More living on the land…

25 11 2015

I’ve been rather crook for the past couple of weeks, a virus I’m certain I caught right here at the Geeveston Community Centre (henceforth recognised as Geco), and whilst I have been getting some things done, it’s been a struggle.

I’ve almost finished building a second insulated bolt hole, initially for the family visiting over Christmas, but mostly to house wwoofers, because there’s no way I can manage the farm on my own…

I’ve been agisting the neighbour’s cattle for the past two or three weeks, a rather large – too large? – mob of thirty or so heads that have taken my grass down to sub fire hazard levels, and left piles of manure I will deal with later when it dries.

Now the grass is down, all the thistles have become clearly visible, and I’ve been hoeing them (in their many hundreds!) rather than spraying as the neighbour was threatening to do…. It’s chop and drop on a large scale. Lots of walking, I just wish I could breathe properly. This morning was the first one I almost felt human again, so I’m on the mend, but it’s so unusual for me to get this sick, it’s knocked my socks off.

DSC_2070Yesterday I attended the Huon Producers Network’s inaugural market in Huonville. Well attended with 600 or so visitors counted, it had a great atmosphere, great food, great music, and it was an opportunity to mix with the locals, most of whom I’ve been avoiding so as not to spread the dreaded lurgy.

The wind dropped off, and the sun came out even; must be a good omen!

The network is one of the main reasons we settled on Geeveston; the
DSC_2085energy for the operation started here and in the surrounding area, and I intend to join as soon as I’m in a position to actually produce some food. Which could be sooner rather than later, because the next season of apples is well underway.

DSC_2040The trees were only just beginning to bloom as Richard and I first arrived two and a half months ago, and now those blooms are turning into fruit which is fast needing thinning out to ensure good size fruit.

Apples produce clusters of six flowers, five outer ones and a central one known as the king blossom. At this stage, there are bees everywhere, and without a word of a lie, you can hear the orchard buzz…..

DSC_2091In no time at all, all those flowers turn into grape sized apples, and the trees are just covered in fruit. If left like this, the apples don’t grow much, and whilst they are still delicious, they look far too small to be salable, though they would make excellent cider. I’m also told that pickers are paid by weight, and for them to pick a tonne (say) requires picking loads more apples, which takes longer, making pickers unhappy.

DSC_2092It feels very strange to literally break of hundreds of potential apples; it seems counter-intuitive, but that’s what all the locals tell me to do, and what do I know about apples?

Clusters should be no more than 2 or 3 apples, and must be at least 10cm apart. In their natural state, they look more like grapes than apples, so closely knit are they on the tree……. so off they have to come.DSC_2093

Some trees would easily have 300 tiny apples on them, and there’s no way a tree less than 2m tall could bring so much fruit to maturity. Last season, nothing was done to the trees because everyone involved was busy selling/buying/moving. Most of the crop went to waste apart from a trailer load that went to Charlotte Cove where my sailor friends recently moved to. This is where they were turned into cider by Werner, who, as it happens, has now decided to retire back in New South Wales…… and kindly decided to leave us his cider making equipment!

No prizes for guessing what I’ll be doing next year, watch this space!

Mark Cochrane on the Indonesian fires catastrophe…..

11 11 2015

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

I have finally escaped the endless haze of Indonesia for the moment. The last of my non-Indonesian team should have flown out this morning, but that still leaves the Indonesian people who have endured much more of this than anyone to continue to stew in the smoke. The rains have begun to return so the air is much clearer but worsens each afternoon and becomes serous if a day or two without rain passes.

