Archive for the ‘Nature Deficit Disorder [NDD] (disconnection from nature)’ 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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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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From Lester Brown, an important movie: Journey to Planet Earth — Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization —  http://video.pbs.org/video/1864227276

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I’ve noticed a few of recent stories about locally/regionally-based agriculture and sustainable/green living in the news recently in my area, which was very good to see and hear.

+ Up around the small North Carolina town of Granite Quarry located in Rowan County, the ‘neo-agrarian’ concept of ‘Agriburbia‘ is taking root in a planned community/village called ‘The Farmstead‘ which is slated to be built there in stages during the coming years.  Good radio interviews with the planners of this ‘Agriburban’ community can be heard HERE as well as HERE.

Basically, the concept behind ‘Agriburban’ developments such as ‘The Farmstead’ in Granite Quarry are extremely similar to various ideas which I have been thinking about and formulating for quite a few years now.  It involves a neighborhood, or village, or small town, and/or simple cluster of sustainably-built homes which are located adjacent to shared farmland, orchards, pastureland, and so on.  Each home would also be built with personal/familial gardenspace located in their backyard (if they chose to utilize it).  Thus, anywhere between 1/3-1/2 (or even more) of the neighborhood’s plant-based food could be grown right there on-site, with some left over for sale in local or regional markets.  Additionally, some local shops would also be located in the neighborhood or village to facilitate  neighborhood commerce.  Overall, these ideas seek to create more sustainable, cohesive, and self/communally-sufficient suburban and/or small-town developments, in effect semi-mimicking the pre-industrial villages or towns of yore though with all modern technological amenities still available.  Instead of being highly dependent ‘bedroom communities’ wherein the residents must seek all sustenance away from their neighborhood or community, these ‘Agriburban’ developments are instead focused on being comparatively ‘mixed-use,’ i.e. they incorporate residential and commercial/mercantile space with local agricultural space.  This is a great idea, and one which I wrote about a bit on this blog HERE — I’ll definitely have much more to say about these ideas on this website in the future.  In the meantime, read the following articles on various ‘Agriburban’ projects which are currently underway in the U.S. state of Colorado HERE and HERE, plus one located in Illinois HERE.

+ Relatedly, back in July the local public radio station had a show on the topic of local agriculture — in interested, that radio show can be heard HERE. On the show was the author of a book about reviving local/regional agriculture; the author’s name is Aaron Newton and the title of his book is A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil. I very much hope to buy and read Newton’s book soon, because from what I heard during the radio interview his views are very much similar to my own.  Also check out the website Know Your Farms, which is devoted to getting people in the Charlotte area more in touch with some of the local farmers who live in the region.

+ A June story from The Charlotte Observer entitled “How a Cabarrus Farm is Growing the Next Generation of Farmers” notes some very encouraging developments related to local agriculture (aside from the fact that, to quote the article, “North Carolina leads the nation in its loss of farms”).  On this particular farm in Cabarrus County a few people are (re)learning some of the necessary agricultural/agrarian skills needed to usher-in a new generation of younger American farmers.  Also, a more recent news-story from The Charlotte Observer about how “North Carolina is a state in transition” which is caught between its mostly rural heritage and the growing urbanity which is increasingly found therein.

+ A few years ago Central Carolina Community College (which is a community college located in Chatham, Harnett, & Lee Counties, NC) started a two-year Associate’s degree program in Sustainable Agriculture.  I think this is an excellent idea, and it would be great if every single community college in NC (or even the entire USA!) started offering a similar degree program that could be tailored to the specific climate and local soil profile of the particular county in which the community college is located.  Central Carolina Community College also offers a two-year Associate’s degree program in Alternative Energy Technology/Biofuels.  Overall, that community college seems to be far ahead of other colleges when it comes to the ‘green education curve’ by offering fairly low-cost educational opportunities to nearby residents who can certainly put these very useful skills to work in their local communities.  I wholeheartedly encourage other local community colleges nationwide (as well as larger colleges and universities) to begin offering similar two-year degree programs as soon as possible at a reasonable cost just as CCCC has done.

Related to the aforementioned news-stories, far too many modern Americans (even the majority of very highly educated historians of American history) often forget that the USA was founded as an ‘agrarian republic‘ and existed in that form for much of its history, i.e. nearly all of its citizens up until the 20th Century (which was the century when urban industrialism generally became ascendant in the USA, particularly in the post-WWII era) were involved in local and/or regional forms of agriculture in one way or another, and indeed many of the most important American Founding Fathers were prominent agriculturalists, farmers, and/or planters as well who were strongly influenced by the agrarian philosophies of an 18th Century French group of proto-economists who were called the ‘Physiocrats.’

