What follows is a small book that summarizes what I have learned from living my life.
I would like to elaborate that while I wasn't visibly overgrazing with the goats in Maine, one of the reasons I stopped was that it was a very slow degradation of the land. The goats weren't mine, but my parents, my mother had/has and small business selling milk, and that was the rub.
Nutrients were leaving the place and not coming back. With around 7-10 goats milking it wasn't a huge loss, but it adds up over time. My brother had been milking cows, a much bigger operation, with that you could see the land going down much faster. He believed in organic methods, as did I, but I came to see much of that as being flawed. The cycle wasn't being completed, just returning the animal manure wasn't enough. And the operation also wasn't sustainable from the angle of making hay, we were using tractors, heavy machinery. I experimented with a scythe -major amount of work, and thought about getting a horse drawn sickle bar to work, but even the economics of that looked suspicious to me. Lots of iron in that old horse drawn machinery, would you really make that much iron and mold it into machines if you were doing it with sustainable forest harvesting? The horses must eat a large proportion of the hay made, too. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that what we needed was to deal with animals that lived in the area naturally. In the wild, many animals migrate north and south, this seems to me like it could be done easier than making hay, in many places, but again, current human population and thought patterns prevent such solutions.
In the book I talk about this more. Basically, herding, hunting and gathering are the most efficient ways to live, and very little has changed about that, regardless of all our knowledge of biology and technology. Cain has done his best to kill Abel whenever possible, but he is really killing himself in the long run, and never really succeeding in killing Abel in the short run, because Abel is hiding in his genes, and pops up now and again. Me, for example...
I hope you find the book interesting. I know it is a lot to think about, there are a lot of years of thinking compressed inside it, lots of very radical conclusions that can be difficult to accept, and yet the observation and logic back them up no matter how I test them, or how others test them. As you can see in my personal history, I had to go to the brink of death to really change my mind about some things. I can see it happening to humanity now, the logic is plain, but we drift deeper into problems, unwilling to confront the logic and make the serious changes.
People are interdependent, social beings. We do not, and cannot, live as the independent tiger, or orangutan, coming together only to mate briefly, all child care and education provided by the mother.
This has seemed obvious to me, and probably it is obvious to most, but it is such an important principle to base further observations on, and logically it is often ignored in the present scheme of things, so I think we should look at the reasons. Lets start with your naked body. Can you manage to clothe and feed and shelter this body, with no hands touching any article except your own hands? If you can make your own tools and live independently for just a few weeks or months, this is interesting, but of course real independence would be a lifetime of this, a reproducing lifetime, so it does fall considerably short of the mark. Additionally, it is an interesting thing that we are communicating, I have written and you are reading this paper. Independent organisms donít behave like this, if you were independent, your only concern for me should be to tell me to get out of your way, or that you want to mate, and you need no language beyond what the tigers and orangutans use for this. I have heard people say, that they could live independently if they chose. To those few who feel that way, well, you havenít chosen that path if you are reading this, so if you want to choose it now, then I think you ought to take off your society made things and go. We will send a biologist to study how you live - if you live.
Next question, is a male- female unit capable of independence? The answer is quite important to the issue of reproduction.
I have never heard of this being done, and I donít believe it can be done. Working together, a man and woman with the proper education might make primitive tools and cover some basic needs, if resources are abundant. But wherever resources are abundant, you are going to find competition. Predators can be a serious problem with just primitive weapons, and just two people, one of which might be pregnant or holding an infant. It is true that most large predators are afraid of human beings at the present time, but animals of all kinds eventually test the limits. Domestic animals can be very sensitive about electric fences, for example. You can turn off the fence for weeks, after they learn about wires giving shocks. But they eventually test and learn, and are out. You would not likely find it workable to stay together all the time, either, and the one carrying the child would be alone and vulnerable. And of course, human predators working as a pack, a social group, certainly exist and are the most powerful threat of all. While fantasies are common about individuals and couples escaping social groups, the reality is different. Groups of people have made the rules for individuals for a long time.
It is interesting to note that walking on two legs has not been all that uncommon in the history of life, but I can think of no other species that has attempted pregnancy on two legs. Two legged creatures have always been egg layers, or marsupials, have never attempted the balancing act of a pregnancy on two legs. I think it is only possible within a social group.
Further problems are having very little backup for minor sprains or illness. Loneliness can be a big problem, even for couples, as most of us eventually crave other people in our lives.
The genetic and archaeological evidence indicates that we split off from chimpanzees, which are social creatures, and that we stayed social.
In spite of all this evidence of our interdependence, independence is a much-used word, and many do dream of having the power to defy groups, to live free. Why this reluctance to look at reality and accept it? I think it is possible that the dream of independence is partly composed of the real fear of having no value to the group, and being banished as a result, and death being a matter of time. To be out of work is to be out of society, to a large degree, in the present scheme of things. And then there is the prospect of not being able to fulfill the work you are given, that you are told to do things that might hurt or kill you, and that there is no choice, either do it or be cast out. This is also not a pleasant prospect, and people are attracted to dreams of escape. Just as significant, those who have far more than they need, and wish to keep it that way, are usually content to ignore the fact of the requirement of human teamwork to live. Which leads us to the question, how did things get to such a situation, that people fear the social structure that they need?
2. Structures of society
Instead of arguing the virtues of the systems that have been tried, lets try looking at relationships on a very basic level. To have a relationship at the most basic level, you have two people. Or even two organisms, the principles here will still apply. Now, if you have two people who have a relationship, either one person is going to tell the other what to do all of the time, a fixed hierarchy, or they are going to take turns telling each other what to do, lets call that partnership
Why should one person tell another what to do on any specific issue? It is a question of mastery, isnít it? If one person can see better than the other, then in questions of sight, the one who sees better is logically master. Suppose you needed to follow a twisting trail through a swamp at night, would you put the person with the worst night vision in the lead? I think most groups would quickly figure that out. Of course, a problem arises in demonstrating mastery over some issues, and short term versus long-term thinking. But putting such questions aside for the moment, with a fixed hierarchy, you would seem to have one person who is master of all the matters that come up. Given the way talents are distributed among people, it is extremely rare that one person has mastery over everything, and should be in charge for every situation. If mastery is the criteria for decision making, then partnership, which is shifting mastery to various people in the group according to the situation, makes a lot more sense. Fewer mistakes and wasted energy will be had with such a system.
In the short term, fixed hierarchies can be kept in place with force, but compared to partnership, it is inherently inefficient. It always will cost a relationship more energy to force behavior, than if the behavior is voluntary. This is quite fundamental, so lets repeat it. It will always cost a relationship more energy to force behavior, than if the behavior is voluntary.
Obviously, to be efficient, partnership needs to be much more than simply taking turns at telling each other what to do. To be efficient, it should be predicated on shifting mastery. One person is master of this, the other person is master of that. Fair and honest competition tells who is master of what. If the competition isnít honest, efficiency will suffer badly. The competition is going to cost some energy, but once things are settled, people can get into a routine that is very efficient. There are good lines of communication. The resentment of mastery overruled by force for the short term, often heedlessly causing pain, doesnít have to be overcome. There is no fear of revolt, of strikes, there is no need of an armed force to either deal with these things or prevent them from forming. Partners quickly come to agreement on courses of action, act in unison, effectively deal with problems. The leaders of fixed hierarchies are always watching their backs to make sure someone doesnít try to replace them.
It is probably fair to say that most of the existing societies of the world are actually combinations of these two patterns, of fixed hierarchy and partnership, but fixed hierarchy is usually the dominant pattern. A dictatorship is obviously a fixed hierarchy, but perhaps surprising, it is also found in the supposedly democratic capitalistic societies as well. With capitalism, for example, people with the most money are in charge, to a very large extent. Whether they have mastery of intellectual issues doesnít matter. As long as they have the money, they are in charge. Sometimes the money is made by intellectual mastery, sometimes not. It may have been inherited, with nothing to indicate the fitness to have such power. If there is intellectual mastery it is often specialized, there is little coordination with other social players. Sometimes partnerships are formed, sometimes not. It is quite a mess, and often extremely wasteful. It has problems from other angles as well, we can look at that next.
To sum up, in a relationship, there are masters and servants. It can be fixed or it can shift back and forth. But if the master of any given situation abuses the power, asking too much or too little, the relationship is weakened. And yet we are interdependent, and need strong relationships, in order to deal effectively with problems.
Efficiency should be measured in terms of energy, not money.
This is a huge problem, simple at the core, yet resisted very strongly. We have this measure called money, and it is very common that people measure profit and loss in terms of money, and have an idea of how efficient they are with this. Unfortunately, when people use money, they are always mixing units of measure, often unknowing. There are always units of energy efficiency for the activities we engage in, and also there are measurements of the sustainability of the activity. Buying and selling are always about energy, there is nothing else in physical reality for it to be about. Buying food, fuel, shelter, clothes, tools, land, these are all about either getting energy directly or of controlling itís flow. Energy measurements of our activities are complete by themselves, there is no need for more measurement of the activity, to say whether it is good or not, and good for the long term. But money is precisely such an additional measurement. It is very similar to mixing other units of measure, like feet and meters. The results are predictably bad for either situation.
With money, individuals act like independent agents. Every time a transaction is made with money, people add up the various measures of money and energy and sustainability in their heads, and make a decision of what is best for themselves. If they added the numbers on paper, the intellectual error of adding apples and oranges would be obvious, and it isnít done. It is always added in the head. People donít add up the numbers to get a number in their heads, they add the numbers up to a decision, they add them up to get a course of action. Often numbers of energy efficiency and sustainability are simply tossed away, or simply not considered. People have instinctive notions of energy efficiency, of how hard they are working for a given return, but to put a rigorous scientific understanding behind this is quite unusual. And concern for how hard other people are having to work is seldom considered if the myth of independence is taken as reality. Reality is there whether we are aware of it or not, however.
If we take a basic look at energy efficiency, we see that it actually defines life and death. Food is energy, if we spend more energy getting the food, than the food gives us energy to get the next meal, we can get in serious trouble. We keep reserves of fat, and store food, to prevent living hand to mouth on the issue, but if energy efficiency is lost for long enough, we starve to death. Clothes and shelter slow down energy loss from our bodies, and are very important to the total energy equation.
Summing up, with money, people act as independent agents, which they arenít, and measure their actions with money, if they like the money numbers, they use them, if they like the energy numbers, they use that, perhaps they care about sustainability and perhaps they donít. And if they are on the bottom of the fixed hierarchy, they might not have much choice in what they pick to buy.
Markets get into this action, setting prices, setting the hierarchy. The basic rule of the market is that abundant things are cheap, scarce things are expensive. This fits with energy measurement for only certain situations. If something is abundant, the energy required to get it will also be relatively low, it will be cheap to get in energy. But monetary cheap prices encourage use of a resource, and do not encourage conservation. Sustainability can easily be thrown out of the equation. If people are engaged in obtaining a "cheap" resource, in order to make enough to live on, they must bring in lots and lots of the resource to the market. This quite often makes them work much harder than they would like, and also makes them take resources faster than they renew, but the pain and danger are ignored. People with less common talents, who get paid more since they are scarcer, become addicted to the sense of having so much, and the market assigns them a value that can go very high. They become rich, become addicted to being rich, and control the whole system to a very large degree. As this destroys resources, prices may eventually rise to reflect the growing scarcity, but that only impels people to go out and hunt down the last of any given resource, it is worth doing so because the price is higher. If one wanted to design a tool to cause depletion, extinction, the market is that tool. Large bubbles of unsustainable population growth go along with the cheap prices at the beginning, giving the potential of disastrous die-off when limits are reached.
Ideas to fix the market include fixing prices to be higher, or lower, either by ignoring the market given prices and just setting them, or by raising taxes. Various Marxist and socialist societies have been tried doing this. This is at least making an attempt to solve problems, but it still ignores the reality that using money mixes units of measure, and the elastic nature of money. When taxes are raised on a fundamental commodity, for example, the increased price will slow down the use for a short period of time, but people eventually raise all the prices throughout the system and in the end, the percentage of the tax to the new prices is much smaller, and use of the commodity will pick up again. Setting prices at whims of what people want to be cheap is clearly a flawed idea, nature sets energy prices that cannot be ignored indefinitely.
While it is not a problem inherent to the use of money, charging interest is also a seriously flawed concept, as it means that the money supply constantly expands, because people pay back more than they borrowed. If all this money is going to be worth anything, then there must be resources to back it up, and that requires taking ever more from nature. But the earth is clearly a finite place, a sphere in space.
Energy flows. It flows from high temperature, to low temperature. It flows from high potential, to low potential. Money is a fixed unit, that doesnít reflect the true flow of energy through the system. It accumulates, as people save it for lean times, they are attracted to it like the taste of fat. In order to finally reflect reality, inflation occurs, and conditions may grow like large bubbles that can collapse in very large amounts of inflation, basically signifying that resources have been destroyed to the point that there is no longer backing for the currency that has accumulated.
