lagging local and regional economies.

It is especially essential that suburban retrofitting occurs in the USA in the coming years due to the possibility of shortages of gasoline and fuel as well as the unsustainability of shipping essential foodstuffs thousands of miles for consumption.  Again, it is imperative that each suburban (and urban) neighborhood begin to think of itself as a village of sorts, with consumption at least equaling production as much as possible therein.  This would not only help to revive local and regional economies by producing many millions of local green-collar jobs which are unable to be outsourced but would also increase community cohesion.

The concept known as agriburbia (written about here numerous times before) is beginning to take steps in this direction, though it is not nearly enough in a rapid enough time frame.  The founders of the agriburban movement ought to also focus on retrofitting and greening existing neighborhoods instead of solely building new developments.  Overall it is clear that suburban retrofitting and greening must begin as soon as possible to provide jobs and increase local/regional socio-environmental sustainability.

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As referenced in a recent post, the USA and other nations must begin to build ecovillages, ecotowns, and ecosuburbs for a substantial portion of its population due to the growing instability and over-reach of petroleum-based living systems.  This is especially important for the growing underclass in the USA and elsewhere, not just the middle classes.  This is due to the fact that large numbers of the underclass are in many senses unfit for working and living in any other manner — the modern techno-industrial world has grown too complicated for large numbers of the population (especially the underclass), and thus they must be encouraged to live in ways that are more fit for their skill-set and socio-cultural mindset, i.e. in ecovillages, ecotowns, and ecosuburbs (or ‘agriburbs‘).  Green-collar jobs are the only way forward for a substantial portion of the population and as such many nations must begin to create such jobs en masse as soon as possible.

This large underclass labor pool can be intelligently utilized to repopulate and rebuild various rural and suburban areas, improving and repairing the Earth in many ways by growing or raising local/regional food, improving degraded soils, cleaning up polluted waterways, installing alternative energy sources, replanting and managing forests, rebuilding a local business/artisan base, and overall beginning to work again in many ecologically-focused sectors that have been neglected or forgotten in the past few decades of hyperindustrialism.

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We need to begin building communities such as these all over the USA in appropriate areas ASAP: http://www.myfox8.com/videobeta/ab826a4c-4558-47dd-a27d-0a958e9ce035/News/Buckley-Report-The-Farmstead

An article in the Salisbury Post about the agriburban community being planned in the area: “Agriburbia©: Combining rural living with urban culture

A similar community is currently being planned in another part of NC: Mountmor Farm

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In many respects America is falling behind certain European nations and increasingly various Asian countries when it comes to the physical condition of its cities.  In order to continue being economically and socially competitive the USA must embark upon a major social, political, and economic campaign to clean up and modernize its cities, to bring them up to 21st Century standards.

Due to the current recession there are large number of unemployed/underemployed people in America who could be employed in a multitude of projects to clean up and modernize American cities.  Doing so would ensure a stable supply of jobs for millions of Americans for decades to come, including tearing out the old and building the new, installing solar panels and solar hot water heaters in homes and businesses, setting up more sustainable agriburban communities in appropriate areas, intelligently revamping cities and suburbs to in order to build better public transportation networks, building high speed train lines linking up major cities, and dozens of other green-collar jobs.

Due to neglect or mismanagement over the last few decades many American cities are not as functional or aesthetically pleasing as they ought to be when compared to cities in other countries.  Many of America’s cities are sprawling, auto-dependent, and more suburban in nature than truly urban, and this could be gradually and intelligently modified to help concentrate more people in true urban areas that are cleaner and more efficient than endlessly sprawling suburbs.

Overall it is clear that the USA must embark upon a major 21st Century campaign to clean up and modernize its cities in order to provide a better quality of life for many of its citizens.

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This is just a post mostly for my own future reference as well as for anyone else who might be interested in great writing and important ideas written by a group of erudite, traditional-minded Americans.  The following is the entire introduction to the book I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition published by the Twelve Southerners in 1930.