This isn’t some ancient process started in the mists of time, this disaster began in 1996 with a misguided attempt to drain 1 million hectares of peat lands to grow rice of all things (Mega-Rice Project, overview). This calamity was made ever worse when the El Nino-spawned droughts of 1997-98 set the land aflame, initiating the now annual haze events that plague Southeast Asia. What most people do not appreciate is that once the land was drained the carbon loss process was set in place, regardless of whether the fires happen. Once drained the peat begins to be broken down by microbes and the peat subsides as CO2 is released to the atmosphere. When the fires occur they simply speed up the ongoing process, shifting the emissions to be more heavily weighted on carbon monoxide and methane. They also produce the toxic haze of particulates that blanket the region. For months no one ever saw the sun and shadows ceased to exist. The world was a luminescent ball of smoke during the daylight hours with no idea of the time of day. Usually it was white but on truly horrific days when the smoke layer was particularly thick the world was a sickly yellow in color.

The Mega Rice Project (MRP) is now long abandoned but the oil palm plantations have since taken over much of the peat lands across Indonesia furthering the country’s desire to supplant Malaysia as the leading global producer of palm oil. They’ve succeeded but now everyone is paying the price. The ex-MRP put in >4,000km of drainage canals in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) but over in Riau Province on Sumatra where I was in August the palm plantations have installed more than 22,000 km of canals to drain the peat. Out in Papua the oil palm developments are proceeding rapidly as well. Given the internal and international upheaval caused by this year’s fires, there is a desire to somehow ‘fix’ the situation with cloud seeding, air tankers dropping water, and thousands of troops in the field to fight the fires but the reality is that such measures have little effect. Now…

respiratory diseases rise

• Indonesia’s ministry of higher education is attempting to create a research consortium on disaster management.
• Data from Indonesia’s disaster management agency showed the number of people diagnosed with acute respiratory infection increased to 556,945 by November 6.
• After a limited cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss peat management, Jokowi said he wanted the research department of Yogyakarta’s University of Gadjah Mada to play a central role in proposing Indonesia’s new peat strategy.

Air quality in Singapore threatened to seep into unhealthy levels again on Friday as Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed ministers to form a specialist haze task force to stave off another wildfire disaster next year.

“Do not let the dry season come around next year with us not having done anything,” Jokowi said.

No one wants to face the real issues of what must be done to truly stop this dynamic. If they want the fires to stop then the people will have to leave the peatlands (unlikely) or learn to live without fire as a major land use tool (doubtful). If there is truly a desire to stop carbon loss from these ancient peat forest lands then the drainage canals must be blocked (not easy or cheap) and the hydrology of the region restored, flooding the lands and the newly established palm oil plantations (economically disastrous). In short, the actions necessary to try to mitigate this disaster will be politically untenable unless there is some offsetting gain that can support relocating growing populations and replace the oil palm economy.

The worst part of this sad tale, which is also unappreciated is that the oil palm boom is going to be a short one before the bust comes on these peat soils. The peat must be drained and in many cases burned to create the conditions to allow the oil palm to grow, however once this is done the land continues to sink and erode. Every year the surface of the land will be lower and more susceptible to flooding. At best they will get one or two 20 year crop cycles in before the lands need to be abandoned. The combination of falling land levels and rising sea levels will destroy the peatlands and land uses they currently support. It is another short term strip mining operation that will yield nothing but profits for a few and another ecological disaster for the world.

More signs the deflationary spiral is upon us

11 11 2015

I’m feeling poorly this morning, the victim of some bug apparently doing the rounds in my neck of the woods. Ute I is having minor repairs done to pass the safety certificate it needs to have its new shiny Tassie plates screwed to its bumper bars, so I’m taking the time to do a bit more blogging.

This scary item from Zerohedge turned up in my inbox the other day, and it really rattled my cage…….  All the ducks are lining up on the wall… I better start spending the proceeds from selling Mon Abri quick smart.

It’s no secret that Beijing has an excess capacity problem.

Indeed, the idea that a yearslong industrial buildup intended to support

i) the expansion of the smokestack economy,

ii) a real estate boom, and

iii) robust worldwide demand ultimately served to create a supply glut in China is one of the key narratives when it comes to analyzing the global macro picture.