Ideas to make energy the standard for money have been proposed, but this problem is fundamental. You simply cannot "fix" energy like that. It flows. If one looks into the logistics of such a system, the complexity is very great. Take a simple example, the manufacture of a coat. There are energy costs to making the coat, you could figure these, and ask that the manufacturer get paid that much money representing that many calories. But if you are asking people to behave as independent agents, they also need a profit. The demand for coats is seasonal, and the manufacturer needs to live through times of no income. Perhaps some sort of disaster will occur to tools. So something should be put aside as insurance, as well as for down times. How much more money should they get? The people using the coats get an energy return from wearing them. How much? It depends on how cold it gets and how often the coats are worn. To really be fair, a royalty of energy should be paid to the manufacturer every time the coat is worn, reflecting how much energy it saved the wearer. But keeping track of all that gets very complex, when you start considering all the things people make and do. Keeping close track of all of them, printing up just enough money to match energy flows that vary, taking money out of circulation in a fair way to everyone, would be a very large job, it will be in itself a large energy cost of endless accounting. (Just as accounting in the present monetary system is already a very large energy drain). If one couldnít find a better way, perhaps that would be what you would have to do, but I think better ways can be found. We will get to that in a moment.
With regard to how energy flows, much of the research being done in technology is ways to better store energy, make better batteries, and yet get at the energy easily. This is related to money, in that people are trying to store energy in money, and we need to understand about how energy flows. I think people have been spoiled by finding huge deposits of energy in fossil fuel. What is not generally being acknowledged about these things, is that nature "spent" huge amounts of energy to accumulate and store that energy. It accumulated as a very small part of the solar energy hitting the planet over millions of years, and was stored by being buried deeply, with tremendous geological movement, which is energy, away from the oxidizing effects of the atmosphere and weather. It took very large amounts of energy, far more than was stored, to form and store fossil energy. That is a general principle, it takes energy to store energy, and even the storage by nature is constantly being eroded, it often used to leak to the surface, where it oxidized, either fast or slow, or exposed deposits of fuel would catch fire, great amounts of it must have been burned from time to time by geological movements. Our efforts to put energy in a bottle need to reflect the energy cost of the bottle. Too often, people are fooled, the market says something is cheap, but if we are going to talk about energy efficiency, we cannot mix in monetary measure.
A simple example is a bicycle. Measurements of energy efficiency have been made on bicycles, and found that they were the most energy efficient way known on the planet to transport people. Something on the order of 800 miles to a gallon of gasoline, when the food energy used by the rider was compared to the energy in a gallon of gasoline. It was compared to other creatures and found to be way ahead of any way a creature had found to move. You might say "wow, that is great, we should all ride bicycles!" But the analysis did not include the cost of a hard flat road. It did not include the cost of making and forming the metals and rubber in the bicycle, and getting it from the centralized factories and into the hands of the rider. The sustainability of these things was not considered. These are not minor factors. The analysis took them for granted, or did not consider them at all. The market said that the metals and rubber and forming them were cheap, all done with momentarily abundant fossil fuel, and the same for the road. We should not be depending on this kind of analysis, it is seriously flawed. I would say here that this does not mean that bicycles are not energy efficient, they may still be energy efficient under some circumstances, I donít know. What I do know is that the measurement as it has been done is badly flawed. And that this is certainly not an isolated case, it is very common.
People who have grown up using money can be mystified at how a society could possibly function without it. It confused me for years. But the answer is really simple. You figure the energy efficiency and sustainability of an activity, and people freely give and take within those limits. There is excellent precedent for an organization that works like this. Consider how your body works. It is a collection of specialized organs, rather like the way the different talents in a society can specialize. There are clear lines of communication, with no lying going on. If your nerves donít work properly, you are considered sick, and in danger of dying. Food comes into your body, and it gets passed from one organ to another, each does some work on it and passes it on, no charge. All organs take freely just what they need from the bloodstream. Excess is stored for lean times, the whole body shares in it. For example, the stomach doesnít demand payment for services rendered, and refuse to pass along what work it has done if it doesnít feel satisfied with the price. You would collapse in a hurry if that sort of thing went on! In fact, if certain organs go "on strike", we do collapse. We are sick.
The body also looks like a fixed hierarchy, with regard to brain and muscles. The difference is that the lines of communication are clear, just as in a partnership. Muscles make plain any pain immediately, and the brain pays attention. Muscles can be forced, but there is a price of pain to pay, and you can end up crippled for a very long time.
There are similar hierarchies in society. Look at the example of a construction project. There are a lot of workers, who likely have common simple talents, and a few engineers, who have uncommon mental talents. The engineers are like the brains of this "body", while the workers are the hands and feet. The workers take risks that the engineers donít, the engineers are protected, just as the brain of the body is protected by a skull, and a blood brain barrier. Yet with the body, while the brain is more protected, no part of the body is considered freely expendable. Just as there may be many common workers on a project, the body has lots of fingers and toes. You donít give up fingers and toes easily. You really avoid that. If the engineers on the project were careless of life, the whole project could come to a halt, the workers would rebel. Your body will rebel if you push it too hard, are too careless with it. Is the value of the engineers any greater than the workers, if they cannot have the workers work safely and efficiently, and the result is rebellion? Any of the common workers might have got the same results. Those at the top of hierarchies, are still in partnership, if efficient results are going to be had. There is still give and take. The fixed hierarchy that doesnít have free communications, is like if the skin got numb with cold, and the brain, instead of seeing this a sign to use caution, worked on anyway, unable to feel pain and perhaps really doing serious damage.
The workers can accept the value of the engineers if they do their jobs properly, accept the relationship, because ultimately, the engineers can do a better job of protecting them than they can themselves. The engineers can figure the strength of materials, figure out factors of safety, keep a lot of information in their heads, and make the project work with a high degree of safety and efficiency. In the final analysis, the workers are more expendable, they are more common and more easily replaced, but they must be treated as the engineers would treat their own bodies. Again, it is energy efficiency. How much energy does it take to replace a worker, how much to replace an engineer? Both have considerable costs, but the engineer costs more, they are scarcer, harder to find, and require more education.
In a healthy body, organs donít take any more than they need. Even with the more fixed hierarchies of brain and muscle, the brain doesnít take any more than it needs. But there is a common problem these days, of a brain disorder that involves taking too much. It is addiction. Instead of partnership with the body, the brain insists on having more of the chemicals that it usually produces for itself in small amounts. The body is forced repeatedly to help to get these chemicals, and it is not allowed enough rest, is not fed or cared for properly, the drugs the brain craves may poison other organs. In similar manner, relationships between workers and management, in which management has large attractions to more than it needs of money, or other resources, have very similar consequences. The workers are abused. Communications are ignored.
You cannot have efficiency if people, or organs, take more than they need. The addict is likely to complain at this point - why bother being efficient if there is plenty? Which leads us to the next serious question, sustainability.
Sustainability is a matter of not taking resources faster than they renew. You cannot cut trees faster than they grow, or net fish, or burn fossil fuels. You cannot pollute faster than pollution breaks down. There is a balance of resources, using too much energy to take resources tilts the balance away from sustainability.
Like the concept of interdependence, the energy efficiency of partnership, the idea of consistent measure, this seems so obvious that one almost wonders why it has to be said. One can wonder how an addict can avoid seeing easy logic as well. Ultimately, the argument comes down to the existence of magic, of infinite growth on a finite planet. The people who argue that resources are unlimited, that it is OK to not be efficient, because there is so much, are basically arguing that resources are infinite, and one can go on being wasteful and building up bubbles that will never burst. For their defense, they point at how limits have been reached in the past, but alternatives were found, and growth continued. They predict that this can always happen. Larger populations of people are good, they say, because in those populations will be found the individuals that will be clever enough to find alternatives.
Unfortunately, one can find plenty of examples where this sort of confidence was an utter failure. Ruined cities are found around the world. It seems clear that people in those situations didnít feel they were building something that was doomed, or they wouldnít have done it. But it was doomed. And probing about often shows how resources were depleted. Jared Diamond, (The Third Chimpanzee, Easter Island) has reported about this, he is not alone. The garbage dumps excavated by archaeologists show how diets changed, animals killed off, and size of the trees cut to build with shows the decline of forests, the presence and absence of pollen grains in sediments show how things were reduced to dust and ashes. Bones of the people tell stories of declining health.
So, if it has happened before, it is clearly not impossible to happen again. The clever people in those situations failed. And I see nothing about the present situation to make me feel that there is anything we have learned to change the equation. The societies of the earth are nearly totally dependent on fossil fuels that they burn far faster than they are replaced, and are polluting areas far faster than the pollution can be broken down. And in size, the situation is far more grim than ever in the past. In the past, these cities were isolated cases, the people probably died in large numbers, but they could also flee to places that were greener. This time, most all the world is involved. There is no place favorable to the life of people that isnít crammed way past sustainable carrying capacity, we will look at this in more detail in the chapter on agriculture.
A more sober approach to technological advances, is not to bet on them until you have them, and the use of them is clearly sustainable. Jumping off of a cliff, expecting to invent and build wings on the way down, is not a good strategy.
Reproduction should be done in balance with resources. It takes a society to raise a child, children are energy expensive, and even adults cannot take care of themselves without the support of a larger society. So the number of children born should logically be an affair of society, not of individuals or couples.
Once again, simple logic, and people strongly resist acting on it.
There are some instincts involved with reproduction that are very strong. One big problem is that we have a sexuality that is based on conception happening by chance, no estrus as is generally found with other sexually reproducing organisms, and so we generally have a large libido. Another instinct is a desire for this sex to be private, hidden from the rest of the group. Why people have the instinct for sexual privacy is not clear. Lots of speculation is possible. What is clear, is that the instinct exists. Many people would just about rather die than have their sexual life exposed to other people. It is a cross cultural phenomena. Yet many animals donít care at all. It is an interesting problem, to see how this may have come about in people. But not something to worry about here. It exists. And starting from this desire for privacy, the number of children born is also felt to be private, without regard for the logic of interdependence, and the need for a sustainable population. This used to function, when people could reproduce as much as they could, and disease and war and accidents constantly trimmed our numbers. But we have learned how to keep people alive better than before, and are feeding and sheltering people in unsustainable ways, so things are out of balance as a result.
If any organism overpopulates, the individuals that can put less energy into reproduction, and more into just living past the intense competition of collapse, will be favored for survival. We see the results of this kind of feedback arrangement, with how predators reproduce, and how their prey reproduces. Predators typically put lots of energy into hunting, less into reproducing. Prey animals put more energy into reproducing, less into finding food. This gives a model of behavior to people who have the ability to follow it. Most are likely to find the desires for reproduction to be overwhelming to their sense of reason. Thatís a big reason why we have the problem. As I find myself saying over and over, the logic is not particularly difficult. What is difficult is that people donít want to hear it.
People who cannot accept logic are likely to die, given a premise that our environment functions according to logic. Survival is of the fittest, and inability to see reason is like being blind. With people who must live in a social group, then the social group is always being tested for itís ability to act appropriately. It must be strong with itís psychological bonds to each other, and yet able to let go people who have lost their strength. People get old and cannot function, they get broken by accidents and disease. The energy situation says that it doesnít make sense to spend more energy on healing people than you would spend on raising a new adult from conception. Since often you can save someone with vastly less energy than it would take to raise a child, this is a very desirable thing to do, but with many situations of age or brokenness, it is impossible, and it is better to let such people die, and put the energy into replacing them. Like many of the other things covered here, the logic of this is clear, yet it is also clear that the emotional attachments that people form makes it difficult for them to listen to it.
One would expect that people who can hear and act on such logic will be more fit to live than those who are trapped into illogical actions by their emotional drives.
It is often proclaimed that people are beyond further evolution. Or that the universe sometimes acts not according to reason, that cause and effect can sometimes be set aside, that miracles can happen. If one accepts the premise that miracles donít happen and that it is not energy efficient to try to force behavior, then really there is not much more to say or do. As a social creature who wants to live, then I feel the desire to at least tell people the logic of these things. If they can hear it, good, we can work together. If not, Iíve done what I can.
This covers the basics of the situation. There are a lot of details of specific situations to be thought about in terms of what is most energy efficient and sustainable, and what can be expected to happen, and the rest of this small book will deal with these details.
The Question of Art
People are prone to ask how something like art can be reduced to calories, with the apparent expectation that the system will break down on a subject like art. But there is no problem. Artists use energy in training, in their tools, the same as any other job. The return to society is rest, renewal, and inspiration, increasing the overall energy efficiency, that such work can bring. But there is no energy profit in filling the mansions of the rich with art, while the poor look at holes in their walls. There is no energy profit in shining public sculpture, when the air and water are fouled. A former severe critic of human society is recorded as talking about cleaning the outside of the cup, while the inside, that you drink out of, remains dirty, and this most definitely applies to much of the art work done today. There is far less question about the profitability of art work, when it is combined with things that have definite practical use, and I think we should want to master doing art in this way, before we think about art for the sake of art. Profitable artists shouldnít take more than they need, same as any other energy profitable person in society.
The Question of Instincts
This has been an area of a great deal of controversy, as to what is instinctive in humans, as opposed to what is taught, but I think that some observation shows we have a whole list of instincts driving us. Most of these were pretty well adapted to the stone age, with a changed environment of knowledge, some of these instincts are not adapted well anymore. Here are some instincts, and thoughts on their value.
We are warm blooded creatures, we have the instinct to take more than we need at any given time and save it for the future. Few cold blooded creatures store fat, but warm blooded creatures need fat. As long as this is done within balance of nature and treats society as a single body, it is needed.
We have instincts for technology. Naked, rather slow, unarmed, technology is our answer to these problems. Energy efficient and within balance, we need it. We tend to like it to excess, attracted to assume any neat gadget is good, without making an accurate accounting of the costs.
