Sunday, July 28, 2013


Once upon a time, long, long ago, musicians Stephen Stills and Judy Collins enjoyed a romance.  Then, Judy sailed away and broke his heart.  Stephen wrote Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, which I recently heard again.  One line made my head spin: “Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.”  Why not?  Remembering the past sounds like an excellent idea.  What we are not now is wild and free human beings — normal & authentic.

I just finished Brian Fagan’s book, Cro-Magnon, which describes an important segment of my family history.  The happy news is that there have been three studies of the mitochondrial DNA of modern Europeans, and their genes are primarily indigenous.  The invading farmers from the Fertile Crescent did not exterminate the natives.  The genes of the eastern immigrants are somewhere between 15% and 28% of the modern European DNA. 

It staggers the imagination to contemplate the astonishing wildness, beauty, and vitality of Ice Age Europe.  It’s heartbreaking — and illuminating — when these grand memories remind us of what we are not now.  After reading the book, I feel a much stronger connection to the ancient cave paintings.  Those artists were my ancestors, and their images belong in the family album.  My people once lived in lands inhabited by wooly mammoths, aurochs, bison, and vast herds of reindeer.  They lived beside streams that thundered during salmon runs.  This gave me a sense of homecoming, a powerful remembering.

Fagan does a nice job of describing the world of the Ice Age, and the wild swings of the climate — growing glaciers & melting glaciers.  When the climate warmed, the hunters and their game moved north, and when frigid times returned, they moved south.  The hunters followed the meat, and the meat followed the grass.

“There were at least fifteen to twenty short-term events when temperatures were up to 44.5 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) warmer than during the intervening colder intervals.”  The climate could swing from pleasant to freezing over the course of a lifetime.  Siberia was once a tropical forest, the Sahara once had lakes and grasslands, and there was a time when you could walk from France to England.

The sad news is that the hunting tribes of Europe became farmers.  This may have been similar to the spread of corn from Mexico to the tribes of the north — an amazing innovation that bit us on the ass, and cast wicked shadows on the unborn generations.  Fagan helped me to better understand the transition to agriculture, in which ongoing innovation in hunting technology played a leading role.

All hominids have African ancestors.  Some of them migrated to Asia, where Neanderthals first walked onto the stage.  Some Neanderthals moved to Europe maybe 300,000 years ago, where they hung out in cool temperate forests.  Their primary weapon was a heavy thrusting spear with a sharp fire-hardened tip.  These were great for killing large slow-moving animals. 

Fagan believes that the Neanderthals were luckless dullards, because they displayed almost no innovative cleverness over vast spans of time.  They were simple and stable, and their dance on this planet may have been far longer than ours will turn out to be — and they didn’t destroy paradise.  What dreary bores!

“Cro-Magnon” refers only to the Homo sapiens clans that inhabited Europe, but our species originally emerged in Africa, maybe 170,000 years ago.  Around 45,000 years ago, some moved into Europe, and within 5,000 years, they lightly inhabited much of the continent.  Cro-Magnons left us the gorgeous painted caves, magic peepholes into fairyland.  Neanderthals went extinct about 30,000 years ago, for unknown reasons.

The trademark weapon of Cro-Magnons was the lightweight throwing spear, tipped with stone or antler.  It was excellent for hunting on open land, and it could kill from a distance.  It made it easier to kill a wider variety of prey, like deer and reindeer.  Thus, there was more meat on the table, more bambinos in the nursery, and more spear-chuckers running around the bloody countryside.  Even during warm eras, European summers were short, and plant foods were limited, so meat was the core source of nourishment.  Homo sapiens have been purebred hunters since day one in Africa.

Later, the bow and arrow arrived.  Bows may have been used 18,000 years ago, based on circumstantial evidence, but the oldest bow found so far was from 10,800 BC.  The bow was a diabolically powerful weapon.  It could be fired from any angle, and quickly reloaded.  It could kill critters large and small from a long distance.  It was great for forest hunting.  Nets, traps, and barbed fish spears also came into use.  Rabbits, birds, and rodents now appeared on the menu — more meat, bambinos, and hunters — and less and less wildlife.  Our consumption of plant foods and shellfish increased.

Around 12,900 years ago, the Younger Dryas period brought frigid weather back again, for a thousand years.  It brought severe droughts to the Near East, and the humans adapted by harvesting and planting grass seeds.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  The combination of excess cleverness, deficient family planning, and climate change put us on a bullet train to global catastrophe.