That, combined with ZIRP’s uncanny ability to keep uneconomic producers in business, has served to drive down commodity prices the world over, imperiling many an emerging market and driving a bevy of drillers, diggers, and pumpers to the brink of insolvency.

As we noted late last month, if you want to get a read on just how acute the situation truly is, look no further than China’s “ghost cities”…

Here’s the simple, straightforward assessment from the deputy head of the China Iron & Steel Association:

“Production cuts are slower than the contraction in demand, therefore oversupply is worsening. Although China has cut interest rates many times recently, steel mills said their funding costs have actually gone up.”

To which we said, “meet the deflationary commodity cycle in all its glory”:

China’s mills — which produce about half of worldwide output — are battling against oversupply and sinking prices as local consumption shrinks for the first time in a generation amid a property-led slowdown. The fallout from the steelmakers’ struggles is hurting iron ore prices and boosting trade tensions as mills seek to sell their surplus overseas.Shanghai Baosteel Group Corp. forecast last week that China’s steel production may eventually shrink 20 percent, matching the experience seen in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“China’s steel demand evaporated at unprecedented speed as the nation’s economic growth slowed,” Zhu said. “As demand quickly contracted, steel mills are lowering prices in competition to get contracts.”

Right. Well actually there’s that, and the fact that they can’t get loans despite multiple RRR cuts and attempts on Beijing’s part to boost China’s credit impulse. In fact, over half the debtors in China’s commodity space are generating so little cash, they can’t even cover their interest payments.

So, considering all of the above, the obvious implication is that China will simply export its deflation…

Given that, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that on Friday, the world’s biggest steelmaker suspended its dividend and cut its outlook.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

The world’s biggest steelmaker on Friday cut its full-year profit target and suspended its dividend, putting the blame on the flood of cheap steel from China’s loss-making mills. The market is being overwhelmed with material coming from the nation’s state-owned and state-supported producers, a collection of industry associations said Thursday.

“It is obvious that we are operating in a very challenging market,” Chief Financial Officer Aditya Mittal said on a call with reporters. “This is essentially the result of very low export prices out of China that are impacting prices worldwide.”

The steel industry has been roiled by the slowest economic growth in two decades in China, the biggest consumer.

The flood of cheap exports from the nation has drawn complaints from Europe and the U.S. that the shipments are unfair. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates Chinese steel shipments overseas will exceed 100 million metric tons this year, more than the combined output of Europe’s top four producing countries.

While demand for steel in the company’s largest markets of the U.S. and Europe is recovering, producers’ profits are being hit by slumping prices because China has been pushing excess supply onto the world market as its economy slows.

So again, we’re seeing disinflation (the exact opposite of what DM central bankers intended when they decided to expand their balance sheets into the trillions) as global growth and trade enters a new era, characterized by a systemic slump in demand. Here’s the damage in terms of the Arcelor’s equity:

And here’s more from The New York Times on the impact of Chinese “dumping:

“The Chinese are dumping in our core markets,” Mr. Mittal said. “The question is how long the Chinese will continue to export below their cost.”

The company’s loss for the period compared with a $22 million profit for last year’s third quarter.

ArcelorMittal, which is based in Luxembourg, also sharply cut its projection for 2015 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — the main measure of a steel company’s finances. The new estimate is $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, down from the previous projection of $6 billion to $7 billion.

On a call with reporters, Aditya Mittal, Mr. Mittal’s son and the company’s chief financial officer, said that a flood of low-price Chinese exports was the biggest challenge for ArcelorMittal in the European and North American markets.

The company estimates that Chinese steel exports this year will reach 110 million metric tons, compared with 94 million tons last year and 63 million tons in 2013. ArcelorMittal produced 93 million metric tons of steel in 2014.

