Sunday, October 22, 2017

Greening Apocalypse California

"At some point the marble will fall into a warmer domain of equilibrium."



This is one of those essays that if read 100 years from now will be seen as either amazingly prophetic or yet another example of the misguided apocalyptic literature emerging in the early 21st century — the way flying cars and armies of rocketmen did in the same part of the 20th.
Our thesis is simple. What is occurred in October 2017 in California and the Iberian Peninsula of Europe was a process of reshaping continental climates as we left behind the late Holocene and passed into the early Anthropocene.

This H-A boundary condition may last not centuries or millennia like the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (~22000 years) or the Permian–Triassic boundary (10 million years) but could be bridged in decades owing to the magnitude, scope and speed of the triggering mechanisms.


Courtesy of California Department of Water Resources — Florence Low
Inveterate party-goers, we two-legged naked apes heedlessly withdrew 250 million years of fossil sunlight from Earth’s savings account and binged like mice in a corn silo. Then we vomited all that carbon into the atmosphere. It will take a very long time to clean up, even after the mice have long gone.

Climatologist Johan Rockstrom, among others, has used the trough-and-ball analogy to explain how climates shift domain less by gradual invasion than by sudden jumps.

This is also referred to as the tipping points diagram. If you have played the marble race game where you move a steel ball through a maze of holes you know how it works. Raising the incline slowly does not immediately move the marble. Only when the static equilibrium of the marble is overcome as elevation passes through an invisible threshold does the marble suddenly start to roll. Its forward motion is then not easily arrested, demonstrating Newton’s laws about objects at rest and objects in motion. Rockstrom said that global climate may have several equilibrium states, and when you disturb the resting state, it will put climate into motion — several degrees warmer, for instance. At some point the marble will fall into a warmer domain of equilibrium — let say 5 degrees. Everything in nature then retools to conform to that domain.



What seems to us plausible is that at somewhere between 350 and 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, average global climate left its cozy warm resting state and began to roam. As we keep raising greenhouse gas concentrations — now close to 410 ppm and likely to reach 425 in 5 years and 450 seven to ten years thereafter, the marble remains in motion, and picking up speed.
“In a warming world, higher temperatures could combine with and amplify severe precipitation deficits. If temperatures continue to rise as they have, the U.S. Southwest could be facing “megadroughts” — worse than any droughts in the region since medieval times — by the second half of the 21st century.” 
— National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Assessing the U.S. Climate in September 2017

At the next hiatus — an equilibrium of greater warmth — the Sonoran desert of Mexico could extend to within a few hundred miles of the Mississippi at its eastern extent and beyond the Canadian border in places at its northern extent. Reverting to an interglacial past will be the Sandhills region of Nebraska, aided by the Trump/Pence Administration's lifting of restrictions to the route of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline. California and the American Southwest would be populated by shifting dunes, scorpions and sidewinders. In Europe, the Sahara desert may cross the Mediterranean and extend to the foothills of the Pyrenees, Apennines, Alps and Balkans.

At this, the earliest stage of the H-A boundary, we are witnessing removal of forests to make way for those future deserts. They will not regrow. The soil will be too warm for seed germination. Droughts and fires will continue to periodically sweep away any vegetation that emerges. Eventually the topsoils will erode and the subsoil will turn to fine, wind-borne sand. Anyone foolish enough to build a home in these places will sooner or later watch it burn or blow away.

It’s like President Trump telling a pregnant widow, ”He knew what he signed up for but when it happens it hurts.” When you spend $3.4 trillion tax dollars each year to boost the failing fortunes of companies like Peabody, Exxon and TransCanada, you have to know what you are signing up for.

There is, in all this, a tiny ray of hope. Out there at the edge of the Portuguese high plains, with a faint odor of smoke from a distant fire line, there stand a small group of youth. They are gathered on a farm in the northwest of Quinta do Vale da Lama. They have come from around the world to make a stand.

On November 13 they will host a training session: Campo de Regeneração do Ecossistema — Ecosystem Regen Camp. They are regenerating the mediterranean landscape with mixed dry-fruit orchards, native reforestation projects and transition zones of vegetative swales and hugelkultur, crossing it with approaches that worked for settlers in Nebraska’s Sandhills a century ago, holistic rotational grazing systems, rainwater harvesting, keyline planning, biofertilizers and teas, permanent pastures, living fences, forage banks, and agroforestry edge systems. It’s Permaculture 101, without the college credit.

It may seem Quixotic, given the pent-up anger on Mother Nature’s side, but let us remember that Franklin Delano Roosevelt almost single-handedly halted the Great American Dust Bowl.
FDR established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) within his first 100 days in office and the Soil Erosion Service (later the Soil Conservation Service and now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) shortly thereafter.
Fires in Portugal, 2017
The establishment of the Soil Erosion Service marks the first major federal commitment to the preservation of natural resources in private hands. Even more significantly, in 1935, FDR initiated the Prairie States Forestry Project to create a “shelter belt” from the Texas Panhandle to the Canadian border. Over the course of the next seven years, the U.S Forestry Service, working in conjunction with the CCC, the newly established Works Progress Administration (WPA), and local farmers, planted nearly 220 million trees, creating over 18,000 miles of windbreaks on some 30,000 farms. The scale of this effort boggles the imagination. It literally changed the face of America and most importantly — along with the introduction of new farming techniques also initiated by the New Deal — stopped the dust storms dead in their tracks.

It bears footnoting that FDR’s shelter belt was also the design of his Agriculture Secretary (later Commerce Secretary and Vice -President) Henry A. Wallace, who might have become the 33rd President of the United States (instead of Harry Truman) had his progressive agenda (universal single payer health insurance, an end to the incipient Cold War and red-baiting, and abolition of segregation) not been opposed by his own party.
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1936
Volunteer foot-soldiers are now rushing to the Iberian salient. Perhaps an Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the USA?. To enlist in the Portuguese workshop register here. The first 30 applicants received will be confirmed (the rest will have to be wait-listed).

If you can afford 10 euros per Month to support this grassroots effort you can join a growing community and become a founding member of the Ecosystem Restoration Camps Foundation. If you don’t have the resources to support but wish to learn about regenerative agriculture and large-scale ecosystem restoration more camps are being built to make this possible, join here.

The movement’s vanguard camp in Altiplano Spain held its first public open day on October 16. The campfires have been lit.
Alone the scale of the problems we face can be overwhelming but together we are a powerful force that can change the world. Lets go camping and restore a little bit of paradise every day.
— John D. Liu

Albert Bates is an Emergency Planetary Technician, founder of Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology (GVIx.org), and Chief Permaculture Officer for eCO2, a COOL DESIGN services company focusing on climate recovery strategies with high returns on investment.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Giving Ethical Murder Its Due

"Trying to sell scenarios based on degrowth or frugal living is like trying to sell your Elvis collection of 8-track tapes."