It’s a shame that the USA has lost contact with its original agrarian/rural roots, but hopefully we Americans who still care deeply about agriculture and the ‘life of the soil’ can help to at least partially revive agrarianism in the USA and at least partially take it back from the handful of mega-corporations who currently dominate it. We ‘neo-agrarianists’ aren’t technology-hating ‘Luddites‘ and we clearly aren’t seeking to entirely do away with industrialism, urbanism, and high-technology (because that would clearly be absurd and counter-productive), but rather we seek to put American citizens back in contact with the more natural, localized, and agricultural principles that this country was founded upon along with the agrarian way-of-life which most of their American ancestors lived.  We ‘neo-agrarianists’ also seek to reverse the terrible neglect that has occurred in many of America’s rural areas by bringing much-needed attention back to the extraordinarily pivotal role which settled agriculture has played in building and sustaining human civilization for over 10,000 years now.

Back in the 1920s/30s, the Southern Agrarians tried to warn (to no avail) a rapidly industrializing/urbanizing USA about the dangers and pitfalls inherent within the burgeoning urban-industrial system. They published their scathing critique of urban-industrialism on the cusp of the Great Depression, during socioeconomic as well as political circumstances which were eerily similar to the ones which confront the modern USA — indeed, many of their statements were quasi-prophetic and clearly illuminate many of the problems that heavily industrialized/urbanized nations now face at the beginning of the 21st Century. If you have some extra time, read the excellent “Introduction: A Statement of Principles” to their brilliant book of essays published in 1930 entitled I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition.

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If we do not begin to change course within the coming decades and start taking better care of our Earth, we might face problems which may eventually become insurmountable and or even fatal to our species. Some areas or regions could be forced to confront a full or partial environmental/ecological collapse, which may trigger even more widespread chaos outside of the affected area(s) as people flee the desolation they have wrought in search of new habitats.

Resource depletion/exhaustion is another distinct possibility, with humanity eventually running out of resources with which to ‘keep the motors of civilization running’ so to speak. This would surely cause human culture as we have come to know it to grind mostly to a halt as we find ourselves mostly stranded or marooned in our local areas which may not provide all that is needed to maintain life. Rising nationalistic and/or ethnic-racial tensions will likely reach a fever-pitch as different groups fight non-stop for the scraps of a gradually more resource-scarce planet. Regional, continental, or even worldwide wars over scant resources could also break out, leading to further interruptions of human civilization.

In the worst of all scenarios, a major population crash could occur, causing the death of untold millions or billions of humans and thus the utter decimation of our evolutionary success as an advanced species on Earth. Even the near-total extinction of humanity might result from this catastrophic chain-of-events, meaning all of what we humans worked so hard for in the last few hundred thousand years of evolution might all come to naught. This is clearly unacceptable and must be prevented. Therefore, as stated, we must start now in order to build a more secure and sustainable future for humanity on planet Earth.

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The best way to move toward more sustainable modes of living would be to utilize our advanced organizational skills to begin constructing environmentally-friendly ‘ecovillages,’ ‘ecotowns,’ and ‘ecocities.’  Actually, we wouldn’t have to construct much of anything because much of the needed infrastructure is already in place for such development – more retrofitting and intelligent planning rather than raw construction would be in order.  In doing this, we could all live much more locally, and thus more cleanly and sustainably.  We could easily relearn many very useful and practical skills which have mostly been lost in the confusing industrial shuffle of the past century.  This would necessitate ending the ‘division of labor’ and extreme economic specialization, thus allowing people the time and freedom to learn how to do many different things satisfactorily.

We should all get closer to food production (as much food as possible should be locally-produced), building construction and maintenance, making clothing, repairing machinery, and so on.  All of this would allow the natural development of people who are much more well-rounded in terms of their knowledge and skill-sets rather than forcing people in to becoming non-thinking, quasi-robotic automatons completely dependent on their particular socio-economic niche to survive.

We desperately need to return to simpler and slower (but still technologically-connected) lifestyles with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. There should never be too much population density in one area (dense overcrowding) or anonymous urban living.  We also need to be in much more contact with nature (especially our local environments) in order to cultivate and inculcate a sense of environmental responsibility within ourselves. We here in the United States could possibly consult the Amish and other related groups in this regard and learn much from them in terms of how to bring back some of the ‘old ways’ – however, we would of course still retain the cleanest and most useful labor-saving technology which they shun.

We’ll of course still need many factories to produce the basic and easily mass-manufactured consumer goods needed for sustaining large human populations, as well as weapons/munitions for local and national defense.  However, industrial manufacturing should be de-centralized as much as possible to avoid concentrating environmental degradation in certain areas; it needs to be spread it out thinly in order to more lightly distribute the bad environmental impact of heavy-industry. This also applies to human population levels which have become unsustainably large in too many urban areas – as such, a certain amount of de-urbanization is likely going to be needed to bring those population numbers back down to sustainable levels.

We must promote and return to more local forms of agriculture, local livestock raising, local hunting/gathering, local fishing, and so forth.  We should start to use the landscape and its precious resources more intelligently and sustainably, including shared greenspace, gardenspace/farmland/orchards, pastureland, and fishing/hunting areas.  Every home should have adequate space to plant a garden or gardens if they so choose.  This would all need to be planned very well, researched exhaustively, and ruthlessly revised or improved when needed.

