February 21, 2008

14th Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

This is the winter view from our kitchen window. The barely visible black object in the center of the picture is a cow moose. The flat area in the foreground is a frozen beaver pond which will be alive with ducks, geese, beavers and muskrats come summer.

Current Rant:

Since my last posting I have received enough responses to my blog to convince me to continue posting. It is good to know that someone out there is interested in an old coffin dodger’s ramblings.

During my short hiatus from blogging I spent some time visiting a number of other blogger’s sites and made several interesting and useful discoveries. One thing that struck me was an apparent common misunderstanding of the intended use of profile lists of personal interests and favorite books, etc. Quite a few of the sites listed their interests in the form of multi-worded phrases rather than single words. Since these lists are intended to be made up of “keywords” to be used for searching for other bloggers with similar interests, it is much more likely that you will find a match when a single keyword is used rather than a phrase.

For example; Let’s assume that one of your interests happens to be “Chocolate” and you would like to find others who share your passion for Chocolate. Since the search engine being used is looking for exact matches to the word, or phrase, that you are searching for, wouldn’t it seem logical that it is more apt to find a match for the single word “Chocolate” than it is to find a match for a phrase such as: “Boy-O-Boy do I love Chocolate”?

If you want your blogs to be found by others of similar interests to yours, I would suggest that you take another look at your profile lists of interests and edit them down to single words, insofar as possible.

“Who am I - an admitted neophyte blogger - to give such pedantic advice?”, you might ask. “What qualifies me as an expert?”, you might also ask. Well – nothing. It’s just that I’m probably a lot older than you and I’ve been getting away with giving unsolicited advice most of my life and see no reason to change now. (If that doesn’t provoke some comments I may have to resort to even more obnoxious tactics.)

14th Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:

(My latest unfinished book)

Assessing Our Options

There are a number of possible scenarios that could take place, but for simplicity’s sake I will deal with only two. First case: The politicians and government leaders finally wake up to the fact that the world is on the brink of disaster and take action to help farmers prepare to feed the population of a world lacking unlimited petroleum products. Second case: A general collapse occurs and farmers are unable to raise enough food to feed the population and are forced to assume a survival mode.

For the first case to succeed requires prompt action by politicians of all levels of government They have to recognize that feeding the people must be their first priority. For such a radical change to happen may require that a majority of the politicians be replaced by people who think differently then those presently in office. It will require a group of people who are more concerned about the welfare of the general population than fulfilling their own ambitions. It will require people who understand the need for sustainable agriculture and are willing to make whatever sacrifices and commitments necessary to achieve it.

To get such people elected will require a change in the mindset of the voters. Candidates with a knowledge of agricultural and environmental issues, rather than political savvy, must be found and persuaded to run for office. Such candidates are more apt to be found in the scientific world than in the industrial or entertainment segments of society. Political people like ex-next-president Al Gore and the UK’s lately-converted ecology supporter, Tony Blair, are rare examples of the kind of leaders that will be needed.

There is little likelihood that an abrupt radical change will take place. It is much more likely that there will be a comparatively slow devolution of our petroleum-dependent system. Such a devolution is likely to be the reverse of the evolution to petroleum dependency. I see it as an unwinding of our present system coincident with adaptation to a sustainable system.

But, in my opinion, there is neither enough time, nor the probability of this first option to come to our rescue, so that leaves us with the second case: A general collapse occurs and farmers are unable to raise enough food to feed the population and are forced to assume a survival mode.

To be continued next time…

14th Excerpt from “Defying the Odds”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Return to Civilian Life…

Now that the army was finished with me, it was time to start thinking about what to do with the rest of my life. But, with my recent attitude adjustment, I was no longer the virtuous boy—the naive trusting idiot—I had been. I became a totally different kind of idiot. In retrospect, it seems there was a deliberate determination to defy or break as many of the Ten Commandments as possible. Drinking, fighting, hanging around seedy dance halls…carousing around…became my new life style. My determination to make up for lost time with the girls became an obsession, and I could hardly believe how easy it was.

My paltry savings were quickly disappearing for things like new cloths, to replace the old wardrobe I had outgrown; a car and its associated expenses; and last but definitely not least, the expensive pastime of girl chasing.

So, I started looking for a source of income. I had no particular line of work in mind, because I didn't actually know what I wanted to do, but I was willing to try almost any temporary job to make a little money while deciding what to do next. Jobs weren't easy to find because of all the returning service men, but if you weren’t too particular, there was work available. As it turned out, my first visit to the employment office resulted in a job with the Aluminium Company of America.

