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Below is the foreword to Simple Living in History: Pioneers of the Deep Future, edited by Samuel Alexander and Amanda McLeod. This book collects together 26 chapters discussing individuals, cultures, and movements that have embraced forms of ‘simple living’ throughout history. The ‘preface by the editors’ and table of contents are available here, and the book is available here.
Foreword, by David Shi
The simple life is almost as hard to define as it is to live. It has also been with us for thousands of years. Simplicity is an ancient and universal ideal. Most of the world’s great religions and philosophies have advocated some form of simple living that elevates activities of the mind and spirit over material desires and activities. The great spiritual teachers of Asia – Zarathustra, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, and Confucius – all stressed that material self-control was essential to the good life. Greek and Roman philosophers also preached the virtues of the golden mean. Socrates was among the first to argue that ideas should take priority over things in the calculus of life. People were ‘to be esteemed for their virtue, not their wealth’, he insisted. ‘Fine and rich clothes are suited for comedians. The wicked live to eat; the good eat to live.’
Large cities emit more CO2 and earn no more per capita than small cities, contradicting the ‘economy of scale’ that makes larger cities ‘greener’ than small ones and raising doubt over claims of other benefits.
by Dr Mae-Wan Ho
Allometric scaling relationships in biology applied to cities
Allometric scaling relationships were first discovered in biology in the relative dimensions of parts of the body, as for example brain size and body size in the course of development and evolution . It was later applied to metabolic rate of animals Y relative to body mass X  in the general form:
The original Permaculture Design Course format was three weeks long. The first two weeks taught the bulk content of the course and the last week was filled with networking (this was even before fax). Since then the course has had many re-formats and in its most advertised form is held as a two week intensive which works exceptionally well when hosted at an already established permaculture site that attracts students from all over the globe, like Zaytuna Farm or The Yoga Forest. However, a lot of students cannot afford the airfare, the cost of the course, two weeks off work, or find a babysitter for that length of time.
I am in Jordan, where the monthly average wage is 300 Jordanian dinar. To put that into perspective, a phone card for one month cost me five dinar. But buying a car is the same as it is everywhere. Their major issue here is water. They have little rain, with an average of under 300mm a year. They use underground aquifers, and they say that will only last for another 20 years. Jordan is also one of the most peaceful and hospitable Arabic countries, so they take in many refugees — with the last wave of over 10,000 coming from Syria.
The earth surrounding me in the capital, Amman, is dry and rocky. Olive, citrus and fig surround the city. When people say plants need to be tough to survive in dry regions they sure as hell must have been talking about these. I couldn’t imagine they could bear fruit, but they do.
It’s possible to drive a herd of buffalo right off a cliff. First Nations people did just that in a place in Alberta called, appropriately enough, “Heads-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”.
Whereas a single buffalo, when chased, will dodge about and quickly change direction, a herd instead runs together and acts as if a slower more primitive organism is in charge. Individuals take their cues from the individuals around them. If everyone around you is running the same way you are less likely to change direction. So individual buffalo don’t pull out, but run off the cliff together.
Welcome to no-dig gardening. This is a tutorial which is written in a form of questions and answers. Questions will lead you on a path, and answers will give further directions. I want to share with you seven years of experience with no-dig gardening which gives abundant yields and improves soil life and quality year after year.
First we will take a look at natural patterns, weeds and learn about soil protection. What is the best mulch you ask? How can we simplify the mulching process? We will explore how to take care of an established garden, what we can do for Autumn/Winter production, and finally, how to prepare for new season and how to establish new garden areas without digging.
Voices from the Gaslands is a series of short videos of people whose lives and businesses have been damaged by the coal seam gas industry in Queensland.
The videos showcase the harrowing stories of individuals who have suffered a range of impacts from health effects, stress and depression, to loss of production and water bores that are drying up.
Gas companies have spent millions of dollars to perpetrate a myth that landholders in Queensland are living happily with gas — but watch ‘Voices’ and you’ll see that nothing could be further from the truth.
Thanks to a reader for sending this along to us. I don’t normally like to publish posts that reflect negatively about a particular person (I can think of only one other instance when I have, and that was about the results of a man’s work, as is largely the case here), but I feel that the video above is such an example of sickening excess that it shouldn’t go unnoticed.
And challenge the preeminent power of corporations to defy governments elected by the people.
by David Morris
Scots rally for independence. (By Martainn MacDhomhnaill under a Creative Commons license)
Since 1945 the number of nations has soared from about 60 to more than 180. The first wave of new sovereign states came with the decolonization movement of the 1960s and 1970s; the second in the early 1990s with the break-up of the Soviet Union. If Scotland votes for independence it may ignite a third wave. Dozens of would-be nations are waiting in the wings: Wales, Catalonia (Spain), Flanders (Belgium), Brittany (France), the list is long.
In 1957 in his classic book The Breakdown of Nations economist and political scientist Leopold Kohr persuasively and rigorously argued that small nations are the natural order because throughout history they have served as the engines for enlightenment, innovation, mutual aid and the arts. The large nation state, he argued, is not a product of improved efficiency but of superior force.
by Emily E. Adams
Even master chess players can miss a great move when they have been primed to look for a different one. To explore this phenomenon, researchers tracked master chess players’ eye movements when given chessboards with different layouts. With the first board, players could reach checkmate using a familiar move. When given the second chessboard, the players’ eyes kept looking at the pieces involved in the familiar move instead of scanning the whole board. In effect, the initial solution blinded them to new and better opportunities.
In a similar fashion, the world has become blinded by oil and gas as the familiar ways to run the economy and so is proceeding to look for them in hard-to-reach places like the Arctic, even as the costs mount and the returns diminish. An example of the world being set in its ways was the announcement on August 28th that Royal Dutch Shell, despite many setbacks in recent years, submitted plans to the U.S. government to again drill for oil offshore of Alaska as early as summer 2015.
Photos: Ingrid Pullen
If you are lucky enough to come to PRI Zaytuna Farm you will be shocked with the abundance of produce we are harvesting from the renowned main crop (above). During the last year we’ve been managed by our Australorps — they dictate our weekly schedule. Monday morning is the compost mob move (the "chickens on steroids" as Geoff likes to call them), and Tuesday morning every fortnight is the garden mob move. The compost mob are making compost that’s going to be used on the gardens that the other mob leave behind! It’s like a chicken amusement park down there in the main crop, and our job is to keep them amused!