Degrowth: Further Notes from 2014

These are valuable notes that I did not include in my post, La Mouvement Décroissance in October 2014. I had planned to revise and post them later. Here they are, much later.

Many of the ideas I’ll present below are obvious and have been known for decades. If we are to truly share the resources of our finite planet fairly with fellow humans and other living things we must make serious changes now. As Naomi Klein points out in her latest book, This Changes Everything, if we want to avoid the most horrific of futures we need to change what we’re doing fast. The time to dither and debate has disappeared. Klein argues here that the present grow-or-die model of capitalism is simply incompatible with human survival. See my Sept. 15 post on this topic here.

What is relatively new to me is the latest activity of the small, experimental, Degrowth Movement communities that are happily choosing to live very frugally as we must live some day all too soon. They go without many of the luxuries that we take for granted, recognizing that, if everyone on the planet were to consume resources at the rate of the average Canadian, we would need several more Earths immediately. This was pointed out 15 years ago in David Suzuki’s 1999 book, From Naked Ape To Superspecies on page 42. And Richard Branson ain’t gonna get us that far alive, hoes and pitchforks in hand, anytime soon.

Suzuki and his family have been walking the talk for a long time. He lists,  in a gentle, inspirational style at the end of The Sacred Balance, many things that we could do to reduce our human footprint on the Earth.

A simple list of ten ways we can make significant changes is also given here.

 

Footnotes:

Vandana Shiva, The “Seed Lady,” has been protecting India’s indigenous seeds from being patented of for over three decades.  She is a dedicated activist and is involved in the leadership of many organizations around the world dedicated to  biodiversity. Her work opposes the patenting of seeds and the practice of monoculture agriculture in general, preferring the planting of many things (food, herbs, medicinal plants) in natural soil the way Indian farmers have done it for centuries. Read her impressive life story here. Or observe her brilliance in this YouTube video – Part 1 of The Future of Food. Her movement, Navdanya, which she founded in 1991, is many faceted but is best known for the banks of seeds it has saved from extinction. Navdanya means “Nine Crops” – these are the essential sources of India’s food and she is fighting to save them.

Ideas From David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance: Continue reading “Degrowth: Further Notes from 2014”

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Learning to “Struggle It Out” in Jackson

Poor, black US citizens are among the world’s many suffering canaries in the coal mine of unfettered-Capitalism, that unsustainable pursuit, having finally disempowered all of us except for the “point0-0-whatever%” that threatens to take the 99.99whatever% down the road to starvation, widespread war and extinction.

Chris Hedges interviews a rare sort of leader, Kali Akuno, a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a recent movement of poor, black citizens in Mississippi’s capital, Jackson.

Amy Goodman’s interview on Democracy Now with Akuno on the topic: Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination, in December last year, is excellent as well, especially for its inclusion of an appraisal of ultra-right Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and President Donald Trump. Akuno here points out a new white supremacy initiative building in America.

Under attack by a new city gentrification initiative that will eventually drive them off the land on which they currently eke out their humble, desperate existence,  Cooperation Jackson is  a movement started by Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson until his death on Feb. 25, 2014. Akuno was his Director of Special Projects and External Funding.

This movement is a fascinating phenomenon that uses many of the potentially planet-saving Décroissance concepts being tried in different places I described in my October 2014 post, La Movement Décroissance. The French word Décroissance, uniquely combines the concept of degrowth with that of stopping believing in the way the current money-based system works. In Cerbère in Southern France and the Barcelona area, small communities have been established that:

  • Eat locally – and mostly plants
  • Squat
  • Disobey strategically some of the System’s “precepts”
  • Borrow, barter and time-trade, reducing dependence on money

The key objectives of Akuno’s movement outlined in his interview with Chris Hedges are excitingly similar: Continue reading “Learning to “Struggle It Out” in Jackson”

A Special Book

 

I have just finished The Stones Speak by the prolific, much-loved, 20th Century writer, Thórbergur Thórdarson, born in 1888, who grew up on a remote family farm named Hali in southeastern Iceland, very near to Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland at 2119 metres.

