Monday, December 26, 2011

French Market Gardens - La Culture Maraîchère

The Russian anarchist writer Prince Peter Kropotkin wrote several books outlining the philosophy of anarchism. Among the principles he espoused were local economies and self-determination. In his 1899 book, Fields, Factories and Workshops, Kropotkin looked extensively at how local communities could become thriving, self-sufficient communities with no coercive leaders or taxes, with voluntary associations and mutual aid providing the bonds of a functional society.

In that book, Kroptkin takes a close look at agriculture and industry at the end of the nineteenth century with the idea of creating such local communities. In Paris, he was especially impressed with how gardeners were able to produce enough vegetables for Paris in the city itself for much of the year:
The above examples are striking enough, and yet those afforded by the market-gardening culture are still more striking. I mean the culture carried on in the neighbourhood of big cities, and more especially the culture maraichere round Paris. In that culture each plant is treated according to its age. The seeds germinate and the seedlings develop their first four leaflets in especially favourable conditions of soil and temperature ; then the best seedlings are picked out and transplanted into a bed of fine loam, under a frame or in the open air, where they freely develop their rootlets and, gathered on a limited space, receive more than usual care ; and only after that preliminary training are they bedded in the open ground, where they grow till ripe. In such a culture the primitive condition of the soil is of little account, because loam is made out of the old forcing beds. The seeds are carefully tried, the seedlings receive proper attention, and there is no fear of drought, because of the variety of crops, the liberal watering with the help of a steam engine, and the stock of plants always kept ready to replace the weakest individuals. Almost each plant is treated individually.

There prevails, however, with regard to market-gardening, a misunderstanding which it would be well to remove. It is generally supposed that what chiefly attracts market-gardening to the great centres of population is the market. It must have been so ; and so it may be still, but to some extent only. A great number of the Paris maraichers, even of those who have their gardens within the walls of the city and whose main crop consists of vegetables in season, export the whole of their produce to England. What chiefly attracts the gardener to the great cities is stable manure ; and this is not wanted so much for increasing the richness of the soil — one-tenth part of the manure used by the French gardeners would do for that purpose — but for keeping the soil at a certain temperature. Early vegetables pay best, and in order to obtain early produce not only the air but the soil as well must be warmed ; and that is done by putting great quantities of properly mixed manure into the soil ; its fermentation heats it. But it is evident that with the present development of industrial skill, the heating of the soil could be obtained more economically and more easily by hot-water pipes. Consequently, the French gardeners begin more and more to make use of portable pipes, or thermosifhons, provisionally established in the cool frames. This new improvement becomes of general use, and we have the authority of Barral's Dictionnaire d' Agriculture to affirm that it gives excellent results.

As to the different degrees of fertility of the soil — always the stumbling--block of those who write about agriculture — the fact is that in market-gardening the soil is always made, whatever it originally may have been. Consequently — we are told by Prof. Dybowski, in the article " Maraichers " in Barral's Dictionnaire d Agriculture — it is now a usual stipulation of the renting contracts of the Paris maraichers that the gardener may carry away his soil, down to a certain depth, when he quits his tenancy. He himself makes it, and when he moves to another plot he carts his soil away, together with his frames, his water-pipes, and his other belongings.

I could not relate here all the marvels achieved in market-gardening ; so that I must refer the reader to works — most interesting works — especially devoted to the subject, and give only a few illustrations.[1]
La culture maraîchère referred to the intensive methods of gardening developed in the urban areas of Paris from about 1850 to 1900, and often referred to in English as "French intensive gardening." It was a series of techniques developed over the years by experimentation for gardeners to produce large quantities of fresh vegetables for city dwellers. It also dealt with a major urban problem at the time - what to do with all the manure from the horses used for transportation. French intensive gardening was designed to grow the maximum amount of vegetables on the minimum area possible, since urban plots were invariably small and noncontinuous. Techniques of season-extension begun at the royal potager at Versailles under the celebrated head gardener La Quintiie in the 1670s and 80s were extended and enhanced such that urban gardens could provide fresh vegetables for much of the year in Paris.