Of course when the standing government policy is to roll over bad debt and avoid SOE defaults at all costs, uneconomic producers can and will continue to produce. This means the deflationary impulse ArcelorMittal cites isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon, and on that note we close with what we said just a week ago:

The cherry on top is that China itself is now trapped: it simply can’t afford to let anyone default, as one bankruptcy would cascade across the entire bond market and wipe out countless corporations leaving millions of angry Chinese workers unemployed, and is therefore forced to keep bailing out insolvent companies over and over. By doing so, it is adding even more deflationary capacity and even more production into the market, which leads to even lower prices, and even greater bailouts! In short: this is a deflationary toxic spiral.

Living on the land

9 11 2015

This is an edited version of a speech to the Huon Producers Network Annual General Meeting, 17.9.2014.  I wasn’t there, but it’s truly inspiring, and I hasten to say, typical of the awesome people who live down here…….. and I must soon join the network!

Living on the Land



Hi everyone and thanks for coming along to the Annual General Meeting of the Huon Producers Network, and thank you also for giving me this  opportunity to speak.

The topic I’ve chosen for tonight is “Living on the Land” — which basically makes it easy for me to bang on about the things closest to my heart for half an hour. So here we go….

So here we all are, trying to make a living off the land, on our own terms, in the Huon Valley, on a smallish scale, in this modern age of multinationals and industrial agriculture, and for me this raises the question: is this realistic? How viable are our expectations of living on the land?

Are we a bunch of hopeless romantics befuddled by this dream of life on the land, of gentle rains and growing plants and sunny afternoons, and a good ache at the end of the day? Of bounteous harvests and being beholden to no man or woman? Of a sustainable life close to nature?….sounds lovely, doesn’t it!

Well, statistically speaking, people, this is all looking pretty dreamy…

What a lot of us here are trying to do — make an income from a small scale farm — is bucking a long-term trend that is still accelerating. In the last three decades the number of farmers in Australia has dropped by 40% as small-scale farmers sell out …and as the big guys get bigger.

Even in the last few years I’ve watched this happen around Cygnet, where two mid-size orchardists on my road are pulling out trees while in Nicholls Rivulet the Harvey orchard continues to expand with new plantings.

Economies of scale are one reason for the decline of the small farms. The farms on my road just weren’t making enough money anymore as the price of apples dropped and the price of diesel rose. Imports and interstate competition dropped apple prices, and fuel is only going to become more expensive as the wells decline. To turn a profit from margins reduced by global factors, you’ve got to get bigger or sell out.

Another reasons for the decline of the small-scale farm is an ageing population of farmers: When you think of a farmer, you imaging a leathery old bloke in dusty clothes on a tractor, and this is largely a true image. Farmers are significantly older than the average Australian worker, and as these farmers retire, there are fewer of the following generation who choose to farm for a living.

There’s a reason for this. Farmers work bloody hard, significantly harder than the average Australian, more hours for significantly less income. I am a prime example of this. Last financial year, I worked between 50-60 hours a week for an income of $35,000, which equates to the princely sum of $13 dollars per hour. I am not in the big league. I could earn more managing a McDonalds. Or just working in one!

So to earn a living from a farm you have to work physically harder, for longer hours, for less money. It’s not sounding great, is it?

Maybe I won’t go on to talk about the far higher than average death rates of farmers due to accident? Suicide? I won’t talk about drought or crop failure. Or of the winter days at the market when everybody has stayed at home, and it’s raining and you’ve lost money?

Or those seemingly endless summer days when you drag yourself out of bed in the dark, again, to tend to your crops, and don’t get back to the house until after sunset, again, and you talk to your mates from the mainland with city jobs who are spending the weekend at the beach. Again.

It’s fraught, living on the land, it’s hard work with little recognition and less pay….so why do we do it? Why? Are we engaged in some delusional pursuit of a romantic notion?

Or are there ameliorating factors? We are all here having a go at this, so what is it that makes living on the land worthwhile, against all this evidence?

Well, I’ve been farming on a small scale for almost five years now, and am planning to continue to do so, so I obviously do think there are factors that make living on the land worthwhile.

