by Annette Morris Keane
Here at Clondarrig we are looking forward to more new beginnings and further nurturing of our vision for the future over this coming year.
We are very grateful to all who support and believe in what we are doing and we invite you to dig in for more work play and exploration over the coming year.
Here are just some of our new developments……
Wide Awake Films” will be a series of informal social gatherings which will include the hosting of a number of films that are pertinent to our changing times. Our intention is to inspire community to do things differently together and to make connections with like minded folk so as to build resilience and hope for a beautiful future .
We are very grateful to the Balcony Cinema and Film Club, Mountmellick for partnering us in this project and really look forward to seeing where it will take us. Our first film night will be on Thursday February 20th the details of which are below. We hope to see you there!
Living the Change is a feature-length documentary that explores solutions to the global crises we face today – solutions any one of us can be part of – through the inspiring stories of people pioneering change in their own lives and in their communities in order to live in a sustainable and regenerative way.
(AGE RATING; PG) .
TICKETS AND FURTHER INFO NOW LIVE AT THIS LINK ;
(Please note online service charges are applied by sales platform)
*Offline tickets will be available locally soon. Stay tuned for more information.
It would be an unusual thing indeed to meet a person these days in Ireland who is not on some level aware of the climate and ecological crisis we now find ourselves in the midst of . Whatever people believe is the cause or might be the solutions(s), denial is fading and reality is slowly and steadily dawning on most.
Those that know what we are about at Clondarrig will be aware that we are a glass half full sort of bunch and that we prefer to look towards rather than away, to learn how rather than avoid and to build mind body and heart muscle through learning. All this comes along with the intention of becoming a strong resilient nurturing community, while doing our best to help our larger community do the same, come what may.
So with this in mind we’d like to share what we hope, with the help of more minds and hearts like ours, to develop further over this coming year….
EDUCATION IN RESILIENCE, NURTURING NATURE & COMMUNITY & TRADITIONAL SKILLS
Some ideas on what we believe it means to be resilient in a time of unprecedented and unpredictable change;
To be strong, to endure, to be flexible, adaptable, to be able to recover, restore and regenerate, to have reinforcements, reserves and alternatives, to have a healthy support network, to flow with rather than resist.
Nurturing nature & community is simply an exercise in remembering and putting into practice what has, until only very recently in the history of humanity’s presence on Earth, been standard practice as per natural law.
As part of the whole, humanity is now beginning to realise (the hard way!) that it’s a grave mistake to behave as if we are separate from it and that as per the natural law of cause and effect, ignoring the impact of our actions on our life supporting systems is leading to an effect we never would have chosen.
With the advent of industry and easily acquired, necessities (and un-necessaries) traditional skills and craftsmanship has been dying rapidly over the last few decades. However they are not dead yet ! We know that there are many skilled craftspeople including elders and younger generations who have much to teach us if we have the eyes and ears to learn and the hands to repeat. Until our self-determination fell out of balance with the machine, this is how centuries of generations before us learned, through hands on experience under the watchful eye of the master, ensuring that tradition, culture and self reliance stayed strong in those who descended from them.
We believe that the revival and restoration of traditional and cultural skills within local communities plays a hugely important role in the strength and resilience of those communities .
As a project centred around food security, education and practice in ethical, sustainable, local food production is a priority at Clondarrig Farm. Added to this, examples of traditional and cultural skills in relation to our ethos would be the broader skills of processing food, wild food and medicine, harvesting energy and water, creating shelter and warmth, all in harmony with nature. We are also interested in hosting a wide array of education in skills relating to textiles, wood, ceramics, metal, stone, leather, willow, rush straw etc.
SO! We are really looking forward to inviting experienced elders and youngers from all cultures with traditional skills to share, to join us at Clondarrig for a chat about a partnership in the revival of this kind of education in Co. Laois.
MORE INFORMATION ON THIS SOON. If you are interested in delivering workshops or courses at Clondarrig for adults and/or children contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
There are those of us at Clondarrig who have the gift of the gab and are well placed to shout to the world (or at least the county) about the beautiful goings on at Clondarrig……
And then there are those of us who without all the song and dance (unless its a singing and dancing kind of day) quietly go about those goings on. They are on the ground (literally) every chance they can get, steadily, gently, purposefully but without hurry making the dream a reality.
