Thursday, May 21, 2015

Written January 28 - Posted May 22                         

Every so often I lose touch with the significance of what Guy and I are doing here on this little piece of land. Then along comes a book or an article that puts things into perspective again, such as this article by Nafeez Ahmed: Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

Nafeez writes about a study, partly sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, that looks at the possibility that our global industrial civilization is headed for collapse.

[The study] finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations  are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

Permaculture, an approach to living sustainably on the Earth, could save us from the catastrophe of the collapse of western industrial civilisation, which sometimes seems awfully close. The news that the new director of NASA is a climate-denier adds a notch on the toppling timber.

Once again I understand our commitment here on this farm to be part of the global effort to bring some sanity and hope to our civilisation. We do not deal here in cynicism, consumerism, commodification of people (racism, sexism, pornography), selfies, swear words. We eat little meat and avoid processed foods. We are trying to find the simple and basic ways of meeting our need for shelter and food, comfort, friendship, entertainment, beauty.

Kimberly and Cesar transport gravel to cob construction site.
Guy supervises placement of gravel.
We do use technology and the internet, we have a car (flex: gas or alcohol). We use gas for cooking for now. We get electricity from the municipal grid.

But slowly we are moving in the direction of solar cooking as much as possible, as well as solar heat for our shower, and solar panels for electricity. We already use only a dry toilet system with composting of human waste in addition to a separate compost area for kitchen and garden waste. Our use of electricity is minimal: four overhead lights, six outlets for our gadgets, the refrigerator and an electric shower.

We tried a new technique: in the strip above we burned wood to char, then covered.
Thanks to Hale, who helped us with this project.


Eventually we successfully planted mustard, arrugula, lettuce, radishes and cilantro in
the char strip.

continues to present us with constant disappointments: pests of many varieties (ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, aphids, cutting worms, and other bugs we never see except for the damage they leave), and failure to thrive that we still don’t understand. We use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides as most of our neighbors do. We haven’t been able to find answers in books or on the internet for our specific problems, so as we find our own solutions we’ll be able to share with others in our area.

There’s actually a lot of interest in organic vegetables in this area for two reasons: a) the knowledge of the negative health effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is becoming more widespread and people decry that Brazilian food is the most contaminated in the world; and therefor b) the market for organic foods grows not only in the big cities but in the small towns like Cocalzinho as well.

Green coffee beans. We have two young plants and this is their first crop.

Our cotton plant has started to produce.