But money is not one of them! If you are gunning for the millions, you might want to look elsewhere!

It’s not about the money. Money is not a way of keeping score, it is a way of continuing to do what you love. The money is not an end in itself, it is a means to keep the farm going, and to provide for the poor times, and to build up a bank for when you retire. So financial considerations aside, what is there to love about living on the land?

I reckon there’s a few things worth mentioning. Lifestyle comes to mind straight away. I mean, I have these mates in the city who do get weekends at the beach, and trips overseas, and who eat out a lot — but they are stuck in an office all week. Some of them even like their jobs — but every one of them would give it up if they had the money not to work.

Whereas if I had a million or two, I would still be gardening and farming. Probably on a larger scale, and certainly with more employees. Or employees at all, in fact. And holidays, ahhh holidays… I’d take holidays! But I’d still be farming, still living on the land. So it’s about lifestyle, but what else?

Sometimes I think about the personality traits that drive some people to take up farming, and not others.

Independence would be one; not wanting to work for a boss, enjoying making your own mistakes, and the challenge of fixing things that are broke (often by yourself). Maybe also an aversion to crowds, or a dislike of hustle, bustle and noise, such as you find in the city. What about a contented nature? A desire to live simply?

But most of all I reckon your small-scale farmer is characterised by excessive optimism. So much optimism. And if you are not well endowed with optimism, then I don’t think you’d last long!

Because you have to believe you can do better next year. That you will remember to water all those carrot sowings, and therefore have a crop for winter, that you will put up netting over the peas before the damn ducks eat them all, and you will keep the weeds down so there isn’t a plague of cutworms that eats your entire corn crop for the year.

And yes, that’s all happened to me.

Optimism. This is the same optimism that gets you out of bed in the dark on market morning despite last week’s miserable takings: It’s sure to be better this week!

This same optimism carries you through the wet months of spring when the farm is a quagmire and you are carrying a couple of kilos of mud on each boot and your ‘waterproofs’ are proving to be misnamed: Just think of how the seedlings will pop up when the sun returns!

And, inevitably, the sun does return. Not everything fails. Some of the crops even turn out better than expected. And sometimes you take a moment to lean on your hoe and look around, sunlight on your shoulders and warm earth at your feet. Things are looking good and you gaze around and wonder “they let me do this for a living? How good is that?”

And indeed it is good. And in yet another incidence of scientists going to great lengths to tell us what we already knew intuitively, there are now studies confirming that time spent in nature is beneficial to human health and happiness.

One such study showed that mental and physical recovery from an operation was significantly better when patients had access to natural surroundings. Another study showed that people were significantly happier if they had been outdoors during any given day.

We kind of knew this already, I think? And the farming life — living on the land — is replete with good air, good exercise, and being outdoors. There is goodness gained from being in nature even on the most miserable day — you may not be ready to admit to this until you are back inside, dry, by the fire, sipping tea, but it is so. Even an unexpected and foul-falling November frost has it’s beauty.

So there are indisputable personal and aesthetic reasons for living on the land. And beyond the personal and aesthetic I think there are other considerations that make living on the land worthwhile. Community. I think part of living on the land is being embedded in a local, rural community where you see the same faces week after week and month after month. Year after year.

Where you know and have a relationship with the people who serve you at the garage, the library and the shop, as well as the people you sell your produce to. Where even if you are not particularly fond of someone, you make an effort. You live in the same valley, you’ve got to learn to get along.

And you end up with friendships with people you’d probably never be friends with if you lived in the city, and you form relationships that can be challenging but are always worthwhile. It seems to me that living on the land, we are far more dependent on those around us than are city dwellers.

I have a neighbour who is very different to me, and whom I find difficult occasionally, and we’ve had our small disagreements, but when something goes wrong — and on the land things do go wrong more often than elsewhere — there’s no question. Pitch in and help out. Do what is necessary.