More gender instincts - women tend to seek security. This is shown by statistics on deaths. Women die from accidents far less than men. Women have vulnerabilities, being pregnant on two legs, carrying infants, a body designed to allow birth of a large headed infant, breasts, these factors have taken women out of the chase and put them to quieter work, tending infants, doing light work, gathering. It is most common for societies to let men deal with the harsher aspects of life, because they are more fit for it, and are also are more expendable, you can lose men and still keep up the birth rate, but losing women can make a harder job of that. Understanding of disease and ability to fend off predators has made womenís focus on reproduction and desire for babies less needed. The same type of body is still needed for either two babies or ten, though, so perhaps not much change wanted, except the desire for security must be tempered, and women can take on more dangerous work, as long as they are fit for it. We must put aside resources for the whole group, and not pile them up for each nuclear family without looking at the balance of nature.
Men tend to be aggressive, historically dealt with aggressive outside forces. As canine teeth became redundant with sharp stone knives, the degree of aggression needed has also faded with better and better understanding of how to deal with threatening problems. With nuclear bombs, too much aggression is definitely a bad thing.
Instincts for status -This deals with being heard, having oneís ideas considered by the group. It is needed, in order to have the best ideas survive competition and give the best direction for the group. Not needed, is such overwhelming desire to be boss that force or noise or lies are used to silence the opposition.
Predatory instinct- persistent behavior, refusal to take "no", for an answer. Sometimes logical, sometimes not. If a goal logically exists, it makes sense to be persistent. If a goal doesnít logically exist, it is illogical to persist. Problems show up with people who donít have a good mind for statistics, and have difficulty understanding the probabilities of success for various activities. Illogical persistence shows up in people in various ways that we will look at further on.
Deception- I think we have instincts for deception, for lying. Stalking an animal is using deception, as is setting a trap. Deception has been an instinctively acceptable way to make a living, when it is used on nature. When people behave as independent agents, they are apt to use deception on fellow humans, to the detriment of society, and enrichment of themselves. It is not a sustainable course of behavior, as it weakens the group. People who have a sense of belonging to a group do not use deception on each other.
The Question of Changing Society
Let us take a more detailed look at changing over to a society based on sustainable, energy efficient actions.
Since this is such a profound proposal, a complete change of lifestyle, lets look at it some more, from different angles. Lets assume that you can somehow get together with people who share the view that these principles of measurement and understandings of our nature cannot be ignored and you form a social group. It would be a difficult task, with your instincts and previous education being of little help, fumbling to see who does what the best, learning a new way of living. Your new social group would be as a child, to begin, making tentative movements, getting bruised sometimes. You need "parents", to provide support, somehow. In many places around the world, you could expect to be ignored by people in the market economy, if you go to places considered wastelands, and learn energy efficient ways of life like herding, and learn to fit seamlessly into these areas. The trouble with doing this, is that while market people may ignore you, they are not ignoring each other, they are sliding into an abyss, and they have some extremely nasty weapons that if used in quantity by desperate people, could cause you a lot of trouble. If things did not go with a bang, but went slowly, you could find yourself no longer ignored, but being hunted for even your small possessions. Your reproduction would be a very chancy thing, given these uncertainties. In the beginning, you would be as a child, and not even think of reproducing, but if things dragged on for years, you would gain strength, and you would also be growing older and needing to think about reproduction, but your position to reliably do so would not be good, if you were being hunted. This does not look good. Some other strategy is needed. We cannot have things drag on for years and years, nor do we want massive explosive endings. I think there is a way, it is relatively simple. I came to it by observing peopleís reaction to me when I explained the previous thinking about interdependence and honest measure. It is usually easy to tell people the things in this paper, as long as you donít push them. You leave them room to get away down avenues of philosophy or religion, and everyone can agree to disagree. But if you shut down avenues of escape, and calmly point out serious flaws in the thinking of philosophy or religion, you can find yourself with a person who is shaking with anger, because they do not want to be reasonable, and they do not want to look like a fool, either. It is an unsolvable problem, for that person, and experiments with animals have shown that animals pressed hard to solve a problem that is beyond their capability, will go crazy, suffer nervous breakdowns. Norman R. F. Maier of the University of Chicago published about this in 1949. It is worth outlining this experiment. Rats were trained to a behavior, jumping at one of two doors, one of which was fastened shut, and one that opened, so that they got a reward, food. Then the conditions were changed, the door was fastened shut, and the behavior that had worked, no longer was effective, it brought pain, a bump on the nose, and it was beyond the ability of the rats to figure out the new system. Rats would often prefer to starve than to make a decision about how to behave, which door should they jump at, under the new conditions. But if forced to make a decision, by a stimulus of pain, they would always try the old training, choose the door that used to open, accept the pain if it didnít. When this reaction was well established, the goal of food could be put out in the open, by opening the other door, and the rats would continue with the old painful behavior of jumping at the closed door. We are apt to say, "stupid rats", but look at the situation. To change behavior is to go into the unknown. The rat knows what one behavior produces, a survivable pain. In this new painful world, what might the unknown contain? Openly displayed food actually is approached with great caution by wild animals, since predators are prone to hang around food sources. The unknown is greatly feared by all creatures, including people. If the pain was increased, continual decisions were forced, to the point that is began to feel life threatening, the rats went crazy, banged madly into things, went into mental shock, nervous breakdown. People who have suffered nervous breakdowns tell of having no place to retreat, no escape. The rats were not given the opportunity to explore their decisions, but even exploring the unknown can be very frightening. Rats and people will often chose the pain that they know, rather than explore, because even the exploring is so scary. It takes a high level of mental sensitivity, a good sense of reason is part of that sensitivity, to explore and learn a new environment with confidence. Most people will self-destruct under the pressure, going back to their trained behavior with ever more frantic energy, until they go over the edge. It is not necessary for everyone to be driven over the edge. When one person in a position of authority goes, the whole structure can go in a chain reaction, with the stress level so high.
Seen from this angle, this seems very cold blooded. Truth as a weapon sounds devastating. But what is the choice? To allow the existing situation to continue looks even more devastating. Should we allow ignorance and outright lies to continue to hold the course of human affairs? I see no other choice.
Now, you want to be careful, because an angry person might chose to show you how he is right with physical force. That is what has led us to this point, after all, fixed hierarchy, fixed in place with physical force. It is a good idea to point out that physical strength is not a good indicator of mental strength, before things get to this point. If you tell a person that what you have to say may make them very angry, which is true, then people generally will resolve to show you to be wrong, and they hide their anger from you, perhaps even hide it from themselves, and explode in frustration further down the road, smash themselves trying to prove irrational things. You want to approach people as if they are potential friends, not enemies, for a few people will indeed be friends, and this keeps you out of trouble, finds friends, destroys enemies, all with the same action. Very energy efficient.
There are of course, some problems here. First, you have to shut down arguments of religion and philosophy. While people often go around and around endlessly on these things, it is really not hard to shut them down. Second, a problem that has plagued me, is the escape of status. If you havenít spent time gathering status in this society, feeling that in such confusion it was better to gather knowledge and understanding, when you go to share what you have learned, you find that very few pay any attention to you because you donít have status!
It is assumed that if you donít have advanced degrees, then there are probably flaws in your arguments, and it doesnít even matter if they canít come up with those flaws. They assume that someone else in another field would have no problem knocking down your ideas, and do not even bother to check to see if this is true. It is frustrating, and amusing, too. It is clear that people are thinking on the level of chimpanzees to behave like this. Konrad Lorenz, in his book, "On Aggression", reports an experiment in which a low status chimpanzee was taught how to open a box with a complex opening, that contained fruit that chimpanzees like. This poor ape was completely unable to teach the others how to open the box. They would take the fruit from him when he opened the box, but simply could not grasp the idea that a low status member could teach them anything. When an alpha male was taught how to open the box, all the apes crowded around and learned from him how to open the box. It does make sense, in a limited way. High status apes win their status by out competing the rest in both brains and brawn. Low status apes are more likely to be wrong about things. All of this applies to humans, as well. But clearly there are times when such instinctive behavior is flawed. Truth is where you find it, which anyone who is truly intelligent and deserves status is aware of. It doesnít say much for the worth of high degrees, when so many who have them think on the level of chimpanzees. In my experience, anyway. We should consider whether information is based on repeatable observation and logic, more than whether a person has a reputation. A true scientist, faced with the fact of being unable to find the flaws in an argument, would check the situation further.
When we combine the understanding of this experiment, with the experiment on the rats I gave earlier, the problem reveals itself as double, not only is status lacking, but Iíve opened a different door to solve a problem, which looks attractive, but has elements of the frightening unknown.
The Question of Philosophic and Religious Concerns
In my attempts to communicate these ideas about society, I have seldom run into any scientific argument, but arguments from the areas of philosophy and religion are common.
For both, just ask people to put their life where their mouth is. Remember that you can be making people furious when you do this, and you want explosions at a safe distance.
With philosophy, you are always looking at some variation of the inability to prove anything absolutely, of reality consisting of perception, and the conclusion that nothing really matters. These arguments can all be made, and are intellectually interesting, but if you ask the philosopher to go to a high place and jump off because gravity cannot be proved, might be just a perception, and nothing matters, you donít usually get anymore argument from that angle.. Philosophy is so general, that itís arguments apply to anything, what the person does for a living is as equally questionable as what you are proposing.
Religions often have many things that actually agree with these observations about interdependence and honest measurement.. Iíve made some observations about a rational interpretation of the Bible in a later chapter, and, there are some remarkable correlations. But as you go along with this kind of analysis, you generally find a growing disagreement. Scientific observation leaves out free will, god(s), spiritual-mystical forces. And since these are left out, the religious believer is apt to make blanket statements that nothing you say is to be trusted. If you ask for specific differences in how we ought to behave, however, this falls apart. You also can ask for demonstrations of free will, god, and spiritual-mystical forces. You can point out the complete disagreements of people who pray for solutions to the same problem. The pope prays, and says we should not use birth control. Others pray, and say that we should use birth control. Some religious leaders pray and tell their followers to go to war, their reward for dying is heaven, others donít promise that at all. Which is right? It doesnít look like a reliable way to make decisions.
Now perhaps you ask, yes, one can make people angry, and angry people are likely to do irrational things, but isnít this likely to trigger the large scale events we want to avoid? I donít think so. The big nations capable of huge exchanges of weapons of mass destruction are composed of many religions, many cultures that maybe have the same religion in name, but in practice have fiercely guarded differences. Many of these divisions are deeply suspicious of each other, and many have full blown hatreds. The cultures themselves are weak, with their confusion of fixed hierarchies and partnerships and monetary measure, often with deep mystical beliefs in miracles happening. What we do by speaking observable truth is to divide and conquer. We give unbalanced thinking a shove, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mystically oriented groups, go smashing into each other, determined to prove the rightness of their beliefs, more ready to "go to heaven" than to live in a rational world. All of these groups "have" free will, and cannot admit that anything we say is upsetting them, and if we live in the most unobtrusive way we can, physically, they have no reason to attack us. They vent their unadmittable fury on people who in the past have indeed physically hurt them, and those people react in kind. That is their previous training. I do think that some weapons of mass destruction are likely to go off, but it takes a lot of cooperation to use these weapons, and we should see just about enough to make the whole mess collapse neatly into itís foundations, like a carefully dynamited building. You do want to be a safe distance away when such events happen.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this section, new groups that form will be like children in many ways, learning a new measuring system, learning how they fit with each other and with the environment. There will be people who want to help, who cannot go as a child to the desert or mountains, because of age or brokenness, and these people can be as the needed parents, hammering observable truth at every opportunity, putting lies to silence, allowing no intellectual refuge, and providing some material support. It might take a couple of years of this to really make people desperate, that they have no escape to rationally continue the way they have been living, and do desperate things in efforts to prove they are right, but it may be less time, and it may be more. It will not be a good idea to gamble much on how much time you have.
Taking up the intellectual debate will be a physical suicide mission. You will give your life so that others can live. I think we have instincts about doing this, but this paper is largely about seriously questioning our instincts, so lets have a look at this one. Not all instincts are bad, but it should be obvious that they cannot be blindly trusted, either. And looking at this question closes off another common escape from responsibility, and they must all be closed.
The instinct to give our life so that others may live can look flawed to people who believe themselves to be independent. Look out for number one, is the refrain. Another refrain is, that you only go around once in life, so make it as long and sweet as possible. The first thought, about independence, we have been over. But if you only live once, what a serious matter it is, to give that life to others, even if we are interdependent. Wouldnít it be as logical to say, Iím not going, and I donít care if that means we all die? Why should the others have what you canít? The motive for giving oneís life has always been a mystic concept of an afterlife, of heaven or hell. There is no logic otherwise. Yet people often seem to give their lives without any intellectual thought about the matter, as often in an emergency there is no time for such thought. Sometimes people with no mystical beliefs will do something risky for someone else, and after it is over, wonder if they arenít a little crazy. There is an instinct on the matter. Instincts donít form unless there is some advantage to the behavior. I think we need to think closely about how unique we are, and whether we only live once.