The average Parisian market garden was between one and two acres in size, with plants grown on eighteen-inch beds of combined straw and horse manure from the stables. Although the plots were relatively small, the techniques used to attend to them were highly detail-oriented and labor intensive. In the words of one grower, "always tend the smallest amount of land possible, but tend it exceptionally well." In order to get the maximum amount of produce from a small area, many techniques were used in concert. Crops were planted so close together that when the plants were mature, their leaves would barely touch. The close spacing provided a mini-climate and a living mulch that reduced weed growth and helped hold moisture in the soil. Companion planting was used - growing certain plants together that enhance each other. For example, strawberries and green beans produce better when grown together; whereas onions stunt the growth of green beans. In addition to companion planting, gardeners developed an elaborate schedule of succession planting to get the most from the land throughout the growing season. Timing was key:
For example, an early spring hotbed would be sown with radish and carrot seed broadcast and then transplanted with lettuces at the same time. The radishes would be harvested first, making more room for the carrots growing between the lettuces. The carrot tops would stick out from around the lettuces until the lettuces were harvested, which gave the carrots enough light and space to complete their growth. But as soon as the lettuces were harvested, young cauliflower transplants would be set out among the carrots. Once the carrots were pulled the cauliflowers had the frame to themselves until they were harvested and the ground was prepared for the next crops. [2]
Gardeners grew up to nine crops each year and could even grow melon plants during the winter.

To extend the growing season as much as possible, glass-covered frames were placed over the plants which acted as mini-greenhouses. Heat for the cold frames was provided by the decomposing manure. Once the manure was thoroughly decomposed and no longer hot, it was shoveled out as compost and used as a soil amendment. Additional protection for cold nights was provided by one-inch thick mats made of rye straw rolled over the glass covers for extra insulation. One distinctive technique was to place bell-shaped jars 16-3/4" in diameter called cloches over the growing plants. Photographs of French urban gardens sometimes show hundreds of these bell-shaped jars. They were used to keep seedlings warm, as well as to protect mature plants like lettuce. On sunny days, a small notched stick was used to vent the cloche. The cloches could also be covered with straw mats during cold conditions. The microclimate of the city also helped protect from harsh weather. Decomposing manure was also used on the paths between the glass-covered hotbeds to help boost the heat. Paths were only ten inches wide to maximize growing space. Because these paths were too narrow for a wheelbarrow, gardeners wore woven willow backpacks called hottes. These were designed as a basket carried on the back with a spigot that extended over the head of the wearer so he or she could lean forward and deposit the merde onto the beds.

Pesticides and chemicals were avoided ("pompously labelled and unworthy drugs" in the words of Kropotkin). Large amounts of compost, crop rotation, diversity, companion planting and plant protection were enough to prevent most diseases and pest outbreaks. It was felt that pests attacked only sick and weak plants; healthy plants in healthy soil would not need extraordinary measures. Again, the fact that the gardens were in a city helped control pests, as well as the fact that small plots with diverse plantings did not allow for pests to multiply the way monocultures do.
Labour-intensive it was, most emphatically; yet it had outstanding merit in in calling for far less capital investment in glasshouses and heating systems, and the high productivity of small plots was barely credible. Delicate green vegetables were grown in winter, including a most successful cabbage lettuce; cauliflowers sewn under frames, and then moved under bell glasses at the end of February, were ready for market in six weeks; mustard and cress (for which there was great demand in London) was grown on bass mats and so cut clean. [3]
French intensive gardening methods was so effective that French master gardeners were able to supply nearly all the vegetable produce required for the city of Paris and its environs, and do it nearly year-round. They were even able to export greens to England even in fall and winter. Britain first began to take notice of the French methods as a way to help unemployed factory workers be more self-supporting on land. Market gardening was introduced to England by C. M. McKay, a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, who led an expedition to Paris to see the techniques in 1905. A number of how-to books were published for English audiences, including a popular one by McKay himself. The techniques became quite popular, although they never quite achieved the level of sophistication seen in Paris. In the 1920s and 1930s, English gardener and dramatist Alan Chadwick experimented extensively with the French intensive techniques, combining them with techniques from Austrian Rudolf Steiner's biodynamic method to form the French Intensive-Biodynamic method of gardening.

