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Dr Kevin Blockley shares how the Out of Eden project is creating a unique educational experience that immerses us in the hunter gathering world of our ancestors and our first experiments in farming.

Today we live in a time of transition, in a rapidly changing world with many uncertainties. This generation has a momentous task ahead –  to lead us into a sustainable future, back into balance with our world. What better place to reflect, than at the very beginnings, the point where we begun to shape the land? It was a time of momentous change, challenge and creativity and a time from which all the possibilities of our modern world took root. Is there something which we can still learn, from the ancient way of life of our ancestors, that could influence the course of our own lives?

We have been building the Neolithic Farm in mid-Wales over the last three years and are looking at producing a unique educational experience for a wide range of people and organisations, from schools and university students to those interested in ancient crafts and more. Our buildings are based on ground plans of archaeological excavations with our imagination and research projects for the standing elements. In 2018 we received grants from the Ashley Family Foundation, Tesco Bags of Help, Powys Welsh Church Act Fund and Newsquest Media Group (The County Times). We are indebted to all four for enabling us to achieve our goals and start an educational programme on the project.

The settlement is situated on a beautiful site on the edge of the Cambrian Mountains. It’s not Salisbury Plain – the evidence that our ancestors trod this hill in the Neolithic is not tangible – but they have left their footprints all around us. There are standing stones in the Sychnant valley just over the hill – or high up above the Elan valley to the south west. There is the great Walton Basin ritual site  to the south, and beyond that the long barrows and houses of Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire. Ritual sites near Welshpool to the East include a Woodhenge. And far away to the north lie the Neolithic longhouses and tombs of Angelsey.

Our vision

Our vision is to build a settlement, based on archaeological excavations and our understanding of the New Stone Age or Neolithic period – around three to five thousand years ago in this part of the world. We plan to develop it as an exciting educational resource to be used by experimental archaeologists, students, schools and many others, and want to enable participants on the project to live it: getting their hands plastered in mud; sleeping on skins; cooking over fires; working with livestock; tending crops; exploring possibilities.

We believe that this work could be important in many ways. History gives us a sense of perspective that helps to put our lives and culture in context. Living with only the natural resources around us to provide for all our needs, makes us use our imaginations and become attuned to our environment in quite a different way. We will be practising some very ancient and almost forgotten crafts. We hope that involvement in this project will bring to its participants a sense of community, achievement, inspiration and revelation that can be carried into their everyday lives.

How you can get involved

There are numerous opportunities for volunteers, including a weekly volunteer group for locals, as well as more immersive, longer-term opportunities for residential volunteers, with accommodation provided nearby at Old Chapel Farm. If you’re interested in learning more, head to The Wilderness Trust website and please do get in touch. We’re particularly keen to hear from those with carpentry and building skills.

If you’d prefer just to visit, following a very successful open day last year our upcoming Prehistoric Skills camp is taking place from 19th-23rd August 2019, offering courses and taster sessions in various ancient crafts, such as flintknapping, tanning fish and deer skins, bone and antler working, net making, cordage from nettle, and building a Neolithic house. This will then be followed by two open days for the general public on the Sunday and Monday of the August Bank Holiday. You can find full details of what’s on offer here and are welcome to get in touch for further information.

The Wilderness Trust began more than 20 years ago in Shropshire. It is now based at Old Chapel Farm and has shaped much of the work that has been achieved there. It currently runs three different projects alongside, in the form of Out of Eden, The Way of Wales and The Fold.

The post Out of Eden: how you can get involved in a neolithic farm experiment in Wales appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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A jellylike substance derived from seaweed, Benedict Noel sets out the role of agar cultures in Part 9 of his Mushroom Guide.

You can find Parts 12345, 6, 7 and 8 ready to read first.

What you need:

  • A pressure cooker that can reach 15 PSI
  • Agar agar
  • Some nutrients for the agar
  • A jar/plastic takeaway container or petri dishes
  • A scalpel or dentist pick

Agar is a jellylike substance that’s derived from seaweed. The Malay word for jelly is agar-agar, so you’ll see it called agar or agar-agar. You can either buy powdered agar by itself or with added nutrients and potentially antibiotics. If you’re just starting out, the cheapest place to buy agar is from your local Chinese supermarket or you can buy a little packet for a few dollars from eBay. If you buy it from someone who sells mushroom supplies, you’re likely to buy it premixed with some nutrients MEA (Malt-extract agar) or PDA (potato-extract agar). If you want to make your own, it’s easy enough to buy malt extract separately and mix it with agar. Places like Fungi Perfecti sell premixed agar with antibiotics. Antibiotics are useful because they will limit the number of bacterial contaminations you get. This type of agar is easy to use, but will cost more than if you make it yourself. If you don’t want to use antibiotics but want to limit the number of bacterial issues you get, you can mix in a small amount of hydrogen peroxide (bought from your local chemist) when your agar cools below 50C.

Containers

You can use agar in all kinds of containers as long as it’s seal-able and is either sterile, or able to withstand the temperatures of a pressure cooker. The most common vessels are petri dishes, but if you’re going low tech you can re-use little plastic takeaway containers (made of polypropylene) or small glass jars. If you’re looking to store mushrooms longer term, you can create slants in test tubes.

Mixing and sterilising

To add the agar mixture to your container, you’ll need to mix some boiling water with agar powder. The ratio of agar to water you use will determine its consistency. Paul Stamets recommends using 25g of agar per 500ml of water (about 5%), but you can get away with less.

In general, I’ll make my agar in a single vessel and then pour it into petri dishes after pressure cooking it. If you’re using jars, you can mix the agar and then pour it into the jars before putting it in the pressure cooker. The cheapest vessel to use for your agar is an old beer bottle. Mix the agar and hot water, pour it into the beer bottle with a funnel and then cover the top of the bottle with some aluminium foil and pressure cook it for 15-20 minutes at 15 PSI. If you’re pouring into petri dishes, the easiest vessel to pour from is a polypropylene jug. You fill the jug with your agar mix, cover it with aluminium foil and then pressure cook it. If you’re using a metal scalpel to do your culture transfers, it’s a good idea to wrap it in alfoil and put it in the pressure cooker along with the jug to sterilise it.

Pouring

After your agar is pressure cooked, you’ll need to pour it while it’s still hot, otherwise it will set in your jug. However, if you try and pour it while it’s too hot you’re more likely to burn yourself, and you petri dishes will get a lot more condensation on them. I usually wait an hour after I turn the heat off my pressure cooker before opening it up and pouring the agar into plates.

If you’re pouring petri dishes, you’ll need to do this in an aseptic (sterile) environment. This means using a still air box, or glove box if you’re just starting out. If you get into the hobby a bit more seriously, buying or constructing a flow hood to work in front of makes life much easier.

