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Lessons from our ancestors about the countryside
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isenhand



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 1296
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 8:28 am    Post subject: Lessons from our ancestors about the countryside Reply with quote

Here is something from the BBC that might interest people here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4163982.stm

Smile
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Bootstrapper



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't want to return to a carbon-copy (pardon the pun) of sixteen twenties life. I doubt most others on this forum would either. I like having a refrigerator, a computer and telephone. I'd prefer to drive a tractor than walk behind a team of oxen. I'd rather ride a scooter than a horse.

While there's much to be learned from studying how folks lived, worked and played in the past, we have the knowledge and skills to combine the best ideas from the 'old days' with modern design, materials and physics.

For example; a horse-drawn harvester could be fitted with a small engine to power the cutters and the threshing equipment. This eliminates the (very) inefficient power-take-off from the wheels and makes the whole machine easier for the horses to pull while ensuring the vital mowing and threshing equipment runs at constant speed.

Micro hydro - based on windmills pumping water up into a resivour on a hill then letting it flow down into another resivour through a turbine in a constant loop - can generate electricity.

Modern knowledge of chemistry can allow us to produce many useful chemicals. Ether - to use as anesthetic for example, can be manufactured in a 'cottage industry' setting.

I understand that far from rejecting modern technology outright, the Mennonites (Amish) in North America do exactly what I've described. They pick and choose those technologies that will make their lives easier, more productive and healthier while holding firm to a traditional (and sustainable) way of life.

You'll get no disagreement from me that we in the industrialised countries will have to 'downsize' and simplify our lifestyles. By all means let's strive to live sustainably and in harmony with our biosphere and share it with all the other living things. Let's also strive to keep from returning to a lifestyle that was "dirty, brutish and short."
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isenhand



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bootstrapper wrote:
I wouldn't want to return to a carbon-copy (pardon the pun) of sixteen twenties life.


Me nether! I quite agree there are something to learn but we also know much more today that can be applied. We a bit of intelligence we could build a society with a high standard of living that is in balance with nature. It will take some work todo that but we have it in our capability. It could even be argued that we need to do that else end up in a society that is worse then the 17th Cent.!

Smile
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Bootstrapper



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Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another example: The 'Clipper Ships' of the early nineteenth century were (and still are) the fastest point-to-point trading vessels ever built. The disadvantage of sailing ships was that thay had to wait off ports until the wind was right to enter. Modern (biodiesel fuelled) engines in the ships or in harbour tugs to tow them in and out of harbour would solve this problem. The science of Aerodynamics can make sailplans more efficient. Think kites! A (bio)diesel generator can power winches and capstans, requiring a smaller crew (although the need for large crews would mean more employment). Modern telecomminications cives their captains region-wide weather forecasts and allows them to avoid bad weather. GPS lets them safely navigate anywhere night or day. Take the best the past has to teach us, refine it with modern knowledge and we all enjoy a superior way of life.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don?t see any reason why you couldn?t make such a system full automated. If we were to aim for a society that is a balance between technology and ecology we wouldn?t need full employment anyway (and we would be able to use money either). People would just need to work for a few hours a day (say 4hrs) for just a few days a week. That way everyone would have some work today and people would be able to enjoy the befits of a technological society as well.
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Bootstrapper



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fully automated? I'm not so sure about that. People have a psychological need to work. The trick is to make 'work' into something positive, creative and satisfying.

My ideal is to be able to 'work' when I feel like it, not when the boss says I have to. Some people like to work long hours, others don't. Some prefer to work with their minds, others with their bodies. Some people work best alone, others in teams. I don't think we should strive to eliminate 'work', just transform it into something far better than what it is today.

Wild Dolphins spend around two hours a day 'earning a living'. The rest of the time they play, and have fun. Who's the intelligent species, I ask? Wink
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I absolutely agree! Smile The point of automation is to remove the boring and dangerous jobs but you can not and should not remove all work. You could also talk about what you mean by work. Is gardening, for example, work or pleasure? We work far too much as it is, just to make things so people can spend there money which they have to work for.

I have no idea if dolphins are more intelligent than people but I don?t think we are using our intelligence well at the moment.

Cool
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Bootstrapper



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

isenhand wrote:
I have no idea if dolphins are more intelligent than people but I don?t think we are using our intelligence well at the moment.

Cool


Laughing You've got that right! Laughing
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rs



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think even if PO was not an issue, the size of our population is. Even if the total population remained static from now how long could our planet sustain us? Another 50 years, 100, 150 ??

For me, the rate at which we are consuming/destroying our planet is a good indicator that our current way of life is unsustainable.

The only solution is to have a steady population using a limited amount of resources enabling the planet to maintain its ecosystem. The moment the balance tips we again will be where we are now.