I referenced the book in a previous post on this blog, and stated that the critical issues raised in the book still loom large even now in 21st Century America (and in other nations which are currently industrializing/urbanizing in modern times).  Especially interesting is the way in which the current milieu of American socioeconomic stagnation and ennui eerily mirrors exactly what was occurring when the book was originally published at the beginning of the Great Depression in 1930.

I am reposting the introductory essay here just in case it one day disappears from the internet entirely and/or the current website containing it goes down for some reason.

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“INTRODUCTION: A STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES”
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THE authors contributing to this book are Southerners, well acquainted with one another and of similar tastes, though not necessarily living in the same physical community, and perhaps only at this moment aware of themselves as a single group of men. By conversation and exchange of letters over a number of years it had developed that they entertained many convictions in common, and it was decided to make a volume in which each one should furnish his views upon a chosen topic. This was the general background. But background and consultation as to the various topics were enough; there was to be no further collaboration. And so no single author is responsible for any view outside his own article. It was through the good fortune of some deeper agreement that the book was expected to achieve its unity. All the articles bear in the same sense upon the book’s title-subject: all tend to support a Southern way of life against what may be called the American or prevailing way; and all as much as agree that the best terms in which to represent the distinction are contained in the phrase, Agrarian versus Industrial.

But after the book was under way it seemed a pity if the contributors, limited as they were within their special subjects, should stop short of showing how close their agreements really were. On the contrary, it seemed that they ought to go on and make themselves known as a group already consolidated by a set of principles which could be stated with a good deal of particularity. This might prove useful for the sake of future reference, if they should undertake any further joint publication. It was then decided to prepare a general introduction for the book which would state briefly the common convictions of the group. This is the statement. To it every one of the contributors in this book has subscribed.

Nobody now proposes for the South, or far any other community in this country, an independent political destiny. That idea is thought to have been finished in 1805. But how far shall the South surrender its moral, social, and economic autonomy to the victorious principle of Union? That question remains open. The South is a minority section that has hitherto been jealous of its minority right to live its own kind of life. The South scarcely hopes to determine the other sections, but it does propose to determine itself, within the utmost limits of legal action. Of late, however, there is the melancholy fact that the South itself has wavered a little and shown signs of wanting to join up behind the common or American industrial ideal. It is against that tendency that this book is written. The younger Southerners, who are being converted frequently to the industrial gospel, must come back to the support of the Southern tradition. They must be persuaded to look very critically at the advantages of becoming a “new South” which will be only an undistinguished replica of the usual industrial community.

But there are many other minority communities opposed to industrialism, and wanting a much simpler economy to live by. The communities and private persons sharing the agrarian tastes are to be found widely within the Union. Proper living is a matter of the intelligence and the will, does not depend on the local climate or geography, and is capable of a definition which is general and not Southern at all. Southerners have a filial duty to discharge to their own section. But their cause is precarious and they must seek alliances with sympathetic communities everywhere. The members of the present group would be happy to be counted as members of a national agrarian movement.

Industrialism is the economic organization of the collective American society. It means the decision of society to invest its economic resources in the applied sciences. But the word science has acquired a certain sanctitude. It is out of order to quarrel with science in the abstract, or even with the applied sciences when their applications are made subject to criticism and intelligence. The capitalization of the applied sciences has now become extravagant and uncritical; it has enslaved our human energies to a degree now clearly felt to be burdensome. The apologists of industrialism do not like to meet this charge directly; so they often take refuge in saying that they are devoted simply to science! They are really devoted to the applied sciences and to practical production. Therefore it is necessary to employ a certain skepticism even at the expense of the Cult of Science, and to say, It is an Americanism, which looks innocent and disinterested, but really is not either.

The contribution that science can make to a labor is to render it easier by the help of a tool or a process, and to assure the laborer of his perfect economic security while he is engaged upon it. Then it can be performed with leisure and enjoyment. But the modern laborer has not exactly received this benefit under the industrial regime. His labor is hard, its tempo is fierce, and his employment is insecure. The first principle of a good labor is that it must be effective, but the second principle is that it must be enjoyed. Labor is one of the largest items in the human career; it is a modest demand to ask that it may partake of happiness.