Inoculating

You’ll need to inoculate your agar in a sterile environment (still air box/flow hood). The exception to this is if you’re transferring from liquid culture into jars with airport lids, as the agar won’t be exposed to the air at all.

From liquid culture

To transfer liquid culture to agar, you’ll be using a syringe. You’ll liquid culture will either already be in a syringe, or it will be in a jar that you’ll first need to pull into a syringe. Either way, you’ll need to agitate your liquid culture to break it up, so that each drop of liquid contains a little mycelium. From the syringe, squirt a few drops of the liquid culture onto the agar, you don’t need very much. If your agar culture has airport lids, you can do this in a non-sterile environment.

From agar

Ensure you have a sterile syringe or a dental pick. Cut a small wedge of the colonised agar and quickly transfer it to fresh agar and then seal up the container. If you’re using petri dishes, it’s a good idea to either put them in zip lock bags or to wrap parafilm around them to stop them from drying out and being exposed to contaminants.

From a mushroom

Creating an agar culture by cloning a fresh mushroom is fairly straightforward, and it is easier if the mushroom that you’re cloning is big. Dip your mushroom into a weak H202 (hydrogen peroxide) solution for a few seconds, or spray it liberally with a water/methylated spirits mixture. With gloves on, split the mushroom in half using your hands to expose tissue at centre of the mushroom. Cut a very small part of this tissue out from this central area using your scalpel or a dental pick and transfer it to your agar. You want to get a bit of tissue that has not been exposed to air, as this will significantly reduce the chance of transferring contaminants across. A few days after transfer, you should see visible signs of growth.

From spores

When transferring spores to agar, you will need to use an inoculation loop. You can buy them fairly cheaply online, or you can make one yourself out of some wire. From your spore print, gently scrape your inoculation loop over the top of your spores and then with the loop you’re going drag it in an S shape onto the agar (this is called streaking). Where you begin the streak (at the top of the S) should have the most spores, and the bottom will have the least. Within a few days to a week, you should see mycelium slowly start to grow in the shape of an S. It’s a good idea to do several plates at once in case some fail.

After your spores germinate, you can either transfer the agar directly to grain spawn (multi-spore culture), or cut off strong looking sectors of mycelium to transfer to fresh agar plates. Doing this allows you to isolate a single strain. As a home cultivator, if you’re looking to produce your own strain, it’s easiest to start with multi-spore spawn, fruit the culture and then clone the best looking mushrooms. The mushrooms that you end up cloning are likely to be vigorous as they’ve out-competed the other strains.

Based on an original post available here by Benedict Noel at The Mushroom Guide.

About the author

The Mushroom Guide is written by Benedict Noel from Perth, Western Australia. He’s been hooked on mushroom growing since watching this TED talk in 2015 and has been building his knowledge and experience ever since. Since starting out, he’s helped run a couple of cultivation courses, given presentations at festivals and grown a wide variety of mushrooms, from oyster and shiitake to pioppino and chestnut.

The post The Mushroom Guide Part 9: working with agar cultures appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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We talk about a strategy for challenging the giant corporate platforms in Part 2 of an interview with Duncan McCann, who’s working on a platform co-op alternative to Über in Brighton.

Here’s the first part of the interview, and below are the main points we covered in this part. Highlights are in bold.

There’s a global directory of platform co-ops, produced by the Internet of Ownership and funded by the New School – the US-based organisation that Nathan Schneider works for, and the epicentre of the platform co-op movement globally.

The biggest barriers to the development of platform co-ops are the existing, corporate platforms.

It’s difficult to encroach on the territory of some corporate platforms because either the workers or the users, or both, are happy with the service. With Über, drivers know that they’re being ripped off (but passengers don’t tend to know that because drivers are looking for good ratings, which may not be helped by negative comments about the company), but users like it because it’s cheap and easy. They don’t tend to worry about who owns the platform, or about wealth being sucked out of their community. Then there are platforms that, although extractive, are liked by users and providers of services – like Airbnb. The extractive, undemocratic nature of many corporate entities remain unseen, and of course they like it that way. The people who have problems with Airbnb are outside the platform, making it difficult to disrupt.

A strategy for challenging corporate platforms: Duncan McCann of the New Economics Foundation - YouTube

But there are areas that could be ripe for platform co-ops – where the existing platforms are not liked by either workers or users. Social care is the key example. Cleaning could also work. Commercial cleaning services can often be below par, and not really liked by the cleaners. So when both sides are unhappy, and there’s no competitor, platform co-ops are the way to go. For Airbnb, it’s difficult to see a platform co-op emerging to challenge them. What’s needed in this case is the involvement of the city, to force the creation of a platform, and to embed rules that prevent exploitation, abuse and tax avoidance (Über records all of its income in Luxembourg, so pays no VAT. Any competitors are immediately at a 20% disadvantage).

In the example above, the municipality could own the platform, or they could create a platform that is owned by users and workers. Amsterdam is leading the way in this area. They’ve created Fairbnb. So our platform strategy has to be somewhere between structures being created by workers and users from the grassroots, to the involvement of the municipality – especially platforms that have real people and equipment on the ground, like Deliveroo, Über or Airbnb, which can be provided on a city-wide basis, rather than platforms like Facebook or Google, which are harder to control by municipalities.

It’s a shame that many people who talk the talk when it comes to promoting small, decentralised, co-operative businesses, are happy to use Über, when there are still reasonably-priced alternatives. It’s slightly different with Facebook, as many groups would be consigning themselves to oblivion if they didn’t post their offerings on Facebook, where everyone is (at least for now). There seems to be a certain amount of cognitive dissonance around.

It’s quite bizarre that a company like Über would fight so hard to deny their drivers holiday pay, sick pay, minimum wage etc. If they’d spent their money on this, rather than on fighting it in the courts, and on the marketing that had to be done to counter the bad publicity that it brought, they would have got a lot of goodwill, and the drivers would have ended up with more money, rather than corporate lawyers and tax avoidance experts. That speaks volumes about their strategy.

If people would like to help the movement, the Media Fund is an interesting platform co-op in which the public can invest in quality, non-corporate, independent journalism. And there is Resonate, who aren’t trying to compete with Spotify or Apple Music, which would be very difficult because of their resources and access to the music industry, but instead, are catering for the music lover rather than the passive listener. This is probably a good metaphor for where the platform co-op world is now. It’s not yet ready for everyone to dive into – it’s for people who care, the early adopters.

