Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Henry cutting a mortise for the new wood shed, from pines harvested on the farm.  Most of our red pines have died within the last 5 years -- which certainly has nothing to do with climate change.
Using my newly purchased smartphone (yes, undoubtedly manufactured in a factory with "suicide nets", using rare-earths mined by child slave labor, and powered by fracked gas and Fukushimas-to-be... I know...), I've found that daily chore time is a great time to listen to books. That's 4-5 hours a day that I'm picking up in-depth information that I would otherwise be oblivious to, turning me into a hardcore pseudo-bookworm. It doesn't take long to devour a book at this rate. has allowed me to have yet another free trial (I think this is the third one now?), but I'm otherwise relegated to the limited selection of audiobooks offered through our library. The benefit of the library service is that such a limited selection forced me to venture outside my usual genres by about the 2nd book, even into the realm of fiction. Orwell's 1984 seemed like a good pick, and felt uncomfortably familiar in this age of perpetual war and surveillance. My new smartphone should help the NSA keep tabs on me .  Always good to know I'm doing my part!

On Audible, I selected two books which I've really enjoyed:  Don't Even Think About It:  Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, and John Michael Greer's Dark Age America.

The first book really just crystallized some thoughts and observations I'd previously had -- namely that the more real climate change becomes, the less most people are able to deal with it. The author pointed to surveys conducted among victims of hurricane Sandy and Katrina, which found that such people became far less likely to "believe" in climate change than they were before these pivotal events.

This provides the perfect explanation for the attitude expressed by the mayor of Tangier island in Virginia, recently made famous by a phone call from President Trump. Despite clear and obvious shrinkage of his island (which will disappear completely in 50 years, according to the Army Corps of Engineers), he's convinced that there's no climate change. Considering that much of my family has been blanketed by the smoke from unprecedented wildfires burning in BC (not long after smoke from fires in Washington a few years ago), I'm wondering how they'll fare...

John Michael Greer's book is actually quite optimistic about our future despite the seemingly ominous title. Greer, who predicted Trump's presidency well before most anyone else thought it might be a possibility, seems to have a knack for evaluating situations rivaled by very few (if any) that I've come across. The fact that I agree with the vast majority of his assessment of our future doesn't hurt my opinion of him either.

He sees the end of industrial civilization not as a cataclysmic event to be feared so much as the continuation of a civilizational cycle, much like the end of the Egyptian, Greek, or Roman empires. He envisions us returning to a lower energy lifestyle as a matter of necessity rather than by choice, but suggests that to "collapse early and beat the rush" is a good idea. He sees our population crashing dramatically over this century, not so much through mass famine or cataclysmic events but rather through small and incremental rises in the death rate.

Many of us are prone to binary thinking (i.e. the environment will be "just fine!", or "we're all gonna die tomorrow!") with little in between. Greer points out that history rarely follows such paths, but usually muddles through somewhere in between.

In one example, he mentions that most of us know about 100 people, more or less. Currently, one of those people per year might pass away annually. If that rises to a rate 3 people each year, we'd see a 95% population loss by the end of the century. Thus, seemingly catastrophic changes are achieved via barely noticeable changes -- a recurring theme through the book.

Though I know he's aware of them, I'm not sure he gives full credit to the climate feedback loops that we already appear to have triggered. I don't think most people are scared of a two degree climate change, because they don't understand that two degrees is enough to trigger the feedbacks which quickly push the atmosphere to eight degrees (which involves unsurvivable changes).  Even the 1.5 degree change we've already hit seems to be doing the trick in that regard.

All in all we've had a pretty good summer so far.  I can't remember the last time we topped 90 degrees, though there were a few days earlier in the season.  We're a little light on rainfall, but it's been enough to keep our hay growing well if not our pastures.  Our orchard, planted in the spring of '09, is finally coming to maturity, and is absolutely loaded this year.  I fear I'll get tired of pressing apples. If my blog becomes even more loopy, you can blame all the hard cider I'll be drinking.

We've been working on a woodshed -- to replace the one we built a few years back and which was immediately repurposed into our blacksmithing shed and sugar shack (for maple syrup). Though he's not particularly interested in the project, I've put Henry to work on it as well, and he's doing a good job.  

We had a new calf born this week, and the one born earlier in the year (now about 13 weeks old) is quite fascinated with the new, if wobbly, playmate. Both have an especially strong interest in the barn cats, and are fun to watch as they explore their world while I'm working in the barn.  

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