We are each a pattern of genes, shaped somewhat by education, but the gene pattern doesnít change, with education. There are so many genes in the pattern, that there seems to be an astronomical number of ways to combine these genes, and while there is a finite number of genes and hence a finite number of combinations, for all practical purposes we seem unique. That is the present view of it. But this is not thinking deep enough. We also know that we are all basically clones for 99+% of the gene pattern. It also doesnít take too much thought to see that of the remaining percentage, the mathematically possible number of combinations is not the actual number of possible combinations, because you get a number of unworkable mutations in those combinations. One can go even further, and see that many of the possible physical variations will have little effect on the mental pattern, that is the greatest part of who we are. The kind of hair we have, our height, fingerprint pattern, etc., all can vary a lot without affecting our personality very much. The gene shuffling is not done by chance, either, since we are attracted to certain configurations, and reject others. What you have left is what you also can observe, that the personalities and talents of people remain constant from generation to generation. I had a glimpse of this as a child in elementary school. It is not hard to see. We do live more than once, and it requires no mystical concepts to get to this conclusion. Children are different from their parents, because there is a shuffling of genes, but the number of possible combinations is not infinite, nor is it infinite in the practical sense of having a finite but enormous number of possible combinations. The whole population is engaged in reproducing itself. It is interdependence again. Give your life so that others live, and they will give birth to you again. Now, mystical ideas of memory transfer donít apply to this. We donít remember who we were. But in a sense, the genes "remember". If an organism behaves in such a way that it is reproduced, then the genes that produced the behavior are "remembered" And when we read history, of how people have behaved, it may resonate in us, we feel strongly that we would have done the same as was done. It is also interesting to notice, with regard to questions of memory, that memory can fade in a single lifetime. We may remember certain things in a very abstract way, with a sense of wonder that we did such things. Memory is only part of what we are. The core is genetic. Death is very similar to sleep. As long as others survive, we will come back to consciousness, and just as we can learn from others what happened when we slept, children learn what has gone on in the past.
Of course, it is very seldom worth giving a healthy, potentially reproductive life. The greatest profit is for the old or broken, non reproductive members to act in this way.
In any population that has variations of pattern, you can plot a frequency curve of how often a pattern shows up. A pattern that doesnít reproduce as well as the others, for any reason, will show up less often. But sexual shuffling will keep producing rarely seen patterns, and the advantage is felt to be a kind of insurance for survival for the core group of genes, for rare types may do better if environments change. As applies to this paper, people who have strong feelings for responsibility for how nature is treated, and how we treat each other, and do not flee hard decisions by expecting miracles, are apt to be scattered and rare in a population that has done extremely well in the short term, by not having or ignoring any concerns about these matters. People who are scattered have a difficult time finding each other to reproduce their minds with a good probability of success, and also are not so interested in reproducing freely with concerns about human numbers deeply felt. People of this type have often been actively repressed, as they struggle to expose lies. But it does the liars no good, in the long run, to try and hold back honesty. Some amount of honesty is in their genes, they could not organize enough to exploit and live at all without it, and sexual shuffling will always pop up people who cannot stand partial truth, and fight hard against it.
These last paragraphs put genetics at the root of personality, and people often complain that experience is not given enough power to shape us, in this view. But how can experience shape us unless the genetic potential is there to receive the shaping? We do not have the free will to make ourselves, and it is a very simple thing to show. Ask a person who claims to be self made by free will to show us something, like growing a few inches, or change the natural color of the hair, or grow a mental capacity. The last is a harder matter to monitor, for the potential to do something may lay unnoticed in a person. But regardless of how hard you train, most people are not going to emulate the talents of an Einstein, or a Mozart, or other greatly gifted person, yet they could, if they could make themselves. Even the desire to push ourselves is something we either have or not in different degrees. If we canít make ourselves, we sure canít make someone else into something besides what they are. We can only teach what we are, and it will only be received if there is something similar to ourselves to take it. Culture and education are not independent of people. We create and do these things, and we create and do them out of our attractions and rejections, which are genetic.
We are asked to consider how different identical twins can sometimes be, who have the same genes. Often identical twins are very similar, but sometimes very different personalities emerge. But the examples are not impressive to me. Large fears or attractions can result in certain personalities being shoved hard by experience in one of two different directions. A fearful person might respond by being timid, or by reacting with bravado. Once an approach seems to work, the original fear will prevent a different approach from being taken. The response is "fixed". This is the difference I have seen in such twins, one is timid and the other seems brave, even reckless, and the core personality is a fearful one. A good intellectual capacity to see oneís self, or a strong fear that our approach is no longer effective, might prompt change, but if the fear is great, it may hold til death. Brain potentials are also observed to open and close at various ages of childhood, and this must be taken account of, as well. (See "Your Childís Brain", by Sharon Begley, printed in "Newsweek" Magazine, February 19, l996, as a start on this.)
The Question of My Authority
A common challenge is that I donít know everything, donít see everything. That is very true, I donít know everything. Certainly I havenít written this alone, I have tapped into the research and understanding of many, many other people. With other highly educated minds on my side, we still wouldnít know everything. But just who or what does know everything, and how do we get reliably in touch, and how do we test the validity of this source except by comparing answers to what we already know? We are always stuck with acting on what we know.
It is true that science fiction has sometimes become science fact. However, there is a large amount of science fiction that is as imaginary as when first written. Do you bet your life on a technology or understanding before you have it in hand and mind, tested and ready? I think that doing this is idiocy. Trusting people who promise vague solutions in this way is," The blind leading the blind, and both falling in the ditch". (Thatís Jesus, Matthew 15. You might have also recognized that the "former severe critic" who talked about washing the outside of the cup, and leaving the inside dirty, was Jesus.) Certain economists are prone to point out how well we are doing, with regard to technology, and project ahead that more people mean more clever people being born, and this is blindness. You know for certain that there are problems ahead with resource depletion, and you donít know for certain that there is a solution. When we realize that people canít help being blind, we are inclined to feel sympathy, and driving blind people to madness with truth, with anything, might seem heartless, but we must remember that the blindness of people is dragging us all to our deaths. It is very much a question of whether you want to live or not. Be honest with yourself on this. If you take yourself to a dangerous place, you can get a quick reading on how much you want to live. We cannot ignore the balance of production and decay, ignore honest measurement. These are life threatening behaviors. Blindness does not make us fit to survive. To fight lies with truth hardly seems like the wrong thing to do. I do not see how one can do anything else. There is no friendliness in allowing illusions to go unchallenged. There is a popular saying these days, "Friends donít let friends drive drunk" Very true. Society is driving drunk. Which brings up another angle, that I have touched on briefly before.
There are lots of people, in my estimation, who have the intellectual ability to see all the logic I have put down here, who are not blind. It really isnít that difficult. But their instinctive attractions are so strong, they behave much as a drug addict behaves. Addicts often exhibit confused behavior, cannot measure their actions properly, do not want to hear of proper measurement, if that assessment tells them to stop.
Their attraction to the drug is stronger than their fear of consequences. Addicts who successfully quit nearly always speak of some final shock making the reality of their situation clear. They "hit bottom", as many of them say. Monetary systems make a nice match to addictive behavior, with itís inherent confusion of values. A "sober" society, one that measured accurately, would not tolerate the lies and denials of an addict, and the pressure of everyone united in disapproval can be a large shock of reality to an interdependent human. Consider the phenomena called "stage fright", as an example of the emotional power groups hold over the individual. We are terrified of being judged negatively by a group. In an atmosphere where virtually everyone is "under the influence" of money and itís illusions of freedom to make oneís own value judgments, addictions to drugs, and excessive accumulative behavior, over competitiveness, can all flourish. Conversely, societies can be a great support to people in staying free of drugs, as groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have shown. There have also been numerous attempts at communal living, but confusion about hierarchy, money, reproduction, balance of resources, and mysticism, have often broken up such efforts.
It doesnít make much difference, whether a person can see, but closes their eyes like an addict, or they really are blind. There is a greater chance of shocking closed eyes open, is the best that can happen. "Sober" societies are practically nonexistent, and even when they exist, the threat of banishment has little fear to it, as long as money society exists. The only shock that can come, that has sufficient strength, is from events. That is a uncomfortable conclusion, when one considers the carnage of the last few thousand years, and particularly the last hundred years. If just one scientist with the status of an advanced degree, were to openly support me, the shock would be rather large, as people would be forced to rationally agree or disagree, under the gaze of society. But to get that one scientist, it appears that the threats must become less abstract, as they will with time. The shame that the understanding is so simple will be great, and some will no doubt chose to die, rather than admit that they have been so blind. People will have to see that their actions were determined by the laws of physics, and forgive themselves on this basis, and get on with fixing what has been done.
You might wonder about me, so far ahead of the curve on this. The answer is simple, I was shocked quite severely by personal events, to make me fill out my potential to see these things. It is not at all difficult for me to see how my position could be switched with some of the people I have fought most bitterly with on these things. And I have fought very hard, in some cases, knowing how hard reality had to whip me, in order to turn the direction of my eyes. Iíve included a chapter on my life, it may help you, to see some of the irrational things Iíve done. Incompetent debaters will often attack the person, if they canít do anything with the arguments, and my life is certainly wide open to such attack, but it doesnít concern me too much. Iím not running for political office! Incompetent debaters can convince incompetent decision makers, and I donít need either kind of person.
This brings up a word phobia that some people have. When I speak of survival of the fittest, among people, there is a tendency to link me to Hitler, and that "shameful" word, eugenics. However, everyone practices eugenics now. Do people look for the most foolish and physically weak to have children with? It is not eugenics that we must be afraid of, but eugenics on false premises. Hitlerís eugenics were based on nothing that anyone objectively measuring could see. Clear public examples of non Aryan superiority, like Jesse Owens, and Albert Einstein, were simply ignored. Less public examples could have been easily found, highly intelligent blacks, athletic Semites, excellence in all races. Ignoring information is not at all scientific. The real lesson of Hitler was that a very large proportion of the population was just as willing to ignore truth as Hitler was. Nor are the German people unique in this kind of irrational behavior. Attempted genocides have not been unusual in written history. In "The Third Chimpanzee", Jared Diamond provides quite a list. I am quite different from Hitler. I donít pick out who is fit - you pick yourself. I am not calling for use of physical force to spread my type of government, have no physical weapons, in the common sense, no plans to get such things. I use words.
The Question of Communism
Another word phobia is "communism". At the present writing, everyone "knows" that communism is dead, and here I am, talking about communism. In fact, communism has never been dead. Until you show me that you can live independently, you are a communist. Horrors! Of course, you can organize your community on illusions and gross inefficiencies, and call it capitalism, or dictatorship, or socialism, or Marxism, but in all of these, people are depending on each other, and they are communists. One can notice severe problems with Marxist systems imposed by force. They shared everything - except the guns. There is a logic to pricing by scarcity, a flawed logic, that ignores balance, but at least a partial logic. When one looks at Marxist pricing, you are hard pressed to find even a partial logic. Instead of everyone in a capitalist system being as whimsical as they can manage, it seems that the central planners were whimsical in setting prices. They wanted bread to be cheap - bingo, it was cheap. It just doesnít work to tell nature what it is. Nature tells us. There was no concern for living in balance with resources, and generally little concern about overpopulation. China has shown a concern about population, but it has run into a lot of opposition, and seems too little too late. There is no surprise that such Marxist systems failed, but if true communism fails, it means humanity has gone extinct.
Are there any arguments left? Well, there is still an area of confusion. Until science can give a clear model for life, mystics can claim it as an example of why they should not be ignored. In the history of humanity, mysticism has always filled the gaps in logical thinking. Mysticism as a belief system, says that logic should sometimes be ignored, because logic doesnít explain everything. If life cannot logically be explained, then the major questions of morality belong to mysticism as much as to science, since these questions are about the living of our lives. Mystics have fought bitterly about questions of evolution, and attempts to be rational in matters of morality, and I think they can be pushed to make some greater proof of their beliefs, to have any further gaps closed at all. It was clarifying this problem for myself, that started me writing on this paper. There are people in science who feel no sense of confusion about the matter, but I often see their clarity as a matter of faith in science. I saw some anomalies between physics and biology that just didnít add up, and Iíve tried to make some sense out of these problems. The next chapter is how Iíve tried to do that.
Like much of what has been gone over, what I have here is based on very simple principles. It may seem too simple. Bear in mind, though, that the principles seen by Newton and Einstein are also very simple.
In a system of matter-energy, when the potential energy balances the kinetic energy, there is harmony, and the beginnings of life.
But just as other simple principles interact with each other and produce tremendous complexity, I believe that this one gives the complexity we call life. Let me try to explain.
Lets consider a system at a very high energy level. All the bits of matter are bouncing about with large amounts of kinetic energy. Observation of such systems, formalized in the second law of thermodynamics, say that such systems never keep their high levels of energy, unless energy is continually fed in. The system will cool off, left to itself. Energy is transferred out. At some point, the potential energy of attractions and rejections will begin to balance the kinetic energy of movement, as that movement slows. Energy transfer out of the system will generally slow dramatically at this point. It never stops, but it slows. The reason it slows, is that because the potential energy of attraction and rejection is balanced with kinetic energy, all kinds of pairing and grouping is going on. If a couple of particles are orbiting around each other, they are not smashing into the limits of the system and transferring more of their energy out of that system anywhere near as fast as when they had so much energy that particles just blew by each other. You can observe this grouping of particles at many levels. The tiniest bits of energy make up the parts of an atom, which in turn make atoms, which in turn make molecules, which in turn make up the objects we can see with unaided eyes, which in turn make objects too big and far apart for us to see whole, but are still whirling around each other in orbits, like the sun and planets. Some of what goes on is still not completely understood, at the small and big ends of this spectrum of orbits. Some of the strangeness of quantum physics can probably be simply explained, Lewis Little has some interesting ideas about this. We donít have a unified theory yet. But at the levels of grouping that makes up what we call life, Newtonian physics of energy transfer, holds in a well known and reliable pattern.
There are some measurable characteristics of energy balance, that are important to consider.
There is the order of the system. Order as a mathematically precise measure is a rather new concept, but it is just putting numbers to a commonsense understanding. Consider a pile of sticks. We can measure the order of the pile, by counting "ways of being". How many of the sticks are the same length? Many different lengths would be many ways of being, and give a high disorder number. This corresponds to a low degree of order. One could count ways of being, and the first number is the degree of disorder, and the inverse of that number could give you the relative order.