These are the ones that know the Clondarrig corner of Earth intimately, whose hands and the soil are often merged together as one, who nurture and coax new life from the tiniest most innocent seeds and who listen carefully to what Nature wants for Clondarrig, taking her instructions into their hearts before going to work on her creations.
They are busy bees doing all the above and in the midst of developing our beautiful Mandala Community Garden, preparing it for Clondarrig community members to come and grow food together for sharing.
Our Mandala Garden design is based on the Celtic Wheel of the Year and is protectively surrounded by a host of Ireland’s native trees as seen in the beautiful artwork below. The intention behind our garden design serves as a reminder for the work (and play!) within to be in alignment with the rhymes and reasons of nature as honoured and understood by generations of Ireland’s ancestry .
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR MANDALA COMMUNITY GARDEN COMING SOON!
We were delighted to see John McHugh on Eco Eye RTE ONE on Tuesday 14th out on the land talking with Dr Lara Dungan about how to adapt to climate change with regenerative farming and the potentially positive impact Irish agriculture can have using farming methods that are in harmony with nature. If you missed this topically current and important episode you can catch it again here for a limited time on RTE PLAYER
That’s it for now but follow us for further news throughout the year here by adding your email. Clondarrig is a non-profit project depending wholly on volunteers and the support of our local community. We are grateful for your support.
by John McHugh
Niccolò Machiavelli wrote THE PRINCE in the 16th century giving a vast insight into the murky world of obtaining power and more importantly retaining it thereafter. Machiavelli separates the real world of politics from the world of ideals and his philosophy could be summed up with the saying “losers fight clean” or “the end justifies the means.” There is no good or evil, right or wrong in the game of politics and power, just success and failure! His work was gifted to the then Prince of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici and chronicles the different attempts to perfect this art by many in various situations.
A lust for power and control has existed within humanity far back into our unwritten history. Gods, religion, royalty appointed by god, military strength, money and democracy are some of the many tools that enable a Prince to hold this power. As he moves away from a belief in a divine right to rule, it increases the importance of being Machiavellian!
Machiavelli advised that a wise Prince would be miserly with his own resources but would appease his subjects by being very generous with the exploited resources of his colonies and would be constantly on a war footing as it’s an eat or be eaten world!
We could be fooled into thinking that humanity has evolved beyond Machiavelli’s philosophies but we don’t have to look too hard to find out that is not the case. The rise of the industrial age combined with Capitalism opened the doors to many new ways of exploiting value out of the natural world and in turn appeasing its subjects and democracy, state education, mass media, consumerism and financial debt all opened a box to many more tools of the Machiavellian trade!
Pin-pointing where the bulk of the power lies in this new system is much more difficult and lies more hidden within the economic realm than within the political realm. Our democratic control extends over a very small section of this power and is largely ineffective due to the structures in place that limit our choice but serves very well in appeasing the masses with the illusion of control.
Change is afoot!
However, change is afoot! No dynasty can last forever and the current dynasty has over extended itself in a great many regards. The exploitation of the natural world as we have known it is no longer acceptable to the masses and with that passes the unlocked resources that were used to pacify us and keep us content. The economic system is also in need of a major reset and the printing of trillions of dollars and euros in the past ten years was just an effort to buy time and prepare for the changing of the guard! A new Prince is now overdue! Right on cue, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson serve the dual purpose of showing that no alternative the current system has to offer inspires faith in its subjects along with both of them possessing the destructive will to collapse the old order.
With change comes opportunity and this opportunity is undoubtedly recognized by a great many wannabe Princes! As it becomes more obvious that the old order is about to fall, the many suitors will start coming forward. It has in fact already started, with many proponents of a third/fourth or fifth Industrial revolution which will use technology to help unlock new value from the natural world without the side effects or environmental costs! The more intelligent suitors realize that it will take more than that to satisfy the masses so there will have to be many very real reforms. The mob are also thirsty for blood which presents the opportunity to conveniently strip the old order of much of its wealth and power. Limits to wealth, the closing of tax loopholes, massive tax avoidance and tax havens and even the promise of much greater democracy and reform of our political system will all be easy offerings as they won’t largely effect the new Prince.
Cryptocurrency and financial and political systems governed by Blockchain or supposedly incorruptible computer aided systems and the rise of Artificial Intelligence will offer the promise of removing the corruptible human influence from all of these systems, the potential for a Prince like we have never seen before….. or maybe we have in the God-Princes of early humanity!!!
To some this might be the dawning of an exciting new age, to others a dystopian nightmare!