The regular act of applied science is to introduce into labor a labor-saving device or a machine. Whether this is a benefit depends on how far it is advisable to save the labor The philosophy of applied science is generally quite sure that the saving of labor is a pure gain, and that the more of it the better. This is to assume that labor is an evil, that only the end of labor or the material product is good. On this assumption labor becomes mercenary and servile, and it is no wonder if many forms of modern labor are accepted without resentment though they are evidently brutalizing. The act of labor as one of the happy functions of human life has been in effect abandoned, and is practiced solely for its rewards.

Even the apologists of industrialism have been obliged to admit that some economic evils follow in the wake of the machines. These are such as overproduction, unemployment, and a growing inequality in the distribution of wealth. But the remedies proposed by the apologists are always homeopathic. They expect the evils to disappear when we have bigger and better machines, and more of them. Their remedial programs, therefore, look forward to more industrialism. Sometimes they see the system righting itself spontaneously and without direction: they are Optimists. Sometimes they rely on the benevolence of capital, or the militancy of labor, to bring about a fairer division of the spoils: they are Cooperationists or Socialists. And sometimes they expect to find super-engineers, in the shape of Boards of Control, who will adapt production to consumption and regulate prices and guarantee business against fluctuations: they are Sovietists. With respect to these last it must be insisted that the true Sovietists or Communists-if the term may be used here in the European sense-are the Industrialists themselves. They would have the government set up an economic super-organization, which in turn would become the government. We therefore look upon the Communist menace as a menace indeed, but not as a Red one; because it is simply according to the blind drift of our industrial development to expect in America at last much the same economic system as that imposed by violence upon Russia in 1917.

Turning to consumption, as the grand end which justifies the evil of modern labor, we find that we have been deceived. We have more time in which to consume, and many more products to be consumed. But the tempo of our labors communicates itself to our satisfactions, and these also become brutal and hurried. The constitution of the natural man probably does not permit him to shorten his labor-time and enlarge his consuming-time indefinitely. He has to pay the penalty in satiety and aimlessness. The modern man has lost his sense of vocation.

Religion can hardly expect to flourish in an industrial society. Religion is our submission to the general intention of a nature that is fairly inscrutable; it is the sense of our role as creatures within it. But nature industrialized, transformed into cities and artificial habitations, manufactured into commodities, is no longer nature but a highly simplified picture of nature. We receive the illusion of having power over nature, and lose the sense of nature as something mysterious and contingent. The God of nature under these conditions is merely an amiable expression, a superfluity, and the philosophical understanding ordinarily carried in the religious experience is not there for us to have.

Nor do the arts have a proper life under industrialism, with the general decay of sensibility which attends it. Art depends, in general, like religion, on a right attitude to nature; and in particular on a free and disinterested observation of nature that occurs only in leisure. Neither the creation nor the understanding of works of art is possible in an industrial age except by some local and unlikely suspension of the industrial drive.

The amenities of life also suffer under the curse of a strictly-business or industrial civilization. They consist in such practices as manners, conversation, hospitality, sympathy, family life, romantic love-in the social exchanges which reveal and develop sensibility in human affairs. If religion and the arts are founded on right relations of man- to-nature, these are founded on right relations of man-to- man.

Apologists of industrialism are even inclined to admit that its actual processes may have upon its victims the spiritual effects just described. But they think that all can be made right by extraordinary educational efforts, by all sorts of cultural institutions and endowments. They would cure the poverty of the contemporary spirit by hiring experts to instruct it in spite of itself in the historic culture. But salvation is hardly to be encountered on that road. The trouble with the life-pattern is to be located at its economic base, and we cannot rebuild it by pouring in soft materials from the top. The young men and women in colleges, for example, if they are already placed in a false way of life, cannot make more than an inconsequential acquaintance with the arts and humanities transmitted to them. Or else the understanding of these arts and humanities will but make them the more wretched in their own destitution.