“Within a surprisingly few generations, the people of the Near East and southeastern Turkey were entirely dependent on farming.  When wetter conditions returned at the end of the Younger Dryas, the new economies spread like wildfire across Anatolia and into southeast Europe, where they were well established before eight thousand years ago.”

What we know about human evolution and Ice Age Europe is quite fragmentary.  Time, glaciers, and civilization have taken a big toll on the meager evidence.  The timeline is full of holes, the dates are controversial, the theories are controversial, and the research continues.  Fagan’s book also has some holes, which can be filled by a visit to Wikipedia.

Annoyingly, he inserted a number of ideas unsupported by hard evidence, based on speculation.  For example, Neanderthals probably didn’t have complex language because they persisted in living in a simple manner.  Their primitive brains may have lacked the neural circuits necessary for feverish innovation and pathological ecocide. 

Fagan is the captain of the Homo sapiens cheerleading squad.  He gushes with praise for our unbelievably clever species.  “Effective technology, an acute self-awareness, and an intimate relationship with the environment made the Cro-Magnon personality practically invincible.”  In frigid regions of Europe, they “adapted effortlessly to the ever-colder conditions.”

I’m glad that I read this book, because I learned a lot from it, and I will not forget it.  The entire era of civilization has existed during an unusually long period of warm and stable weather.  Our food production system is fine-tuned for this climate, and it’s going to have tremendous problems as the planet gets hotter and hotter.  Fagan helps us remember the scary roller coaster of climate history, and how it mercilessly hammers the unlucky, over and over again, big brains and all.

Given the fact that we’re currently beating the stuffing out Big Mama Nature, the gushing praise for human intelligence and innovation emits a noxious cloud of stinky funk.  Where is the line between brilliant innovation and idiotic self-destruction?  Are they the same?  Is it possible that simple and stable do not mean stupid?  These questions should not be swept under the rug.  We really, really need to remember what we are not now.  We need to discover the long lost treasure.

The next book on my voyage is The Humans Who Went Extinct, by Clive Finlayson, who is far more sympathetic to our Neanderthal relatives.  Sounds interesting.  Stay tuned.

Fagan, Brian, Cro-Magnon – How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Greetings and Salutations

I am proud to announce the long-awaited release of Sustainable or Bust.  It’s immediately available in paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon outlets around the world.  It will shortly be available via non-Amazon booksellers — the printer indicates that my book will slither its way through the various independent distribution channels in “approximately six weeks.”  It may just be the perfect gift for every occasion! 

As a rule, I have no affection for corporations, but I do have gratitude for Amazon (the seller), and its subsidiary CreateSpace (the printer), for allowing me to share my work with the world.  They roll out the red carpet for authors who wish to self-publish — a lifesaver for folks who are writing to a limited audience.  The book is “print on demand,” so if someone orders five copies, five copies are printed.  Thus, unsold copies will never be tossed in a dumpster.  It will remain “in print” indefinitely, whether or not it sells briskly.

Creating this book has been fascinating and satisfying.  I’m thrilled to share it with the world.  But from a business perspective, it’s been a pure loss — all expenses and zero income.  It would be fun to recover my expenses.  It would be even more fun if I could spend my remaining days as a wordsmith, in some way.

My primary interest is in nurturing the discussion of genuine sustainability, so the unborn generations of all species might suffer less — and to share the dream of humankind once again returning to balance with the family of life, a dream of great healing.  Having this project pay for itself is a secondary interest.

Anyone can read early versions of the contents of the book on my blog, free of charge.  On the blog, the sequence of the posts is random.  In the official book, the sections are ordered in a sequence that I feel has more coherence and impact, and a significant number of imperfections have been thrown overboard, screaming.

PLEASE (!!!) contemplate the notion of writing a review and posting it on Amazon, if you can conjure at least 20 words of commentary.  Positive reviews provide encouragement to pilgrims who do not know my work.  The reviews are relayed to all Amazon outposts on Earth, and you do not have to use your real name, or buy the book from them.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Sustainable or Bust is priced at $14.95, and it can be purchased from many outlets.  I’m sometimes asked which purchase option provides the most income to me, the author. 