Such techniques were not unique to France. Similar techniques existed in Asia. Agronomist F.H. King noted Japanese techniques of growing produce urban areas in his book Farmers of Forty Centuries published in 1909:
How closely the ground itself may be crowded with plants is seen in Fig. 16, where a young peach orchard, whose tree tops were six feet through, planted in rows twenty-two feet apart, had also ten rows of cabbage, two rows of large windsor beans and a row of garden peas. Thirteen rows of vegetables in 22 feet, all luxuriant and strong, and note the judgment shown in placing the tallest plants, needing the most sun, in the center between the trees. But these old people, used to crowding and to being crowded, and long ago capable of making four blades of grass grow where Nature grew but one, have also learned how to double the acreage where a crop needs more elbow than it does standing room, as seen in Fig.17. This man's garden had an area of but 63 by 68 feet and two square rods of this was held sacred to the family grave mound, and yet his statement of yields, number of crops and prices made his earning $100 a year on less than one-tenth of an acre. [3]
After the First World War, la culture maraichere began to wane in France and England. Land values soared, and empty lots were developed or became too valuable for gardens. More importantly, cars replaced horses on city streets, and the straw and manure that had been so important disappeared. In the 1960s, Alan Chadwick brought his techniques to America on a 4-acre organic student garden at the University of California's Santa Cruz campus. Starting with a hilly area of poor, clayey soil, Chadwick was able to eventually produce healthy topsoil and yields four times that of conventional agricultural methods. Chadwick grew his crops on rounded raised mounds and used the "double dig" method - removing the top soil layer, exposing the subsoil or hardpan beneath, breaking it up, adding organic matter, and replacing the topsoil that was initially removed. This provided greater drainage and aeration. The techniques were studied by John Jeavons of Ecology Action, who wrote a popular book promoting these methods under the name GROW-BIOINTENSIVE. Jeavons' book, How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine (usually abbreviated to just the first five words), first published in the 1974, helped to revive and extend the French Intensive Methods for a new generation in a new country. Others also wrote about the techniques. Many organic farmers and urban gardeners have been inspired by French Intesive Gardening, and there is hope that the culture of urban gardening which reached such heights at the end of the 1800's can be revived to put people to work and provide fresh local food for hungry cities for much of the year.


Today, history seems to repeat itself. After a manic century of economic growth, once again weed-filled empty lots are now common in urban areas, this time in the United States, and land that was once too valuable to garden now lies empty. Once again, unemployed factory workers are the vanguard of an crisis of unemployed and underutilized labor. Unlike the nineteenth century, however, the supplies of fossil fuels that engendered exponential economic growth and allowed local economies to wither in place of elaborate food supply systems are running out. It is generally recognized that food trucked in from miles away year-round is not only inefficient from a resource standpoint, it is increasingly questionable from a health standpoint, as such food is often grown in poor-quality degraded soils. At the same time, low-capital activities are needed to provide meaningful work for the legions of unemployed that haunt America's cities that the globalized, corporatized economy has abandoned.

This conflagration of circumstances - a surfeit of labor, a need to relocalize economic activity, vacant lots in cities, so-called food 'deserts' in urban areas, increasingly costly fossil fuels, and an awareness of the nutritional value of fresh local food - seem to make French intensive gardening to be an ideal answer to all these problems. The labor-intensive nature of French intensive gardening, a drawback in the corporate model of agriculture, is actually desirable under such circumstances. And, as is often the case in agriculture, labor intensive techniques are sustainable, healthy, and help enhance the environment. It also allows a degree of self-reliance that has been absent from the economy for a long time. Of course, the straw and manure that made French intensive gardening possible in cities are no longer available, horses having long ago been replaced by cars. In place, composting programs that transform agricultural waste into soil may be substituted.

Today, urban gardening is in the midst of a renaissance. The techniques that were so refined at the turn of the twentieth century should be revived and revitalized for the turn of the twenty-first. Increasingly, Pete Kropotkin's ideas of local economies centered around mutual aid is being embraced as a way out of an increasingly dire social and economic situation. French Market Gardening is just one way to help remake a more just and healthy urban economy.

[1] Peter Kropotkin. Fields, Factories and Workshops. p. 61-62
[1] Eliot Coleman. The Winter Harvest Handbook. p. 15.
[2] Joan Thirsk. Alternative Agriculture: A History. .p. 184
[3] F.H. King. Farmers of Forty Centuries.