But really, the thing to do is to reject the corporate platforms, and to tell other people why you’re rejecting them. Don’t get an Über cab, and if people ask why, tell them. It gets difficult when these companies become verbs, and therefore ingrained in the language, but there are still local cab firms, and Duck Duck Go is a perfectly good alternative to Google, that doesn’t harvest your data. Facebook is problematic, but when distributed social media arrives that can assist interactions between Facebook users and others, outside Facebook, then Facebook’s days are numbered.

The usefulness of platforms doesn’t increase linearly with numbers of users, it increases exponentially, the more people join them. This means that corporate platforms tend towards monopoly, and we already have that in search and social media, with others trying hard to do the same. It’s a winner-takes-all mentality that squeezes out competition and produces monopoly. Über were thwarted in China by their Chinese counterpart, DiDi, as DiDi’s pockets were even deeper than Über’s. Now the two companies have combined – Über sold their Chinese business to DiDi in return for a stake in DiDi, and so they’re now intimately linked through ownership of each other, with a tacit agreement to divide up the world.

We’re going to see this kind of thing happen much more, and we’ll have a world where single platforms have monopoly and monopsony power. Monopsony power is where one company is the dominant buyer in a market, and rather than overcharging the consumer, they provide their services at or below cost, to push out competitors. Über is losing money hand over fist, and Amazon’s margins are wafer-thin, but they’re exerting monopsony power. For example, Amazon control around 50% of all book sales, and so are able to exploit publishers in the same way that Über are able to exploit drivers.

It’s very difficult to compete with corporate platforms that have seized monopoly or monopsony power over the markets they operate in. It’s better to try to create co-operative alternatives where the corporate sector hasn’t yet achieved monopoly control.

We can’t let this continue – we need alternatives. These can either be the grassroots platform co-op option, but also municipalities, together with unions, running some of these platforms locally, where it’s too difficult for a platform co-op to emerge. These two strategies can work hand-in-hand, depending on what’s happening in the market, and how the buyers and sellers in the market view the existing platforms.

If people want to become involved in the creation of new platform co-ops, the New School is developing a platform co-op starter kit. It’s interesting to note that Google funded the development of the kit, to the tune of a couple of million dollars. Obviously Google don’t feel threatened. There’s going to be no platform co-op in search, so maybe they feel that this is something they can do to improve their image. $2 million is nothing to Google, so this could just be a simple case of greenwashing (or ‘ethicalwashing’?). But that’s a good place to look at some resources to help you think about how you might start one. And if you’re a worker in a platform company, talk to other workers, to your union – think how great it would be if you shared in the profits and the decision-making of your company. And finally, think carefully whether there’s an alternative to any corporate platform that you use.

Platform co-ops could be an important part of the new ‘Preston Model’ of local development. Preston realised that council laundry services were all located outside the area, and were not co-operatively owned. They helped create a local co-op to do the work instead. It’s not a platform co-op, but they could easily do the same for taxis, for example.

Also, Über was very difficult to start. They had to integrate maps, payments, seamless user experience, for which they spent over $10 million, possibly ten times that. When it was developed, layering maps with real-time positioning, automated payments etc. was almost impossibly difficult, but now you can buy it out-of-the-box for a tiny fraction of the price – probably around a quarter of a million. So one of the huge barriers to entry in the platform game (cost) has come down. It means that municipalities can have a seat at the table too.

When Austin, Texas required cab drivers to be fingerprinted, Über and Lyft left in a strop, but instead of causing chaos, a diverse ecosystem of local cab companies developed, including a not-for-profit called Ride Austin, who gained about 50% of the market. Über and Lyft saw this as an existential threat to their model. Not only did it not cause problems for the city, but the drivers were better paid, money wasn’t sucked out of the community, and if other cities learned from this experience, they might want to purge themselves of the corporate taxi platforms. They rushed back into Austin, were suddenly happy to comply with fingerprinting legislation that they’d left in a huff about, they subsidised their activities in Austin from elsewhere, so that they were cheaper than competitors (things you can do if you have deep pockets, but not if you’re a local company), and in 6 months, they’d driven Ride Austin back down to 10% of the market.

We don’t have to think about how to tackle the global problem of corporate platforms, but instead, we need to be developing local co-operative alternatives that can act as beacons for innovators and municipalities everywhere.

The post A strategy for challenging the giant corporate platforms: Duncan McCann of the New Economics Foundation appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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Sue Blacker takes us on a final tour of The Natural Fibre Company’s spinning mill to learn all about labelling yarn. Turns out there’s plenty to it!

To be honest, labelling is possibly even more complicated than actually making yarns. And of course we cannot spin yarns about our yarns. Well, we can and do in describing the concepts, ideas and thinking behind designing a yarn, but not when describing the dimensions, weight and composition! Also labels full of technical information are not particularly photogenic, though we do try our best with Blacker Yarns ball-bands.

For semi definitive information, please refer to this document, although it specifically says one should read the legislation and that it is only guidance. Your local Trading Standards people are generally knowledgeable and helpful.

However, our favourite paragraph of this guidance can be found on page 7:

12. The fibre name ‘wool’ can be used to describe either fibre obtained from sheep’s or lambs’ fleeces or a mixture of such fibres and certain fine animal hairs (viz alpaca, llama, camel, cashmere, mohair, angora, vicuna, yak, guanaco, beaver, otter). The indication ‘100% wool’ may describe a mixture of, say, fibre from sheep’s or lambs’ fleeces and cashmere, though if the cashmere accounted for the greater percentage by weight of the product, it would make sense for the higher quality and more expensive cashmere fibre to be named separately, e.g. ’60% cashmere, 40% wool’ and ‘100% wool’ are equally permissible.

What more can one say?

Well, how about:

You don’t have to show particular information on the label for every kind of product, but if you include it you must be accurate. There are special rules for some products, and for retailers.

This comes from this page of the UK government website covering labelling laws so it must be right!

So there are requirements about composition: under EU regulation, each yarn label must include the quantities of each type of fibre in that yarn: wool, silk, linen, nylon, alpaca, mohair, etc. There is no requirement to say it is pure new wool, or that it comes from a specific breed, farm or area unless, like the Shetland Organic Wool, it has obtained an EU product origin certification. So the really interesting information is added for marketing purposes and not for compliance!

Organic yarns have specific labelling requirements, including the certificate number of the producer and processor and again the proportions of organic or other fibre. It is not permitted to mix organic and non organic wool because the DNA tests cannot yet distinguish them, so it is only permitted to add a different fibre than wool to an organic blend, which is allowed to have either 5% or 30% of non organic fibre. There is a large and detailed manual of the rules for organic labelling, including the size of the logo to be used, so organic does cost a bit more to manage even at this stage.

Organic processing is managed separately so that all machines touched by organic fibre are clean and no cross contamination is possible from non organic fibre.  This takes even more careful management than just making sure each customer’s wool batch integrity is maintained, and is why we generally only work on organic processing once or twice a year.