In The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond ticks off all the great things about modern society — things like vaccines, ambulances, labor-saving kitchen appliances, electric light, air conditioning and refrigeration that most of us take for granted now. Most teens would find it hard to do without WiFi or Wikipedia. Diamond says few of us would care to go back to an era before any of that.
When something happens to revert a society to suddenly far more primitive, such as currently being experienced in Puerto Rico or Dominica following Hurricane Maria, we can barely conceive how it is possible to live like that. And actually, given present population density and generalized lack of survival skills, it may not be.

For those toiling at the fringe trying to design a future that would be even conceivably sustainable in the face of climate change and peak everything, the prospect of trying to sell scenarios based on degrowth or frugal living is like trying to sell your Elvis collection of 8-track tapes.

It is even more risqué when we begin to talk about the benefits of infanticide, genital mutilation and wife strangling.

Diamond told NPR:
“[There’s] an island near Bougainville called New Britain, where among the Kaulong people it was customary that if a man died, his widow was strangled, and not against her will. She expected it.
“She would call out to her brothers to strangle her. If the brothers were not around, she would call out to her son to strangle her, because she had seen this happen to other women, and now she expected it for herself.
“To us it sounds horrible, and I have to say I don’t see any benefit to it. It again underscores the point that there are wonderful things we can learn from traditional societies, and there are also things where we can say, thank God we’re past that.”
Diamond says he sees no benefit from wife strangling. We do. Moreover, human civilization may not be past the need to have it.

Thomas Malthus did the math in 1798. While he is often derided because he could not possibly foresee the Green Revolution or nuclear power, his theory remains essentially correct.

The Green Revolution and nuclear power turned out to be hooey.

In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), Malthus decreed that population is necessarily limited by means of subsistence. Because population invariably increases, the means of subsistence must keep pace. Unless prevented by some very powerful and obvious checks (abortion, infanticide, prostitution, war, gay marriage, gender switching, plague, famine, and disease, for instance), humans will be on a treadmill to produce more food, fuel and humans, whether by expansion into neighboring lands, enslavement and starvation of other humans, or other means. Artificial foods, artificial livelihoods, artificial energy supplies (hydrogen, fusion, fracking) and other long-sought salvations are just what the name suggests: artifice. The requirement, meanwhile, is absolute.

Malthus said that the worst that could befall us would be what we generally think of as the best case scenario: all people everywhere provided with sufficient subsistence, all checks on growth removed — war, water supply, food supply, land degradation, political or social oppression and the rest — banished to the history books. Witness: the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Prescription filled, the relief would be very short lived.

In those conditions, the increase of marriages and birth would soon produce human population far in excess of food supply. The ability of the Earth to absorb pollution and many other natural boundaries would be traversed. The inevitable result would be a population crash with — given the degree of systemic erosion — a strong likelihood for human extinction.


Our great powers of fecundity were a survival strategy. We’re not that different from rabbits or house flies. We didn’t need hundreds of offspring, a few would do, but if each female were to be repeatedly fertilized, allowed to bear, and the offspring nurtured until it could fend for itself, our upright naked ape population would soon outgrow its hunting range.

Sure, we could get knocked back by conflict, famine, natural disaster, or epidemics of disease, but we would always rebound because in any given generation, grandparents would live to see their seed quadruple and possibly even multiply 20-fold or 40-fold. 

The arithmetic is inexorable. Albert Bartlett said the greatest failing of the human species was its inability to understand this exponential function. Wars and plagues barely make a dent. A few years pass and the growth curve is as shiny as new, picking right up where it left off.

Unlike Diamond, we see the clear benefit of wife-strangling. We imagine Bartlett does too, even though he denies it. Hunter-gatherer societies are acutely aware of the importance of placing limits on their fecundity. They know that they can work one area of a forest for game only so long, and then either the game will catch on and go away, or they will deplete the easy catches and wild plants and get trapped by EROI — burning more calories to gather their food than the food they can gather provides.

Well before that happens they move to a new camp, but what if their population was larger? The effort and frequency of those moves increases. The rate at which hunting grounds deplete accelerates. The need for more hunting areas over greater distances rises. Sooner or later there is a point of diminishing returns.

One way to cope with this is to adhere to the underlying biological drive to reproduce by adopting agriculture, and all that entails. The other way would be to go against genetic predisposition and self-limit your population.
Among the San speakers of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia and Botswana, 60–80% of the diet came from non-meat sources, especially nuts and roots. Since women provided most of the vegetable foods, they were responsible for the majority of the calories that were consumed. Men mostly provided the most desirable food, which was meat. The San way of life was remarkably efficient. While they had few days that were free of subsistence activities, the ratio of labor expenditure to production was low. The ethnographer Richard Lee discovered that adult San spent only about 2½ days of 6 hours each week hunting and gathering. Young people did not fully join the workforce until around 20 years old. The 60% of the society that were healthy adults provided the food for everyone by working only 15 hours a week. Foragers have rightly been referred to by Richard Lee as the most leisured people. In the United States today, less than 1% of the population produces all of the food for the entire society. Given this remarkable efficiency, it is worth asking why the rest of us work 40–50 hours a week, often with considerable psychological stress.
— Dennis O’Neil, Foraging 

The lifestyles of foraging societies should not be quickly dismissed in our quest for creature comforts.
Diamond says: 
For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, “Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?”
While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen’s average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It’s almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.
***
One straightforward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5' 9'’ for men, 5' 5'’ for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5' 3'’ for men, 5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors.
Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. 1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of six cavities or missing teeth). Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the elite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease.
We have explored here previously how humanity could restore the carbon balance of atmosphere and oceans by developing a new form of silvoculture and silvopasture we call climate ecoforesty, but how best should we limit our population size to sustain a shift of that type? Clearly we are going to hit a wall at 9 billion that will be every bit as catastrophic as the wall that comes down at 2 degrees. The wall we hit at 7 billion and 1 degree is already catastrophic.


Why do we recoil at the traditional ways for addressing this? In parts of eighteenth-century Japan, couples raised only two or three children. Those who killed their babies saw themselves as responsible parents.

Until brought under the sway of modern laws, the Inuit practiced infanticide as well as the killing of elders. The males within the tribes also had a higher mortality rate because of occupational hazards as hunters and ice fishers. Female-biased infanticide kept equilibrium by balancing sex ratios, keeping daughters when the local sex-ratio is male biased and killing them when girls were overabundant.

These traditional practices did not say that Inuit have less compassion for their children, nor less respect for human life; it says they had come to grips with a hard truth — that murder is sometimes needed to ensure that the whole tribe, and now the species, does not become extinct.

Of course, it is less anguishing just to get vasectomies. Then you can kick back and listen to 8-tracks and not have to feel guilty.