An excellent article on urban gardening as distinct from agriculture by John Michael Greer:

Two Agricultures, Not One (Reality Sandwich)



AN urban farm off the East River. Artisanal food and crafts sold out of recycled shipping containers at the Dekalb Market. Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea on the Williamsburg waterfront.

Diners flocked to Smorgasburg on the Brooklyn waterfront last summer. It is to return in April.

They all share a hipper-than-thou aesthetic. They also share a pedigree: they were all set up to breathe some life into vacant lots.

In an unlikely convergence of interests, it is the real estate executives who have invited the vendors to set up shop on their stalled construction sites. The owners, after all, get what they want: foot traffic to their neighborhood, which they hope will translate into good business or quicker apartment sales when they finally put a building up on the lot. And the vendors get cheap, sometimes free, space.

Many of these popular spots are remaining open through the winter or are planning to return in the spring and summer. Other undeveloped lots have also been optioned for interim duty as a food-truck lot and a kind of time-share backyard; some will even play host to various art exhibits.

These are happy solutions to an economic problem. The sluggish market has effectively turned off the spigot for construction financing, so there are more than 600 stalled construction sites in New York City, according to a recent count by the city. 

Temporary Tenants Bring Life To Stalled Construction Sites (New York Times)

Across the street I have my strawberry lot. I try to plant by lot. I have a collard green lot, a kale lot, an okra lot, an eggplant lot, green bean lot. I had a corn lot, but it didn't work so well. Right now I have a garlic lot, I had a tomato lot, cucumber lot, squash, cabbage, broccoli, watermelon, cantaloupe. I like flowers, so I planted some of them. I had potatoes, mustard greens, turnip greens.

The New Agtivist: Edith Floyd is making a Detroit urban farm, empty lot by empty lot. (Grist)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Can Trees Save The World?


In the 1920's an agronomist named J. Russell Smith had a revolutionary idea.

He had been to Northern China's wheat producing regions, and in a poor farming village near the Great Wall observed eroded and denuded hillsides bare of trees and fields crossed with gullies. Later, he visited the Mediterranean island of Corsica, and noted that the inhabitants used chestnut trees to provide for most of their needs for food, animal feed, bedding, fiber and wood for hundreds of years if not longer, on an island with very hilly terrain without any of the environmental devastation he had witnessed in China. He considered what he saw in reference to what was happening in his native United States:

"The economic contrast between the Corsican and Appalachian mountaineers is striking. In Corsica the stone house in contrast to the log cabin of Appalachia; in Corsica the good stone road going on a horizontal plane along the mountainside in contrast to the miserable trails running up and down the American mountain; the Corsican mountain covered with majestic trees whose roots hold the soil in place, in contrast to the American mountainside deforested, gashed with gullies, gutted, and soon abandoned. When the Corsican starts a crop, he does it by planting beautiful trees whose crops he and his children and his children's children will later pick up from year to year. When the American mountaineer wants to sow a crop, he must fight for it, a fight without quarter, a fight to the death of the mountain. First he cuts and burns forests,then he must struggle with the roots and stones in the rough ground of a new field. The sprouting shoots of the trees and tree roots must be cut with a hoe. This is the most expensive form of cultivation, but often the steep and stony ground can be tilled in no other way. In a few seasons the mountainside cornfield is gullied to ruin, and the mountaineer — the raper of the mountain — must laboriously make another field. No race of savages, past or present, has been so destructive of soil as have been the farmers of the southeastern part of the United States during the past century."

Smith knew that farming in America was facing a crisis. Rapid loss of topsoil and erosion were extracting a huge toll on America's farmland. Much farmland in America's eastern regions was gullied and denuded, similar to the villages Smith had observed in China. This loss of healthy productive farmland was one of the main factors driving the colonization of the West, as older farm fields in the East were abandoned. Agronomists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were increasingly aware of the problem of poor soil management practices. When the Dust Bowl struck America in the 1930's, the problem became an urgent priority.

Smith noted that the principle export crops of the United States - corn, cotton and tobacco, were unknown in Europe and the Mediterranean, and that all of these were annuals with shallow root systems. He also noted that the heavy downpours from thunderstorms which occurred North America were unknown in those regions. He further noted the tendency for farmers to plant on hilly slopes to increase their yield. All of these these were contributing the the soil erosion crisis. "How does it happen that the hill lands have been so frightfully destroyed by agriculture? The answer is simple. Man has carried to the hills the agriculture of the flat plain. In hilly places man has planted crops that need the plow; and when a plow does its work at an angle instead of on flat lands, we may look for trouble when rain falls."