I bought the book at the Þórbergssetur museum, where our tour group stopped on July 18th, two days into our 10 day bus tour. The centre was built in 2006 in Hali, (near Reynivellir in Southeast Iceland) and is dedicated to this unique man. He was largely self-educated, being too poor to attend high school or university.

The Stones Speak, translated in 2012 by Professor Julian Melton d’Arcy of the U. of Iceland, is Thórdarson’s only complete book that has been translated into English. Written when he was in his 60’s, this is an inspired, witty and sometimes caustic collection of his earliest memories – those of a precocious, hypersensitive visionary who lived very close to nature.

The book is, in my opinion, a must-read for folks who plan to visit Iceland and really want to work at understanding its recent (20th C.) history and its people. The introduction and notes by d’Arcy deserve to be read both before and after reading the book. They even contain the simplest, best guide to Icelandic pronunciation that I have found.

I went to Iceland because it was my wife’s choice and must confess that, uncharacteristically, my only research before the trip was to google the heck out of each place we were visiting on our Ring Road tour and look for things worth escaping from the pre-arranged options to see. And because we were arriving in Reykjavík (KEF) at 6 AM on the red-eye from Toronto on July 16th I was looking keenly for the most interesting places we might explore that day on our own. Our Grand Hotel was only a half-hour walk or a # 15 city bus from the centre of town. These were, for this dyed-in-the-wool self-directed traveler, the vital facts, since we were not due to meet our tour director at the hotel until 5:30 P.M.

Combined with the superb tour itself, reading The Stones Speak has given me wonderful, intensely personal insight/hindsight into the unique Icelandic people. It was, for me, not an easy read. It does not grab you like The DaVinci Code. I put it down and picked it up several times, as I have done with Proust, until realizing that, by making margin notes and studying maps and breaking down words in what is for the superbly gifted Daniel Tammet this oh-so-special language, I fell in love with Iceland and humanity in general, starting with the folks in 1890’s Suðursveit. 

If you have already visited Iceland, take the time to study The Stones Speak. You will, through it, reconnect with human nature and, perhaps, yourself.

P.S. If you have not gone yet, check out Guide To Iceland, a great website community to which my post travel research luckily led me. They justifiably claim to be an “unrivalled source of information.”

 

French, and Global, Fascism

Fascism - Webster's 1960 Unabridged
The word fascism as Webster’s defined it in 1960

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I love going back to my 1960 giant, two-volume edition of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. I picked it up at an auction in 1972. We were mainly there to get inexpensive furnishings for our apartment in Toronto, having just moved here from Cheshire, U.K. Check out the hand-drawn illustration that shows fascism’s Latin root to mean bundle!

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Then:

Italy seemed to coin the term, fascism; it first appeared with the arrival of Mussolini’s fascisti on the world scene in 1919. A crazy fact: for Mussolini, fascism was a good word. Nazi Germany and Franco’s Falangists were later included in this list of despicable regimes. In 2017 we carelessly throw the word around at anyone we do not like.

Fascism’s Common features in 1960:

  1. One party dictatorship
  2. Forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other groups)
  3. Private, centralized control of the means of production
  4. Nationalism
  5. Liberal use of wars
  6. Racism

***

France Today:

By presenting the above list of six characteristics, Webster’s definition made “fascism” a very specific term.

I think that France’s Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen qualifies for only two of the above six: nationalism and, particularly hateful for someone like me, married to a black woman, racism.

The FN does not propose forcible suppression of, for example, trade unions. In fact, it seems to be in favour of the little citizen with, until recently, a fervent, detestable preference for little white citizens.

Not many governments on this planet today, including France, could claim national control/ownership of their own means of production.

And the FN seems to be inclined not to favour the liberal use of wars. Continue reading “French, and Global, Fascism”

Newfoundland 2005.6 – Vikings and Low Growing Trees

On our way to L’Anse aux Meadows
 Monday, July 25: L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement and the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve

The L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement is more than 1000 years old. The original French name for the place, found on a French nautical chart from 1862, was L’Anse à la Médée (The Médée’s Cove). There may indeed have been a ship called La Médée, since it was not uncommon to use Greek mythology when naming them. See the above link for more about its franglais roots, and for more about the Settlement. It needs no further description. Here are some photos:

Busted!