There is an interesting challenge about composition in that the most practical and accurate measurement is made when blending dry scoured fibre or tops. If tops, then generally the proportions should be the same in the ball or skein, but if from dry, scoured weight, the combing process and then spinning may drop a slightly higher proportion of one component than the other. Also of course there is the small mathematical challenge that adding 10kg of mohair, say, to 100kg of wool makes a different composition than adding 10kg to 90kg, which sometimes challenges those who hate percentages! This is easy with these numbers, but less so with, say a 15kg starting point!

Then comes the weights and measures information: the weight of the package must be given, in grams (for the UK and EU). This must be on average the same for every ball or skein in a batch and is within strict tolerances. Again, we are not required to provide the length, WPI, tension, recommended needle sizes or whether the yarn is a particular ply or thickness! We do of course provide all of this additional information, along with basic care information, because this is what the customer wants.

Then comes the origin: we have already said that no individual holding details are required, other than for marketing purposes, but we do need to say made in the UK, particularly for the US market. We also give our name and address, and it is helpful to provide the phone, email and web address information, and we have a Made in Cornwall certification as well. As we do not buy wool through British Wool, we cannot use their labelling other than as a Supporter under their new rules, even though all of our yarns except those from Falkland wool is usually more pure British in composition than the rules for some parts of the British Wool scheme. Because we make everything in-house, it is easier for us than for those who may source things from many places or process in many places, not all in a single country. This of course is why Brexit is such fun!

So that is why there is so much information on ball-bands and skein bands or tags. The rules actually require relatively little, while the customers, quite rightly, require considerably more in order to understand and justify their investment in a special, high quality product which is not cheap. For example, it really does help for us to put “spun by The Natural Fibre Company” on the yarns we spin for customers, because sometimes we can find them when a person wants an extra ball and cannot locate or contact them.

About the author

As British wool spinners, The Natural Fibre Company add value by processing quantities of fleece from 20 kilograms up to over a tonne and more. As we scour, card, dye and woollen and worsted spin under one roof, we are effectively experts in all aspects of the process of turning raw fleece into high quality yarn. Most of our customers are in the UK for rare and specialist breeds.

The post The Wool Journey Part 16 and postscript: labelling yarn appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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Dave Darby interviews Micky Metts of Agaric, based in Boston, Massachusetts, who is active in both the co-operative and free/open source movements. I wanted to talk with her about the connection between those worlds, the benefits of free software and the difference between free and open source software. Here’s a summary of the first part of our discussion – the main points are in bold.

Agaric is a co-op with 6 owners / workers. They met via the Drupal community, and they have overlapping skills – project management, outreach, client management, developers etc. They build websites for groups with similar aims and goals. They work only with free software (Drupal is free software).

Free software = a free society. Everyone is free to use it, modify it as they see fit. It’s the basis of a great sharing society. Corporate software developers / sellers have tried to spread the word that Linux and free software is difficult to learn and just for geeks / programmers. It’s not true – it’s not that much different from corporate, proprietary software (apart from who owns it). It’s really easy to use, it’s free, and it doesn’t require anti-virus software.

Inertia means that most people don’t bother to switch. Micky travels round and gives talks and presentations to other groups, telling them that it’s not just about Edward Snowden – everybody’s freedom and privacy is important. She also sends around links to the various social media groups she’s in, including Social.coop, an instance of Mastodon, which is similar to Twitter, but the members own the platform – it’s a co-op. The members all pay $1-3 per month, which might be a barrier for some people. People don’t really feel the pressure yet, to become private citizens, and don’t really understand the underlying concept of freedom. They use Windows, or a Mac, and think that they’re free to do anything they want. But most people don’t understand the ‘back doors’ in the system.

Micky Metts: Building the open web - YouTube

The free software is not about money. It’s not about that kind of free (although it is gratis) – it’s about personal freedom. People have been used to following orders from dictators like Microsoft or Mac. (‘computer says no’), but the free software movement wants us all to be in control.

Micky gave a talk at the LibrePlanet conference earlier this year, about how to avoid the Orwellian 1984-type nightmare in the digital world. She’s put together a resource section on their website, to help people get free software, and she wants to stress again that it’s really worth doing, and isn’t difficult. There are so many reasons not to allow a few giant corporations to control all the important sectors of society, if we want to live in real democracies.

Some schools in the States are running completely on free software, and they’re teaching kids about it, and they’re actually managing some of their schools’ software themselves, including adding things to it. However, some schools insist that parents spend $500 on an iPad for their children. Corporations are getting into schools, because they know that if they hook kids young, they can possibly keep them for life.

Micky’s group wrote to local newspapers to ask why they’re supporting corporate giants, and the father of one child replied ‘I don’t think my child needs to be using free software, because Apple knows what’s good for them’. Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas! But of course, it’s a game that corporations play, to control the way people think, and especially young people.

There’s a difference between free software and open source software. They’re the same in terms of code – the difference is political. When the free software movement started, it was all about the community – about sharing software, music, art etc. The open source movement started in retaliation to that – they didn’t want any ethics attached. Big business coined the term open source, and it turned into a ‘software war’ that most people don’t even know about.

People who care about real freedoms, and about sharing and community, should be using the term free software rather than open source software. Micky thinks we need to come up with a better term that means the source code of software can be altered by anyone, and that can never become proprietary.

There’s not much emphasis in the co-operative world in the UK on using free software. They don’t seem to find it that important. Micky thinks that this is because of confusion about what the free software culture is. There’s no one defining ‘anthem’ that everyone gathers under. Also, a lot of people in co-operatives are not particularly techie, and may not know very much about free software. When they discover it, they’ve already got everything set up on corporate software, and are too busy (or think they’re too busy) to switch. Agaric tries to get co-ops when they start, to help them set up with free software.

Agaric has posted a blog listing all the free software that business and individuals might need. Agaric uses them all on a daily basis (as does Lowimpact). They’ve had lots of emails from grateful people – it’s a ‘living’ blog, and it’s constantly updated to reflect changes in existing software or new software.

I asked Micky how we reach critical mass, so that free software becomes the norm, rather than something unusual. Maybe they could use both for a while so that they can see that it works. Agaric are talking to local computer shops and specialists, so that they understand free software and actually sell laptops with Linux on them, rather than Windows. She says it’s a tough job. It’s not about buying a computer with Windows on, then replacing it with Linux, because then you’ve given Microsoft money when you don’t need to. It’s much better to buy a computer that either already has Linux, or is blank, and you can install Linux yourself.