Albert Bates is an Emergency Planetary Technician, founder of Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology (GVIx.org), and Chief Permaculture Officer for eCO2, a COOL DESIGN services company focusing on climate recovery strategies with high returns on investment.
 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Open Door





It was two years ago, in the bookstore at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, that we came across Carol Medlicott’s book, Issachar Bates. Wondering at the title, we turned to the index and discovered many entries for Artemas, an uncommon name that appears more than once in our Bates family tree.

We asked the author if we might be related to the early Shaker Issachar Bates and she hastened to lower our expectations, reminding us that it is rare to be descended from the Shakers because they were celibate. She promised to research it.

Some weeks later she gave us her verdict. We were directly descended because he fathered a son, Artemas, before joining the order and the son never joined. The ironies compound when you think about Issachar, crossing the Appalachians on foot, through thick bramble and swamp, and arriving in the “West” — then the Ohio Valley — in the late 18th Century, there to found a utopian experiment that grew to 1000 people on 2000 acres. He was a hippy forebearer.

In 1972 we through-hiked the Appalachian Trail and landed at a utopian experiment called The Farm. It was 1000 people on 2000 acres.

Driving through those Kentucky hills today we could swear we could still feel the presence of the Shakers. The tidy farms, the well mended fences and stone walls, the deep fertility of the soils and richness of the pastures, even in Fall, seem to echo a Shaker melody— an epigenetic legacy of microRNA drifting with colored leaves on the autumn breeze.

Deacon’s House, Pleasant Hill Shaker Village
Two years ago the quarried limestone Deacon’s House had minimally been restored to its original form when we visited. Grandfather Issachar, a founder and later Deacon of Pleasant Hill, was likely given this home in his elder years when the families within relocated to a newer, much larger communal dwelling. The small stone house had been one of the first permanent buildings in the colony, erected in 1809 as Center House. The two and a half story, 30 x 40-foot structure could have housed up to 5 families, although the sleeping arrangements would have been separate for men and women, divided either by sides or floors.

At one time, historian Timothy Miller reminds us, the economy of this continent was 100 percent communal, even after the arrival of the first Europeans. Both Jamestown and Plymouth colonies were shared purse social contracts.

Recent remodeling has made the Deacon’s House suitable for modern guests by including an en-suite bath in what had once been a hallway closet, and a nook for a coffeemaker and minifridge. Issachar would have had to walk to an outdoor privy, even in the winter snow, and the dining hall was still farther. Refrigeration would have been the snow, or the spring house, a considerable trek down the mountain.

We are at this moment attending the annual meeting of the Communal Studies Association in Zoar, Ohio. Making the drive up from Tennessee we decided to put in the first night at Pleasant Hill, renting the house where great great great great Grandfather lived two hundred years ago.


The Shakers were part of an evangelical, “manifest destiny” migration of hominids out of soil-depleted and war-torn Europe into North America. If the locals did not abide by that, well, they were ethnically cleansed and are remembered today only as sports team mascots — Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, etc.

We read reports from the Washington Post and The New York Times that killing 59 people and injuring 527 in Las Vegas October 2 was “the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history,” surpassing the 49 people slain by a gunman in Orlando in June 2016. 

“Modern” did not appear in the early editions. They had to be reminded of the murder of 2700 Native Americans by Hernan deSoto in 1539–1540; the 200 citizens of Tiguex mowed down while fleeing Coronado and 50 survivors who were raped and then burned at the stake in 1541; the 800 killed by Oñate at Ocoma at 1599; the 900 Tompiro killed at Sandia in 1601; the 250 Powhatan lured to Pamunkey Peace Talks and poisoned in 1623; the Mystic Massacre of 1637 where English colonists burned the inhabitants in their homes and killed all survivors, for total fatalities of about 600–700; the extermination of the Staten Island Raritans in 1640; John Underhill, hired by the Dutch, attacking and burning the sleeping village of Lenape, killing about 500 in 1644; the Great Swamp Massacre in 1647 where 300 women, children and elderly were burnt in their Rhode Island village; the murders of 34 men and 192 women and children by Bacon, Turner and Talcott in 1676; the killing of 600 at Zia Pueblo in 1689; the massacre of 1000 Apalachees in Florida in 1704; killing around 1,000 Fox Indians men, women and children in a five-day massacre near the head of the Detroit River in 1712; the 200 Tuscaroras burned to death in their village and 900–1000 others subsequently killed or enslaved in 1739; the massacre of about 500 Fox Indians (including 300 women and children) as they tried to flee their besieged camp in 1730; the slaughter of 111 Utes on the Chama River in 1747; Spanish Peaks in 1774 with 300 dead Indians (men, women and children); David Crockett’s attack on an unsuspecting Creek town in 1813, with an unknown number of women and children killed, some burned in their houses; the Autossee Massacre that same year with some 200 killings; the 140 Comanches (men, women and children) killed in their village on the Colorado in 1840; the Clear Lake Massacre (150 Pomo and Wappo) in 1840; the Sacramento River massacre (120–200 Wintun) in 1846; the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 (60–100 Pomo) which led to a general outbreak of attacks against and mass killing of native people all over Northern California; the Old Shasta Town massacre of 1851 (300 Wintu); the Bridge Gulch Massacre 1852 (150 Wintu); the Yontoket and Achulet Massacres of 1853 (600 Tolowa); the Round Valley massacres 1856–1859 (1000 Yuki); Jarboe’s War (reimbursed by the government) that killed at least 283 Indian men and countless women and children 1859–1860); the Indian Island Massacre of 1860 (250 mostly women, children and Wiyot elders); the Horse Canyon Massacre 1860 (240 Wailaki); the Bear River Massacre of 1863 (280 Shoshone men, women and children); the Oak Run Massacre of 1864 (300 Yana as they gathered for a spiritual ceremony); the Skull Valley, Sand Creek, Mud Lake, Owens Lake, Three Knolls and Grass Valley Massacres of 1865; Custer’s Washita Massacre of 1868 (140 sleeping Cheyenne); the 173 Piegan, mainly women, children and the elderly, killed in 1873 at the Marias Massacre; and between 130 and 250 Sioux men, women and children forced into a low depression and killed by rapid fire weapons from above at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1890.

While struck by the beauty of the colorfully forested hills and sturdy stone buildings of Shaker Village, we were at the same time saddened by guilty knowledge of what they had replaced.

Corporate agronomists and town master planners from the Old World, with their inconceivably advanced technologies, systematically obliterated the steady-state, reverent and sustainable societies of the New World. We had to ask ourselves whether our Shaker ancestors, for all their good intentions and faithful husbandry of these lands, were complicit in that atrocity.