You can measure all sorts of things, length, diameter, weight, color, surface finish, orientation. The more ways of being that you come up with, the more disorderly the pile of sticks is. If all the sticks were cut the same dimensions, and stacked parallel, we would automatically say it was an orderly pile of sticks, and counting "ways of being", simply allows this view to be given numbers.
And it should be obvious that one can generalize this method of measuring order, to measure any system.
When we measure the sticks, we have taken itís order at a specific time. Over time, the measurement will change. Sticks may warp, decay, fall, etc. We can then realize that one of the things we can measure are properties that have to do with movement, but that the measurement is of movement at a specific time. Velocity and acceleration can be measured.
A remarkable thing happens when we measure a system before and after it starts pairing and grouping. Not only is the energy flow out of the system dramatically cut, but the disorder drops in a similar way. When two particles become one, bigger particle, two whole sets of ways of being becomes one set of ways of being. This simple observation is the heart of this paper. Order does not, I repeat, does not, always decrease. Physicists have been saying for years that order always decreases with time, the same way that systems always cool off. I think the reason for this is that physicists have been making the simple error of not actually counting, but have merely looked at systems from human perspectives of order and disorder. The human instinctive attractions are often to breaking things apart. When you cut down a tree, kill an animal, chew up food, you are breaking things, and we continue breaking things down in order to meet our needs for food and shelter. We like to be able to see, and have smooth surfaces to walk on, because we are vulnerable to tripping, cannot move as fast on our two legs as predators can move on four, and cannot use our projectile weapons with effectiveness in tangles of brush and trees. It seems to be ordering things, to ancient instincts, to cut out such tangles, to "clean up", areas, but an objective count says that we are disordering. Adding energy to a system breaks things, and separate things have their own sets of ways of being.
A given example of order always decreasing, is that a room always gets dirty, that it never gets clean by itself. But in fact, if you seal a room off, it doesnít change much over time. In fact, it is more orderly, since the dust settles neatly over everything. It is human beings, coming and going, bringing in things, moving them around, adding energy, that makes it seem that disorder always increases. Another example is the broken egg. Eggs always break, it is said. They never rearrange themselves from broken to unbroken. This is a flawed argument. Of course eggs rearrange themselves from broken to unbroken. Thatís how you got the egg in the first place. The bird ate all the separate, broken, elements of an egg, and they are put together. Also, eggs do not spontaneously break. Energy must be added to break anything. Add the right amount of energy to a fertile egg, and it hatches. Too much, and it breaks. What has been assumed in this argument, that things always go to disorder, is that life is separate from physics, and what goes on in life cannot be compared with what goes on outside it. Why?
I suspect that some of this separation goes to physics 101, where well meaning teachers put out this separation from nearly day one. " Pick up a book," the teacher says to a student, " and hold it at armís length. Now, are you doing any work on the book?" It is not moving, and work is energy, and energy is force times movement, and generations of students are told that they are not doing any work on the book. Any student who stays with physics after this, is likely to separate energy as applied to life, as being separate from energy applied outside of life. Because they know very well it is taking effort to hold up the book. And the fact is, the teacher is ignoring the fact that a body is a semi-fluid system, and fluids cannot withstand shear forces without a constant movement, which is energy, and the student is in fact doing work on the book to hold it still against gravity, and the example is far too complex to belong in physics 101.
But this is where we are. There is no rational reason to separate physics from life, and order does not always decrease. Break the barrier in your mind, and actually look. Two sets of measurements become one. Order increases.
Growth and Stability
Another inherent characteristic of harmony, and of life, is growth. One thing is added to another. Need I add more?! Yes.
Another characteristic of harmony, is stability. How much energy does it take to tear apart what has come together? Some combinations are stable, requiring lots of energy to tear them apart, and some are loaded with potential energy, flying apart at a touch. It is the difference between rock and explosive. Both have reached a point of balance, but one is like the balance of a pyramid, and the other is a house of cards. Harmony at these extremes is not much associated with life. Life is at the middle of the spectrum of stability. Our bodies do not explode, nor are they frozen solid like rock. And if given a push, they return to where they were, if not pushed too hard. A non-living example (but one could argue that it is life at the simplest level) is the orbit of a planet around the sun. This orbit is quite stable, if the planet is large enough. Like a living body, a planet is fluid, molten matter on the inside. If something large hits it, it splashes, deforms, absorbs energy in the movement of fluid. If the planet were smaller it would cool off very fast, but a large size holds the energy for a very long time. If something deforms itís orbit from the circular, the cycling from potential energy to kinetic energy causes it to deform, absorb energy in tides, and the orbit returns to circular. Our earth is a planet like this. It is stable. The orbit of a frozen comet or asteroid is prone to become elliptical, as there are no internal tides, to even out itís orbit. An elliptical orbit is prone to break, as something takes it away at itís furthest distance from sun, with just a nudge, or nudges it into the sun, as it bears in close.
Easier to see, and slightly more complex, are whirlpools. Whirlpools are self stabilizing, as the waves that bend them die out, they return to the center of the drain, and straighten out. We get very close to life, with a whirlpool. A whirlpool eats and excretes, and it is formed out of what it eats. A whirlpool starts tiny and grows, can be bent and stunted by unbalanced feeding, can be clogged up, just like living things. Life is not driven by gravity, as many whirlpools are, but whirlpools can be driven with a paddle, or a jet of liquid, to correspond more closely to life being driven by moderately unstable chemicals releasing energy as they are broken apart. A whirlpool exists by the chance of a container and drain. Life forms its own container and flow tubes out of what it eats. Life also reproduces, which the whirlpool does not. Because of these differences, most people would not consider a whirlpool to be alive, anymore than the orbit of a planet. But it does put us on a very interesting track of thinking, if you have a scientific kind of mind. How can the additional things that life does, be explained?
Well, we know enough about reproduction to explain that very closely. The molecule, DNA, has the ability to split down the center, and when it does so, each side becomes a template, for a new side to attach, one piece at a time. One can easily see paths for growth from this simple beginning. Reproduction makes a configuration endure. Anything that makes the process more reliable will also endure. For example, a DNA molecule, or RNA, which is very similar, that has grown simply by chance, might split by being tumbled about in water currents, but this is a very random process. If a few molecules curled around each other, and picked up some small molecules that could act like wedges, the splitting could be more reliable, and the larger mass would present a bigger "net" to trap drifting "food", both wedges, which would be like micro nutrients, and molecules to fill out a split DNA. This would be better, but too much agitation could easily rip it all apart, though some energy is needed to drive the wedges. A membrane to hold it all together would be a help. How do you get a membrane? Well, just the chance encounters of atoms and molecules reproducing many configurations of DNA, and other molecules, a ribosome is formed and churns out proteins. Amino acids have been shown to form spontaneously, and could also have been brought in from comets and asteroids. The proteins made to begin, might not be at all of a type to make a membrane, but eventually one forms, and it is such a big advantage that it stays. Now you have something very similar to a virus. It was not a virus, viruses need a regular cell to reproduce with, this would have been much more simple. What is needed now, to make it work even better, is a membrane that enclosed chemical reactions, to drive the splitting in more reliable fashion. The membrane for this would have to let in fuel, let in building blocks of DNA, and let out the products of reactions. Now we would have a cell. It reproduces better than the "virus", and so it endures. And it eats, is formed out of what it eats. All of this is done by the attraction and rejection of molecular forces at the right energy level. Mystical explanations are not needed. One can easily go on from this point, with cells clumping together, making more complex organisms.
You may have noticed that in this whole discussion I have never mentioned the word entropy. It is a word that causes great amounts of confusion. People link it to order, link it to the cooling of systems. When confusion abounds, clarify your definitions. Entropy as commonly employed by engineers is a mathematical concept that really has no visual references. Many people, including myself, have a great attraction to being able to visualize something in order to understand it. Since it cannot be visualized, it causes confusion. I also find contradictory statements about entropy, which compounds the confusion. Entropy to engineers is defined as the heat transferred out of a system, divided by the temperature at the time of transfer. It is a useful number in working with problems of heat transfer. There are no measurements of order involved with this definition, and it only gives relative changes in entropy. It is easy to see that these changes tend to be in the downward direction, since heat transfer tends to slow down as equilibrium is reached.
There is another definition of entropy, that does use the concept of order. This equation says that S = k ln W, where S is entropy, k is a constant, the Boltzmann constant, and W is the measurement of ways of being. This equation fits rough observation. The ways of being decrease as order increases, which happens as energy flows out of the system, and the entropy decreases. This fits, since entropy at absolute zero should be zero, and it should be zero at equilibrium, as well. Since things are continually going to equilibrium, the heat transfer is continually decreasing, order is continually increasing, and entropy decreasing with it. Why then do we constantly hear the statement that entropy always increases? Where have physicists obtained the idea that systems tend toward disorder? I have an encyclopedia article in front of me that says this, along with the equations. My engineering textbook on thermodynamics, by Bernhardt Skrotzki, points out that entropy at absolute zero is zero. But the encyclopedia article says that, "when entropy is at its maximum, the amount of work that can be transferred is equal to zero." These are contradictory statements. I am very suspicious that we have a case of the " naked emperor", here, with no one daring to say that they donít understand contradictions like this. Biologists have noted the statement from physics that the tendency for disorder is statistical, and have seized on this to say that the order presented by life is a thing of chance, that life is the improbable come true, as it should, given enough time. Mystics scoff. But if you look objectively and closely, systems do not tend to disorder, life is indeed based on chance encounters, but the attractions and rejections of certain particles make life as predictable as the existence of a whirlpool when you pull the plug in a tub.
It is actually not difficult to see where the idea that entropy always increases comes from. Some simple mathematics will show entropy always increasing. The trouble is, that a logical error is being made in those simple mathematics. Entropy is defined as the heat transfer in or out of a system, divided by the absolute temperature in the system at which the transfer takes place. So the logic goes, that heat is transferred out of one system at a high temperature, into another system at a lower temperature. The same amount of heat is transferred, but the temperature of the receiving system is lower. With the same amount of heat being divided by a lower temperature, the entropy of the receiving system is a bigger number. Therefore it is said that entropy always increases. But a subtle error has been done here. You do not find entropy by adding entropy from one system to another system. To find what has happened to the entropy of the combined systems, you must find the heat transfer over the boundaries of this combined system. Heat flow from one part of the system to another is an internal matter that is not important to the definition of entropy. All kinds of internal heat transfer can be happening, but entropy is defined as the heat transfer in or out of the system. You simply cannot add entropies from two systems and claim that this says something about the combined system. Once this problem is recognized, contradictions about entropy go away. But basically, entropy is not really important to the discussion of order and life. As I wrote before, it is a useful number in dealing with problems of heat transfer. I am not aware of any practical significance to the equation for entropy that does involve order. The only thing that I can see that it has done is confuse things.
Energy Flow and Balance
As you add more and more energy to a system, you will break things apart. Broken apart, they have more ways of being, are more disorderly. It is a simple counting exercise. Let energy out of the system, and things will come back together, have fewer ways of being. As things come together, the complexity of the particles increases, and again, we must keep things straight. Complexity is different from order. Complexity is just one of many possible ways of being.
We live on a planet that has a constant flow of energy in and out. The temperature is generally neither increasing or decreasing at any great rate. The energy level is just right to allow atoms and molecules to come together, at certain places and times, and yet there are variations of energy that will also tear things apart, or freeze them solid. We are built, we are torn, over and over.
As one looks deeper into the action of things being put together by attractions at the right energy level, one can understand the complex question of why one thing is stable and another is not. Particles of different configurations can crunch into each other, partially breaking each other, mingling elements, giving off energy with the partial breakage, perhaps giving up excess elements. Energy given off by such combinations can be seen as heat, or fire. Other particles may simply come to rest against each other, with no partial breakage, very little energy given off, and usually not nearly as strong a bond, either. The fact that a particle is a particle means it has an inherent repulsive force to combining strongly with other particles. A particle is "fenced" with attractive forces. To make a strong bond, this fence often, but not always, must be broken. Especially with larger more complex particles, strong bonds may come as a result of things fitting well together over a large area. But too much energy will smash everything, and there will be no union. These things are all readily observable on large scales. We canít see atoms and molecules acting like this directly, but we see it indirectly.
You can see such things going on with life, as well. The thought patterns of an individual often must be changed to accommodate relationships. Often there is a hard struggle over the strength of thought patterns, with lots of energy being released, thought patterns bent or broken, before strong bonds of friendship can be established. It is often said that a horse or donkey is "broken". Good friends sometimes start the relationship with a fight. Sometimes people and animals come together with no great attraction, exist together, and part as easily as they came together. Sometimes individuals fit strongly together with no need of breaking thought patterns, as the match is good on a broad front.
It can easily be seen as very great arrogance, what I intend to do, breaking thought patterns of people, as if they were horses or donkeys. I donít like the thought patterns in the majority of the people, intend to break them, and if you are not strong enough to handle this energy, you will be broken entirely, is my view. Such conceit! But have you been able to argue with me yet?
While my weapons are not physical in the conventional sense, there is still a physical reaction going on. Words are physical patterns of energy that I direct into your brain through either sound waves or light waves. Brains are quite sensitive to such energy. Just as a radio amplifies the energy level of the minute levels of energy that reach it, brains amplify into actions on the tiny energy signals it receives. Words can cause acute distress. A brain that has an attraction for truth will find my words attractive, no distress. A brain that has an attraction to lies will find itís functioning blocked, stressed in very painful ways.