Micky thinks that it’s ‘tragic’ that most people are forced to give money to Microsoft when they don’t need to and don’t want to. It’s the same when someone says that they’re an ‘Apple person’ – what does that mean exactly? That they’ll buy anything Apple brings out, that they’ll do what they say? That they associate themselves with a multinational corporation bent on making as much money out of them as possible?

I asked whether there was a non-corporate alternative to Google Drive etc. and she said that yes, there is – NextCloud, which is entirely compatible with Google products. That was one thing I wasn’t sure about, although I already use Libre Office, a free package that we’re very happy with, and which dovetails with commercial products. There’s information about NextCloud in the blog article mentioned above.

NB: Here’s more info about difference between free / open source, from Richard Stallman, founder of the the Free Software Foundation – https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html

And here’s another – https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/Free-vs-Open-Source-Software

The post Building the open web: an interview with Micky Metts of Agaric appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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We learn how to work with liquid mushroom cultures as The Mushroom Guide with Benedict Noel continues.

Catch up with Parts 12345, 6 and 7 first.

Maintaining your own mushroom culture library is a time-saving and rewarding experience. It takes some time to get the hang of it, but there are methods that you can use without too much equipment. The main piece of equipment that you’ll need is a pressure cooker.

In general, people use two mediums for storing their cultures: agar or liquid cultures. In the mushroom community, liquid cultures generally have a bad rap since it’s harder to detect when they have contamination. However, using some simple steps you can ensure your liquid cultures remain contaminant free, even when you’re not working in a sterile environment.

Working with liquid cultures

What you need:

  • a pressure cooker that can reach 15PSI
  • jars with an airport lid
  • syringe and needle (preferably 16+ gauge)
  • alcohol wipes or alcohol spray
  • lighter
  • gloves

The easiest way to create your own liquid cultures is by starting with a clean culture from a reputable supplier and then expanding it into more liquid culture. The steps involved are:

  • Add liquid culture recipe to your airport jars, typically consisting of tap water plus some sugar/nutrients
  • Pressure cook the airport jars to sterilise the liquid culture
  • Add a small amount of master culture to sterilised liquid culture
  • Wait until the culture grows out, then use it to inoculate grain spawn or your fruiting substrate
Adding liquid culture to airport jars

This step is very simple, the only part that takes a bit of trial and error is working out which recipe works best for the mushroom that you’re trying to grow. For oyster mushrooms and shiitake, a simple recipe is tap water and maple syrup. Simply add 1 tsp of pure maple syrup to 1 cup of hot water, give it a mix and add it to your jars with airport lids screwed on. I try to fill my liquid culture jars fairly close to the top, leaving about 5cm (2 inches) of air. This will make it easier to draw liquid out with a syringe and it also allows for some evaporation.

It’s also a good idea to add something to your jars to break up the mycelium. Professionals use a stir bar and put their culture on a magnetic stir plate, but you can add some marbles or broken glass to the jar. Adding this will help your break apart large clumps of mycelium in order to help your culture grow faster and prevent it clogging the needle when you suck it into a syringe.

It’s a good idea to cover the top of your jars with aluminium foil before pressure cooking them. This stops the filter from getting too wet and also means that the jars are protected from exposure to contaminants until you’re ready to remove the alfoil.

Pressure cook the liquid culture

Add the jars to your pressure cooker and bring them to 15 PSI for approximately 15-20 minutes. Read the instructions on your pressure cooker and always remember to fill it above the base plate with water. Leave the culture to cool to room temperature. It will probably take several hours for this to happen and I usually let it cool overnight.

Add some mother culture to the liquid culture

Once you’ve let your jars cool, get your master culture, alcohol wipes and lighter ready. Shake your master culture vigorously to break up the mycelium as much as possible. If it’s the first time that you’re using the syringe needle, you won’t need a lighter since the needle will be sterile. Take the alfoil off the top of your first jar and push the needle through the self-healing injection port and pump a small amount of liquid culture (1-2 ml) in the jar. Repeat this with all of the jars that have been pressure cooked.

Airport lids ready for inoculation with liquid mushroom cultures. Credit: The Mushroom Guide

If you’re not using alfoil, it’s a good idea to wipe the injection port with an alcohol swab prior to sticking a needle through it. Alternatively you can spray it with your alcohol spray (70% alcohol/methylated spirits, 30% water).

If you’re reusing a needle for your syringe, you’ll need to sterilise the needle prior to use. Simply connect the needle to the syringe and hold the syringe over a flame moving it back and forth until the needle is red hot. You can then squirt a small amount of culture out of the needle to cool it down, or rub the needle with an alcohol wipe.

Put it on shelf and wait for it to grow

The majority of mushrooms grow best at a temperature around 25C, outside of this they’ll grow a little slower. I usually leave my jars on a shelf indoors for the first 4-5 days without disturbing it while the mycelium enters growth mode. You should see the mycelium slowly start to grow as it consumes the sugar. After this resting period, swirl the culture every few days to introduce oxygen into the liquid and to break up the mycelium.

Once the mycelium is taking up a large amount of the volume of the jar, vigorously agitate the liquid culture so that the mycelium is as broken up as possible, tilt the jar so that the liquid culture comes up against injection port and, with a sterile syringe and needle, suck the liquid culture into the syringe until it’s full. Your syringe is now ready to inject into grain jars, transfer to agar or share with friends.

In the next instalment, we’ll be looking at working with agar cultures.

Based on an original post available here by Benedict Noel at The Mushroom Guide.

About the author

The Mushroom Guide is written by Benedict Noel from Perth, Western Australia. He’s been hooked on mushroom growing since watching this TED talk in 2015 and has been building his knowledge and experience ever since. Since starting out, he’s helped run a couple of cultivation courses, given presentations at festivals and grown a wide variety of mushrooms, from oyster and shiitake to pioppino and chestnut.

The post The Mushroom Guide Part 8: working with liquid mushroom cultures appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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Ever fancied fishing for your supper but don’t know where to begin? In Part 2 of her Fishing for Food series, Jessie Watson Brown chats with Charlie Loram about the when and where of starting fishing.

By the banks of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, I catch Charlie Loram of The Old Way year-long course and he shares some great tips about getting started with fishing. Last month we looked at all the kit you need, but having the right gear doesn’t mean you will catch fish! So, when beginning to fish it’s important to learn when is best to go, and where; how to approach the water, and how to read what is going on beneath the surface.

What time of year should I go fishing?

Between May and autumn is best. In the winter the fish head into deeper water and will come further inshore in the warmer months.

I love the idea of sitting on the rocks on a sunny summer’s day waiting for a bite. What kind of weather conditions are good for fishing?

It’s actually not such a good time to fish if it’s sunny. Fish want to hide from the glare of the sun – and the predators that can see them more clearly in the light – so in brighter weather they will go deeper and further from shore.