Thanks to the work of people like soil conservationist Walter C. Lowdermilk, there was an increasing awareness that past civilizations had undermined themsleves by destroying the productive capacity of their land through erosion and soil exhaustion. Smith became concerned that the United States was heading down that same route. "Forest — field — plow — desert — that is the cycle of the hills under most plow agricultures — a cycle not limited to China. China has a deadly expanse of it, but so have Syria, Greece, Italy, Guatemala, and the United States...If we think of ourselves as a race, a nation, a people that is to occupy its country generation after generation, we must change some of our habits or we shall inevitably experience the steadily diminishing possibility of support for man. "

Smith put forward his answer to the problem in a book entitled "Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture" first published in 1929, and revised in 1952. Russell's proposal was that American agriculture base itself around crops produced by trees rather than just annual cash crops. Smith pointed out that much of U.S. agriculture was devoted to growing forage for animals such as cows and pigs, and that these animals could subsist just as well, if not better, on the produce of trees - fruits, nuts, leaves and bean pods, as they could cereals. "Chestnuts and acorns can, like corn, furnish carbohydrates for men or animals. To many it may seem ridiculous to suggest that we moderns should eat acorns, and I hasten to state that the chief objective of this book is to urge new foods for animals rather than for men. Food for animals is the chief objective of the American farmer." Then there is the obvious value in the wood itself for fuel and fiber. In addition, he proposed a program of intensive plant breeding on a national scale to increase the yields and disease resistance of trees. "These wonders of automatic production are the chance wild trees of nature. They are to be likened to the first wild animal that man domesticated and to the first wild grass whose seed was planted. What might not happen if every wild crop-bearing tree was improved to its maximum efficiency? Burbank and others have given us an inkling of what may result from well-planned selection, crossing, or hybridizing."

Some of his other main points were:

1. Trees produce substantial annual crop yields, which are high in carbohydrates, healthy fats and sugars. "A single oak tree yields acorns (good carbohydrate food) often by the hundred weight, sometimes by the ton. Some hickory and pecan trees give us nuts by the barrel; the walnut tree yields by the ten bushels. There are bean trees producing good food for cattle, which food would probably make more meat or milk per acre than our present forage crops now make."

2. Land which may have good climate or soil, but be steep or rocky, cannot be planted with annual grains. Trees can be planted, however. The root systems of trees actually help stabilize the soil, unlike annual grasses which put down shallow root systems. "All plants require heat, light, moisture, and fertility. Give these things and the tree raises its head triumphantly and grows. But in addition to these requirements the weakling grains must have the plow. A given area may have rich soil and good climatic conditions, but be unsuitable for grain if the land happens to be rocky. Nor are steep lands good farm lands for grains. Trees are the natural crop plants for all such places."

3. Trees are more resistant to variations in rainfall, or to drought. "Trees are much better able than the cereals to use rain when it comes. They can store moisture much better than the annuals can store it because they thrust their roots deep into the earth, seeking moisture far below the surface. They are able to survive drought better than the annual crops that grow beside them...As the deep-rooting, water-holding trees show their superior crop producing power in dry lands, we may expect some of our now arid lands to become planted with crop trees."

4. Tree crops require much less intensive labor than cereal grains, which must be plowed, weeded, and irrigated every year. Plowing and the subsequent bare ground cause soil damage. "As plants the cereals are weaklings. They must be coddled and weeded. For their reception the ground must be plowed and harrowed, and sometimes it must be cultivated after the crop is planted. This must be done for every harvest. When we produce these crops upon hilly land, the necessary breaking up of the soil prepares the land for ruin — first the plow, then rain, then erosion. Finally the desert."

"Therefore, the crop-yielding tree offers the best medium for extending agriculture to hills, to steep places, to rocky places, and to the lands where rainfall is deficient. New trees yielding annual crops need to be created for use on these four types of land... Thus by using the dry land, the steep land, and the rocky land, we may be permitted to increase and possibly double our gross agricultural production and that too without resort to the oriental miseries of intensive hand and hoe labor. Tree crops also have a special advantage in their adaptability to a field reservoir system of irrigation which is at the same time of great promise as a means of flood control."