When I tipped up my tractor bringing in the hay last year, I had no idea how to right it, or whether it would be broken or how to fix it. A couple of my neighbours convened at the scene the next day. One neighbour brought his big tractor along. My other neighbour, the one I find difficult, brought along expertise and advice. He helped right the tractor, cigarette in mouth the whole time, and assured me it’d be fine in a few days once I’d ‘let the oil settle’. He was right.

I’m never going to be invited into this man’s home, nor he mine (except in an emergency), but we acknowledge each other on the road, and there is trust, if not friendship, between us. We each can be relied upon.

More recently, I separated from my wife, and although I felt I’d made some good friends over my 4 or 5 years here, I was surprised, and gladdened, by the amount of support received by me — and my now ex-wife — from the community around us. I think sometimes I still have a hangover from being city-bred, that my default setting is ‘impersonal’, while long-time country residents are used to being a known entity in a knowing community, where local news is not just ‘gossip’, it is the basis for sympathy or action.

So living in a rural community — living on the land — brings it’s own challenges and rewards, and invests meaning in the everyday.

But apart from the personal and community aspects, for me there’s a wider reason for living on the land too, a philosophical reason that is a reflection of the current state of the world to the best of my knowledge.

As far as I can tell, we as a species need to act on behalf of the planet. Fundamentally, this comes down to carbon. There’s too much of it in the atmosphere, and the best place for it is the soil.

We put more carbon into the atmosphere every time we use fossil fuels, and most fossil fuels are used for feeding humans. Fossil fuels to manufacture fertiliser. Also, many conventional fertilisers are made from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels power agricultural machinery to till the soil and spread the fertiliser. Fossil fuels are used to harvest plants, and process them into food-like substances, and to manufacture food packaging made from fossil fuels, then to package the food-like substances, then for the temperature control and transport of food and food-ish stuffs. That’s a lot of oil and coal and gas right there.

So this is a systemic issue.

This is a big picture, really big, and I’m only a small guy. I don’t feel up to challenging Monsanto or Shell. I don’t like shouting and protest. So when I came to this realisation about where the world stands, and thought about what I could do to help, what was the rational response, I came to the conclusion that growing vegetables for a local market ticks a lot of boxes.

Managed properly, organic farming returns carbon to the soil, sequestering it. Better still, more carbon in the soil is better for plants as well as the planet, so it’s win – win. If I farm right then I’m putting carbon back in the soil, and growing better vegetables.

Then, if I sell these fresh vegetables locally, then not only is my produce carbon neutral (or better), every sale I make is one less beetroot or bunch of carrots that has been grown, washed, packaged and transported by the carbon intensive conventional food network. Hopefully, it’s one less item of packaged, food-like-substance sold. And because my produce is fresh, it’s retained it’s nutrient value. So that’s a me-customer-planet win-win-win also.

So growing organically and selling locally is living on the land with an eye to the global situation.

And those three reasons for living on the land – the personal, the community and the global, is what I see here tonight in this community called the Huon Producers Network.

And despite the hardships physical and financial, the lack of holidays or spending money, there’s something about living on the land you just won’t find anywhere else. All the toil and drudgery is more than made up for by the joys of a bountiful crop, the cheerfulness of the friend/customer, the help of a neighbour, the beauty of the day around you, the optimistic knowledge that what you are doing is good for the earth.

Living on the Land — why wouldn’t you?


Tasmania Project Update

9 11 2015

I’ve been in Geeveston almost two months now, and you can start to see where I’ve been…. this happens when you have a chainsaw!  With thirty trees to fell, a one off job at that, I decided I could not justify spending $1500 on an expensive tool that would be oversized for just cutting firewood, so I went to eBay and bought a cheap Chinese one for $260….. it’s an 82cc saw with a 24 inch bar, so it has loads of grunt, and reports from forums on the net suggested they were excellent value for money and probably would last 5 years under ‘normal’ usage, whatever that means.