I hired on with ALCOA as a clerk in the mechanical department machine shop office, for the impressive salary of thirty two dollars per week. This may not have seemed very bright because I could have gone to work with one of the old construction crews, that I had worked for prior to the army, for twice that amount. But, I decided to give ALCOA a trial until something better came along.

To be continued next time…

14th Excerpt from “But…What About Tomorrow?”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

The Good News…

I've painted a rather gloomy picture up to this point, but actually I'm convinced that the future can be bright. The answers to all of our problems can be found in Nature. This has always been the case and always will be. The problem is that we seem to have to get things thoroughly messed up before we learn our lessons, both in our individual and collective lives.

This world of ours has everything required to meet all of our needs in perpetuity, but her secrets are revealed progressively from the simple to the complex. Take the example of fuel. The ancient ones burned wood because it met their immediate needs and was easy to get ... just a matter of sending the wife out for an armload when the cave got cold. Later it was discovered that, due to changing needs, coal was superior to wood. The advantages gained from burning coal led to technological advancements which ultimately led to the discovery of petroleum fuels. Petroleum fuel led to internal combustion engines which led to easier access to more petroleum which led to greater and greater consumption of petroleum fuels.

Now that we are faced with the prospect of the petroleum resources running out, we are forced us to consider the ultimate fuel. The good news is there's an endless supply of its source compound. The bad news is this compound is hard to ignite in its natural state.

Unlike all of the fuels of the past, the ultimate fuel, hydrogen, is a perfect fuel and it is inexhaustible. It is perfect in the sense that it can be used over and over again without loss and with no negative side effects. In the process of "burning" it becomes water, the raw material from which it was obtained. If that is not perfection then I don't know the meaning of the word.

The separation of water into its two components will logically by done with electricity derived from solar energy. So, burning hydrogen is, in effect, the equivalent of using solar power, which is also inexhaustible

Everything that happened in the past has obviously brought us to the current moment and prepared us for the next moment. As humans, we are influenced by both stupid and wise impulses. My guess is that we will follow the familiar pattern of doing the wrong thing until forced to do the right thing. But, in the end, the right thing will prevail because the wrong thing is unsustainable in nature.

So that's why I feel that we will ultimately arrive at a sustainable system of agriculture, but we must get started soon. To repeat myself for the umpteenth time, the place to start is to reduce our dependency on agricultural chemicals and gradually go back to more diversification in farming. This will take time. The transition period will take at least a couple of decades in order to maintain an adequate supply of agricultural products while phasing out of our present unsustainable system. Farmers, both private and factory varieties, must also have time to convert their production facilities … structures, machinery, etc … and adjust their management systems to the requirements of sustainable agriculture.

To make such a transition possible it will take the combined effort and cooperation of farmers, industry and governments. The state and federal governments must take the initiative and create incentives to encourage farmers to move in the right direction. How that is done will be up to the experts of course, but it seems to me that low interest loans, coupled with the obligation of farmers to move in the proscribed direction would be a good starting point. The specific incentives to be used is debatable but the backing and support of the various levels of government is not … the job simply cannot be done without whole-hearted governmental encouragement and backing.

Convincing industry of the need to make preemptive changes will likely be a hard-sell, especially the petrochemical and agricultural machinery branches. But once the transition to sustainable farming gains momentum, business people will find ways to adapt. Adaptation to change is what the free enterprise, market driven, system is all about.

Farmers will likely be an even harder sell. Most of us have spent a good part of our lives—several generations in some cases—getting to where we are now. Unless someone, or something, can convince us to spend the time, effort and money that is necessary to change to a different system of farming, we just ain't apt to voluntarily do it. Why should we? After all, it's really not our problem. We wont starve because we produce the food. It's the other ninety eight percent of the population that will feel the pinch if there isn't enough food to go around. And it really doesn't matter how rich one is … all the money in the world wont buy a potato if it's the last one available.

Of course that's a ridiculous statement because it will never come to that. I'm just trying to make the point that this is not solely a farmer's problem. As Red Green would say, "We're all in this together". But, being such a small minority of the total population, we farmers don't have much clout at the ballot box. It's going to be up to the ninety eight percent who are not farmers to make some noise and get the attention of the politicians. But, keep in mind how slowly they work. Even if they do take the matter seriously, it's apt to take a decade or more for them to make their studies, argue endlessly about their findings, design bandaid legislation, attach all their pork-barrel issues to the legislation, etc., etc.

To be continued next time…

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Have a warm day…