Somehow I don't think many of our creature comforts will be possible in that scenario.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we could sustain a larger population than we have at the moment. The main problem is the way that we are doing things at the moment. However, yes in the long run there is a finite limit to the population that this planet can sustain and we need to think about that.

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RogerCO



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In another discussion group that I listen too & occasionally chip, in there is the most enormous debate raging between the 'populationists' (who hold that the main problem is caused by too many people) and the 'consumptionists' (who say that the problem isn't too many people but too much consumption)

Before all the arguments get rehearsed again here can we just agree that it is not an either/or issue - population and consumption (or resource depletion/peak oil) are different dimensions of the same problem.

We live on a finite world and so once you start to hit resource limits you can either maintain/increase population at the expense of reducing consumption OR you can maintain consumpton and reduce population - OR a combination.

Within the overall situation there are gross inequalities - the 'rich' west consumes proportionatly much more than the rest, and within the west the rich on the whole consume more than the poor. So if you also take a view that everyone is entitled to an equal share of the planet's resources, this immediately implies some pretty steep reductions in consumption (convergence) in the rich west (or some pretty dramatic population declines, probably in the rest of the world).

Personally my view is that both at a global, and at a national, and at a community level I am prepared to reduce my consumption; but not to the extent that would allow for ANY increase in population.
I suspect that I would actually want to live in a community, nation and world that had a significantly smaller stable population in order to allow the planet to support a consumption level with which I was comfortable - but I need more data and experience to make that call.

There is also an important point that consumption level does not map directly onto quality of life. Using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model as an indicator of quality of life, then increased consumption of resources only really has an impact on the bottom two layers (physiological and security needs). Love, Esteeem and Self-actualisation needs are less affected by the physical environment and consumption.

I do think that both nationally and globally (and also locally in examining eg house-building programs and local plans) we should at the very least be placing a moratorium on any further population increase until we are clearer how we can live sustainably.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

<< Before all the arguments get rehearsed again here can we just agree that it is not an either/or issue - population and consumption (or resource depletion/peak oil) are different dimensions of the same problem.>>

I would say the problem is a complex interaction of a number of factors. Smile

<< I suspect that I would actually want to live in a community, nation and world that had a significantly smaller stable population in order to allow the planet to support a consumption level with which I was comfortable - but I need more data and experience to make that call.>>

I think there is a call for a whole lot of research that needs to be done. I have actually started work on a little bit of research in that area already. I?m looking at what resources we have in Europe with a view to looking at can Europe be sustainable? That?s a big project so what I?m doing at the moment is just scratching the surface.

I have the usual problem; lack of time, money and personal!
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rs



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So if you also take a view that everyone is entitled to an equal share of the planet's resources


I take that view but there are an awful lot of people who don't. There are many people who would, and do, profit at the expense of another. Human nature. Crying or Very sad

How do we stop someone taking more than their fair share of the resources?
How do we ensure people have equal share of the resources when they are not equally located around the globe?
How do we get 6.5 billion people to agree what their quota is?
How do we get those that are rich to redistributer their wealth to the poor in order to create equality?


Perhaps the biggest problem right now is not PO, or climate change, destruction of rain forests etc..it is us, humans!! Can there be a solution to these problems with a human population present? An interesting thought.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oo ? can I throw in technocracy at this point? Rolling Eyes Part of which is not to change people but to engineer the environment to encourage people to behaviour in certain ways. Another part is education but even so, there will always be people who will be against that. Smile
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Bootstrapper



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2005 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadly, I think the inertia of the present system will mean 'Business As Usual', right up to the moment of economic collapse:

The priveleged elites of the world are too used to looting it's wealth to even think about stopping,

The governments of the world have become self-serving organisms which consider their own survival above all else,

People in the industrialised countries (at least) are too comfortable, ignorant and unwilling to accept that their lifestyle is unsustainable,

So, nothing signifigant will change.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the world population is estimated to have been around one billion. I'll be optimistic and say that it's possible, with modern knowledge and techniques, that food for perhaps two billion people could be grown sustainably without using 'industrial' methods and consumables. That still leaves a population 'overshoot' of four billion people. I can see a 'dieoff' happening.

In the non-industrialised countries, starvation is likely to be the big killer as the fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides needed to make growing the 'Green Revolution' miracle-crop-plants are no longer available.

In the industrialised nations, disease is likely to claim more lives than starvation. We, in the 'West' tend to live in a relatively sterile environment thanks to all the cultural hangups we have about 'dirt' and 'cleanliness' and as a result, we have lost much or our natural immunity and resistance to fairly common pathogens in the environment. When the supplies of disinfectants, antiseptics and 'cleaning products' dry up at the same time the garbage stops getting collected, the water stops flowing and the toilets won't flush, the cities are going to become very unhealthy places to live.
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