The “Humanists” are too abstract. Humanism, properly speaking, is not an abstract system, but a culture, the whole way in which we live, act, think, and feel. It is a kind of imaginatively balanced life lived out in a definite social tradition. And, in the concrete, we believe that this, the genuine humanism, was rooted in the agrarian life of the older South and of other parts of the country that shared in such a tradition. It was not an abstract moral “check” derived from the classics-it was not soft material poured in from the top. It was deeply founded in the way of life itself-in its tables, chairs, portraits, festivals, laws, marriage customs. We cannot recover our native humanism by adopting some standard of taste that is critical enough to question the contemporary arts but not critical enough to question the social and economic life which is their ground.

The tempo of the industrial life is fast, but that is not the worst of it; it is accelerating. The ideal is not merely some set form of industrialism, with so many stable industries, but industrial progress, or an incessant extension of industrialization. It never proposes a specific goal; it initiates the infinite series. We have not merely capitalized certain industries; we have capitalized the laboratories and inventors, and undertaken to employ all the labor-saving devices that come out of them. But a fresh labor-saving device introduced into an industry does not emancipate the laborers in that industry so much as it evicts them. Applied at the expense of agriculture, for example, the new processes have reduced the part of the population supporting itself upon the soil to a smaller and smaller fraction. Of course no single labor-saving process is fatal; it brings on a period of unemployed labor and unemployed capital, but soon a new industry is devised which will put them both to work again, and a new commodity is thrown upon the market. The laborers were sufficiently embarrassed in the meantime, but, according to the theory, they will eventually be taken care of. It is now the public which is embarrassed; it feels obligated to purchase a commodity for which it had expressed no desire, but it is invited to make its budget equal to the strain. All might yet be well, and stability and comfort might again obtain, but for this: partly because of industrial ambitions and partly because the repressed creative impulse must break out somewhere, there will be a stream of further labor-saving devices in all industries, and the cycle will have to be repeated over and over. The result is an increasing disadjustment and instability.

It is an inevitable consequence of industrial progress that production greatly outruns the rate of natural consumption. To overcome the disparity, the producers, disguised as the pure idealists of progress, must coerce and wheedle the public into being loyal and steady consumers, in order to keep the machines running. So the rise of modern advertising-along with its twin, personal salesmanship-is the most significant development of our industrialism. Advertising means to persuade the consumers to want exactly what the applied sciences are able to furnish them. It consults the happiness of the consumer no more than it consulted the happiness of the laborer. It is the great effort of a false economy of life to approve itself. But its task grows more difficult even day.

It is strange, of course, that a majority of men anywhere could ever as with one mind become enamored of industrialism: a system that has so little regard for individual wants. There is evidently a kind of thinking that rejoices in setting up a social objective which has no relation to the individual. Men are prepared to sacrifice their private dignity and happiness to an abstract social ideal, and without asking whether the social ideal produces the welfare of any individual man whatsoever. But this is absurd. The responsibility of men is for their own welfare and that of their neighbors; not for the hypothetical welfare of some fabulous creature called society.

Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige-a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may. But an agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers.

These principles do not intend to be very specific in proposing any practical measures. How may the little agrarian community resist the Chamber of Commerce of its county seat, which is always trying to import some foreign industry that cannot be assimilated to the life-pattern of the community? Just what must the Southern leaders do to defend the traditional Southern life ? How may the Southern and the Western agrarians unite for effective action? Should the agrarian forces try to capture the Democratic party, which historically is so closely affiliated with the defense of individualism, the small community, the state, the South ? Or must the agrarians-even the Southern ones-abandon the Democratic party to its fate and try a new one? What legislation could most profitably be championed by the powerful agrarians in the Senate of the United States? What anti-industrial measures might promise to stop the advances of industrialism, or even undo some of them, with the least harm to those concerned? What policy should be pursued by the educators who have a tradition at heart? These and many other questions are of the greatest importance, but they cannot be answered here.

For, in conclusion, this much is clear: If a community, or a section, or a race, or an age, is groaning under industrialism, and well aware that it is an evil dispensation, it must find the way to throw it off. To think that this cannot be done is pusillanimous. And if the whole community, section, race, or age thinks it cannot be done, then it has simply lost its political genius and doomed itself to impotence. (1930)

+ SOURCE = http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/White/anthology/agrarian.html

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