Lets reduce a few more arguments to rubble.
Design or Evolution?
The argument has been made that if you found some complex piece of technology by the road, like a watch, you wouldnít conclude that it was made by the trial and error method that science proposes for life. The argument is that you would conclude that an intelligent human designer was responsible for the watch, and we ought to conclude that a similar intelligent designer is responsible for life. Sadly, this argument vastly overrates human designers. It would be nice if we could quickly come up with complex designs that worked, but we never have. All of the technology we have has had a long period of trial and error evolution. We have evolved tools to design with that work faster, but the total evolution of a product must include the evolution of the tools that build it. A watch found by the road has had an evolution by trial and error that can be traced back for millennia, and really merges with the trial and error evolution of life itself.
Our trial and error evolution of design is no different from the trial and error evolution of life. We are attracted to an idea, to a configuration, and we add things to it, take other things away. If something works, we keep it, make it again and again, just as life repeats configurations that work, that endure. Creativity is held to be something mysterious by many, but all it is, is putting things together. Some people do better at it, merely because they can do thought experiments, and save a lot a wasted steps in actually trying the multitude of possible combinations. A good memory for things that have already been tried also helps with this. But it is unnecessary to bring in mystical explanations for the process.
Many people would concede that our bodies are mechanistic, but the mind is held to be different. The argument about free will, the challenge to show that you have made yourself, I believe is impossible to argue with, but we can add even more evidence. What do you ever think about that is not fundamentally about attraction, rejection, and movement? There is a lot of evidence that our brains are electro-chemical organs. You can push buttons on it with electrodes, change personalities with a knife. But even if you postulated that thoughts were not pulsed patterns of electro-chemical energy, but something mystical, those thoughts are moving in patterns of attraction, rejection, just as the purely material pulses are seen in the brain. This paper, for example. Some things you like, some you dislike, some are maybe not sinking in, because you are distracted by previously held thoughts pulsing with too much energy to let anything new in. If you have the capability to objectively examine your emotional state, you will find nothing that doesnít fit in these categories. How you react to anything is a function of adding up the forces of attraction and rejection, just like drawing a free -body diagram in physics, and adding up the forces, getting a resultant force. The strongest emotions are composed of attractions and rejections working together. Anger, for example, is composed of a strong rejection for something, and yet being pushed equally strongly to confront that repulsion by an attraction to something else. You are squeezed by such forces to either grab what you love and run with it, from the repulsive thing, or fight to destroy the repulsive thing. If there was no attractive force in the equation, you would simply move away from the repulsive thing. Shame is the failure to successfully fight or flee, and there is no energy left for those things, and you realize that your effort was wasted, that it had not been in the interest of your life to act as you did. You were wrong. Humor is the result of an attraction to not having done something seen as irrational or clumsy. We are attracted to deliberately inducing it, it makes people relax, which saves energy, people work better if they arenít tense. If we havenít deliberately induced it, it hurts, we know people think we are stupid, not worthy of their attention, we fear not having the positive attention of people, we know on an instinctive level we are interdependent, need people to be attracted to our value to them.
Detachment is a False Path
Buddhism tries to tell people that detachment from strong emotions is the way to - something - because happiness is not detachment- but the truly detached person wanders off a cliff or forgets to eat and never tells anyone anything. Emotions are what keep us alive. I like to examine them, and see where they are leading me, since I can see that they are not perfect guardians of my life, which I can see is yet another attachment, this desire to live. It is a most interesting thing, this state we find ourselves in. You cannot get away from this business of attractions and rejections. I am attracted to figuring things out, because it helps me to live, and I want to live because I have an attraction to living. If I didnít have an attraction to living, I would have been dead a long time ago. What is the point?
Well, that man Jesus, he had the same answer that I have. He was there talking to them, he said, "that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." Thatís all. There is no other point. If life gets too painful, that it overwhelms your desire and ability to live, then you die. If you really and truly want to commit suicide, though, you will have to kill everyone, so they canít reproduce you again, and I, for one, will take strong exception to anyone trying to do this. Most people want to live, and I think that the idea of being born again with memory wiped clean and a new body ought to be a comforting thought to some. I like the idea. Of course, my likes and dislikes have nothing to do with the reality of the events. But I like even better the idea of being born into a world in which rational people ran things. Seems like a lot less pain could be expected in such a world. Of course, one personís heaven is another personís hell. People whose sense of reason is subservient to their instincts would find a rational world to be a hellish place, I think. I think that instinct running things, as it does now, makes an effective hell. Iíd hate to have to work out the ideas in this paper all over again. Very painful business.
Wired for Mysticism
Herbert Benson, of the Harvard Medical School, thinks that most people are "wired", for religion in the mystical sense. That sounds reasonable. The rationality that we all possess to varying degrees heightens our awareness of the future. We see our death a long way off, and if we donít have some way to calm our fears about that, we are in trouble. Going around tense and worried wastes energy. There is a placebo effect to religion, it relaxes worries. We simply did not know enough to come up with rational answers to things going on around us, and mysticism filled the gap. But now that we do have rational answers, the mystical programming doesnít want to say, "oh, ok, Iím all done now. Good bye." No, mysticism being a confused master, tells people that they have immortal souls, but that they should resist death, and logic, on certain issues, with every strength.
That being said, I must also concede that there are mysteries in the universe. If a person wanted to contemplate these mysteries in mystical terms, as a way to relax, put things in a different perspective for awhile, then I see no harm in that. But these mysteries are very similar to the observations of philosophy, as far as their importance in making reasonable decisions to keep on living. If you want to contemplate why we exist, why the universe exists, while the goats graze, fine. But when it comes time to walk the cliff path home, you better stop dreaming and pay attention to practical matters.
Addictions as Excessive Attractions
The addict shows up at the line dance of life, and treats it like a tackle football game. Swing your partner becomes smash that object between you and the punch bowl. People focus so strongly on what they want, that they donít see anything else, not even the things that they also need to be healthy. Addictions are all basically excessive attractions.
Our interdependence has given us the instinct to try and convince other of our viewpoint. We know without thinking that we are stronger if we are unified, and we will put considerable energy into our efforts to convince others. When the differences are fundamental, though, the energy just turns to conflict. We can agree to disagree only until the decisions are life and death decisions, and then we must either part completely, or fight it out, or some combination of the two. When resources are abundant, it is easy to part, and be tolerant. But overpopulation and wastefulness can have us eyeing each other with increasing intolerance. To solve the problems, we need to cooperate, but we simply cannot trust the way others make decisions. Repulsions are apt to build and build, until a breaking point is reached. I cannot trust mystics with my life, and they will not trust me with theirs. Nor does one mystic trust another mystic. I cannot trust monetary economics in the same way.
Self-doubting and Fanaticisim
It can be easy to spot people who have doubts about what they are pushing, and rational thinking always brings doubts to mystics. They become fanatics. If you have doubts, you need to shout to drown out the doubts. It is similar to anger being a combination of love and hate, attraction and rejection. Robert Pirsig, writer of " Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", noted this combination of doubts and fanaticism. Who shouts that the sun will come up in the morning? We donít become fanatics about the things that we are sure about. Since mysticism has so many doubts attached to it, religion is a fertile ground for fanatics. Of course, this is not always a reliable guide, since people who have no doubts can defend their positions with considerable strength. If someone were to argue that we might as well all quit and kill ourselves, because the sun was never going to show again, I would be inclined to argue against this very strongly. My strong emotion to continue living might end up with me shouting logic. But I wouldnít start off that way. And if I saw that it wasnít working, reason would say to quit wasting energy on that path. It does bring up the interesting question of whether one can become fanatic about following reason. I donít see how you can go wrong, following reason, as long as it really is reason. There is an implication of wrongness, about becoming a fanatic, because such people often get in trouble. Being a fanatic about rightness is a contradiction of terms.
Looking at interdependence, we see that all of the separate minds of individuals can be fighting with each other as one big mind, just as the various parts of an individualís brain can argue back and forth. Reason does not generally shout and kick itís heels against the ground, though. It just lays out its position. Emotion is foreign to reason. The only emotion one can get, is an emotional defense of the reasoning process. The process itself is quiet. Following shouters is generally not a good idea.
A funny thing happened to me. I would speak at a Quaker meeting, because I thought from the words being said, that people would be receptive. They were not. I was accused of being a ranter. But other people would come up to me and say that I needed to speak louder, that they couldnít hear what I had to say. I thought this was funny. Humor is often composed of such abrupt discontinuities. Remembering what I said earlier, about the power of words, it is likely that those who could hear me felt the words as hammer blows to their existing pattern of thought, and it felt like I was shouting at them, even though I wasnít.
One can just about sum up everything Iíve written so far, by noting that money gives a reality, mysticism gives a reality, and science gives a reality. You will pick the one you are most attracted to. And if it isnít science you are attracted to, you may deny that attraction has anything to do with the choice, just to try and get away from the language I am using, because it is repulsive! You canít get away. Trying will get you killed, like the rabbit that jerks against the snare, and tightens it. The way to live is to not fight reality. Reality has a noose around my neck, too, and has put a bit in my mouth, and a whip to my backside, and tells me to write. So I write.
Doctors need to be energy efficient, same as everyone else in a society, and not take more resources than they need. Doctors depend on other people just to stay alive themselves, same as everyone. Certainly doctors can be profitable, if they return people to health at less cost than replacing them by raising up children. Since raising up children has a considerable expense, there is a lot of room for medical care to be energy efficient. Doctors in the past were only marginally profitable, if at all, on this scale, but we survived by reproducing faster than disease, injury, and quacks, could kill us. To individuals desperately afraid of death, suffering pain, and acting as independent agents, doctors are worth any price, and lots of doctors have been completely willing to accept such a deal. But if the real human organism is a society, doctors who treat only individuals are blind to the damage they may be causing society. Blind doctors treating blind patients is not a good prescription for a healthy society. Enormous amounts of care, of energy, go to old patients who die anyway. The rich get the best of care, the poor may get nothing. No one looks at the real contributions of people. There are those who are appalled that the poor get so little, want the absolute best of care for everyone, without any consideration that care for the elderly is likely to be wasted, and some care is so expensive it just is not worth doing for anyone, never mind everyone. The understanding that large populations of people make prime breeding ground for disease is something that people who know just wring their hands about. A similar reaction is obtained by the knowledge that unrestricted travel can bring disease at the speed of a jet air plane. People who knowingly put their health in danger with abuse of drugs are given the same consideration as anyone else- money rules, or emotions rule. People get mystical notions of the value of life, and would blindly drag down and destroy healthy people and nature in their focus on the sick. It has long been slightly amusing to me, that mystics talk about immortal souls, and then try to move mountains to keep people from dying. If you have an immortal soul, and your patient does, then what is the great concern? I suppose people are worried about going to hell if they donít try hard enough, but if they create hell here, with their frantic efforts, then what is the point? Does putting your patient through torture before death, qualify you for heaven?
Of course, doctors do have a worry, which is being sued by people for malpractice, and they could have their licenses taken away. This kind of thing is often crazy. Doctors are people, they make mistakes. We all do the best we can do, usually. Medicine is in a state of certifiable insanity. Nature has a cure for the insane. It kills them. If you are sane, you measure accurately, and act accurately. When you make a mistake, you recognize it and correct your procedures.
Eugenics rears its head with health care. Lets repeat people have always practiced eugenics. You donít go looking for the ugliest and most stupid spouse you can find. For the general population, people must be profitable. They must be energy efficient. If they are too weak to be profitable, mentally or physically, you keep them alive at the expense of healthy people and the balance of resources. If you canít fix them, they should die. If people have a genetic problem, letting them reproduce without fixing the genetics often means that you still have the problem. One can see this problem very clearly with the breeding of animals. People go in and help animals give birth, donít cull physical problems, and you end up with endless birthing problems and weak and sickly animals. We admire the grace and strength of wild animals, and we can have the same in our domestic animals and ourselves, if we cull like nature culls. We donít need to take every case of genetic malformation out and kill the person. In many cases, we can let natural attrition work, simply not have a problem reproduce.
Shunning can be an effective way to cull people, it puts a lot of stress on a social creature to be shunned, and if they really are weak, they are likely to die. This may seem especially brutal, but it also gives the shunned person a chance to prove their strength. Banishment is similar, though more drastic than shunning. Someone who seriously hurts or murders another, is basically saying that interdependence doesnít apply, the victim had no value, and society also was not to be consulted on the matter. Societies have often replied to such an action that the criminal can go and live away from the group, if this is how they feel. Such banishment is essentially a death sentence, with the condemned given the chance to prove the logic of the crime. Forgiveness is possible under such a system, and it is better to save one person who seriously repents, than to lose both the victim and the perpetrator. Evidence of past weakness justifies careful watching for a time, when someone is forgiven like this.
All injury and sickness is a result of too much energy or too little, with nothing mystical about it. Diseases tear the structures of the body with their toxic excretions, and reproduction. They may eat the food we intended for ourselves, starving us. In the effort to wall off some kinds of bacteria, the body may overreact, block up everything. We are always either being torn apart, or falling apart, when we are sick. Health is a matter of the right energy balance. Individuals always lose that balance and die, but if we have lived and died in such a manner that others like us have lived, and survive us, we are born over and over.
Abel herded sheep, and Cain tilled the ground, and God favored Abel, and Cain killed his brother.