The best weather is duller and cloudy, as they will be feeding more and be less worried about predators being able to see them. Fish that are feeding are more likely to take a bite of your bait. A breeze rippling the surface is helpful too. The rain can disguise you, but they tend to stay lower during rain, it is thought it annoys them!

A perfect cloudy day for some rock fishing.

And what about the tides – what do I need to know about the tides?

Roughly every day there are two high tides and two low tides. Every seven days or so there is either a spring tide or neap tide. That has nothing to do with the seasons, but refers to the tide ‘springing’ up. During a spring tide there is the greatest tidal range, so it goes the lowest and the highest. A neap tide has the lowest tidal range. These phenomenon are guided by full and new moons.

It’s really important to learn how the tides work on your particular bit of coast. What features are there that impact the tides? For example, if you are on the south coast of Britain, the Channel means the tide rises and falls with a side current as the water surges in and out of the Channel.

How does the tide affect the fish?

It’s important to think about what the fish are eating, and how they might use the tide to help them feed. Small creatures living in sand and mud wait underneath during low tide, and an incoming tide will cover them with water so they come out to feed. The fish that eat these will also come to feed with the rising tide.

Fish may also be found hiding from strong currents, or, alternatively, swept along by currents. After a storm many more fish will have been swept nearer the shore.

What about locations, where should I go to fish?

As a beginner, I really recommend you start with something like mackerel fishing from rocks or a boat. Ask around local fishing people or tackle shops to find good spots. Rocks on the coastline mean you have access to deep water where the mackerel feed, rather than casting from a beach where the land slopes away gradually.

It’s also really worth thinking about where the fish will be. Fishing requires you to look at the water in a whole new light. Generally people just look at the surface, but when fishing you need to see the water as the 3D landscape that it is – with features and open spaces. And then to understand how this impacts the fish. Are they using a pier or rocks to shelter from the currents? Or is there a highway where they can ride the tides? Look for features where fish might find food and be feeding.

Ask in local tackle shops or online fishing forums for good spots local to you – there will be some favourite locations that people go to.

What are the main safety concerns I should be aware of when heading out to fish?

Probably the most risky fishing is that from rocks. It’s best to avoid it during stormy weather, as wave surges can sweep you off the rocks and out to sea. Plus they become slippery in the wet.

Be careful not to get stuck in mud in tidal areas of estuaries. Be really aware of the tide, and your way off the coast, and make sure you don’t get cut off by an incoming tide. Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, and heading out with a companion is always a good idea. Take a phone with you too.

Even though you’ve explained all this – I feel it would be really helpful to have someone show me what to do! Where do I find people to teach me the practicals?

There are a few ways. One is that you could simply head to a beach and set up fishing near (but not too close) to someone who looks like they know what they are doing – and after a few hours of fruitless casting, head over and ask for some tips. You could also go on a course or hire a fishing guide.

About the author

Jessie Watson Brown is a tanner and basket weaver, making and crafting using natural materials. Jessie is based on Dartmoor, and along with Jane Robertson, offers courses and camps in tanning at Oak and Smoke Tannery. She looks after the Nature section of our website.

The post Getting started with fishing for food: Part 2 – When and where? appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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In the wake of Facebook’s recent announcement, community currency engineer Matthew Slater asks if Libra coin is poised to conquer the world.

The cryptocurrency world is reeling this week from the white paper of Libra, a coming cryptocurrency with so much corporate buy-in, it threatens to change the payments industry.

Most people are saying this is a Facebook coin, but that’s not how Facebook wants it to be seen. To businesses, Facebook is a somewhat tacky brand, known as a vehicle for fake news, selling people’s data for money and for all its users being “dumb f***s“. So although Facebook incubated the project, and will provide the initial users, Libra is a separate entity controlled by many multinational corporations. The coin is intended for everyone, not just “dumb f**k” Facebook users.

Libra explains itself very clearly and there has been some excellent analysis, notably from the Financial Times which compared Libra to the Federal Reserve, and from Rachel O’Dwyer, and from TechCrunch. Building on these I want to consider Libra as an initiative to own and control everything.

Usually we tend to think the issuer of the money derives political power by first spending without earning (seignurage), or lending without saving (banking). The issuer has de facto control over monetary policy, which is to say they determine how much to issue and who gets it first. This power is completely absent in Libra, because every Libra coin will be fully backed by money or other near-liquid assets in the Founding Partners’ bank accounts. So saying, its first ‘belief’ implies that once the poor are signed up and circulating the coins, usury won’t be far behind.

We believe that many more people should have access to financial services and to cheap capital.

Modern money systems have another dimension of political power, which is the payment ‘rails’. This terminology likens a payment to the transportation of coal or iron ore across the country or continent by rail. To get the stuff from A to B there is only one railway, and you pay to send your load across it. Similarly to debit one bank account and credit another, you may only use the IT infrastructure provided by the banks concerned including some intermediaries in the case of international payments.

A rails network is really just a ledger and a payment is really just a line on that ledger, so payments within the same network are very cheap to process. Paying across networks involves more ledgers, software compatibility issues and more auditing, and a settlement system is needed in case the payments don’t balance between the networks. This is one problem the Credit Commons would solve. Big networks which can process more payments internally therefore have an advantage, and obviously a monopoly would be the most efficient structure of all.

Note that the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley are much less interested in providing services than in creating and owning monopolies. In tech, the free market is not about allowing competition to ensure the best products and the best prices, but a stage in a market’s development before the best financed company eats or crushes its competitors. So Facebook is the social network, Google the search engine, Amazon the marketplace and logistics, Uber the chauffeuring, etc. They look enviously to China where the SuperApp WeChat is so ubiquitous that the government uses it for social engineering.

Payments is very hotly contested, though, because it yields the most money for the least risk/work. In the 20th century banks cooperated to build a global payments network, but then the internet came and PayPal got the internet payments monopoly almost uncontested. Bitcoin was horrific because it revealed that payments can be done by a machine and need only cost a fraction of a cent. However neither Bitcoin nor its successors have been able to gain mass acceptance.

So the payments sector is still very fractured and inefficient: international payments are still slow and/or expensive; the poorest are excluded from it because it’s not cost effective to give them bank accounts; all the national currencies fluctuate against each other making pricing difficult; micropayments have been talked about for years, but there are so many incompatible competing providers that it is still impractical.