5. Crops can be grown in between and underneath trees, creating a "two-story" agriculture. "The level plains where rainfall cannot carry soil away may continue to be the empires of the plow, although the development of two-story agriculture (trees above and annual crops below) offers interesting possibilities of a greater yield than can be had from a one-story agriculture. This type of agriculture is actually in practice in many Mediterranean lands...The two-story type of agriculture has another advantage. It divides the seasonal risks which everywhere beset the farmer. If frost kills the almond, it probably will not injure the wheat. If drought injures the wheat, the almond may come through with a bumper crop."

6. Livestock farming can be done with the forage from trees. "When tree agriculture is established, chestnut and acorn orchards may produce great forage crops and other orchards may be yielding persimmons or mulberries, crops which pigs, chickens, and turkeys will harvest by picking up their own food from the ground. Still other trees will be dropping their tons of beans to be made into bran substitute. Walnut, filbert, pecan, and other hickory trees will be giving us nuts for protein and fat food."

7. Trees are well-suited for rapid genetic development because they can be grafted. "For breeding experiments the tree has one great advantage over most of the annuals. We propagate trees by twig or bud, by grafting or budding. Therefore, any wild unstable (though useful) freak, any helpless malformation like the navel orange which cannot reproduce itself, can be made into a million trees by the nurseryman. With corn, oats, or alfalfa the breeder must produce a type true to seed before the farmer can use it."

8. Certain trees can fix nitrogen in the soil, helping crops grow underneath it. "I am sure that many of these pastures would have their productivity as pastures increased if they could be thinly covered with a planting of some leguminous tree whose roots would gather nitrogen from the air and leave it in the earth where the grass roots could share it."

Smith laid out his argument succinctly in the book's first three chapters. In the rest of the book, he went on to describe the uses of specific trees-- The Keawe, The Carob, The Mesquite, The Honey Locust, The Chestnut, The Oak, the Mulberry, the Persimmon, the Walnut, the Pecan and the Hickory. The characteristics and uses of each tree are described in detail along with actual applications - for fruit, for animal feed, for wood, for sweeteners, etc. He describes which trees are suitable for various climate and soil types in the United States. Actual examples are given of orchards used for food, fuel and forage, as well as two-story agriculture from around the world. Some samples:

"Who has not pitied John the Baptist because he had to eat insects (locusts) in the wilderness, and the Prodigal Son because he was brought so low that he was forced to feed upon the husks that the swine did eat? But the locusts that John the Baptist ate were not insects; they were the beans of the carob tree, sometimes still spoken of in the Near East as "locust." The husks eaten by the Prodigal Son were not the dried husks of corn, as the American farmer naturally believes. They too were the pods of the carob bean."

"Like the algaroba and the carob, the beans of the honey locust are greedily devoured by farm animals and sometimes are eaten by the children...Like the carob and the algaroba, it is a legume gathering nitrogen from the air to make its own proteins. This also enables it to fertilize the earth for other plants. It is an open-top tree through which much light can pass to crops below, thereby favoring a two-story agriculture, like the carobs of Algeria. This is especially valuable for pastures. It is possible that in some situations a pasture might be as good with honey locusts as without them."

"The sugar maple is a fine tree. Its spring sap has from 3 to 6 per cent, of sugar. It grows over a wide area of cold, rough, upland country with a poor agricultural surface and in some cases a poorer agricultural climate. Possibly plant breeding could do with the maple wonders similar to those it has already done with the sugar beet — namely raise its sugar content several fold in a century and a quarter. But why wait? Behold the honey locust! ...There is a wild tree, native, hardy, prolific, and yielding beans more than a foot long. The beans from some of these unimproved and unappreciated wildlings carry 29 per cent, of sugar. This is equal to the best sugar beets and more than the yield of the richest crops of sugar cane. This, too, after man has been struggling with the sugar cane for centuries."

"The mulberry is excellent food for pigs. To harvest mulberries costs nothing because the pigs gladly pick up the fruit themselves. Therefore, mulberries fit especially well into American farm economics because labor cost is high...It should be a nice element of farm management to let the pigs that picked up their own living on mulberries in June and July continue the process with persimmons from September until Christmas or snowfall."