Matt Taibbi, writing for Rolling Stone, observed last week:
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to “collateral damage.” We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity, kind Dads and struggling Atlases, humbled by the terrible responsibility, proof to ourselves of our goodness. Now, the mask of respectability is gone, and we feel sorry for ourselves, because the sickness is showing.
Not far from Pleasant Hill is the oldest town in Kentucky, Harrodsburg (1774). For the native peoples of this region it is hard to say which was worse — the muzzleloading mountain men or the Bible-thumping missionaries. Ad hoc native attempts to discourage the European invaders from building cabins next to important springs were subdued by disproportionate military campaigns from the east, first by the British, later by State militias. Armistices were short-lived until the Greenville Line was established in 1795, pushing the first nations out of the Eastern Ohio Valley. 

This opened the door to the Shakers, who built their settlements right up to the edge of that line.

It bears recalling that the Shakers and the native peoples had a relationship of mutual respect. Ann Lee was recognized by both as a special person, enveloped in a halo of light. Both groups had prophets and revelators, including our grandfather.

Indian Valley Middle School Assistant Principal Scott Beckley.
In Zoar we found ourselves watching a history play in the Tuscarawas Valley High School which begged the question, who or what were Tuscarawas?

Tuscarawas was the name of the river, where a Lenape chief, Netawatwees (“newcomer”), made the error of inviting Moravian missionary, David Zeisberger to found a mission in 1772. 

Tuscarawas is a Wyandot name but the Wyandot had to migrate Northwest under pressure from the Lenape who were being pushed out of New Jersey and Pennsylvania by the gruesome ethnic cleansing.

Zeisberger, along with five converted Indian families, established another mission at Schoenbrunn (beautiful spring). They built a school house and a church. By August some 250 Indian converts filled out their congregation.

In late summer 1772, the missionaries and their Lenape converts had established another settlement, roughly 10 miles away, called Gnadenhütten (cabins of grace) — today home to the Indian Valley Braves high school football team. In 1776, Chief Netawatwees donated land for a third settlement, Lichtenau (meadow of light), near present-day Coshocton, then the principal Lenape (Delaware) village in the region. Within two years white settlers claimed control over every spring within a 400 square mile area.
The American Revolutionary War brought the demise of these first settlements. The Delawares, who at the time populated much of eastern Ohio, were divided over their loyalties, with many in the west allied with the British out of Fort Detroit and many in the east allied with the Americans out of Fort Pitt. Delawares were involved in skirmishes against both sides, but by 1781 the American sense was that the Delawares were allying with the British. In response, Colonel Daniel Brodhead of the American forces led an expedition out of Fort Pitt and on 19 April 1781 destroyed the settlement of Coshocton. Surviving residents fled to the north. Colonel Brodhead’s forces left the Delawares at the other Moravian mission villages unmolested, but the actions set the stage for raised tensions in the area.
In September 1781, British forces and Indian allies, primarily Wyandot and Delaware, forced the Christian Indians and missionaries from the remaining Moravian villages. The Indian allies took their prisoners further west toward Lake Erie to a new village, called Captive Town, on the Sandusky River. The British took the missionaries David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder under guard back to Fort Detroit, where the two men were tried (but eventually acquitted) on charges of treason against the British Crown.
The Indians at Captive Town were going hungry because of insufficient rations, and in February 1782, more than 100 returned to their old Moravian villages to harvest the crops and collect the stored food they had been forced to leave behind. In early March 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militia led by Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson raided the villages and garrisoned the Indians in the village of Gnadenhütten, accusing them of taking part in raids into Pennsylvania. Although the Delawares denied the charges, the militia held a council and voted to kill them. The next morning on 8 March, the militia tied up the Indians, stunned them with mallet blows to the head, and killed them with fatal scalping cuts. In all, the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. They piled the bodies in the mission buildings and burned the village down. They also burned the other abandoned Moravian villages in the area.
So much for conversion and assimilation of the natives.

In 1795 the Treaty of Greenville was concluded between the US government and the defeated and decimated Shawnee, Cherokee and Lenape. The Treaty ceded Kentucky and Ohio for white settlement.

That was when the New Lebanon shakers sent our grandfather and two other missionaries west. Carol Medlicott tells us:
As the Shaker missionaries were integrating themselves into the region of southwest Ohio they were acutely aware that Indians were very nearby. The trio kept a journal, in which they noted how close the Turtle Creek community was to the Treaty Line established at the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, the line separating Indian land to the north and west from land available to white settlers.
One early convert to the Shakers was one Calvin Morrell, and his farmland between Dayton and Cincinnati sat nearly bordering the Treaty Line, and it was on this farmland that a major sacramental meeting was held in mid April 1805.
***
It may be one of the great coincidences of history that the Shawnee in far western Ohio were also in the grip of an unprecedented religious revival, not so very far away from where the Shakers were becoming established in the region. The dramatic conversion of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, a younger brother of Tecumseh, from drunkard to religious leader is well known. 
What is less well known is the uncanny timing of his conversion, relative to the arrival of the Shakers.
***
Lalewethika is believed to have had his conversion experience in late April or early May 1805. While sitting by a fire, he went into a deep trance which lasted for more than a day and people took him for dead. He astonished the community by coming out of the trance and describing a vivid set of visions in which he saw the afterlife and observed two paths, each with people moving along it, one leading to paradise and the other leading into a place of torment. He realized that the way he was then living would lead him to that place of torment, and he determined that not only was he in error, but so were his people. He began to prophesy with extraordinary power that his people needed to rid themselves of wickedness, renounce various superstitious practices, and renounce all influence of white people.
Over the next several months, his image in the Indian community completely transformed, and he gained broad following as a religious leader. He led a movement to establish a new town near the site where the Greenville Treaty had been signed ten years before. This town was simply called the Prophet’s Town, and there the Prophet began gathering with hundreds of followers by the Fall of 1806. There they built an immense timber structure which served as a meeting house for preaching and religious rituals. The Prophet ceased going by his given name of Lalewethika and began going by the new name Tenskwatawa, which meant, “the Open Door,” a name intended as an allusion to his ability to see into the spirit world.
We asked Carol about the mysteries of these connections between the Shakers and the Original People. She said, at least as far as the Prophet is concerned, it was difficult, if not impossible, to establish because, although the Prophet spoke with Issachar and may have attended energetic Shaker revival meetings, he spoke no English.

For reasons we have delved into here before, that does not present an insurmountable barrier. MicroRNA exchange between our grandfather and the brother of Tecumsah could account for, or be explained by, as Carol Medlicott told us, “the spirit alive in the land at the time” As the two men inhaled and exhaled, held hands, and exchanged their “spirits,” the flow of the Zeitgeist and their own microbiomes flicked epigenomic switches on and off.

The Shakers, who believed in following their revelations and honoring those of their indigenous friends, were also believers in what the Haudenosaunee Peacemaker memorialized as the two road wampum. Mother Ann Lee is known to have had contact with the Iroquois Confederacy and to have gained Mohawk followers.

Both Haudenosaunee and Shakers believed that the indigenous inhabitants of Turtle Island were separate but equal —  white and red walked parallel paths.