Source: matslats.net

Facebook now boasts that about one third of all humans are actively using the platform including half a billion people who don’t have a bank account and so have no cheap way to make non-local payments. If Facebook provided a payment rails it would already be the largest in the world. It has taken some time, and it looks like they couldn’t do it alone, but Libra is nothing short of an attempt to wipe out Paypal, ApplePay, Western Union, Bitcoin, possibly M-Pesa, and take a large chunk of the bank to bank payments and online payments markets. To call this ‘decentralised’ simply because the ledger is spread across many machines is extremely cynical. Oh, did I mention it’s a cryptocurrency, whatever that means?

As trading volume increases, people will be content to store more value in Libra coin between purchases, and then ask payees if they can accept Libra. International traders may prefer to price things in Libra, which is designed to be stable against a basket of currencies, meaning that it will be more stable than any one currency in the basket. Its ability to hedge exchange rate risk by being acceptable globally will increase demand for it as a store of value. If Wall Street wanted to attack your country, and you were suffering from inflation, your country can prevent you buying dollars, but preventing you selling your national currency for Libra would be harder.

Libra coin will be trade-able on the cryptocurrency markets. Being fully backed by fiat money, it will be stable against fiat money. This means it is competing directly with stablecoins (like Tether) as the safe asset to hold when all crypto is falling). Similarly it will compete with Bitcoin as the ‘money’ of the market, the asset in which all other assets are priced. At current prices it would take an average holding of $6 per active Facebook user to topple Bitcoin as the coin with the highest market capitalisation.

If it succeeds Libra will make a profit for the investors and payments much easier for all its users. And it will become part of the state/corporate machinery to influence, judge, and censor us. It will marginalise all other cryptocurrencies (and their anti-authoritarian narratives). It will bring the countries closer together in trade in accordance with the globalist vision. Later it might anoint a new generation of banks to lend promises of coins and derive further revenue from interest; it could compete with the dollar, the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights, and gold as the next global reserve currency; and will surely remove monetary policy from democratic control and put it into private hands.

It is tempting to denounce this coin as evil and vow never to use it, but, like email and mobile phones, you can only hold out so long before you get socially isolated. So I wanted to conclude by considering the ethics of using this system. First of all, whenever you pay or accept a payment in Libra coin you reinforce the usefulness of the system in the mind of the other person, and of course the recipient is nudged to spend the coins on inside the network because it is cheaper and easier than cashing out. The other concern is your balance. For every dollars-worth of coin you hold, you are giving those dragons pictured above, a dollar of interest-free credit, and their banks a dollar of capital.

Will Libra coin conquer the world? I do think it has all the ingredients to monopolise consumer payments, and from there to do much more. However the world domination these princes of finance have been plotting ignores the imminence and extent of climate change. The rich soil they will seize will soon be worthless sand.

Reproduced with permission from Matthew’s original article available here. If you like the idea of disrupting the financial system, but would prefer not to transfer power from undemocratic banks to undemocratic Facebook, then take a look at the Open Credit Network, a co-operative project to bring moneyless trading and interest-free credit to the UK.

About the author

Matthew Slater develops software for complementary currencies. He co-founded Community Forge and co-authored the Money & Society MOOC, a free online course. He also co-drafted the Credit Commons white paper, a proposal for a global solidarity economy money system, based on mutual credit principles.

The post Will Facebook’s Libra coin conquer the world? appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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The yarn is ready to package up at The Natural Fibre Company’s spinning mill, as Sue Blacker shares the final leg of The Wool Journey.

One important thing about this whole Wool Journey is that basically we have described getting from the sheep to the yarn, with various options along the way. However, a yarn is still actually only an incredibly versatile raw material, ready to be made into something!

The options for wool yarn are huge: from lace ring shawls to heavy, hard-wearing carpets or fire-fighter clothing, from natural coloured to amazing dyed shades. So here we are only just preparing a pack of yarn for the amazing further journeys. Even so, each kilogram of spun single yarn may go through up to seven further processes to get it ready to leave our mill.

Cones

We already mentioned cones in Part 14, as the way in which single yarns are almost always packaged. Cones have the advantage of density and carry a large quantity of yarn in a relatively small volume.

However, while they may be made to a specific weight, they are relatively heavy so less ideal for hand crafts. Also of course they tend to be of a single colour. A cone is a great option for Guernsey yarns, as for example sold by our fellow Cornish company Frangipani, as a Guernsey uses a great deal of yarn and having the cone means few or no joins and ends to sew in. But cones don’t fit so easily into pockets or hand-bags!

Skeins, hanks and balls

So the other options are skeins/hanks and balls. The word skein is used in the UK as an alternative to the word hank, and is a nicer sounding word in my view.  However, in the USA, a skein can also mean a ball of yarn. So occasionally confusion can arise!

Taking a plied yarn from the plying tube, it may be either reeled into a skein or wound onto a cone. Due to the design of ball-winders, it is not easy to wind balls directly from plied tubes, but anyway we would not want to do this as there is usually a vital intermediate stage!

Some of our customers are happy to wash out the spinning oil themselves which obviously saves them money too. They may take large un-weighed hanks and wash them or even take cones and reel off measured hanks. Either of these two unwashed finishes are included in our spinning prices. If they soak well and wash well, they can also happily dye hanks which still contain the spinning oil.

However, an increasing proportion of our customers want their yarn in skeins or balls, with paper bands or even tied-on tags.

Normally, therefore, we need to wash out the spinning oil. If we are dyeing a yarn, the dye process will also remove the spinning oil, which is emulsifiable and easily removed with just warm water, with a small amount of added soap if needed. The washing does rather more than just removing the oil however, as this process also bulks up the yarn and brightens the colour which will have been camouflaged slightly by the oil.

At The Natural Fibre Company, we are now the proud possessors of a special washing machine originally designed for bridal and evening wear and therefore also perfect for all but the most delicate yarns. This has helped us to cope with the growing demand, though we still need to wash mohair, alpaca and very fine yarns by hand, then helped by our trusty wringer by the sink, which was the cheapest and best ever productivity aid we have bought.

After washing or dyeing, we can spin-dry the yarn to remove most of the moisture and then it is hung on racks to air dry. Larger hanks of finer yarns and alpaca take longer, maybe even three days, while smaller hanks and medium yarns take maybe a day. We have a drying room and also open racks and we go and turn the skeins/hanks regularly to enable the air to dry the whole of them.

If we are making measured 100g or 200g skeins/hanks, then we reel these directly from the plying tubes, wash, dry and they are ready either to send back loose or to hand twist and possibly label. Each skein is individually weighed as the tolerances on trading standards are pretty strict and have to be met.

It is easier to make measured skeins from worsted spun yarn as it is inherently more even than a woollen spun yarn, where the weight can vary quite a lot – we work on finished weight as required, and therefore the length of yarn in each skein or ball will differ and this is why we stress the small “c.” on our labelling, because as a natural product the yarn does naturally vary.

