This is The ChangeUnderground for the 6th of March 2023.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
The long two months of dryness have passed, it would appear. The last two weekends we’ve had the first rains of Autumn and they are very welcome. The air was looking dirty. We have a Mediterranean climate here or we have had, patterns are changing and, in this region, becoming more extreme in their patterns. Whilst we haven’t had the 38+ degrees of the mainland we have had 26 here in the North West of Tassie and that’s been difficult. So for my USA listeners that’s over 100 and just under 80 for 38+ and 26. As it turns out not all of Australia is an oven. The tail end of the current La Nina event has seen more flooding across the top end of the continent and it has been heartbreaking to watch. Quite a number of indigenous communities, particularly the out lying ones, have suffered terribly. Indeed the weather has hit this place hard for a few years. There’s still people living in tents after the summer of 2019-2020 Black Summer fires, towns that have never flooded since white colonisation have flooded and others have been hit repeatedly. We know this is related to climate change and the warming planet even if we can’t attribute any one particular event to that. I have my doubts about that statement but it comes from climate specialists so I’ll go with it.
And it’s not just Australia. The largest city in New Zealand, Auckland has been hit with multiple floods and there’s more rain coming. As you will recall, within the last twelve months, Pakistan was 30-50% flooded.
I came across a meme on Facebook to day that I shared in the ChangeUndergound Facebook group, link in the show notes, with the following quote from Kurt Vonnigut:
We will go down in history as the only society that wouldn’t save itself because it wasn’t cost-effective.”
Which put me mind of another cartoon I saw years ago of an older man sitting around a campfire with a circle of children saying something to the effect of:
“Yes, we trashed the planet but for one small moment of time we created stupendous shareholder value.”
As discussed in Episode 328, she should be able to rewrite the purpose and functions of corporations. Shareholder value wasn’t always the only reason companies existed. True enough it was the major concern but corporations used to give a shit about their people, at least. This is a form of self interest, obviously, healthy, well housed employees are better to extract surplus labour from than sickly homeless people. I know that souls are a bit Marxist and maybe it is but I think it still holds true.
Adam Smith’s unseen hand of the market where millions of different decisions lead to everyone having access to parts of a bigger pie seems to have become an unseen but directed fist. Aimed first at the working classes of the nations who “won” the Cold War by shipping their jobs offshore and then at the middle classes through the deification of the work ethic. The effect has still been to grow a bigger pie but far fewer people are able to have a slice big enough to maintain their living standards. Hand in hand with this has been the shrinkage of the suburb plot in parallel with the growth of the average house size to the point where it is almost impossible to feed the household from the block on which their house sits.
A Quarter Acre
The quarter acre block, 1000 square metres, was the standard suburban lot size in Australia until the 1990s when local councils discovered they could fit two houses on such a block, double their rate revenue and live with the existing water, sewerage and stormwater systems which were the responsibility of other levels of government or “privatised” by those other levels of government.
The reason for the quarter acre block? That’s how much land a family of two adults and four children needed to feed themselves with vegetables, some fruit trees, chooks and eggs. Now we all know how much more productive a no-dig system can be and family size has fallen so less land is needed for food but even that tiny amount has been devoted to housing. And as all these developments were occurring the rates of homelessness have skyrocketed. Instead of building social housing, centre right and on occasion, centre left parties have blamed the homeless as scroungers not worthy of having taxpayers funds frittered away on them. It is, as the late Mr Vonnigut put it, not cost effective. Until it turns out it would have been.
So here we are, a full generation on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the triumph of capitalism and the implementation of “cost-effective” just in time supply chains to find supermarket shelves with huge areas of missing products. The triumph of capitalism has our food supply chain looking like, if nowhere near North Korea, then heading towards East Germany.
A few months back, I read a book, well, I listened to the audio book: The End of the World is Just Beginning by Peter Zeihan where he uses the Bronze Age collapse in the eastern Mediterranean as a microcosm for our globalised world. That world wasn’t as connected as ours but it was pretty connected, at the, as the archaeologists like to say, high status end of town. That should sound fairly familiar to those observing our current situation. A flood, a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, war or a combination of these brought this economic system down, leading to what is, I believe, still called the Greek Dark Ages. None of this is comforting to those of use of a particular mindset.
And as I type this script, the rain continues to tumble down, bringing, as it does at this time of the year, a burst of Autumnal life as the fruit trees finish their work, the clovers, vetches and winter grasses start to stretch into life and the earth keeps revolving.
We are here, now. Spring will have or be about to start its magic north of the equator and food is provided by the six inches of wonder beneath our feet we call the topsoil. I’m still optimistic about our futures as a species, our ability to bounce back and come to our senses, it’s just that some days it is difficult to stay an optimist. A good apple crop in the offing is always a spirit lifter. Stay positive, grow what you can where you can, look after each other and stay safe and well until next week.
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
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