If you buy directly from the printer’s CreateSpace eStore, I receive $8.11.  CreateSpace is an Amazon subsidiary, not a shady enterprise running in a Hoboken garage.  It has printing facilities in several locations on Earth, to control shipping costs.  Approved booksellers can buy books at wholesale prices via CreateSpace Direct.    Sustainable or Bust    What Is Sustainable

If you buy from Amazon, I receive $5.12.  At Amazon, the “Look Inside” feature is enabled, allowing you to examine portions of the book’s content, and to search the contents.  Amazon is where to post comments, even if you don’t buy from them.    Sustainable or Bust    What Is Sustainable

If you buy from other booksellers, I receive $2.13.

The Kindle versions of my books are priced at $2.99, of which I get $2.09.  The books can be downloaded in seconds, with no shipping charges, and no cardboard box dies in the process.  A Kindle device is not needed; you can download free software for reading books on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Lending is enabled, so buyers can temporarily “lend” the digital book to a friend.  Also, Amazon Prime members can “borrow” the book from Amazon, free of charge, and Amazon will pay me a varying commission in the neighborhood of $2.00.    Sustainable or Bust    What Is Sustainable

The following is the official description jabber for Sustainable or Bust:

Clearly, the “normal” way of life is the opposite of genuine sustainability, and it has an expiration date.  Any way of life that is fully in balance with the family of life must be genuinely sustainable, a healthy path with a future.  At present, too few really comprehend this concept.  It would be wise to learn, and Sustainable or Bust is a useful tool for the job.

Seven-point-something billion people can’t switch to sustainable living this afternoon, because it’s temporarily impossible.  But the collapse of industrial civilization is now in its early stages, and when it’s done, the human sphere will be much smaller, slower, and simpler.  Decades down the road, many new options will become possible, including genuine sustainability.

We could help our descendants find a more direct path to health and balance by learning about sustainability now, and sharing this wisdom with the young ones.  There’s never been a better time to hit the books and feed our minds — before the lights go out.  Nothing can change until ideas change.

My first book, What Is Sustainable, presented an introduction to genuine sustainability, with an emphasis on food.  Sustainable or Bust is a collection of 64 book reviews, and 16 rants.  It’s a gallery of thinkers, scholars, and ideas that might make “normal” minds itch and squirm.  This book is for pilgrims who are awake, alive, and weary of normal — minds hungry for outside-the-box ideas.

I don’t expect to see the end of the collapse.  What the survivors, if any, choose to do is entirely beyond my control.  I am not responsible for the decisions they make, but I am responsible for doing what I can to help them understand their history, predicament, and options.  Who are we?  Where are we from?  How did we get here?

*    *    *

For over 20 years, Richard Adrian Reese has been on a quest to comprehend the mysterious riddle of the Earth Crisis.  His primary focus is exploring genuine sustainability and ecological history.  These are tremendously important subjects, but poorly understood.  He has a history degree from Western Michigan University, and lives in Oregon.

NOTE:  Because of software quirks, the Kindle version of Sustainable or Bust has a gray cover, and the paperback version has a white one.  The content is the same, except that the Kindle version has no index, since it’s searchable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Evolution of Technology

Humans are the most sophisticated toolmakers in the family of life.  We’ve gone from stone hammers to hydrogen bombs.  We’ve become so addicted to our technology that we can no longer survive without it.  If we eliminated electricity, this way of life would disintegrate before our eyes, causing many to perish.

Humans no longer sit in the pilot seat of our global civilization.  The autopilot runs the show.  Our complex labyrinth of technology herds us through a chute.  It’s no longer possible to make sharp (intelligent) turns, because the system has immense momentum and no brakes.  We can’t banish cars, plows, or electricity today.  We’re trapped on a runaway train.

How and why did we get into this mess?  That’s the subject of George Basalla’s book, The Evolution of Technology.  Scholars were debating this issue, and Basalla had an urge to jump into the ring, molest the illusions of his inferiors, and set the record straight.

His first task was to demonstrate that innovation did, in fact, evolve — by synthesizing or altering existing innovations.  Famous inventions were never original, unique, unprecedented acts of pure magic that fell out of the sky, like acts of God.  The myth of the heroic inventor is just 300 years old.  Henry Ford referred to his monster child as a quadracycle.  “The first automobiles were little more than four-wheeled bicycles,” said Basalla.  The mother of invention was evolution, not revolution.  A stick on the ground evolved into a throwing stick, then a spear, then a missile.