Arise the Prince Within
Is there an alternative to releasing control to a new Machiavellian Prince or the great unknown of Artificial intelligence?
The German psychologist Erich Fromm wrote The Fear of Freedom in 1941, shedding light on the psychological conditions that allowed the rise of Nazism.
While Machiavelli’s work deals with the power and control lust within society, Fromm’s work deals with the more prevalent anxiety that accompanies freedom and how societies unconsciously submit themselves to authoritarian rule, be it in the form of dictatorships or to the Tyranny of the Majority! At an individual level, this releases the person of the burden of making decisions and the responsibility that comes with those decisions to the self and other dependents. The anger that stems from any attempts at debate on the role of vaccines in human health is a perfect example of this anxiety.
The author Ida Wylie noted a famous comment from a young girl before the onset of World War 2 stating “We Germans are so happy, we are free from freedom”. Many from Eastern European countries look back with nostalgia on the communist days when they were much less burdened with the anxieties of freedom and fending for themselves in a free market economy!
Institutional syndrome is a label sometimes used to describe the difficulties that people who have spent a long period of time within certain institutions experience in adapting to the outside world and the anxieties that come with it.
All of this leads us to repressing our awareness of certain possibilities in favour of accepting what is socially given, however we can develop the strength within, our inner Prince, in order to take control of our own destiny. The slow unravelling of an old order that we had blindly trusted means we are being gradually dragged out of our false sense of security and our comfort zone with no immediate replacement.
The real genius of Machiavelli’s work was his own deceit, his real purpose for writing the Prince was not to help the ambitious Lorenzo De’ Medici to achieve lasting power but as he revealed in a letter to a friend “If I have been a little too punctual in describing these monsters in all their lineaments and colours, I hope mankind will know them, the better to avoid them, my treatise being both a satire against them, and a true character of them..” Machiavelli realized that freedom was not born through political unity but through the cracks of a ruling class divided upon itself. The world is currently becoming much more polarized, in politics, in agriculture, in medicine and this polarity gives us an opportunity to evolve and develop our inner Prince.
As we learn to accept responsibility for our own roll in the events of the world around us we can gradually make decisions and take the actions to realign ourselves towards the world we would like to see. Self-responsibility is an uncomfortable process and much more difficult than pointing the finger of blame at others but this is now necessary should we wish to find our power.
A poem written by an unknown monk in 1100AD sums it up best:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change the town as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
by John McHugh
In 1833, William Forster Lloyd wrote an essay first describing a concept that later became known as “the tragedy of the commons,” using an example of the effects of unregulated grazing of common land.
William observed how lands held in common ownership suffered and became degraded and depleted relative to lands held as private property. The owners of private property, he surmised, had a financial incentive to care for their land, avoiding overgrazing or other practices that would lead to its depletion and as a result lower their potential income in the future,. Conversely, showing similar care and prudence towards common lands simply presents an opportunity for another party to extract more than their fair share. The competitive psychology of common ownership implied that it actually leads to each party thinking short term and stocking the land heavily to try and extract more value than the other parties involved.
The theory is that there is also little incentive for an individual to take the initiative to try to improve the land in any way, knowing that the rewards of such action will be shared between all the parties involved.
Garrett James Hardin gave this concept its name when he published a controversial essay called “The tragedy of the commons” in 1968 bringing this concept into the light again and expanding our minds to what “the commons” can mean.
What can the commons encompass today?
The commons can include many different things that may not come immediately to mind. The open oceans, the Arctic and Antarctic, the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies, our rivers, plants and animals, our rights to have children in a potentially over populated world (think China’s one child policy!), our atmosphere, this list could go on and is probably not exhaustible!
Atmospheric pollution is a perfect example of this playing out at the moment. The atmosphere is a common resource shared by all on this planet that we are jeopardising with many different Greenhouse Gasses (GHG). Agriculture in Ireland is estimated to account for 30% of our total GHG emissions and we have committed to reduce this figure by 20% on our 2005 levels by 2020. The psychology of this tragedy can be seen playing out in the irony of asking Irish farmers to curtail production in beef or dairy, only to see output increase in other countries that share the same atmosphere we do and often at a much higher environmental cost.
What are the possible solutions?
Garrett Hardin proposed that there was just two solutions to this problem, private property or socialism.