The concepts of ‘New Urbanism’ as well as ‘ecodensity’ should be tested and widely implemented if they prove successful.  We must also examine the so-called ‘Blue Zones’ found in select spots around the world where people have lives that are so often a great deal better than average and attempt to replicate their success if possible.

In the future, we will clearly need to have totally oil-free societies, civilizations which are as sustainable, clean, and free of pollution as humanly possible.  They should be run entirely on various forms of cleaner/greener alternative energy (this is still dependent on future technological breakthroughs). All of these ecovillages/ecotowns/ecocities will need to be intensively connected with environmentally-friendly mass-transit, and very clean ‘greencars’ should be cheap to buy or rent for basic traveling; ideally, much of the everyday local work, travel, or recreation would be done on foot or via small vehicles in your local area within a few of the surrounding square miles.  Pollution-free forms of transportation for traveling long-distances should be made available to everyone so that they can travel anywhere needed at any time.

Also, these ecovillages/ecotowns/ecocities would have to be connected to the internet and other modern forms of communication technology in order to promote cooperation, trade, and commerce between them, but even then they should remain mostly self-sufficient in terms of food production and the other basic necessities as much as is possible.

In order to facilitate information-sharing and the formulating of solutions to various problems, all books, articles, newspapers, and other material that has ever been written, as well as all other forms of human knowledge, should be digitized and subsequently loaded on to the internet, totally free for anyone to browse, read, and learn from.  This totally comprehensive internet should forever remain completely open and uncensored in terms of use, research, and discussion; internet servers must be decentralized in order to prevent the possible monopolization or censorship of the internet by various interest groups who might grow too powerful.

Banking and monetary policy should also be de-centralized as well in order to prevent the overconcentration of wealth, power, and influence in certain areas at the expense of all others.  The media should be decentralized too, but it could still nationally aggregative.  Also, the laws and rights of states must always trump national/federal ones, with local (town/city/county) laws and rights even more important than state ones.

We must work to end the insecurity of ‘economic nomadism’ and forced economic rootlessness by encouraging people to work more in the immediate local area(s) in which they have been born or raised.  People can only begin to care about their local area or community if they are intimately and deeply connected to it, and the constant shuffling around of people via immigration in search of economic opportunities is not at all conducive or favorable to sustainable/stable economic or environmental policies – in fact, it is entirely inimical to it.

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The living patterns of many ‘advanced’ nations are going to have to undergo a major shift sometime in the near-future.  The lifestyle of far too many people in the current age is entirely unreasonable, unhinged, foolish, hedonistic, shallow, and unsustainable.

We clearly consume far too many resources and as a result produce far too much waste, constantly stripping the Earth of its (finite) bounty and returning to it nothing but tons upon tons of trash, refuse, sewage, pollution, and other waste on a daily basis.  Like an insidious parasite, we are draining far too much from our gracious host (Earth) and giving almost nothing back in return, abusing our precious environment to seemingly no end.

Nothing could be more ridiculous than destroying the very thing which is the basis or vessel of your life or the life of your species – yet that is what humankind is currently doing, and it has to soon cease and begin to reverse itself as much as possible.

Social (dis)organization has currently reached unhealthy levels, and as a result we are seemingly powerless to begin reversing the dire socio-environmental situation.  Rabid individualism, fanatical selfishness, and insatiable greed are out of control among far too many at this most critical juncture in history.  Sadly this seems unlikely to change any time soon unless severe and draconian measures are taken to permanently unite people rather than endlessly divide them.  A major factor in this is due to widespread disconnection/alienation from nature – this is clearly fueling widespread feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, nihilism, ennui, and other social-ills.

The wholesale de-population of the countryside/rural-regions of many areas on Earth continues at an ever-quickening speed, and this is clearly causing the aforementioned social-ills to compound and worsen.  The movement of more and more people away from the countryside and in to urban/suburban areas is actually making the overall social and environmental situation even more desperate, for we are merely super-concentrating the environmental devastation as well as further removing ourselves from the very basis and fount of our existence (the soil, the water, the sun, the clean air, food production, etc).

The subject of mass-dependency again bears mentioning here, because it is beyond dispute that urbanites are much more dependent in general than rural-dwellers due to the fact that nearly all things necessary for life (water, food, energy, etc) must be brought in to cities from the rural regions merely for the urbanites to continue to live the materially-abundant lives many of them have become accustomed to.  As a result urban-areas (particularly the very large and densely populated urban/suburban conurbations) are quite obviously much more unsustainable, overconsumptive, and environmentally damaging in relation to their rural counterparts as a result will likely need to be scaled-down to levels that are more sustainable/clean in order to reduce the mostly deleterious effects that modern urban-living has on both the social as well as environmental basis of human existence and culture.

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