Mother Lucy Wright, principal authority at the New Lebanon ministry, upon hearing of the Kentucky conversions, instructed her missionaries:
We believe it [preaching to the Indians] ought to be done by some of the young believers, that… have not much gift in relation to white people and then leave them [the Indians] to act for themselves, & by no means gather them, for they are Indians & will remain so, therefore cannot be brought into the order of white people, but must be saved in their own order & Nation, we believe that God is able to raise up them of their own Nation that will be able to lead & protect them, by receiving some council from them that is Set in order, therefore we believe it to be wisdom not to meddle much with them, but [honor] them in their own order.
Actually, as we see plainly from what has transpired over the past two hundred years, the civilization the whites brought is a heat engine — not only unsustainable for itself, but destructive of all other ways of living. It leads to mass extinctions, two-leggeds included. It is Tenskwatawa’s predicted path of torment.

Nomadic cultures that hunt and gather from the abundance of the forest and plain and then move their camps and villages understand that land and human population are inextricably paired. They became a K-sere, the stage of ecological succession that favors efficiency over growth, diversity over competition, and complexity of exchanges, interconnection and symbiosis.

In 1492 that stasis was upset by an invasive R-sere, the arrival of a less poetic and unsophisticated culture based, like weeds, on rapacious overproduction by resource depletion, unlimited growth, and extreme competition that destroys indigenous diversity. Within a few hundred years it erased the social and ecological harmony built over ten millennia. Then it erased the knowledge. What we are left with is false stereotypes; caricatures; mascots.

Those who reverted the seral stage to that infertile ecology called the other “primitive” or “backwards.”

What needs to be conceded is that the vision of Tenskwatawa and our grandfather Issachar was correct. We have before us two roads. One leads to paradise and the other into torment.

A door between paths now opens, but not for long. It is time leave the path with no future. It’s time for each of us to choose.
 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Man Who Planted Trees

"Jean Giorno’s fictional character, Elzéard Bouffier, picked up acorns, sorted them and planted oaks. Francis Michael imagined a garden planet."



Eulogy for Frank Michael
Remarks of Albert Bates, The Farm, Sept 30, 2017


Frank often said to me in our quiet moments that coming to The Farm was the best thing in his life. He was devoted to Stephen’s philosophy and the whole concept of a moneyless society where people cared for each other and the only law was love. He was a true hippy. Tie dye ran in his veins.

He took the no money thing seriously, to the end. Frank’s bank account when he died had a balance of $65. Anything that began accumulating he gave away. His personal room in the large barn where he worked was 10x12 feet. A set of shelves for his few clothes, another for his books and movies. A desk, a bed, a laundry hamper, a reading lamp, a simple chair. Next to that room was a bathroom about the same size, and a kitchenette. He had a table where he ate his meals that was 4x4 oak, the kind of table where Elzéard Bouffier counted his acorns. The space was warmed by his handcrafted downdraft gasifier stove, the one he called LuLu, that made biochar while it simmered his beans and cooked his rice.

That floor of the Mushroom Barn was far from small, however. It had been built for The Farm when the population was 1200 and it was designed to store all the community’s root crops for the winter. I know, I was part of the four-man masonry crew that built it in 1974. Half below ground, it was a vast, climate controlled warehouse with thick oak floors and 12-inch, back-filled cement block. Its main floor beams had come from a factory we salvaged and were more than 100 years old.

The building had been abandoned to squirrels when The Farm decollectivized and shrank by 70% in the mid-1980s. It was condemned to a list for tear-downs. But then, in 1988, it was taken over and remodeled by The Second Foundation, an inner-Farm collective. With the help of the Foundation for Gaia we moved Mushroompeople into that space. Our mushroom mail order business, the nation’s oldest and soon-to-be largest, was a collective community enterprise. I was the first shroomiséro to manage it, and I recruited the old Mexican to help me.

 

Family

 

He was born Francis Michael Perniciaro in Bronx, NY on March 13, 1938. His mother, Carmen Recamier Morgado, was Mexican of Spanish-Moroccan, French-Austrian ancestry. His father was Francis Perniciaro, a second generation Sicilian-American. When Frank was three, his dad drove his mom and him to her hometown in Jalisco and left them with her sisters and grandmother. Frank never saw him again.
In 1943, when Frank was 5, a poliovirus entered his body, probably from water he drank, and took up residence in his left leg. He got infantile paralysis and was hospitalized for 52 days. When he was 11 he fell and broke his hip. It left him with a slipped capital femoral epiphysis, which was misdiagnosed as osteomyelitus (bone infection causing swelling) by the doctor in that small town of Tenamaxtlan. He went into a cast for 3 months, which did little for the dislocated femur. He said it never stopped hurting.
“Having nothing to do, I learned to tie fishing flies using feathers coming off my feather pillow onto fishing hooks. I also read the Bible from cover to cover, which didn’t really make me into an atheist, but I became skeptical about the truth or literalness of many parts of the Bible. There were not treasures in there for me. My interest shifted to a large bundle of Popular Mechanics magazines that my stepfather Angus McDonell had collected for me last time he went to the States.”
Finally his mother took charge and got him a new father. Angus McDonell was a Texas cowboy large animal veterinarian who worked for the USDA going around to remote ranches on horseback. The family moved to Texas and Frank’s medical care improved.

So did his education. He was a bright boy and loved to read. He also had a knack for numbers. He graduated from the University of California, Davis, taking a Masters degree in Physics. He married a fellow mathematician, Melba Grace Hiser, in a Christian church in Arlington, Texas. Their honeymoon was paid by the government, who interviewed the couple at Los Alamos National Laboratory, General Dynamics in San Diego and where they eventually wound up, the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley.
I was going to solve the sun for NASA, but couldn’t even calculate exactly the magnetic field of a constant circular current! That’s like saying it’s theoretically impossible to add any numbers bigger than three digits. It was unbelievable. You have to resort to an infinite expansion of some truly ugly functions to approximate the magnetic field of a lousy constant circular current! Then I learned about Godel’s Theorem, the criteria for noncomputability, chaos theory, complexity and catastrophe theory, quantum indeterminacy, the unsolvable three body problem… it was like childhood illusions being popped. The Easter Rabbit. Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy.
From 1964 to 1971 Frank suffered severe allergies and headaches which he thought might have been related to the workspaces he inhabited. He and Melba moved back East, to jobs at NASA’s United Aircraft Research Laboratories in Hartford, working on the space shuttle. Then, after visiting Twin Oaks, they dropped out of aerospace and started the North Mountain intentional community in Lexington, Virginia. By this time his weight had dropped to 126 and he coughed a lot. His leg and hip still bothered him.

In 1973, the family, by then with two infant daughters, visited The Farm.