His second task was to explain the various ways in which our dance with artifacts has evolved, and this consumed most of the book.  Readers are taken on an illuminating journey to realms that our industrial society has erased from the maps and forgotten.

We’ve all seen the graph of population growth over the last 10,000 years.  Technological evolution follows a similar curve.  For most of the hominid journey, our artifacts were little more than sticks and stones, and their evolution happened very slowly.  A state of the art stone hammer might be no different from a hammer used 500,000 years earlier.

It is important to understand that for almost the entire hominid journey, our ancestors enjoyed a relatively sustainable way of life, and that this era corresponds exactly with the long, long era when technological evolution was essentially in a coma.  This is not a coincidence.

Unfortunately, our system of education is writhing in a bad trip after inhaling the loony fumes of the myth of progress.  This intoxicant was conjured by notorious buffoons 200 years ago, and its side effects include disorientation, anxiety, and uncontrollable self-destructive impulses.  We continue to hallucinate that the zenith of the human journey is today, and that the Golden Age is yet to come.  We have a remarkable ability to completely tune out what is perfectly obvious, and vitally important.

The Tikopians and Sentineli are island societies that keep their numbers in check, and live very lightly, using simple artifacts.  These communities stay in balance with their land, and are content.  They do not suffer from a persistent itch for more and more.  Technological innovation is entirely off their radar.  They have no need for it, and experimenting with it could permanently destroy them.

Native American potters and basket weavers created artifacts that were careful, error-free reproductions of traditional designs.  Apprentices worked hard to imitate the work of their elders, and their success earned respect.  Their culture had a healthy resistance to change, because their time-proven traditions kept them on a good path.

 “In the Muslim tradition, innovation or novelty is automatically assumed to be evil until it can be proved otherwise,” said Basalla.  “The Arabic word bid’a has the double meaning of novelty and heresy.”  The Prophet warned that those who imitate infidels turn into infidels.  Indeed!

China invented the compass, gunpowder, and printing, and put them to practical use.  When Europeans brought this knowledge home, it sparked immense innovation that led to major changes in their way of life.  The vast Chinese civilization was stable and conservative.  It was not nimble, fast-paced, and highly competitive, like Europe.  Europe was a chaotic and unstable collection of competing nations.  Society had far less resistance to new artifacts.

The wheel was first used in Mesopotamia, about 5,000 years ago.  In many societies, it became a popular artifact, used for commerce and warfare.  “A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.”  (Proverbs 20:26)

The native civilizations of North and South America were able to grow and die without using wheeled transport.  Many groups in the Near East eventually abandoned the use of wagons, because camels were a faster and easier way of moving stuff.  Wild tribes often just carried stuff home on their backs via footpaths, or paddled canoes — wheels required far more effort: cleared roads, bridges, and wagons.

The industrial civilizations of Europe and America have extensively used wheels in their artifacts.  Our cultural myths celebrate the wheel as a super-sacred icon.  Basalla concluded, “the wheel is not a unique mechanical contrivance necessary, or useful, to all people at all times.”  The ability to whoosh across the landscape on a bicycle is not required to meet our biological needs.  No sustainable society used wheels, because they had no need for them.

Basalla’s book contained zero evidence that he was an eco-terrorist determined to smash civilization, or even a mild-mannered tree-hugger.  The book just seemed to be unusually objective, as if it had a good cleansing soak in a potent mythocide.  It felt like he was a shaman conveying vital messages from the realm of the ancestors, whilst being cleverly disguised as a history professor.  To the mainstream mind, these messages constitute shocking, obscene heresies.  But the messages contain the medicine we need to blow the locks off our minds, so we can escape, go home, and heal.

Agriculture and architecture are new novelties, not necessities.  “No technology whatsoever is required to meet animal needs.”  Yes, other animals use tools but, “There are no fire-using animals nor are there animals that routinely fashion new tools, improve upon old tool designs, use tools to make other tools, or pass on accumulated technical knowledge to offspring.” 

Obviously, we could not live like hurricanes without artifacts, and we could not survive in many regions where humans are an invasive exotic species, but we could enjoy a tool-free future in tropical regions, like our ancient African motherland (or a future Siberian jungle?).

There is no evidence that “a causal connection exists between advances in technology and the overall betterment of the human race.  Therefore, the popular but illusory concept of technological progress should be discarded.”

Agriculture and cooking are “unnecessary because plants and animals are able to grow and even thrive without human intervention, and because food need not be processed by fire before it is fit for human consumption.”