I am inclined to cram a touring day really full of experiences. An ‘orrible vice, I know. I was attempting to turn a legal 45 minute drive from the Viking Settlement to the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve into an illegal 33 minute trip (wasn’t sure when the guided tour hours were) and was stopped for speeding on the way.

The officer: “Do you, perchance, know why you were stopped?”

Me: “Yes, Officer.”

Officer: “And are you aware that your speed was more than 20 kph faster than the speed limit?”

Me: “Er… no, Officer, Sir.”

Officer: “Are you from away?”

Me: “Yes.” Big trouble coming, I thought.

Officer: “Don’t let me catch you speeding again.”

He handed me a written warning instead of a ticket and let us go. Again, the delightful mercy and grace of these island people surprised and overwhelmed me.

Burnt Cape:

Burnt Cape is a hugely important botanical reserve. It contains rare plants that are not found anywhere else. Trees over a hundred years old grow out rather than up (less than a foot up!) because of the biting winds. We were taken on a superb interpretive tour. Our guide also told us of a time when she had a group out to see the rock formations near The Oven and a polar bear appeared below them that had swum from Labrador. The visitors had no clue how dangerous it was and were snapping photos.

Sound familiar? Like anyone we know?

She was preparing to abandon them, if necessary, and run for her own life but managed to persuade them to make a hasty, sensible retreat. Some photos:

Newfoundland 2005.4 – À Cap St.-Georges et Gros Morne

Western Brook Pond from the dock
Western Brook Pond, seen from the cruise boat dock.

Friday, July 22: To Cap St.-Georges and Rocky Harbour

Cap St.-Georges

Our first leg was from Twillingate, via the Trans Canada Highway, all the way to Cap St. George on the southwest coast. We wanted to visit a French community in Newfoundland and maybe see some whales. We sort of struck out on both those goals. It was, perhaps, a little late for whale season and decades late for parlez-vous season. We stopped at a Tourist Information office near Port Au Port and learned that the French-speaking information person was from Québec.

After the bilingual TI Centre we visited Our Lady Of Mercy Church in Port au Port and then drove to the Parc Boutte Du Cap  at the very tip of the peninsula. It amazed me to see big RV’s allowed to boondock in the unserviced parking lot. Just another way in which Newfoundland is so welcoming to visitors. Totally laid back and generous.

We drove back north and stayed in Rocky Harbour at the Fisherman’s Landing Inn where Maxxum had us reserved for two nights.

Saturday, July 23: Gros Morne, Two Rather Gigantic “Ponds”

This was a busy day. We drove a short way north and visited Gros Morne walking to the dock at Western Brook Bond and taking the boat tour.

A colleague of Anita’s at home had said we must also visit Trout River Pond, around the bay from Western Brook Pond but still in Gros Morne National Park. Someone we met on the first tour had done it and raved about it. So we carped the diem and drove back south, past Rocky Harbour and took a boat tour of Trout River Pond, which we found terrific.

Western Brook Pond:

A few, fit folk got off the boat at the steep end of the pond, planning to hike up (no doubt) to get that iconic photo with their arms outstretched standing on a scary-looking rock overlooking the whole pond from west to east.

Now the photos of the Pond: Very deep, very steep, and ultra, ultra clean:

Trout River Pond:

This is an exceptional UNESCO World Heritage site. The geology of the exposed features of reddish rock dates back to when two continents – Africa and North America – collided about 300 million years ago… give or take… the same collision that formed the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. Our boat tour, appropriately called A Journey Through Time, explained so much to us. The “pond” is full of fishy life and we saw a female moose in a forested area near the shore.

We ate a simple supper in a very nice family restaurant in Trout River.

We did not have time to investigate the science beyond what we learned on the boat. But we returned in 2014 with friends, visited the fantastic information kiosk and toured the tablelands with an experienced naturalist. Add some time to your holiday to see this unique area properly!