Private property involves dividing the commons up into private ownership where the owner now has an incentive to look after the commons in a sustainable manner. An example of this was the enclosure of lands in the UK and Ireland, whereby the commons was divided up and enclosed with hedges that formed boundaries that defined ownership.
Socialism is a broad term for a system whereby all the stakeholders come together and agree to manage the commons in a sustainable manner. An example of this might include European Union fish quotas quantifying different countries rights to catch various fish stocks.
Both solutions are currently being used to tackle atmospheric pollution.
Carbon Trading schemes whereby different companies can buy credits or off-set their carbon emissions through practices such as purchasing land and planting forestry on it or purchasing off-sets from others such as pension funds who hold forestry or even off farmers who can trade their carbon credits can be viewed as a form of privatising the atmosphere or at least the right to emit greenhouse gases into it. Many countries such as China and large companies such as Google and Microsoft are active on this front and companies like Shell oil have even gone a step further and trade these credits to allow their customers reduce their Carbon footprint!
The 2016 Paris Agreement whereby 195 different countries have agreed to determine a plan to limit Greenhouse gas emissions and set increasingly ambitious targets leading towards Carbon neutrality can be viewed as a socialist solution towards tackling this problem. Ireland already looks set to miss our 2020 targets and the United States under Donald Trump has committed to pulling out of this agreement in late 2020!
The future for much of humanity currently rests on the successful implementation of either or both of these two options!!
Could there be another solution?
Private ownership and Socialism are two solutions borne from the ideology of Capitalism. Many view Socialism or Communism as the polar opposite of Capitalism and fail to see it as simply a collective version of Capitalism where by the commune, the state or a collection of states like the United Nations or the Paris agreement Nations, take ownership of the resources and distribute them for the purpose of growth.
Capitalism starts with breaking down the natural world into resources that become commodities or the fuel source for growth. The countryside becomes land, people become labour, money or the simple means of exchange becomes capital and human ideas and ingenuity becomes enterprise, all traded to increase the growth of Capital.
In this context even the ideas of “the commons” derives from the mind-set that nature is a commodity to be traded and consumed to generate more capital! Whether it is owned by an individual or a collective makes little difference, it is simply a slave to our individual or collective desire!
In the distant past, humanity often personified or even worshipped nature as deities. We frequently look back on our ancestors as simple people who didn’t understand the natural world like we do today. Our Celtic ancestors viewed trees as sacred beings with strict laws protecting them. Today we view them as a commodity, a source of timber or a source of carbon, both which can be traded to facilitate the growth of capital! Maybe we are the simple people who have lost our way!
Maybe now is the time to cast aside the growth of capital and turn our attention to the growth of our own being, a growth that can only be cultivated with a healthy co-operation with the natural world, co-operation that can only be achieved by abandoning our own bondage to capital and its continuous growth and in turn gradually freeing the rest of the natural world from this same bondage. Can we resurrect our own souls through the resurrection of a personified natural world where every interaction has to be fair and mutually beneficial?
Let us not accept “The Tragedy of the Commons”!
by John McHugh
It has been said that science moves forward one funeral at a time in reference to the opposition to change that exists from those heavily invested in a way of thinking.
This can also be said of economics.
The massive realisation and awakening to the exploitation occurring all around us is now building pressure and many believe that we can find a better way of interacting with the world and have a strong desire to take action.
The revered scientist and economist, whom we followed unquestioningly in the past are now losing their reverence, they have become lost in the detail, stuck in a paradigm which they are unable to comprehend and as a result, keep up with the change now required of us.
To keep a pace with this change, we can only follow ourselves, or more specifically our intuition.
IF one comes to realise that the motivation of profit (and continuous growth of profit) within the system of capitalism is destructive and can’t be maintained in a finite world and that this motive also leads to a continuous increase in inequality between poor and rich, then a search for a different motive might seem like a logical first step.
This search opens a Pandora’s Box on what motivates people in general. “Dunker’s candle problem” is an experiment worth looking up which shows how using profit as motivator actually reduces performance for tasks that require even a small amount of problem solving capacity, as it narrows our focus and blinds us to the solutions which often exist in the periphery. This experiment has been repeated all around the world in many different guises and is considered to be robust yet is totally ignored in our current system.
This is another way of saying what we get in life comes from what we put our energy into. If we genuinely put our energy into achieving profit and growth, it is very likely we will get profit and growth.
The destruction and suffering seen in the world should come as no surprise as within a capitalist system, humanity doesn’t place any direct emphasis on peace or harmony.
