Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Announcing My New Blog: Graceful Decline

When I started the blog Chickens of Mass Destruction, the title was mostly whimsical, a play, in case you haven't figured it out, on the phrase "weapons of mass destruction." (That phrase itself turned out to be the biggest WMD, leading as it did to a great deal of destruction over the last 8 years.)

My whimsical twist on the phrase encompassed the interests I wanted to write about: food and agriculture, ecology, and politics. There was contained therein the idea that a simple thing like backyard chickens, and the local food movement in general, could also constitute a threat, albeit a gentle and ethical one, to the industrial capitalist system.

With this post I inaugurate a spin-off blog, Graceful Decline. Here I hope to explore the broader political, social, and ecological questions around the decline and fall of the American empire. I'll reserve CMD for food and agriculture issues. Of course these things are all related, so there may be some more cross-posting between the two.

At least some of the time, I will be using John Michael Greer's excellent blog, the Archdruid Report, as a launching point. For the last 6 years he has been laying out a feast for the cerebral cortex, making a strong case that peak oil will spell the end of our civilization, and presenting a sober projection of life after cheap energy.

For Greer it is neither zombie apocalypse nor utopian deliverance, but a middle road of hard choices, hard work, and muddling through as the gargantuan system of complexity we all depend on crumbles. His ideas are steeped in the physical sciences, particularly the limits imposed by ecology and the laws of thermodynamics. He also has a large following of commentators, with interesting insights of their own. Anyone who wants to understand what I am attempting to do here should definitely read the ADR archives, or pick up one of Greer's books. Those that deal with peak oil-related issues are like a distillation of his blog.

In looking at the nature of the empire that the US has built I am also informed by the thinking of Howard Zinn, especially his alternative history classic A People's History of the United States. It has its limitations to be sure, but for understanding the dynamics of power in a capitalist democracy it is compelling and useful. Demagogy, distraction, and divide-and-conquer were favorite tools of the founders, and they are still the mainstays of American politics on all fronts.

I look around and see a system that is committed to growth on a planet of limited capacity. It's like watching a runaway locomotive headed for a sheer drop, and all I can offer is my tiny voice. Please join the discussion, link, share. Add to my voice or try to neutralize it as you see fit...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Civil Authority

I saw this video here. This is Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) agent Jackie Owens attempting to carry out an inspection at the farm of Vernon Herschberger. Like Dan Allgyer in Pennsylvania, Herschberger is in the middle of the national debate over raw milk. In some ways their cases are very similar.

One thing that struck me in watching this video was the civility of the proceedings. While Ms. Owens was clearly frustrated and exasperated that the Hershbergers were not cooperative, she never lost her cool. She did a good job playing the good cop.

This civility was noted in the blog and comments, with various political spins attached, but I want to look at it from a different perspective. (And let's also leave aside the fact that this interaction was recorded, and how that may have changed her demeanor.)

If this is how regulators act when investigating a relatively powerless independent farmer, how do they act toward the big players? Is civil authority sometimes too civil?

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Year and a Day, Give or Take

Wow, has it been that long? Funny how time flies and projects like this get pushed to the sidelines as the focus shifts. Funny too how things come full circle in the fullness of time.

The past few days have brought a couple events that have spurred me to once again take up the proverbial pen and jot down some notes here for your consideration. Also, I plan to get some focus in this blog by narrowing it down to food and agricultural issues.