Tree dropped with toy saw

Tree dropped with toy saw

It started off fantastic.  It just cut the 750mm thick Macrocarpas with ease, and I was feeling pleased with myself. Then after just three weeks of ownership (and not that much use, really) the pull start mechanism gave up the ghost.  I hate those things. Having dealt with them before on brushcutters and lawnmowers, I am well aware of how the recoil springs have a mind of their own, but this seemed rather easy to reassemble with a new cord, working perfectly on the workbench.  Refitted to the saw, however, and it just refused to work, even after maybe eight attempts.  So it’s gone back to the seller who will hopefully fix it ASAP, because this is highly inconvenient; I have to cut all those trees down before I can do any other building site preparations… and they have to be milled for building material, which will have to dry really well before use.  So I really need my saw back.

20151029_15433620151105_164437My neighbour is now running cattle on our property.  A small amount of cash changed hands, but best of all, he’s offered to move my logs with his $90,000 tractor, saving me heaps of time (I am now thumb twiddling away awaiting the return of Big Bertha chainsaw).  Slowly but surely, the view over the dam from the house site is opening up, I even managed to fell a smallish tree with my toy battery powered saw.  It took two charges of the battery, and I could not help thinking of the parallel with electric cars!

I’ve now also bought a rotary hoe.  The ground, after years of compaction with tractors running between the rows of apple trees and running cattle all over it is so hard, that I quickly discovered preparing garden beds by hand is back breaking….. I’ve already got it dirty, and have planted some Dutch Cream potatoes……

Sid, the owner of the cows on our land, has also taught me a lot about electric fences, and I’m slowly working my way over what feels like kilometres of fencing looking for faults to make it work properly again.  I’m getting fit, trust me….. when you have this much land, you walk a LOT!

I’ve also acquired a shipping container. There it was, just sitting there on the side of the road in Geeveston with a for sale sign. It’s ‘in survey’, which means it’s watertight.  A quick inspection and not much haggling later, it was mine, moved to the land by the local tow truck operator for $100. It’s not far from where the house will be built and will be used to store things like our double glazed windows and doors when they eventually arrive.  I’m also thinking it could be used as a tank stand for gravity fed water to the house, and a power station fitted with solar panels on top and batteries within…….  if it’s big enough!

The man who sold it to me was also very much worth meeting; he put me onto the hoe I bought, after raving about how good (and cheap) it was. I’ve seen ads for these, in Queensland no less, asking double what I paid for it!20151105_163917

In fact, I have met lots of people down here now, and they’ve all turned out to be amazingly friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.

The other good news is that Carlo has finally finished our house plans, and I will soon coordinate with a structural engineer and geo technician to follow through with completion of design for Council.  It’s all happening, just at snail pace, as far as I’m concerned,  but we’ll eventually get there…. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that….

I changed my mind too…….

9 11 2015

Dave Pollard

Dave Pollard

Every now and again, some blogger I follow writes a doozy of an entry.  This one by Dave Pollard, with whom I am usually on the same page, has just done this, and I just had to share it.  Awesome.


Human beings, it seems, change our worldviews — what we value and believe to be true — pretty slowly. When I started this blog 12 years ago, my worldview was pretty left-of-centre orthodox, as you can see on the left side of the above sketch.

A dozen years later my worldview has radically shifted, as shown on the right side of this sketch (see the footnote if you want a little more elaboration on these ‘new’ views). Some of the shifts came about from personal research and study, or from reading. Other changes came from some place deeper, an intuitive sense and knowledge that was not intellectual, and which I have come to trust more and more as each new intellectual discovery confirms what I intuitively already ‘knew’. Whether we’re conscious of it or not (and we’re mostly not), we are connected with all life on Earth and constantly ‘learning’ from it. I don’t see that as spiritual; it’s how life on that planet has evolved so successfully and in such a nuanced and balanced way over two billion years, largely without the dubious benefit of large ‘individual’ brains. This planet has a collective intelligence, and it’s a lot smarter than we can ever hope to be.