The film “Bedazzled” is a great metaphor for the unintended consequences we often get when we are driven by a selfish goal, and this can be seen playing out today in a world driven by profit and growth. But what could we replace the profit motive with?
Our purpose is something much more intrinsic than generating profit.
This is usually something that inspires us and captures our imagination and resolve. It will be different for every individual and can only be discovered when one breaks free of the expectations of society, family and friends and ceases judging ourselves through the eyes of other people.
Extra momentum can often be gained when those with a common purpose unite and co-operate to increase their chances of success.
One of the purposes of the Clondarrig Farm Project is to create a real example that can show much more positive outcomes can be achieved when we free ourselves from a negative guidance system.
Our intention at Clondarrig is to demonstrate how we can regenerate nature through our interactions and how we can adapt and enjoy the process of change rather than finding it painful, especially as we face into a period of time that requires unprecedented change.
A more specific purpose could be to produce nutrient dense food without the requirement of fossil fuel derived inputs. Food that can nurture all involved and an engaged local community, providing them with health and food security that isn’t based on exploitation of the natural world. Those who are inspired to action by that purpose then co-operate to form this community.
In the last blog I discussed how competition is the vehicle that drives the capitalist system fuelled by the exploitation of nature which it simply views as a set of resources.
In a community focused regenerative system we choose to achieve our purpose through co-operation rather than competition.
The phrase “survival of the fittest” (often attributed to Charles Darwin but actually coined by Herbert Spencer) seems to suggest that competition and natural selection is what drives evolution and survival in the natural world. We now know that this is only half of the story and that another large force plays its part; co-operation.
Everywhere in nature we see synergies between species that have adapted and learned to co-operate with other species.
In agriculture we see this with legumes and rhizobium bacteria but as we learn more we realise that no plant or animal can actually survive without co-operating with bacteria and fungi and even viruses.
We now know that we humans have ten non-human cells for every one human cell showing the massive extent to which our existence is based on co-operation and that it is actually the dominant agent in evolution.
If we look to nature for solutions it tells us that co-operation can be a much more positive vehicle to propel our existence than the dog eat dog world we have come to accept.
The early co-operative movement highlighted an example of the success that can be achieved with co-operation but unfortunately over time their original purpose became obscured, they gradually reverted to the capitalist model and the ideals on which they were originally founded transitioned to making and growing profit and becoming competitive.
As people become more organised and united by a common purpose these structures can once again play a role in a transitional phase of breaking free from the confines of capitalism.
Mutual aid societies also known as benefit or friendly societies were another fascinating example of people uniting together to overcome a common obstacle. These were common in the eighteenth and nineteenth century and were often formed out of necessity through people uniting together to provide a type of insurance against unexpected events such as ill-health.
They were also common amongst immigrant communities in various countries to help provide resources to allow the new immigrant to get established; in employment, access to money, to establish businesses or to access education etc.
Many of these societies too, lost their way or were derailed by those who became threatened by them and the autonomy people were deriving from them. These were replaced by for-profit insurance companies and credit institutions and government backed social welfare programmes.
Greta Thunberg’s speech delivered to the United Nations earlier this year highlighted her increasing despair and frustration in looking for solutions from a political class dreaming of “fairy tales of eternal economic growth”. Those who look for solutions from the top will also likely become increasingly frustrated as the sector is largely stuck in a perceptual prison where the required changes would involve them sacrificing their hard earned advantage that they have gained from playing the system effectively. This tints their perspective to the point that they are likely to throw every kind of sugar coated solution to various symptoms of the problem to evade dealing with the problem itself.
In this reality mutual aid societies or bottom up problem solving approaches have a large role to play in addressing these problems. These problems start at the literal bottom; the soil and water beneath our feet, how we view it and as a result how we treat it. Is this a commodity to be used and exploited to generate profit, or is this something we are very literally born of, built up upon and destined to return to?
If co-operation is the vehicle that drives progress in a new world, then what can we use to fuel it? The competitive system we currently exist in is fuelled by the exploitation of land, labour, capital and enterprise to extract value that can generate profit. It is by its nature an extractive process that degrades all it interacts with.
The fuel for this new co-operation driven model is something that comes natural to us all but has been largely suppressed for many generations; compassion
Compassion is something most of us know and can easily extend to our loved ones, those within the sphere where we don’t feel we have to compete.
Once we exit that sphere, then compassion is seen as weakness in the current system.