Scientists have generally not been concerned with Bible stories, as mixed up with mysticism as the book is. But we can ask some interesting questions about this story. We see tolerance between different cultures when there is plenty. At the beginning of agriculture, surely there was abundance. And why did God favor Abel? Of course, the Bible was written by people, and it was someoneís opinion that God favored Abel, but what was that opinion formed out of? Was it just the expression of attraction and loss of a traditional way of life? If we donít see answers to questions, we tend to dismiss them. But there are significant answers to these questions.
Herding can be overdone, just as hunting and gathering can be overdone. But there is nothing inherently destructive about these activities. If they are not overdone, they can fit into the ecology of an area very neatly. But slash and burn, tilling the ground, these activities are inherently destructive. All the diversity of life dies in the area put to such treatment. And while yields can be very impressive at first, the fertility of any piece of ground is bound up in living organisms. When these are killed, nutrients can leach away, erode away, and blow away. Returning as much organic matter as possible helps, as do cover crops, but these do not completely halt the loss, and they add considerably to the already considerable cost of preparing ground and controlling weeds, bugs, disease, and wildlife. So what people do, if they can, is continually move. Cain was condemned to roam the earth, remember?
The land that is abused in this way often recovers with varying amounts of time. Soils are generally divided between available nutrients, and chemically locked up nutrients, the latter usually greatly outweighing the former. With time, the action of fungus, bacteria, acids in rain, will work free another batch of nutrients. In flood plains, nutrients can wash in from the surrounding land, and it can be possible to grow crops year after year in such places, though it is still advisable to return as much as possible, in such situations. Flood plain agriculture seems to be sustainable, but even with this, people have not been happy with a good thing, but must make dams that catch silt, and use all manner of poisons upstream, and on the flood plain, and fight nature with mono-cropping practices that invite disease and insects. In upland areas, the practice of tilling is not sustainable, unless very large amounts of time between use of land is adhered to. A piece of land recovers by working free a new batch of nutrients, but there has been a net loss. The recovery of that loss is only by geologic processes of mountain erosion and uplift, volcanic action. People could in theory haul nutrients back from the ocean, but the source of energy to do this sustainably is not clear. There is some movement of nutrients against gravity, in flocks of birds flying inland, herds of animals doing the same, also species of fish like salmon bring nutrients from the sea back to the land, as animals catch and eat them and then defecate. But we must be aware of the rate at which fertility can be returned with such things, and not take more.
Even though there are clear problems down the road, the big yields from virgin soil make people look the other way. They will find a way, when they need to. In the meantime, life is good, lets make babies. After a few generations of this kind of behavior, the illusion can set in that some ways to deal with soil fertility are indeed found. Manure works wonders. Mined limestone is very helpful. The trouble is, that the manure from animals comes in large part from pastures away from your tilled field. Those pastures need that manure back, or they start to lose fertility. But if you are penning animals, feeding hay and grain, you get a large pile of manure, and it is so much easier to spread it on your tilled fields, than it is to haul it and spread it on more distant hay and pasture fields. And you are penning what animals you have left, because animals in a planted field are an absolute disaster. Wild animals are exterminated as much as possible. Market hunting and putting more habitat to the plow solves this problem for a few more years. Herders and hunters are just another wild animal to be driven away, or killed. Cain killed Abel, indeed.
When the land runs out in spite of using manure, you migrate. Rich new lands on the horizon, over the ocean, can take the pressure off of worn out land. And then a new thing - nitrogen from the atmosphere can be broken from the very stable N2, to NH3, ammonia, and other compounds, that plants can utilize. Deposits of phosphorous, and potassium, are found and mined. All that is needed is energy, and here are lakes of oil, buried mountains of coal. More energy is seen as the key to solving all problems, and has actually been seen that way since the beginning. Human slavery is a good way to work the fields. Animal slavery is also acceptable. Machinery is seen as nectar from the gods. You have to turn soil, and soil is heavy. You have to shackle and pen and fence and build endless sheds and barns. You have to transport heavy materials in quantity, manure, limestone, hay, grain. You have to store large heaps of hay and grain, preserve the food that is harvested in large quantities in short periods. Failures to do this storage properly has resulted in the deaths of millions, starvation and disease from moth, mouse, and moisture getting into stored food. All of this is energy, energy, energy. But people have been dodging the disaster of resource depletion, for so long, that they feel charmed. They feel it will always work, they will always find a way at the last minute. The laws of nature donít apply to them. Ruined cities around the world point out that people have not always been so lucky, but you are smarter than those folks, right? Well sorry, but luck is not smarts. People who plan on being lucky eventually run out of luck. It is the case of the blind leading the blind again. And one can argue that we really havenít been lucky, because all that has been found are stopgaps, not real solutions. It has been unlucky to find these things, because it has allowed the real problem to grow to ever greater dimensions.
What are we trying to achieve? Looking at the understanding of systems laid out in chapter 2, we see that we have been pouring energy into agriculture, and just as the model predicts, too much energy tears systems apart. We have not defied the laws of nature. We have followed the laws of nature, of physics, perfectly, and have exterminations, wastelands, as a result. If we want more life, we must feed less energy into the system. Instead of forcing nature to move as our whims desire, using less energy means that nature often moves us. This is the difference between partnership and slavery. Partners listen to each other. They are swinging around each other in a dance of attraction, and rejection.
Jared Diamond, in "The Third Chimpanzee", has pointed out that farming spread very slowly. It was a culture change, and even if the bait was tempting, culture change is a difficult thing. Men were proud of their hunting skills, liked the ease of herding. I think it was security driven women who pushed this change. Gathering was their job, and it involves walking around, a baby slung on the back, and a load of vegetables in addition. All that food in one spot looks like a very good deal to her. She didnít take risky jobs, and didnít die the way men did, but she often worked far harder than men did, on a day to day basis. Firewood, clothing, cooking, infant care, basket weaving, pottery, as well as gathering, were things to keep her very busy. I can see why women would have pushed, but it still was a bad move. Everyone ended up working twice as hard. There are genuine ways to ease the traditional work load of women, without farming and gardening. Birth control can take a load off. A pack animal can be a good partner. Men can help out more.
But the bait was taken, and it was understood long ago. The story of Adam and Eve comes to mind. The first farmers bit into the fruit of good and evil, at the urging of women who felt naked, insecure about food supply, and they laid waste to the garden of Eden, slash and burn, and having taken the bait, they were hooked, doomed to an existence of hard labor, always walking the treadmill to keep the growing population fed, unable to go back, since that was another culture change, and a culture change into the desert they were making. I think the story of Adam and Eve is a story of the first farmers, not the first humans. And while I think that the fruit that Eve offered Adam was her sexuality, her nakedness was not sexually related, but has to do with insecurity. People can focus so strongly on sex, that they forget that other issues can be involved. Of their children, Abel could attempt to return to Eden, by herding, since herders can survive in deserts, and is not difficult to learn how to do, though it does require some ability to learn and adapt. But as Iíve pointed out, herders are often just another wild creature that threatens crops, in the eyes of farmers.
Herders and farmers do sometimes get along. In Mongolia, there are farmers at oases, surrounded by desert, who trade with herders in the mountain valleys. But this works because there is the natural buffer of desert between the two, and the oases are too small to interest herders, and the grasslands have too harsh a climate for farmers. Herders that live in deserts are usually very nomadic, and often trade animal products for grain grown in wetter areas. If fields are yearly replenished by nutrients washing in with spring runoff, such systems may last as long as the mountains do, and I have no quarrel with that. But in large areas, both herding and farming are possible, and farmers have poured in the energy to destroy the region, and this is more than a disgrace, it will be death. If an area is rich enough to be farmed, it always has an abundance of vegetable foods to be gathered. Even deserts often have much to be gathered, and the herders who trade for grain instead of gathering, may be doing so on prejudice as much as practicality.
It is argued that herders are always nomads, and can never advance in understanding, that the lifestyle is a cultural dead end. But this is a self serving argument by farmers. Even in harsh places, herders are often semi-nomadic, not completely nomadic. In areas presently dominated by farming, herders would often not need to be nomadic at all. In long time scales, it can be seen that even desert nomads are more rooted to their area than farmers are, who wear out land and move on, all the while proclaiming their great love of the land. The desert nomad has a more stable existence, over the long run, than do farmers. The brain is a portable computer, and problems can be thought about while watching the animals graze, more effectively than the farmer who has ten things to do before breakfast, and wipes the sweat from his eyes just to look at his animals. People will proclaim that they love a good dayís work, that herding looks about as boring as life can be, but there is a lack of imagination here. If you donít have the brain to do thought experiments, one can carve, or run a drop spindle, do simple weaving and plaiting, learn to play a musical instrument, and lots of similar things. Nor is watching the animals the only job to do for herders. A group of people can take turns at watching, do crafts, gathering, hunting, and experiments, activities that donít fit with watching animals. But it is not a lifestyle for people who are drunk on the power to move anything from point A to point B. You donít talk about your love for nature, while destroying nature with your living, but you live your love for nature.
It is also not difficult to imagine how a little cooperation between groups could solve the problem of animals that need to move. Pastures often dry up towards the equator in summer, so it is natural for animals to head toward the poles in summer, where the grass is still green, and then head back in winter. Some animals would do this migration naturally, others could be led and driven, but just take them to the next group on the path, who would take what they needed and take the rest on to the next group. Some species of animals could stay all year, provide milk and work, but the bulk of the herd could migrate, and in this way much of the work of providing food and shelter for the dry times and the cold times, would be avoided. Some people might choose to stay with the herds, and migrate, others could stay in one spot. The argument that people are always nomads really falls apart with seeing things like this.
People today who want to return to more balanced living, but look to older methods of farming, and talk about "organic", need to look at whole systems, and see that money is a flawed measure. The farmer who has a large pile of manure and wants to get rid of it may sell it off, cheap, but it is not cheap. It is the life of a piece of land. The farmer will eventually have to use synthetic fertilizers to make up for the loss, and where is your "organic" definition now? You cannot indefinitely go robbing Peter to pay Paul. People imagine that they will return to sustainable methods, one step at a time, but stepping into farming is like stepping into a powerful river of problems, that defy good intentions. You think that a tractor is something you will live with, and eventually you will learn how to use animal power, but there is so much to do that you never get there. And if you start off with animal power, you find that they require a sizable portion of the land just to live, and they have objections to heavy work, get tired and cranky and lame, just like people, if you try to force too much. All the while the market says that the food produced by fossil fuel power is plentiful and cheap, and the only way you can compete is to say that your food is better somehow, it is "organic". Probably the food is healthier without residues of insecticide and herbicide on it, but it is not being produced in a sustainable way, and the poor cannot afford it. People think without reason that they can do better than was done in the past. Manure was used in the past. Human manure was used in the past, has been used in the Orient without the prejudice that is common in the West. But the Orient now uses large quantities of mined fertilizer. Manure is heavy, human manure must be handled with care to prevent the spread of disease, and even with all this work, there is not enough to make up for the inevitable losses that come when bare soil meets the elements. If you kill perennial plant covers, and plant annuals, there will always be periods of bare soil. Paths are needed to hoe out weeds, which is more bare soil. People who talk about mulch are not realistic, when it comes to areas beyond the size of a small vegetable garden, and if large amounts of mulch are used, you have to ask where it came from, in the same way as you ask about animal manure.
If you plant into natural cover, plants native to the area, this is not damaging. Masanabo Fukuoka, a grower in Japan, has written about his experience with doing this, in a book called "One Straw Revolution". But this means bending to nature, planting what nature might plant anyway, and doing it in similar fashion. There is not much room for food prejudices, to live this way. Very few of the common garden vegetables or field crops will grow in northern New England, for example, when planted this way. But there is a long list of things that will grow here, and provide food. A little bit of protection and nurture has the potential for large dividends. A young tree that is kept safe until it has the size to be out of reach of browsers, might return years of fruit, nuts, acorns, depending on the type of tree, for example. One could encourage oaks that have low levels of tannin in their acorns, sweeter apple trees, and so on. A small fenced in garden of leafy vegetables, might be worth doing. Herders commonly put their animals in a fold for the night, and these small areas, trampled and manured, could be planted and protected with a fold of their own. But "small" is the word here. Trying to make this into a significant source of calories will lead you down a dangerous path. Mostly you will want to keep the fold moving enough that the vegetation inside is not killed. You might have a central headquarters, that stays put, but the animals are likely to range for several miles around, even in lush areas, to avoid such overuse. Depending on circumstances some animals might not need a fold, some species could run semi-wild and be rounded up once or twice a year. You will have to work such things out.
Herders and hunters eat meat, and this is regarded with horror by some people, mostly with mystical notions about the value of individual lives. The slaughter that precedes the field crops of grain and beans and makes a vegetarian diet possible is put out of mind somehow. Realistic plans for what ought to be done with domestic animals is also put out of mind. Vegetarians pretend to be independent agents, and act as if this problem is solved by having someone else deal with animals, and their tendency to reproduce and reproduce and reproduce. I read something recently about how awful it was that dairy farmers kept their cows pregnant all the time. Well, turn those animals loose and try and stand between a bull and a cow. Ridiculous plans to use contraceptives are sometimes offered, as if people had the energy to spend on such programs that have very little return. Fences to keep a healthy ecosystem out of fields has an impossible cost, for all practical purposes. Deer high, bull strong, pig tight, a net over the top for birds, fence extended under the ground to stop diggers. And of course, how do you keep these fields fertile, without going outside to bring in mulch in large quantities, which slowly degrades the land outside? If you move, you have to redo this fortress, assuming you could ever build it in the first place. You might find that going outside gets to be increasingly dangerous, as animals lose their fear of humans. People who think that animals are as friendly as they sometimes look have seen too many movies that anthropomorphize animals, and have not dealt with enough real animals. Vegetarianism can only arise in people who are seriously disconnected both with nature, and with practical details about what is possible to build. Like the doctor who is horrified by death, and ends up torturing people to avoid it, the vegetarian does violence to the land, and animals, by refusing to deal with death realistically. They can also do damage to their health, if careful attention to combining amino acids in vegetable foods is not taken, and also attention to vitamin B12. Certainly these problems are solvable, but they add to the total problem, which in total is unsolvable.