"Mesquite beans are especially valuable because they ripen in August at the very time when drought may be expected to reach its worst. The beans are greedily eaten by cattle, horse, and goats. As a rancher put it, "I have mesquite in my pasture and value a crop of beans very highly. I let the stock eat the beans on the trees and a good bean crop means fat stock."

"It is said that the carob makes excellent cereal, candy, and syrup" — a pound of syrup from a pound of beans — a fact that is almost staggering. The candy, which seemed also to have coconut in it, as well as the easily recognized carob flavor, was an instant success in my family; and we all liked the flavor of syrup made from carob."

"In some sections of Spain and Portugal the young ilex trees are allowed to grow where they have by chance sprung up in the fields. Around and under the trees the machineless cultivation of wheat and beans, barley and hay, goes on just the same. This combination of trees and crops gives a beautiful parklike landscape. The cultivation helps the oaks to make acorns, and after the grain and other crops are harvested, the hogs are turned in to gather the mast crop."

"If any one knows of better nuts than some of the shagbark hickories of the northeastern United States, I beg him to write me at once and send me a few, for I wish to know this superior thing. The hickories were food-producers of importance to the American Indian and are of great economic promise for scientific agriculture in the future."

Although Smith's main focus is the growing of tree crops for the continental United States, he takes a brief look at tropical applications as well:

"Rubber is the perfect example of the wild trees whose uses were quickly demonstrated, after which the technical processes were worked out with great rapidity, and manufacturing and agricultural industries created with almost magic speed...Now I cite another industrial commodity, a paint oil, which we might make from the kukui or candlenut tree, whose oleaginous seeds make a brilliant flame that lighted Polynesia for an unknown period of time before the Standard Oil can brought a cheaper illuminant."

"The foliage of the date, being feathery at the top, permits sunlight to come through and fall upon an under-orchard of olives, apricots, and figs, and beneath these beans and other leguminous crops will grow — literally a three-story type of agriculture so rich in yield that only a portion of the date oases need be worked so diligently."

"The ancient and well-known coconut with its rich oil and myriad uses need not be here expanded except to point out one fact that may revolutionize the economics of almost any kind of vegetable oil. Chemical researches have recently turned the strong liquid coconut oil into a sweet-flavored tallow-like substance which now graces millions of European and some American tables in place of the more expensive butter."

"The soil destruction in India and Central America described by the papers just referred to shows that the tropic denizens are destroying their lands almost as rapidly with cereals as we are destroying ours in the southern part of the United States with corn, cotton, tobacco, and gullies, and like ourselves they are in need of development of tree-crop agriculture if the lands are to continue to serve the race."

The final chapters of the book deal with the economic and farm management issues, with a final plea for an Institute of Mountain Agriculture for tree breeding and propagation and to encourage the use of tree crops by America's farmers. Smith believed that at tree-based agriculture, combined with intelligent breeding, could dramatically increase American agricultural yields while actually preserving, even enhancing the environment, and preserving America's precious topsoil that had been so badly degraded by the growing of corn, cotton and tobacco:

"I see a million hills green with crop-yielding trees and a million neat farm homes snuggled in the hills. These beautiful tree farms hold the hills from Boston to Austin, from Atlanta to Des Moines. The hills of my vision have farming that fits them and replaces the poor pasture, the gullies, and the abandoned lands that characterize today so large a part of these hills."

"These ideal farms have their level and gently sloping land protected by mangum terraces and are intensively cultivated — rich in yields of alfalfa, corn, clover, legumes, wheat, and garden produce. This plow land is the valley bottoms, level hill tops, the gentle slopes, and flattened terraces on the hillsides. The unplowed lands are partly shaded by cropping trees — mulberries, persimmons, honey locust, grafted black walnut, grafted heart nut, grafted hickory, grafted oak, and other harvest-yielding trees. There is better grass beneath these trees than covers the hills today. The crops are worked out into series of crops to make good farm economy."

"It will take time to bring this miracle to pass. It will take time to work it out. First of all a new point of view is needed, i.e., that farming should fit the land. The presence on the land of the land owner is also needed. This is not a job for tenants. Let the tenant go down to the level land which carelessness cannot ruin so quickly. Not his the beautiful home in the beautiful hills."