Through breaking free of that mind set we can find a fuel source much more than worthy of replacing the exploitation fuel we currently use, and in the opposite manner, this fuel regenerates all it interacts with. Compassion involves seeing everyone and everything as an extension of ourselves, the people we interact with are all family, struggling with their own struggles that we can either help or hinder.
The soil, water and atmosphere around us are the materials we are moulded from.
The plants and animals we exist alongside are the synergies waiting for us to gratefully embrace rather than exploit into extinction.
When we look to each other with compassion, we will find all the building blocks we need for restoring paradise.
The question is;
Do we leave the idealism to our children or grandchildren or do we say the time to build is now?
Extracts from the full essay written by Wendell Berry (On a way to go about liberating ourselves from the industrialised food system)
“Eaters”…. “must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used. This is a simple way of describing a relationship that is inexpressibly complex. To eat responsibly is to understand and enact, so far as one can, this complex relationship. What can one do?
Here is a list, probably not definitive:
1.Participate in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life.
Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household. This should enable you to eat more cheaply, and it will give you a measure of “quality control”: You will have some reliable knowledge of what has been added to the food you eat.
Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home. The idea that every locality should be, as much as possible, the source of its own food makes several kinds of sense. The locally produced food supply is the most secure, the freshest, and the easiest for local consumers to know about and to influence.
Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist. All the reasons listed for the previous suggestion apply here. In addition, by such dealing you eliminate the whole pack of merchants, transporters, processors, packagers, and advertisers who thrive at the expense of both producers and consumers.
Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production. What is added to food that is not food, and what do you pay for these additions?
Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.
Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species.
“Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend”.
By John McHugh (Clondarrig Farm, Co. Laois)
There is a strong sense these days that we are living in exciting times, a time where great change is required of us so that humanity can prosper into the distant future.
Change is often an uncomfortable process, one where we have to let go of what we know and what feels safe, to make room for something new and unknown. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” is a familiar saying in Ireland and this fear of change leads to resistance. “The only constant in life is change” is also a familiar saying, one that suggests resistance is futile, that we should embrace change and the flow of life, using our energies more wisely guiding our course to avoid the many obstacles that exist.
Agriculture seems to be at the epicentre of this change; beef crisis, dairy calf crisis, weather crisis, fodder crisis etc.
It seems like we have been existing in a constant state of crisis for the last number of years, like a boat without an oar, bundling down an increasingly rough river, living in hope that calm waters lie ahead, but in fear that one or two more collisions will sink our boat.
The increasing talk of environmental degradation on practically all fronts and the seemingly impossible levels of change required to counter this seems to present an almost unavoidable obstacle that threatens to strike the fatal blow to our leaky boat.
But do we have choices other than denial or despair?
Maybe we can pick up the oars we left down so long ago, the oars we had forgotten but still have, taking back control of our boats and finding that the current rapids of change can actually be exhilarating!
The irony of how agriculture has been hailed as a major Irish success story with large increases in value and volumes of exports since the 2007 is beginning to raise uncomfortable questions for many farmers who don’t seem to be sharing in this success. A greater irony exists in that those who proclaim this success story are charting our course for the years ahead with plans for much greater growth powered by “sustainable intensification”, and balanced by afforestation of marginal land. Sustainable intensification will involve the adoption of more technology combined with increases in efficiency. This equates to more investment, more costs and greater output and scale and in turn this equates to fewer farmers. This is the treadmill of capitalism! To maintain this growth there must be sacrifice!
There can be no denying that humanity has witnessed extraordinary growth since the birth of capitalism in the sixteenth century.
To facilitate this growth required the creation of the commodity.
A commodity is essentially something that can be traded and used to generate profit. The four primary resources of Land, Labour, Capital and Enterprise were all now commodities used to fuel this new system.
“The Commons” or lands which no one owned were now private property and the “great enclosure” of land into fields was the choice method in the UK and Ireland to define and enforce this new idea of land ownership. The function of this land was now to generate profit.
People became labour units whose function was also to generate profit.
The function of money changed.
Money had, up to this been used as a means to simplify the trading of items. Now its function too was profit, and it was used to trade the other commodities required to make that profit.
Finally enterprise or human creativity and inventiveness was also tasked with making profit. Creativity and inventiveness that were not used for the purpose of profit would attract little of the other primary resources. Likewise with land, labour and capital.
The purpose of human life in this system is to generate profit and our progress is defined as growth.