It is interesting to note that serious persistence after a goal, even a goal like vegetarianism, is actually a trait of predators. Predators often fail to accomplish their goal of catching another animal, but the instinct is there to just keep trying. Humans show this trait of stubborn persistence in very obvious ways. I am aware of it in myself, writing this paper, over and over, trying to make the arguments tougher, more compact, sharper. True vegetarians arenít usually very goal oriented, in the animal kingdom. They donít need to be, since the next clump of grass is just a step away. Desert vegetarians, like goats, can be very persistent in their behavior, because the grass and leaves may be a cliff side away. But the evidence is strong that people have universally been predators, omnivorous, but still predators. It is probable that the "lazy husband" stereotype comes from our history as hunters. Men can be ruthless when in pursuit of a goal, but when no instinctive goal is in sight, they tend to put up their feet, and rest, like a cat, or other predator. But reason says that the equation is changed. We donít live in the stone age anymore. Herding takes a lot of pressure off the need to hunt, and steel tools and a greater general understanding of how things work, calls for different attitudes. A lot of men are somewhat flexible about this. The real problem that predatory instinct causes is with regard to mysticism and farming. Farmers live for the good years, like a hunter lives for the moment his projectile strikes true. People instinctively driven to be persistent are not prone to listen to reason on sustainability. The hunter makes constant adjustments to tools and techniques, and so does the farmer. "Next year Iíll try this, and this." The hunter lives on persistence, not luck, but the two things are very easily confused. The distinction is this. The lucky person finds something that he or she did not know existed. The persistent hunter knows that the goal exists. The hunter goes out in the woods and knows within minutes that deer live there, because signs of deer are all over the place. Persistence in following tracks, finding patterns of behavior, will eventually end up with deer being brought home. But the farmer depending on luck to find a sustainable way to farm, has no idea if such a way exists. All the rational evidence says it does not exist. Persistence in such circumstances does not make a lot of sense, but persistence is what we see.
Mysticism is very similar. Mystics constantly change tools and techniques, and even deal with invisible forces, just as the hunter deals with the "invisible" sense of smell. Mystics are sometimes lucky in their predictions and this luck is confused with the hunterís persistence. When healing is attempted by mystics, a placebo effect may happen, and often herbal medicine is put in along with spells and prayer, which with a little luck and experience, makes mystics appear to be successful more than just lucky. But failure to sort out cause and effect is not scientific. Unfortunately, numbers of failures mean little to minds programmed to hunting, just so long as a few apparent successes stand out. Failures are forgotten, apparent successes are remembered. Cataloguing all the possible failures wastes energy, to the brain that only deals with simple systems. It is far more important to concentrate on what seems successful, so that it can be repeated. When the problems are relatively simple, and hunting animals is not particularly complex, then this strategy of remembering successes and forgetting failures is acceptable. But the world of decisions we have entered is far more complex than this sort of accounting will accommodate. The difference between luck and persistence needs to be clearly drawn. Gambling casinos exist by blurring the difference between luck and persistence, and shear many people as easily as a predator catches the new born stray calf. Hunters become the hunted. People know the money is there, and they persistently try to find the pattern that will enable them to score, but an accurate accounting of the odds is beyond the average ability, and they lose again and again and again. Many of the complex decisions we need to make involve statistics, and failing to count failures doesnít make reliable statistics.
The lucky person didnít expect to find what was found. The persistent hunter knows that the goal is out there. Take luck when it comes (and winning the lottery is not lucky, since money is a useless measure, and a barrier to rational thought) but live your life with rational persistence. And with regard to agriculture, if the goal is sustainability, you need to show that it is possible to stop a hemorrhage with repeated cutting, which is what tilling the ground essentially does. If your goal is to defy physics, you are going to need real magic, and there has never been any repeatable evidence of real magic. If your goal is an endless supply of clean energy, with not even thermal pollution, then you are in the realm of magic.
Perhaps you are the one in a thousand, or even the one in ten thousand, that says, ok, ok. But I donít know the first thing about herding animals, or hunting, or gathering. Well, first get with some others like you, and put your knowledge together. Be persistent! Here is some general information about the life.
A rough rule of thumb should be that the animals you want can go wild in the area you are contemplating. If they canít do that, it means external energy has to come from somewhere, and this may defeat the whole idea. Stick with known animals. For example, people have been raising llamas here in the Northeastern U.S. but there is some question about their susceptibility to brain worm here, carried by white tailed deer, if herded out free. This is probably not the time to experiment with such questions. (On this specific question, goats are also susceptible, but I have not had a great problem, am suspicious of one death in eight years. Avoiding wet areas can help, as snails and slugs are part of the life cycle). Of course, you wouldnít attempt to try herding here anyway, because there are just too many people here, but it gives an example of what to avoid. Perhaps in the mountains, and further north, you could go. The animals you want may already be out there. Catching them and persuading them that you make a good partner is not a job for amateurs, though, so you might start with animals already used to people. Many of these will be as afraid of going out free as you are, but take it a step at a time. Goats are generally suited for southern deserts. Jim Corbett has written an interesting book on herding goats in the Southwestern U.S. It is called, "Goatwalking". As you go north, goats are not so good. They tend to be seasonal breeders, with a five month gestation, breed in the fall, and as you go north, you can have kids born when it is still winter, and that is not good. Small animals also lose heat faster than big animals, and as long as there is enough to eat, bigger animals will do better in the cold, all else being equal, like hair and wool. Goats are excellent on conserving water, but water is not such a big problem in the north, because what falls is frozen for perhaps half the year, doesnít evaporate quickly in cool temperatures above freezing, and much melts over the other half. Water is probably the most severe problem in the south, and cold the most severe problem in the north, and you deal with varying amounts of both in between. Reindeer are to the north what goats are to the south, and bovines, equines, and camels are in between, though camels can be better than goats in some ways, less in others. Goats are climbers, camels are suited to flat lands. Sheep are somewhat linked to herders in the public mind, and may do OK, but sheep and cows and horses are not really desert animals, though some varieties may get along. Donkeys, highland cattle, yaks, all come to mind on this. There are a lot of types of sheep, and some are more clearly suited for desert living, than others, but you will have to research specific breeds, and also weigh what is available. The ideal theoretical animal may live in quantity half the world away, but that doesnít do you much good, and theory might run into practical problems with transporting so far, even if the transportation was doable, since food and disease may be different.
Animals that can go feral need to have some reason to stay with you. Often that reason is protection. Jim Corbett says that goats can live in the Southwest, but donít usually last long without people, because of mountain lions. Being providers of salt is a reason animals will stay with you, and treats of starchy foods. Equines need hobbles, simple rope corrals, and stake out a few, in case the others run off in spite of hobbles. You might not hobble a whole herd, but just the leaders, and the others stay with the leaders . Cows are not inclined to be as flighty as equines. Their original defensive strategy was a circle of horns, as much as flight. Sheep, like goats, were cliff dwellers, though sheep are grazers and goats are browsers. Mountains often divide sharply the wet and dry, and sheep seem to go with the wet side, goats with the dry. Most sheep have been bred so far from their ancestors that many sheep donít have a clue what to do with a cliff, except to get stuck, but they are not good runners, and are virtually helpless without human protection. Sheep suited for desert living may not have lost so much instinct about cliffs. Most goats learn fast what a cliff is, according to Jim Corbett, and you better plan on learning to climb after them on occasion. Iíve lived with goats for much of my life, but goats have little tendency to go wild where Iíve lived in New England, and are always willing to return to the barn. They like browse, and some grass, but flat forest is mostly scary to them, as there is no instinctively safe place to retreat to, except the barn. Sheep overheat if they run hard, because of their wool, and goats overheat because of the large stomach system to eat coarse food. Humans exploit these instinctive tendencies to not run, or be poor runners, attractions to salt, treats, and the need for protection. But bear in mind that a herder is a hunter that has gotten really close. The relationship is useful to both sides, but it is not the loving relationship that some might imagine. An animal that is particularly well trained, or is a good milker, you would not want to eat any more that you want to eat your dominant arm, but when a human starves, the body is broken down and eaten, and the wise person treats the animals that ride and pull and milk the same way. Save your love for the humans in your group. Pets are a poor substitute, that lonely "independent" people try to fill the gaps in their lives with. You will save yourself trouble, if you donít get too emotionally attached to animals that reason will tell you to someday kill and eat, even dogs, and dogs can be valuable partners for hunting and herding, if you choose dogs of suitable breeding.
Milk can be a reliable source of food in the south, but as you go north, it becomes more seasonal, people become more carnivorous, and this requires more animals. The north may also need more land per animal, though the lack of water in the south may even that out. If you donít have enough animals, you have to think about hunting. Probably the most effective way there is to hunt, is to use people like a huge net, and drive animals past archers, or completely encircle them. This works so well that it is illegal in a lot of places, because people cannot be trusted to use restraint. The law is somewhat moot, though, because people have to cooperate, and trust each other to shoot straight, and these things have been hard to come by. Guns are rather dangerous in such situations, even for skilled people, as they shoot too far. Guns allow individuals to be successful hunters, lessening the need for group cooperation, (though requiring a lot of cooperation to build and maintain) and are very dramatic in their ability to kill at long range. But like many things, they are more expensive than the market would claim, and even by the market they are not always cheap. Stockpiling ammunition is not a practical thing. It wants to stay cool and dry and protected from thieves, and eventually you have to replace it somehow. Lead is heavy stuff, you donít want to cart lots of it around. There is a serious question in mind that one can spray lead all over the countryside indefinitely, both from the standpoint that it is poisonous, and from the standpoint that it is mined. Explosives may be useful at times in the future, and guns that shot a wooden dart or perhaps stone or fired clay, instead of a lead bullet might be useful for some situations, but I donít see any big deal about living without guns right now. Bows and arrows are something that take some skill to make and use, but they are far more possible than guns. Thinking that skills in crafts might be a lot more prevalent than skill in shooting a bow, I have thought about crossbows, and worked out a design. This thinking also was undertaken with the idea of stunning animals for slaughter. Without a gun, one is reduced to hammers, or bleeding, to slaughter domestic animals. I donít like hammers. It is a lot easier to miss than you might think, since the target is small, and very hard to immobilize. Bleeding is not as bad as a lot of people seem to believe, I think. When blood pressure drops a certain amount, the brain blacks out, and many people can testify that a very sharp knife can cut with surprisingly little pain. But it does look bad, a big animal can take a few seconds to black out, and hide can be slashed and wasted, and blood can be wasted. A wooden crossbow can be made with considerable power, to stun animals as efficiently as a gun. And crossbows can allow people to hunt effectively without the years of practice a hand bow requires, even allow taking small game that a skilled hand bow user might miss. Even a powerful crossbow does not have the range to make it extremely dangerous in animal surrounds, but you still want to be careful in such situations. Making such a crossbow takes some skill and time, and I would not condemn using a knife until you get there, or even a gun, if you already have one. Instinctive people can have some very strong opinions about how animals are killed, and you might have to bow to this until they are gone.
There is not a lot to say about gathering, except to go slow. Meat is meat, and milk is not too different, species to species. Sometimes people have allergies to certain kinds of milk, and you will have to chose where you go, if you have this problem. Lactose can be dealt with by making yogurt. But plants can be very different from what youíve eaten in the past, and your body needs to adapt to the different chemistry. Donít push it. Along this line, donít push animals to change abruptly to eat a radically different set of plants, either. Ruminants can be even more sensitive to changes like this than people are. Some things are likely to give no trouble at all, and individuals are likely to be different in what they tolerate, and there may be a learning process about how to prepare certain plants to be edible. We often have a repulsion for new foods, and this is not completely bad, since it makes us go slow. Going slow is not the same as complete rejection from prejudice. Making yourself sick will give you a definite mental repulsion, that might have been avoided. In the long run, the diet and moderate exercise of the life are likely to make you healthier than you have been, if you donít try to get there all at once.
When time is short, act deliberately, is the essence of a proverb someone once told me. Good advice.
1. People are interdependent to the point that we die without each other.
2. Since we must have a society, that society should be efficient and sustainable. There are two basic patterns of society, that of fixed hierarchy, and that of partnership. The latter can be shown to be inherently more efficient than the former.
3. Efficiency should be measured in terms of energy, not money.
4. Sustainability should be measured by balance of resources. Too much energy used taking resources tips the balance away from sustainability, i.e., resources are used faster than they renew. Too little energy used will also not be sustainable, as people will not get enough to live on.
5. As an interdependent species, reproduction of humans should not be the private decision of individuals or couples, but a consensus decision of society, based on collectively gathered information about the balance of resources.
6. Ignoring or being unaware of basic principles can bring weakness, instability, confusion, and death. Survival in humans is of the fittest society, as no individual human or couple is fit to survive. People have instincts that often instruct actions different from reason, but instinct is blind to changed conditions, and can cause extinction of species that cannot adapt.
Go to Part II
TrustMark 2001 by Arthur Noll