“Artifacts are uniquely identified with humanity — indeed they are a distinguishing characteristic of human life; nevertheless, we can survive without them.”

“Fire, the stone axe, or the wheel are no more items of absolute necessity than are the trivial gadgets that gain popularity for a season and quickly disappear.”

Basalla’s insights bounce off the frozen minds of the mainstream world, automatically rejected by bulletproof denial.  But these fresh notions are a sure sign that clear thinking is beginning to seep into the stagnant halls of history departments, those dusty story museums where the dying Cult of Progress will make its last stand.

The path to sustainability is blocked by ideas — toxic illusions, metabolized into highly contagious beliefs, resulting in mass insanity.  At the gate of the path to healing, rubbish ideas must be left in the recycle bin.  There is no shortage of better ideas.  Help yourself, and share.

Basalla, George, The Evolution of Technology, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1988.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Desolation Acres

Last week I had a long chat, while strolling along the Willamette, with an American woman who resides in Europe.  She adores being in wild nature, and Europeans have done an impressive job of reducing wild nature to a few tiny dots.  Most Europeans have never experienced healthy wildness.  This is sad.  She wants to come home.

Yesterday, the good pastor Clark dropped by my tent in Facebookland with a bottle of gin and a George Monbiot essay, Ghost Psyche.  The essay was an excerpt from his new book, Feral, which explores the notion of rewilding.  Monbiot lives in Wales, a land where most of wild nature has been erased.  In the essay, he described having strange sensations whilst carrying the warm corpse of a Chinese deer — powerful feelings from the ancient spirit of wildness that is buried somewhere in his psyche.

Most modern folks seem to be disconnected from nature, a great tragedy.  Do wordsmiths have the power to break this curse?  I sense that nature is a far better spell breaker than books.  Anyway, reading Monbiot triggered a flashback.  In the autumn of 1982, I was living in an old farmhouse about eight miles west of Kalamazoo.  The following are the words of a 30-year-old man, having an exciting experience — a sweet memory.


Desolation Acres

Intense, intense, intense!  These are wild times.  Desolation Acres is about to lift off and fly into a new and strange reality.  Christ!  I've barely slept in the last two days.  The powers that roam the land have come here for a gathering.  Wizards fill the sky.  Magic is everywhere.  The moon is as full as my heart.  Almost.

The leaves are just going mad in a visual hurricane of color.  The sumac is turning red, the sassafras is bright orange and yellow, as are the maples.  The apple trees are turning golden, as is the giant hickory tree, which has been here since the beginning of time.

The day is a spectral explosion, and the night is a precious moon land.  The hunter's moon.  In pagan times, it was the “blot monat” — the blood moon.  A time for slaughtering animals for winter food.

The sun has set on another day.  I sit in its afterglow.  Feathery clouds swirl on the horizon.  They alone still breathing in the sunbeams, flushed hot and pink.  Vivid gashes against a soft pale blue-purple background.  The owls are coming out for the nightly hunt.

The air is moving slowly now.  Resting.  Who?  It has the smell of cider.  The orchard behind the house was not picked this year.  Nor last.  Tons of apples lie on the ground, brown and split.  It's the death season.  All the summer's fruit rotting in the weeds.  Who?  The wisp clouds are turning purple.  Daylight makes its last stand.  It's losing too.  Dying.  Who?

Beyond the orchard is a vineyard.  It was not picked this year.  Nor last.  Its fruit is rotting.  Dying on the vine.  Who?  The leaves will soon be dropping to the ground.  Why must summer end?  Why does the fruit lie untouched?  Why am I alone tonight?  Who?  “Who?” — me, you noisy owl!

It's the death season.  Life retreats in fear.  A piercing visual scream.  It's over.  The sun grows ever weaker.  The cold nights rip and tear with sharp teeth.  Green is just a memory now.  A ghost.  Summer is dead and rotting.  King Frost blows over the land with his sharp crystal spear and his cold snowy breath.

A bug is stiffly walking across the sidewalk.  He can't outrun the winter.  He may get a hundred yards, but he'll never make it to Miami.  He'll die here.  Like everything else.  Will I?  Will death take me too?  Will I turn yellow and orange and fall to the ground?  Will I lie in the weeds, brown, split, and rotting?  Eventually.

