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Re: Industrialism?

First, regardless of our addiction to metals, it seems clear we are kidding 
ourselves if we presume that industrial-scale metal use (as embodied in a tin 
can or a flashlight) cannot be sustainable.  So from the permaculture long 
view, we need to be looking to phasing out metal use to at least the 
non-industrial level.  It would seem that we will have enough metal hanging 
around to support the village blacksmith (so Fukuoka-type gardeners can have 
their sickles) for the forseeable future.  

Criteria for the phase-down might include the following.

1) Thorough use of existing metal objects.
	a.  Wear them out to the point where they are useless. (But still 
maintaining restrained use.)
	b.  Salvage interchangable parts.
2)  Recycle every bit of metal.  While the concept of embeded energy, 
particularly in aluminum, is important, if we recycle every bit we do not 
have to remember which metal has most embeded energy.
3)  Select metals for use based on their total cost, which includes 
	a  Embedded energy, including industrial infrastructure required.
	b.  Pollution costs in production of metals.
	c.  Other environmental costs, e.g., flooding of vast areas of 
rainforest in the Amazon basin to generate hydropower for aluminum 
	d.  Human costs of metals and metalic products, including 
exploitative labor, selective exposure of some populations to resulting 
exposure, etc.  For example, in the Philippines, Minimata disease is 
associated with release of mercury used in gold processing in the hills near 

	These criteria apply, moreover, to any fabricated object.  For 
example, the embedded and maintenance energy for nuclear power plants may 
exceed the power generated.  This is certainly true of ethanol produced from 
sugar cane as has been done in Brazil.  There seems to be a real terror among 
photophotovaic fanatics about trying to get some sort of embedded energy vs. 
energy produced analysis for pv (including requisite industrial 
infrastructure).  I suspect it will turn out to be unfavorable.  

	In short, as permaculturists we need to apply sustainability criteria 
to everything we do.  Because, as permaculturists, we design transitions, 
what Bill calls staging, between where we are and where we want to go, we may 
not hold ourselves to purity.  We hold this discussion using our computers, 
after all, which would not work very well minus their metal or high 
technology support.  Purity is a construct without a referent--there ain't no 
such thing.  This is no excuse for slacking off, but it does suggest whipping 
ourselves or one another for failure to be completely sustainable.  I have a 
friend in Tennessee who has installed PV as his total electric system, but 
fires up a gasoline generator to pop some corn (maize) daily.  One can 
ridicule the inconsistency, but there is a serious effort in the direction of 
sustainability.  Most of us are so far from that effort that we have no 
business criticizing someone who has got to the very minimum he can do 
without at this stage in life.  On the other hand, I have a friend in 
Paraguay who will not get a truck or car because they are so awful 
environmentally.  However he is willing to buy a tractor.  The problem is 
that he cannot market anything effectively from his farm because he can't 
bring anything to market.  He has to take whatever someone with a truck will 
give him, and of course it requires as much energy and pollution to drive to 
his farm and back as it does to do it the other way.  He has the intent but 
not the staging.

I'm going to bow out of this discussion at this point, I think, though there 
is one area where I will comment if it does come up.  My purpose in 
participation is to stress that we each have to look at where we are in the 
scheme of things and what steps we can take to move toward sustainability.  
Coming up with criteria for other individuals is, in my view, arrogant and a 
way to divert responsibility from onself.  I certainly cannot fault the 
unimployed sugar cane field worker who cuts the last remaining rainforest on 
his island to feed his children.  He has to make charcoal or watch his 
children die of starvation.  Yet his actions will complete the destruction of 
the habitat he and his children require.  

There is a reason why permaculture includes a big section on economics.  We 
know how to bring people back into a mutually nurturing relationship with the 
environment.  This is not hard --  except for human social and economic 
structures it could happen with surprisingly little difficulty and with much 
easier lives for most people in the long run.  But the economics system, the 
economics of scarcity, gets in the way. So we have to get into alternate ways 
for people to get that rice and greens to keep those children alive.  That 
iis fully one third of the economic problem.  Another third is land-tenure 
patterns on the landscape.  They are usually irrational and people cling to 
the with militan fervor.  Often, they are so irrational as to stall any 
attempt at permaculture.  (You would flood all of Pedro's finca to water the 
fincas down grade and you can't get any party whatsoever to agree on a new 
land distribution pattern, even though the result will be an order of 
magnitude greater production for everyone.)  The final third is, of course, 
the industrial, multinational cash economy.  In my view, and I have no need 
to debate this with people who disagree, the rational approach is to deal 
with the person-to-person exchange system first and land tenure problem when 
we can (but never as outsiders).  These measures by themselves can 
destabilize the multinational economy , and, if our staging is right, and we 
have got people locally self-reliante, the awful death and destruction that 
will accompany the collapse of the giant economy will be mitigated among many 
more of the innocent than otherwise.

Let us not kid ourselves into thinking that we can just ignore the industrial 
infrastructure and consider the issue of metals without considering the 
broader context.  The permaculture way is to regard everything in terms of 
context and we all subscribe to permaculture or we wouldn't be on this 
mailing listl. So we need strategies to undermine industrial society and 
strengthen commmunity self-reliance. We need such models that really work, 
staging that progresses, within this context of apparent dominance of the 
transnational clique.  It is fine if our individual strategies differ.  We 
have no way to know until it is immaterial who is right, or indeed if we may 
need several allied strategies to make progress, rather than a so-called 
"masterplan."  In the greenhouse, I control whitefly mainly with Encarsia 
formosa.  However I also have help from lady beetles and lacewing larvae.  
One strategy enough isn't enough for stability in my control effort.

Enough.  I've got mulch to apply, trees to plant, and so I'm disconnecting 
from this high technology and getting on with it.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses, 
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and annual correspondence 
courses via email.  Copyright, 1998, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O. Box 52, 
Sparr FL 32192 USA  Internships. YankeePerm@aol.com  

We don't have time to rush.

A list by topic of all Yankee Permaculture titles may be found at 
Elfin Permaculture programs are listed at the Eastern Permaculture Teachers 
assn home page: http://home.ptd.net/~artrod/epta/eptahmp.html

PS  Michael Crofoot and I are interested in leading some Y2K preparedness 
workshops this year.  We can also accept a limited amount of consulting jobs. 
 Contact me off this mailing list about this, please, at permacltur@aol.com 
or yankeeperm@aol.com    We are also curious if people want to subscribe to 
online workshops on this topic for a tuition fee.