If we are making 50g or 100g balls, we reel into large hanks, wash and dry and then wind onto cones so that the yarn will flow evenly onto our ball-winding machine. The ball-winder, like the skein reeler, works on measured length, so again we need to weigh each ball for accuracy. We then label, if required, and pack into bags.

As with skeins, so balls will also be more even and quicker to make from worsted than from woollen spun yarn, but the overall finishing process is not dramatically different dye to the time taken in both spinning and plying. Overall worsted yarns take longer to make due to the additional time needed in worsted yarn preparation (combing and gilling, see Parts 10 and 11).

The cones are packed into re-usable double polypropylene sacks as the handling by carriers or even on pallets seems to require it! We are endeavouring to save on plastics by using a clean inner sack and a re-used outer sack.

The skeins and balls are packed into re-usable grip-seal transparent plastic bags, to keep them in best condition.  We have looked at other options but paper tears and woven fabrics permit moths to invade, so the grip-seal at least makes the bags re-usable.  Bio-degradeable bags are an option but are expensive and obviously may then also cause our customers to have to find another bag!  The bags are then packed into second hand cardboard boxes made of course, as almost all cardboard is, of recycled paper fibre.

Dyeing

We have a dye plant and we do a certain amount of dyeing both for some larger customers and also for Blacker Yarns.  Unless dyeing in very small quantities at home, dyeing, like spinning, tends to be a volume business and this is why we no longer dye small batches, because we are not a hand-made business even though our yarns are all hand finished, and our dye vats have a certain capacity.

Dyeing is a whole new magic business and people love colour, which is why they have over millennia selected white sheep!  And it is why, but for the efforts of enthusiasts, naturally coloured sheep are very much less numerous.

We have produced an advice note on dyeing, which importantly describes the effects of a dye on different yarn bases – even white wool is not a particular white but may vary from bone white to buttery cream and this will affect the colour when dyed.

While we do have a postscript about labelling to add, we have now reached the end of this particular journey… but the beginning of the next  journeys of a wool yarn or scoured wool fibre. We hope this encourages people to experiment more and also to use more wool!

About the author

As British wool spinners, The Natural Fibre Company add value by processing quantities of fleece from 20 kilograms up to over a tonne and more. As we scour, card, dye and woollen and worsted spin under one roof, we are effectively experts in all aspects of the process of turning raw fleece into high quality yarn. Most of our customers are in the UK for rare and specialist breeds.

The post The Wool Journey Part 15: the final wool yarn package and packaging appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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Community currency engineer Matthew Slater shares his latest thoughts, joining the dots on the current climate crisis and what the near future may hold for human civilisation.

I suspected for a long time that our civilisation wasn’t viable. When the banks crashed in 2008 I paid attention to a lot of apocalyptic reporting that said we came this close to economic Armageddon – whatever that meant. As I better understood how capitalism is a stupid dogma preached increasingly only by self-serving, vain sociopaths, how it requires exponential consumption of resources, and how it has failed to respond to increasingly shrill science-based warnings. I came to expect the ultimate financial collapse at any moment, or at least in my lifetime.

I was alarmed in early April 2018 when the polar vortex broke and Europe froze, but Jem Bendell’s paper, Deep Adaptation: A map for navigating the climate tragedy didn’t alarm me too much. His favoured theory was a multi-breadbasket failure (MBBF) within 5-10 years; the melting of sea ice at the north pole would disrupt the weather so much that that grain harvests in Russia, USA and Canada would all fail, and that this would probably lead to societal collapse. Fair enough, I said.

Jem’s instincts can be uncanny. Last week I heard the news that the polar vortex has shifted over from the less cold north polar ocean to Greenland, where more ice remains, and this has meant near incessant rain for grain farmers in USA. By the end of the planting season, only 60% of the fields had been planted, and much of what was planted had drowned. This plus drought in Australia and a long Russian winter means that we are facing MBBF this year.

Food, Glorious Food. Never Before Has Earth Needed More: Part 1 of 2 - YouTube

Suddenly I’m not so sanguine. My last ten years work on complementary currencies has been an expression of optimism I didn’t feel, that it was possible for people to self organise and run society differently. I felt even if there was the smallest chance of it being meaningful, in the face of such suffering, working to change the system was meaningful. Now without time to change the system, it’s hard to find purpose.

We’ve been sunning ourselves on the beach until the tide went out waaaay too far, and now we see the froth of the tsunami on the horizon. It’s too late to install the early warning system, too late to reinforce our houses, now we’ve only got time to run and to hope. It’s time for me to admit that the system I was working to change for the better will be destroyed and all my work will be dashed on the rocks. It’s too late to build a decentralised energy grid; too late to redesign finance; too late to build a better food system; too late to restore our national manufacturing base; too late to restore our soils, agriculture; too late for carbon capture technologies; too late to dismantle the fossil fuel leviathan; too late for every hope I clung to; from last week to this, I don’t know who I am any more.

Readers who knew me post-2008 may liken my anxiety then to my present anxiety. In both cases I’m right about the mechanism, and the timing is unknowable.

Climate science is far from exact, but when it starts playing out we’d be foolish to say it was wrong. But there’s a leap from “crops will fail” to “society will collapse” which is another field entirely. A sensible society could still take steps (that’s what Deep Adaptation is about) not so much to reduce carbon emissions but to ensure that resources are shared. But our society is very far from sensible, or even aware of what is coming. A real but manageable hunger crisis, perhaps comparable to the special period in Cuba, will be compounded by shock, blame, #ClimateGrief, and opportunist elites profiting from pain.

So this winter the global grain reserves will be eaten and, as in 2011, the poorer countries will probably experience political unrest fuelled by high food prices. Since the north pole is past its tipping point, next year will almost certainly be worse than this, so about 18 months from now, a LOT of people will be freaking out. More than ever before, the food we eat will be taken directly out of the mouths of the starving.

Some people are predicting human extinction, but that seems a rather abstract loss to me. My chest is heavy and my gaze constantly drifts because I’m grieving the failure of our wondrous civilisation, contemplating the expansion of needless suffering, and turning to face a difficult future.

It is easy to be fearful of the future which is unknown by definition. But in this case we know a lot – we just don’t spend much time joining the dots. Perhaps I’ll outline my thoughts another time – if it’s not too late!

Reproduced with permission from Matthew’s original article available here.

About the author

Matthew Slater develops software for complementary currencies. He co-founded Community Forge and co-authored the Money & Society MOOC, a free online course. He also co-drafted the Credit Commons white paper, a proposal for a global solidarity economy money system, based on mutual credit principles.

The post Joining the dots of the climate crisis with Matthew Slater appeared first on Lowimpact.org.

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