It's an old farm.  The ground is soaked with blood and sweat, and the air is full of spirits.  The new mother with the hot babe at her breast, wheezing old ladies, plump-handed farmers.  These walls have seen many lives come and go.  Passionate love-making, the screams of childbirth, infants growing into young men and women, and by the warm hearth rests the faithful dog, Death.

It's my turn now to sit here and contemplate life.  To gaze at the stars, along with unseen thousands of other dreamers.  It's my turn to dream.  To paint the blank future with vivid fantasies.  It's my turn to be lonely tonight.  It's been my turn for loneliness for far too long.  Loners write the great painful poems, the wet-eyed ballads, they paint the wild strange pictures that you never forget.

Yesterday, I was walking through the fields looking at the leaves.  There was a rustle in the weeds and out burst a good-sized doe.  She sprinted into the woods.  As I was watching her, I heard another rustle to my right.  It was a big buck.  I'm sure he was taller than I am.  His antlers were three feet across.

I was spell bound.  My mind went into slow motion as I watched him gracefully hurdle the vine rows.  He moved in high powerful arcs with the grace and precision of a ballet dancer.  His white tail had long hair.  As he flew through the brush, it waved good-bye to me.  I watched him, entranced.  It was magic.  All that power and wildness in such flowing motion.

That beautiful creature belongs to this land much more than I do.  His descendants were here long before this farm.  Before the British.  Before the French.  Before the Indians.  Back when this land was a virgin forest.  Roving packs of hungry wolves filled the night air with loud and frightening songs.  Bears and big cats were here too.  The deer will be here after man is gone.  I admire their endurance.

The deer have been blessed with strong legs and sharp minds.  They've never been tamed.  They don't graze on chemical feeds in the farmyard.  Absolutely wild.  They live on apples, grapes, grass, moss, and whatever else they can find.  They're pure.  They live totally off the land.  This is their land.  They have always been here.  I admire their purity, I admire their beauty, I admire their strength.

As I watched this huge beauty dance through the vineyard, I had a spiritual experience.  I felt the warm holiness of this animal.  I felt as though I was sort of a half brother to him.  His wildness called to my wildness.  The deer-spirit sang to me.  My wild man heard him.  Come run with me through the fields wild man.  Chase me with sharp sticks you slow-footed furless troll.  You'll never catch me, but let's dance the dance of the hunt.

For a few moments, as I stood there watching eternal wildness, so free, so alive, so pure — my civilized man completely disappeared.  I was totally free and wild.  Sizzling emotions boiled through my body cleansing and purifying me.  I was at one with the spirit and energy of the planet.  I was the life force, and the life force was me.  The deer and I were one.  Fury and wildness.  Wotan.

Wires were crossed in my mind, and I ceased being civilized.  The wild man has an intense life energy.  Survive!  Eat or die.  Make fire or die.  Build shelter or die.  Kill or die.  Life is a tightrope walk over the gaping jaws of death.  Forever on the brink.  No beer bellies or flabby asses.  Sharp eyes, sharp ears, sharp noses, and strong.

And then I heard gunshots.  I walked to the field where the sounds had come from.  I looked around and noticed a very red bush on the north side of the opening.  I walked toward it and stopped.  I looked down in horror to see a patch of blood-smeared grass and a pile of shiny red organs and grey intestines.  Nearby was the furry white tail.

My stomach dropped.  I was furious.  What sacrilege.  Some damned idiot geek had in a moment destroyed something very sacred.  One less wild and free energy on the planet.  It wasn't even hunting season yet.  I carried the heart back to the farm.  I couldn't let it rot in the weeds.  I couldn't let it be wasted.

What a wild smell!  It filled the kitchen, it exploded in my head, it soaked into my skin like a tattoo, indelible, permanent.  I washed the heart and the sink turned bright red.  It was a big heart, bigger than my own.  I was awed.  I felt small.  A weakling.  I waited for it to cook.

The oven did not tame the smell of the wild.  I cut off a piece and put it in my mouth.  Wild.  His odor permeates my essence, his flavor fills my mouth, and his heart and I are one.  I was off again to the wilderness.  Howling, yelping, wide-eyed, fierce, and strong.  One with the wild.  One with the free.  I've eaten the heart of the Forest King.

My civilization has received a serious wound.  It was the dominant force in me, and there it sits bleeding in the corner, confused.  It doesn't understand wildness.  It never has.  Society will no longer be my home.  I can't go back.  I've been broken.  My wildness has been ripped free from deep inside.  I've felt it surging through my veins.  Electrifying me.  I've broken the mystery.  I now know the truth.  I ride on the night winds with my ancestors.  They're so happy I've returned.