These radical changes in my worldview have been difficult to internalize and come to grips with. But what’s been even more challenging is how dramatically they have altered my take on just about everything I encounter, think about or do in my life. Everything looks utterly different through this raw new lens. The cognitive dissonance between what I see through this lens and what almost everyone else seems to believe (and the media present as ‘truths’) is staggering.

So I can appreciate that our political, economic, health and education systems are dysfunctional, grossly inequitable and substantially corrupt, but (through my new worldview) given the importance of preparing for a world in which these systems will soon have utterly collapsed, I can’t get excited about attempt to reform the present ones, or even stirred to outrage at their failings. The bridge is falling; what does it matter now who’s to blame and what might have been done to strengthen it?

And through my new worldview, I can’t bear listening to idealists tell us about how This Changes Everything, when I know how complex systems function and how nothing (within the capacity of the human species, anyway) changes everything (or really anything very much, at any scale or for very long or even necessarily for the better). Have we forgotten what happened after the Arab Spring, the fall of the Soviet Union, the “liberation” of Afghanistan and the Obama Campaign of Hope already?

But for those whose current worldviews mirror what mine was in 2003, I can appreciate why they believe, urge and do what they do. And I’m not arguing that my current worldview is ‘better’ than my old one, or than anyone else’s, because, as I say, we’re all on our own lonely path to trying to make sense of the world, and if we come to the conclusion that our worldviews are in sync and we make sense of the world the same way, we’re probably deluding ourselves. We can’t be other than who we are.

And in any case, our worldviews are only placeholders, parts of a flimsy and transient and indefensible model of a reality that will ever remain far beyond our understanding. They are playthings, not of much real use in the world anyway, and we take them far too seriously. If we are lucky, some of us (probably not humans) will vaguely appreciate that there is just one presence, one consciousness, and that all the lovely and sacred and sickly and destructive manifestations of that consciousness are just brief walk-ons in the play of life, of no enduring consequence.

But then, that’s just how I see it through the lens of my current worldview. Ask me again in another 12 years.


Note: Here’s a bit more on the elements of my ‘new’ worldview, in case you’re curious:

1. Our civilization will have completely collapsed by 2100. This collapse is part of the 6th Great Extinction of life on Earth, which began with the extermination of large mammals 12,000 years ago, and it will be accompanied by runaway climate change, the exhaustion of easily and inexpensively accessible natural resources, and the collapse of the unsustainable debt-driven industrial ‘growth’ economy.

2. Most human activity occurs within massive, unfathomably complex, self-perpetuating, change-resistant social and ecological systems. As such, we have very little control over our lives, internally or externally, and can’t hope to predict or significantly influence our future or our society’s trajectory. Complex systems evolve to resist attempts to reform or replace them (their equilibrium has been hard-won), and it is only when they become unsustainable and collapse that space is created for new systems to emerge.

3. We are all doing our best, suffering and trying to heal from the fierce and chronic stresses of Civilization Disease. The enormous stress that civilization culture imposes on us inevitably makes us physically and emotionally ill, but this culture’s cruel messages are that (a) ours is the only way to live and (b) we are responsible for our lot in life. Healing begins when we realize these messages are untrue and that we are all struggling to heal, and in the meantime all trying to do our best, what we sincerely believe is best for those we love and for the world, under trying conditions.

4. Our sense of self, mind, self-control, separateness and time are all tragic illusions. Our brains evolved to help the trillions of cells that comprise ‘us’, to detect features and dangers and hence ensure their collective survival; our sense of a separate, in-control ‘self’, centred in the mind, is an unintended consequence of this evolution of large brains, an accident, that our culture has learned to exploit to keep us all in line so this culture can continue. We’ve hence lost the sense of connection and of being a part of all life on Earth, and this has allowed us to unwittingly destroy the systems that all life depends on. And by our nature we do what’s urgent in the moment, not what is important in the longer term, so we have no capacity to change what we are doing.

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