Competition was used as the vehicle to drive this growth, The limited resources or commodities now meant there was not enough for everyone who were all trying to “grow” and hence competition proved a very powerful vehicle to ensure that commodities were predominantly used for their primary function of making profit.
Driving this new powerful vehicle saw the encouragement of human ambition. Ambition is often defined as greed, but perhaps being greedy within this context is simply being an ambitious and effective capitalist.
However, greed does not come easy to most people, leading them to frequently make choices that are not to their benefit within this system. This is where the corporate structure comes in.
Corporations are entities set up for the purpose of generating profit and are the perfect citizens of this new system, hence corporations are given legal personhood and favourable status within this system (reduced tax, limited liability etc).
The stage was now set for the remarkable “growth” that this system achieved over the last few hundred years. However in capitalism everything has a cost, and powering this growth required a lot of fuel.
This in turn led to the massive exploitation of primary resources.
Land was grabbed, forests were felled, rivers polluted. Labour was exploited through increasingly long working ours; even the parents of newborns are now required to quickly re-enter the labour market. Our capital or money was exploited too.
This continuous growth model needed a continuously expanding money system to facilitate it, which resulted in us all becoming increasingly held in bondage to this system, to the point that now most nation states are held in bondage and are increasingly indebted to this model.
The vast proportion of our creativity is now also being targeted with growth in profits and staying ahead of the competition. This results in our most creative minds often being tasked at creating weapons or agricultural implements that increase efficiency.
Increased efficiency you might say, is a positive thing, however efficiency within this new system took on a very different meaning. It was now about using resources effectively to maximize profit rather than completing tasks with the minimum amount of energy. Efficiency was now merely a method of becoming more competitive to increase the speed of growth and therefore the accumulation of profit.
This profit focused system skewed the vast majority of our technological developments, and this process compounded over time. Is it time to question the unquestionable, the system that gave us all of this success we perceive as “growth?”
It is said that exponential growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell! Is capitalism a cancer that is killing humanity? Do the problems we seem to be facing seem unavoidable and insurmountable because we are stuck in a box limiting our way of thinking, narrowing our focus so much that we can’t see all the solutions in the periphery?
The farmer who wants to jump off this treadmill and escape the increasing squeeze between costs and price received and the increasing requirement to go into debt for misguided technology in order to achieve distorted efficiency seems alone. They may feel left to carve an unknown path counter to everything they have known, everything their parents, grandparents and many more generations have known.
We can try to cut our costs, adopting organic and regenerative practices but the same pressures exist to produce more. We can try to achieve premium prices for our premium products and create links with affluent customers becoming increasingly health conscious and environmentally aware. But does this too ring hollow, in that we are creating a system whereby only the wealthy can afford healthy environmentally friendly food?
Those who seek change are no longer alone, being joined by increasing numbers, all intuitively seeking a pathway to a more equitable and positively orientated world, where future generations can still have a future.
By trading greed for compassion, competition for co-operation and exploitation for regeneration we can regain our future. We can regenerate our soils, our landscapes and diversity, we can regain our freedom from the slavery of commodified labour, we can re-task human ingenuity for the purpose of regeneration and human empowerment and we can re-purpose our money to facilitate the flow of energy towards these purposes.
This change will not come from the lobbying of politicians, nor through protests or revolution. This is human evolution and requires people looking for the solutions within themselves, solutions that will open the doors to the formation of communities that will hold power in ways unrecognized before, the power to chart our own course and create the world we want to live in.
The time for change is now. Pick up your oar.
Presented by Clondarrig Farm and The Balcony Film Club, Mountmellick
We are really happy to announce that in early 2020 Clondarrig Farm will partner with The Balcony Cinema, Mountmellick to host a series of inspirational films with the theme of restoration, resilience and ecological stewardship in the face of climate change and ecological crisis. .
Our intention is that hosting these films will help inspire hope and purpose in those of us who are worried about what the future holds and want to make a difference. We hope to create a space for local community to connect and talk about the many ways of creating an alternative future together, for ourselves and for the places in nature we have guardianship of .
The screenings will be followed by an informal cuppa, a cake (or two!) and a chat with key local and national players in creating resilient, regenerative, strong and harmonious communities in the years to come.
Check out the trailer of this great film, “Living the Change” for an idea of what we are planning …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esfgaThoZ1s
So stay tuned for more news on “Wide Awake Films” coming soon!
For further enquiries, email ; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org