Join us.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Update from the Hermit Cave

Previously, I announced that my new book would be available in June.  Reality didn’t cooperate.  Sorry!  A neat book fell out of the sky, and I decided to review it, and add it to the collection.  So, the writing and editing are now done and final.
The good news is that the Kindle version of Sustainable or Bust successfully uploaded on July 4, and is now available globally.  The price is just $2.99.  Amazon Prime members can “borrow” the book free of charge.
You don’t need to own a Kindle to acquire and read a Kindle book.  Free software is available from Amazon to turn your Mac or PC into a Kindle.  This allows you to read on a big, bright screen — a pleasant benefit for those whose eyes have seen better days.
I also reduced the price for the Kindle version of my first book, What Is Sustainable, to $2.99. 
The paperback version is done, but there is an issue with the printer, CreateSpace.  They are using awesome new software to improve the submission process.  Unfortunately, the software is beta, and it adds two pages to my book, which screws up the page numbers in the table of contents and index.  I’m hoping for a fix this week.  Then, I click OK, they send me a proof copy, I bless it, and click Publish (probably later than this week).  I’m not going to predict how soon it will be available from non-US Amazon sites, but I don’t expect a significant delay.  The price will be $14.95.
Here’s the description:
Clearly, the “normal” way of life is the opposite of genuine sustainability, and it has an expiration date.  Any way of life that is fully in balance with the family of life must be genuinely sustainable, a healthy path with a future.  At present, too few really comprehend this concept.  It would be wise to learn, and Sustainable or Bust is a useful tool for the job.
Seven-point-something billion people can’t switch to sustainable living this afternoon, because it’s temporarily impossible.  But the collapse of industrial civilization is now in its early stages, and when it’s done, the human sphere will be much smaller, slower, and simpler.  Decades down the road, many new options will become possible, including genuine sustainability.
We could help our descendants find a more direct path to health and balance by learning about sustainability now, and sharing this wisdom with the young ones.  There’s never been a better time to hit the books and feed our minds — before the lights go out.  Nothing can change until ideas change.
My first book, What Is Sustainable, presented an introduction to genuine sustainability, with an emphasis on food.  Sustainable or Bust is a collection of 64 book reviews, and 16 rants.  It’s a gallery of thinkers, scholars, and ideas that might make “normal” minds itch and squirm.  This book is for pilgrims who are awake, alive, and weary of normal — minds hungry for outside-the-box ideas.
I don’t expect to see the end of the collapse.  What the survivors, if any, choose to do is entirely beyond my control.  I am not responsible for the decisions they make, but I am responsible for doing what I can to help them understand their history, predicament, and options.  Who are we?  Where are we from?  How did we get here?

Monday, July 1, 2013


For maybe two million years, our ancestors lived relatively sustainably as hunter-gatherers.  Their simple way of life utilized renewable natural resources in a low-impact manner.  This worked very well until advances in weaponry enabled the possibility of megafauna overkill, which pushed many societies into a dark new direction — overtool — an addiction to powerful technology that forced some ancestors out of balance with the family of life.

Unfortunately, it’s possible to abuse and diminish renewable natural resources, and this is not sustainable.  About 10,000 years ago, some societies shifted to agriculture, which increasingly damaged renewable resources via soil mining, forest mining, and water mining.  The agricultural way of life provided little benefit for most people, but it excelled at ecosystem destruction, swept away ancient limits to population growth, and spread like cancer, eventually eliminating most sustainable societies.

Later came the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age.  This was a sharp wrong turn, because we began using nonrenewable natural resources (NNRs).  Minerals are nonrenewable, so no form of mineral mining is sustainable, in theory.  Obviously, Indians making a few stone pipes caused insignificant harm.

Then, less than 300 years ago, the industrial way of life emerged.  It led to explosive population growth and massive ecological damage.  It was ridiculously unsustainable, because it was heavily dependent on consuming NNRs.  The rate at which it devoured mineral resources grew every decade, and has reached staggering levels today.

Imagine a society that was absolutely dependent on beer for its survival, and it had a finite supply of beer — one keg.  If they drank more and more of their nonrenewable beer every day, what would eventually happen?  They would run out of beer, and their society would collapse.