The Farm

 

Frank writes:
In my 35th year, I found myself dragging my wife and two kids to a commune in middle Tennessee to be voluntary peasants, and live under a vow of poverty.
Why? My life was failing. I was losing my juice at all levels, and here was a vibrant, super-alive bunch of people who smiled constantly almost as a reflex, and seemed sometimes to be trying not to smile, as you gesticulated and justificated yourself to them. And well it should be so, because these folks were the “puritans of the hippies” as Ina May put it.
These folks were light-years in consciousness ahead of me, and I am so thankful they haven’t kicked me out yet. I was a burned-out sometime physicist with a failing marriage, a loss of faith in politics and psychology as vehicles for building a sane society, and an accelerating loss of faith in reason and rationality. I had to find out what this spirit stuff was all about, and why these people were smiling all the time, and why they looked at you straight in the eye and told you the bare truth, like your family and friends never did before.
On that day, a very impressive one-legged Muskogee Indian with long jet-black thick hair (Mark Madrid) was in charge of the Gate. He told me that The Farm is a spiritual community. I said, “Cool, what religion do you-all belong to?”
Mark said, “We don’t call it anything.”
I said “Cool, what’s your concept of God?”
He said, “We believe that God is everything.”
BLAM! That struck me like lightning. I couldn’t think of anything greater than everything! I wanted to stick around and find out the implications, doing the scientist bit, and Mark just sat there looking at me like the ancestral representative mask of all the Native Americans who ever lived, a faint smile on his face, while I sputtered and tried to get my mind back together.
Embarrassing as hell, me struck mute, or blathering, but they let me in provisionally, and have put up with me for 34 years, still provisionally I think. Meanwhile my children grew up, two wives have come and gone, yet the magical land is still here, the creek with its 200-million-year-old bed still flows, and the trees haven’t yet migrated north from global warming. Long may they live!
***
In my spare time I tried to understand other viewpoints, and wondered: Is there a separate universe of physics and atoms and stuff, and another world of spirits, souls, God, angels, crystals, tarot cards, and what have you, or is there somehow only one connected universe? And what is this spirit stuff in scientific terms? An epiphenomenon of consciousness? An illusion? Pre-scientific hypothesizing and anthropomorphizing? Well, on The Farm I felt that assuming that God is everything, whatever that meant, was the beginning of an answer. It took over twenty years of chewing on it like a dog with a dinosaur bone, to find the bridge. Yes that sounds like, this guy needs a real job. Well, meanwhile I took on some of the humbler jobs on the Farm, like carrying water, building outhouses, printing, plumbing, propane and appliance repair, in order to avoid responsibility so I could “be conceptual” and think about solar energy and spirit stuff.
Maybe the answer to this world’s conundrum is to help folks look at things differently, just as that interaction at the Gate did for me. Politicians use religious differences as a cover-up for hidden material reasons to send people out to war. I know that all religions can fit harmoniously into the wondrous reality we share in common. We have all the technologies too, beyond mere survival, to recreate a paradise on earth. All the inequities between nations can be sorted out truthfully and nonviolently. That is my prayer.

A Prayer

Remember!
That there is a universe is a miracle
That there is an Earth is a miracle
That there is life is a miracle
That there is consciousness is a miracle
That there is knowledge is a miracle
That there is intelligence is a miracle
That we begin to understand this huge, beautiful universe is a miracle
That we have been born into this universe is a miracle
That there is compassion, love, happiness, and the sharing of minds is a miracle.
These gifts exceed any complaints you may have by a million orders of magnitude.
Gratitude.
04/22/10 — fm
Frank and daughter Bethany
Frank did more at The Farm than ponder the universe. He bled for it. He was a press man at the Book Publishing Company until he crushed his right index finger in the web press. In 1974 he and Melba moved to the Wisconsin Farm, one of 20 satellites in The Farm’s communal orbit at the time, where, while working on the roof of a factory they were tearing down his leg suddenly gave out and he fell, dislocating his left knee. He returned to Tennessee but noted the right hip becoming increasingly painful, occasionally feeling dislocated, with sensations of crackling cartilage. In the winters he developed chronic pneumonia and bronchitis. Then he was rescued again by his mother.
“When she stopped writing me, I went and found out she had dumped all her possessions including priceless old family photos and checked herself into a hospital’s terminal ward. Basil Campbell and his ambulance crew went to Rolla, Missouri and ‘rescued’ her, and brought her to The Farm under the care of Carl and Angela Carruba at the Farm infirmary. She was so grateful! Said if she’d known how nice we were, she would have come and picked potatoes with us.”
The Carrubas took Carmen to The Farm’s satellite farm in Miami where Carl got a job to pay for the apartment. She caught pneumonia, was hospitalized, had congestive heart failure, went unconscious and was put in assisted life support for over a week.
Following her written directive, the nurse pulled the plug with me and the Carrubas present, I saw a golden light suffusing the room, and an impression of buildings and whole worlds crumbling, and my long-suffering, loving mother died at age ~ 72, in Miami Florida.
Soon after that Frank and Melba divorced, she moved to Florida with the kids, and The Farm decollectivized.
At the Farm Changeover I bought an old Valiant for $50 from Jeffrey, and got a job installing satellite dishes. Got fired from being too honest with customers. Began painting houses, and over the years went to plumbing, then electrical installations, then appliance repair.
I was headed to the Austin Farm to be closer to my kids in Florida. But at a party I met Shelley Freeman, who had chronic severe back pain and no way to stay on the Farm after the changeover, because the large collective households were breaking up and she couldn’t work. She asked to exchange back massages with me. With fear and misgivings (she was 23, I was 46, and the name of her father was also Frank) we exchanged fully-dressed back rubs. She was so beautiful and enlightened, and her hands were magical & healing to me! We fell in love.
By then I had changed my plans to go to Austin. I bought the Cook’s old trailer, built furniture for it, and we moved into separate bedrooms to court. That didn’t last long! I began to cook elaborate meals, and we both began to gain weight.
I kept helping remodel houses with old buddy Roger Kanies and another contractor in Nashville, commuting twice a week and staying at Roger’s warehouse with a crazy Farm truck driver.
Despite his attempt to put a smiley face on it, Frank was having a hard time. He lived in a drafty trailer and could barely make his winter utility bills by long commutes to Nashville or taking odd jobs that involved crawling under buildings and replacing broken pipes or finding shorts in very sloppy and hazardous home wiring systems that had been upgraded from 12 volts to 110. His hair turning white, his weight down to 130, his health declined and he was in nearly constant pain.
He was very grateful when I first asked him if he would help me at Mushroompeople. There he found a warm place to work in the winter, and with the efficiencies of good management, the spare time to pursue his passions in literature, art and science. He stopped coughing and gained weight. His relationship with Shelley blossomed. For me, Frank became a sounding board, a trusted advisor, a meticulously scientific check on my accuracy, and a constant positive reinforcement of my best instincts. In the words of the old Farm, he let me get out.

He and I were a mutual admiration society, each pushing the other to be more than we were, each continually astonishing the other with our insights.