What would happen if they realized that the reserves of essential beer were shrinking, and they created a consumption ceiling that permanently capped guzzling at current rates?  Would the keg of nonrenewable beer last forever?

The problem here is the beer society’s complete dependence on the depletion of a finite nonrenewable resource.  Their politicians couldn’t eliminate depletion via laws and regulations, and their economists couldn’t fix this via money printing or borrowing.  It is simply impossible for this type of society to survive long-term.  The only possible outcome is collapse.  Societies can only be sustainable when based on using renewable resources in a low impact manner (an important idea to teach the young ones).

Christopher O. Clugston gasped when he realized this very important concept.  He fired up his computer, did a lot of research, and wrote a mind-blowing book, Scarcity — Humanity’s Final Chapter?  He identified the 89 NNRs that are essential to the existence of our industrial global society, and studied each of them.  He identified the NNRs that are now scarce, or will be scarce soon.  “By 2008, immediately prior to the Great Recession, 63 (71%) of the 89 analyzed NNRs were scarce globally.”  Scarcity means that society’s requirements for the NNR exceed the available supply that is affordable.

He found that the extraction of all NNRs in 2008 was dramatically higher than in 1900.  During this period, both the global economy, and the world population grew explosively — GDP grew 25 times larger.  To continue on the current trajectory would require enormous additional quantities of NNRs, far more than actually exist.  If the world chose to end growth, and keep the economy at current levels, it would still exhaust the remaining NNRs at a brisk rate.  Every industrial society is a dead end.

In 1900, America was essentially self-sufficient in all the NNRs it needed to whoosh away like a bottle rocket.  We grew like crazy, and temporarily became a superpower.  Things have changed.  “By 2008 America was (net) importing 68 of the 89 analyzed NNRs, including 100% of 19 NNRs.”  Importing NNRs is a further drain on our wealth.

Scarcity drives up prices.  In just the eight years between 2000 and 2008, the prices of most NNRs increased.  For example: cadmium 1,206%, chromium 266%, molybdenum 795%, oil 244%, potash 230%, sulfur 750%, thallium 202%, tungsten 239%, vanadium 547%.  Do you smell trouble?

Rising prices for resources hindered growth, and inspired corporations to move manufacturing operations to low wage nations, to cut costs.  Consequently, America shifted away from manufacturing, toward a service economy, which had less need for NNRs, and produced less real wealth.

Meanwhile, the government had kicked the teeth out of regulations that were created to prevent the financial services sector from disemboweling our economy, as they did in 1929.  This enabled America to produce less real wealth, and more imaginary wealth, which Clugston refers to as pseudo purchasing power.  This allowed us to purchase NNRs with Wall Street fairy dust — an exchange that will come to a tearful end when NNR exporters lose their faith in the value of fairy dust.  Our government is borrowing like there’s no tomorrow, generating stratospheric levels of debt that it has no intention of repaying.  It’s also printing money like crazy.

In 2008, the Great Recession fell out of the sky, rapidly vaporizing trillions of dollars of imaginary wealth.  We were blasted by a tsunami of fraud, idiotic recklessness, and pathological greed.  Clugston points out that growing NNR scarcity was a fundamental contributor to this meltdown.  He has a strong suspicion that 2008 was a major turning point in the human journey.  He wouldn’t be surprised if the industrial global society went into free-fall by 2050, probably sooner.

People who soar away in beautiful hallucinations of economic recovery have lost their connection to reality.  Looking forward, Clugston believes that the best-case scenario is little different from the worst-case.  No nation is sustainable, and all will fall, sooner or later.  World leaders will never agree to cooperate in reversing both population growth and economic growth.  “It is not clear to me that any intelligent response to our predicament exists,” sighs Clugston.  What is clear is that all paths eventually lead to sustainability, a return to the gentle use of renewable resources by a human population of a few million.  “Sustainability is inevitable.” 

Samples of Clugston’s work can be found here and here.  He predicts a painful future based on just overpopulation and NNR scarcity.  The threats of pandemic disease, nuclear disasters, and climate change catastrophes are beyond the scope of this book.  Clugston is not a geologist, but Walter Youngquist has a high opinion of this book.  Scarcity is a fire hose of mind-altering ideas.  It blows away many magical fantasies, and reveals more than a few super-inconvenient truths. 

Clugston, Christopher O., Scarcity — Humanity’s Final Chapter?,, Port Charlotte, Florida, 2012.