With him to watch the mushroom business, which he loved, I was able to launch the Ecovillage Network of the Americas, and then the Global Ecovillage Network, and our Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm. That has led to my professional career today as an Emergency Planetary Technician. I thank Frank for supporting me in that, all the way from the start. Without his stepping forward at key times and grab the lines on my sails, none of that could have happened.
There is a growing vibrant movement of community led initiatives for climate change and sustainability. It’s happening all over the world.

I was Frank’s connection to that movement. Frank was our brains; our scientific conscience; our human calculator. Frank was part of the Global Village Institute board since its founding in the 1970s, as the Farm’s machine shop, and its later reorganization in the 1990s for appropriate technology research. He oversaw the whole transition, first to promotion of community scale initiatives like ecovillages, transition towns and B-corps, and then to the whole quantum-epigenetic-naturopathic-technology-of-carbon-drawdown phase.

While Frank seemed like a hermit monk sitting in dim light with a quill pen in the bowels of the mushroom barn building experimental solar concentrators and biomass energy stoves, his reach, through Global Village, extended to 1200 transition initiatives in 48 countries, 15,000 ecovillages on six continents, and 3 million permaculture practitioners in 140 countries.

These initiatives are vastly diverse — from shared gardens to local currencies, energy cooperatives and repair cafés — but they have much in common. They share Frank’s world view. They are defiantly ethical, holistic to the inclusion of all sentient beings and the rocks they stand on, place-based just as much, self-organizing after the fashion of Stafford Beers, W. Edwards Demming, or a beehive, and rooted in cyclic, open ended processes of dynamic, interactive and wired epigenetic co-evolution.

Planting Trees

In 2006 I went to Frank to ask him to help me with a simple arithmetic problem. If everyone in the world planted one tree a day, I asked, how long would it take before we could begin to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere enough to matter to climate change?
Frank worked on the problem until the day he died. It was among the last calculations he worked on the night before he went to bed for the last time.

That problem was far from as simple as it seemed to me. To begin with, you had to know how much carbon a tree withdraws to build itself over a lifetime. You had to know how long that life would be. You had to know what happened to the carbon when the tree died. You had to know how much went into the ground through its roots each year, and what happened to it then. There are 25,000 species of trees and they all behave differently. So do their soil biologies.

You had to find the land to put these forests on. There are fortunately many studies that have been done of land use patterns of the world, including projections by the IPCC for afforestation and reforestation. There exist more than 1500 gigahectares of abandoned land that is not desert that would be suitable for forest planting. It’s enough.
You had to factor for the outgassing effect, which varies by latitude, elevation, climate, soil type and so on. Assuming you don’t want monoculture plantations all over the planet, you have to plan for mixed age, mixed species, vibrant and resilient forest ecosystems. Those systems need to be designed to withstand rapid and unprecedented climate change. They need keyline design and holistic management. They need social permaculture.

When you look at how atmospheric carbon exchanges with the oceans, you realize that the oceans have been trying to remove the surplus from fossil fuels by oversaturating themselves with carbon. What happens now, when you must begin to withdraw carbon from the atmosphere, is the oceans exhale again, maintaining that balance. So you don’t just have to take the legacy carbon from the air, you have to remove the excess from the oceans at the same time.

Frank’s calculations, charts and spreadsheets took all that into account. He then went on to calculate how many tree planters, which he broke into 4-person teams in 100-person cooperatives, how many tree nurseries, how they could make biochar at the village scale and add that every time a tree was planted; and eventually, how 100 million people could be profitably employed by a new biochar energy and forest product economy. He included in these projections the idea of ecosystem regeneration youth camps, like the Depression-era CCC camps, and ecovillages, the seed memes needed to deploy vast forests.
In other words, he gave us all a complete solution, scientifically and sociologically supportable, to the problem of how to reverse climate change. He said we could do it within one human lifetime if we started right away. It would cost nothing. To the contrary it would be instantly profitable. And it would provide better lives for billions of people. We would turn the Earth into a garden.

He named his hard drive The Garden.

I published the first of his findings, in interview form, in my book The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, in 2009. That was just the start. Together we developed a scientific article that put together the extensive technical basis, with online access to supporting tables and charts. The title was Optimized Potentials for Soil Sequestration of Atmospheric Carbon.
The abstract read as follows:
We posit that a reversal of the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is feasible using a socially responsible, economically productive and ecologically restorative agroforestry system we call “Climate Ecoforestry.” This system, if carried to the scale of 200 Mha/yr, could sequester carbon from the atmosphere at the average rate of 3 PgC/yr over the first 3 years of a new rotation, and would reach 14.6 PgC/yr by year 24. If we take into account the oceans’ CO2 outgassing feedback, it would achieve the cumulative storage of 667 PgC required to bring atmospheric CO2 from 457 ppm down to 300 ppm by year 72 from startup. Were nations to collectively reduce fossil fuel emissions, the reduction to 300 ppm CO2 would be achieved in years 45 to 48. Increasing the land area to 300 Mha/yr would bring reduction to atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 300 ppm in years 35 to 37. In all cases, carbon would be stored in the world’s soils and living biomass, and could provide many additional benefits beyond sequestration.
He wanted to publish the research in journals such as Science, Nature or Scientific American. I had to keep explaining to him that one does not just crack into those publications without coming from a university or major research lab. Nonetheless as the quality of his work improved I was able to get the article published as a chapter in a peer reviewed science book for CRC press, Biomass Energy Crops, and once that was out (its due later this year) I knew it would be easier for him to publish in those important journals.

Ours was the first article to put biochar together with reforestation and sustainable development to heal the atmosphere 100% this century without risky geoengineering or fairy dust like DAC or CCS. He was impatient to see that book get past peer review and into print so he could send it to everyone he knew.
Last winter a paper we co-authored was accepted to be presented at the Seventh World Congress of the Society for Ecological Restoration. I told Frank that Global Village Institute would raise the money for the trip and that the two of us would go together to Brazil to make the presentation. He was a bit leery about whether his 79-year-old body could withstand a trip like that, but agreed. He began immediately to apply for a passport.

We cancelled the trip, even after our paper got through peer review and was accepted by the conference, when the US State Dept refused Frank a passport because he was undocumented.

We can let that one sink in while we continue.

You see, even though he was a US citizen, he was undocumented. He spent a lot of this year, 2017, trying to get a birth certificate but had a hard time because his mother was undocumented and his parents had different names than his. In 1964 he had legally shortened his name to Frank Michael, dropping the name of his estranged father.

Before he was denied a passport, Frank and I were accepted to present a second paper and poster in December at the Ecosystem Services Partners’ international conference in Shenzhen. We had been developing a paper called Reversing Climate Change with Ecosystem Services. Now, without Frank to finish the work, or school me in how to present it, that trip is off.
Although he walked like Chester, or for the post-Gunsmoke set, the Penguin, and sometimes wore leg braces like Forrest Gump, the man was an agroforesting powerhouse. He not only calculated how much area of land would need to be reforested to get humanity out of its climate death spiral, he meticulously built a social roadmap to get us to the finish line. There are seminars and conferences happening almost every week now somewhere in the world as governments, businesses, the wealthy and the academically-minded try to come to grips with the existential threat. Frank was years ahead of them all. They need only check out his work.
Jean Giorno’s fictional character, Elzéard Bouffier, picked up acorns, sorted them and planted oaks. Francis Michael imagined a garden planet.
He cannot be replaced. I feel like I have lost a part of my brain. He held much more for me than most people know. We collaborated on world-changing strategies. Once Frank told me, excitedly, that he had mathematically solved the Universal Field Theory and had united spirit and matter. My arithmetic is not even remotely able to grasp what he had done, but I caught another glimpse of that, along with his and my treeplanting scheme and some designs for improved cook stoves, on a chalkboard that he had in his bathroom, facing where you sit. I could look at that board forever and would not be able to grasp the half of it. It was a daily meditation for him, too.

Frank tried to explain it to me this way:
  1. The fundamental constituent of reality is an information matrix. Its simplest configurations include being identical to matter, energy, the fundamental physical fields, and spacetime.
  2. The physicist’s quest for a “theory of everything” is an attempt to discover the nature of this matrix, which would seamlessly unify the two pillars of physics: quantum mechanics and general relativity. In addition, it would predict the mysteriously arbitrary-seeming values of the physical constants: the speed of light, Planck’s constant, the charge of the electron and the quarks, the mass of the fundamental particles, etc. These are likely linked to Mach’s Principle, and so would be different in other universes.
  3. The properties of the fundamental matrix are identical to what is commonly known as spirit: omnipresence, omni-creativity, omni-intelligence, eternity.
  4. We are therefore justified as saying that the fundamental matrix of information/spirit (IS) is all of reality. Using a simpler language, we say that everything is made of spirit, or “everything is spirit.” Saying that “everything has spirit” would be incorrect, though, because it implies that there is a part of anything that is not spirit.
  5. Mental processes are most effective the larger the amount of data they include. However, the informational perceptual and processing speed of living beings is limited. There is a maximum beyond which an increase in input and processing data decreases the mind’s speed and effectiveness. So we speak of sets of “relevant” data or information. There is also a physical effect in quantum mechanics: a “system” can be internally coherent, have a complicated wave function, but also include a boundary outside of which there is decoherence with its internal wave function. The nature of decoherence is still being worked out. I suggest there is a limit to coherence resulting from the uncertainty principle applied to the localization of the smallest quantum wavelengths in the systems wave function of a large enough system that its momentum limits are small.
  6. So we are justified in operationally taking finite subsets of the universal IS as being real, relevant, perceivable, and thinkable entities.
  7. An important class of these subsets of information are those that are to a large degree internally consistent and persistent in spacetime. These could justifiably be called “spirits”.
  8. If, in addition, those entities that are largely consensually reproducible are given a special status as forming consensual reality, the subjects of commonsense and in a more refined form, of science.
As Andreas Weber writes in Enlivenment (translated and published by Chelsea Green as Matter and Desire: An Erotic Ecology), most scientists have forgotten what it means to be alive. They try to grasp the world as if it were a dead, mechanical process that could be understood through statistical or cybernetic analyses, focused on separating reality and all its parts into discrete building blocks — atoms and algorithms, but anything we touch with the Cartesian method in effect loses its aliveness. Science has erected a metaphysics of the non-living to analyze the most remarkable aspect of our being in the world, our being alive.
Biochar workshop, July 2017
Eminent biological and systems thinkers — James Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, Janine Benyus and Gregory Bateson to name a few, and more recently brain researchers — opened up a world in which organisms need no longer be seen as machines competing with other machines, but rather as life complexes — a Gaian structure — that “creates” and develops in both material and non-material ways by continuously making and expressing itself in all different forms, on countless different wavelengths.

Being alive is not a case of cause-and-effect, but a complicated interplay of embodied emotions, interests and feelings, and not just our own but those of our extended micro-biome and our collective consciousness.

I knew Frank knew he had a weak heart and could go at any time. I don’t think he thought it would be this soon. He was probably as surprised as I was, because he was in good health and energy and the heart attack happened suddenly and was over immediately.

One of the last things he wrote gives a glimpse into his fine mind, and his intuitive grasp of the quantum entanglement of the material plane, life force, energy and spirit. In a Facebook discussion September 13th he posted this:
“When I was being a Mexican kid and saw the vibes of the few gringos I met, I saw hysterical blindness. Later on, I thought it must be some kind of inherited guilt for stealing this land, killing the natives, and enslaving blacks. Later still, I’m learning about epigenetics, which may or may not be a mechanism for inherited guilt complex. But some folks’ ways of not copping is to shrink from awareness, and if it gets too hot, attack!
“Reading Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief blew my mind. He’s a cell biologist who occasionally goes off the rails, but he pointed out that
1 . the genes are just protein factories
2. the cell surfaces are the actual brain of the cell that responds to stimuli both internal and external, and pass commands to the nucleus for the genes to make this or that protein.
3. the stimuli can be external, ie.: high temperatures, or your body’s reactions to that new shredded straw cereal, or internal, down to the level of your reactions to Trump’s election, or your recent conversion to Zoroastrianism.
“Lipton claims that even your beliefs alter your epigenetic states, and thence your gene expression. Down to changing the likelihood of reduced or increased risk for heart disease, cancer etc etc. 4) Epigenetic states are inheritable. I speculate that after a few aeons, they could become genetic states, which would be a neat answer to people who like the idea of intelligent design as somehow explaining evolution.”
Many of the books on Frank’s shelf dealt with quantum theory. Is it really any wonder he had a complete grasp of quantum entanglement?

This time last year Frank wrote:
Anyway, today I walked to the store and back!! Painlessly, because I was wearing the leg brace.
I need/want/must/will make this a regular practice, otherwise I know I will die from muscular atrophy, bad circulation, and/or heart disease. I can’t indulge in dying. I gotta see this CE [climate ecoforestry] thing through for the sake of the planet, not necessarily for the people (fuck ‘em), but for the plants, the trees and the critters — for Life. And because I think I have finally designed the perfect biochar stove, the bb10, and want to make it.
I need to get 8 hr/night sleep, meditate, and try to reconcile with the human race.
Frank’s last lesson to me was in the manner of his passing. He left his space clean and tidy, his files in order, his business in the black, already beginning what was promising to be another boom season in a rapidly expanding field, deriving protein from agroforestry. Like me, he had tried for several years to train a replacement for himself and pass on the business. Many younger people were tried but none stuck. And so he labored on. We are all very blessed to have spent time on this life orbit with such a fine soul as his.
  

Friends

Friends

Dis-complainer

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