"Even this partial list of native tree products shows nearly all of the elements necessary to man's nutrition, and that without introducing a single new species from foreign countries where dozens of new crop trees are waiting for the time to come when they can be made useful in American agriculture."

"This permanent agriculture is much more productive than mere pasture, or mere forest, the only present safe uses for the hill fields. Therefore, tree crops should work their way into the rolling and sloping lands of all sections. New crop trees need to be created. Extensive scientific work in the plant kingdom should begin at once."

Despite its age, the book is easy and enjoyable reading, even for the layman. In its time, J. Russell Smith's book never received the attention it deserved. But there are signs that may be changing.


Today, movements such as agroforestry and food forests are becoming more widespread. Agroforestry is a collective name for land use systems and practices in which woody perennials are deliberately integrated with crops and/or animals on the same land management unit, either in a spatial mixture or in a temporal sequence, according to the World Agroforestry Centre. Food forests, also called forest gardens, are intentional systems designed to mimic the relationships found in natural woodlands to produce, in the words of one designer, "food, fuel, fodder, fiber, and fun." Permaculture, a method sustainable design for human habitats which has become very popular, incorporates many of the same ideas. In fact, J. Russell Smith's subtitle - "A Permanent Agriculture" is seen as a precursor to many of the ideas of Permaculture which were developed in Australia in the 1970's.

The New York Times recently featured an article entitled A quiet push to grow crops under the cover of trees. The article describes a small experimental forest garden planted on the property of a couple in Montana:

On a forested hill in the mountains north of Montana’s capital, beneath a canopy of pine and spruce, Marc and Gloria Flora have planted more than 300 smaller trees, from apple and pear to black walnut and chestnut. Beneath the trees are layers of crops: shrubs like buffalo berries and raspberries, edible flowers like day lilies, vines like grapes and hops, and medicinal plants, including yarrow and arnica. Turkeys and chickens wander the two-acre plot, gobbling hackberries and bird cherries that have fallen from trees planted in their pen, and leaving manure to nourish the plants.

The article goes on the describe the benefits of agroforestry, and the newfound interest in incorporating it into agriculture in the United States:

The idea is to harness the ecological services that trees provide. “Agroforestry is not converting farms to forest,” said Andy Mason, director of the Forest Service’s National Agroforestry Center. “It’s the right tree in the right place for the right reason.” The Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service’s parent agency, began an initiative this year to encourage agroforestry.

Depending on the species, trees make all sorts of contributions to agriculture, experts say. Trees in a shelter belt reduce wind and water erosion. Some trees serve as fertilizers — they take in nitrogen from the atmosphere, or pump it from deep underground and, when they drop their leaves, make it available upon decomposition. Trees planted along streams can take up and scrub out polluted farm runoff. They increase species diversity by providing habitat, and some of those species are friendly to farmers — bees and butterflies that help pollinate crops, for example. (One study showed that 66 species of birds benefit from windbreaks on farms.) Trees can keep a field cooler and more moist.Some research also shows that cattle farmers can improve their income by introducing trees, both by selling timber and by cooling cows in the shade. And trees in general help the environment by absorbing greenhouse gases and by cleaning up polluted water — countering some of the effects of large-scale agriculture.

“The biggest problem with food production is environmental degradation,” said Gene Garrett, an emeritus professor of forestry and former director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri. Properly placed belts of trees and other vegetation along streams can filter out 95 percent of the soil sediment that washes off farm fields, studies show, and up to 80 percent of phosphate and nitrogen that runs off.

The garden of Marc and Gloria Flora seems to be exactly what Smith envisioned so many years ago. Although the article mentions that the ideas are not new, it unfortunately does not mention Smith's work.The article goes on to describe many of the efforts to encourage agroforestry in the United States.


Tree crops are also important for agriculture in the developing world. In Africa, because they are hardier, trees can provide food in times of famine or failure of conventional annual crops. Integrating trees with cash crops actually increases the crop yield! They can also prevent desertification, build soil, provide fuel, sequester carbon, and preserve biodiversity. One of the major stumbling blocks to integrating trees in African agriculture is land ownership. Many African farmers are tenant farmers and must make enough money each season to cover their expenses. Without long-term ownership of land they farm, there is no incentive to plant slow-growing trees. This problem was identified by Smith as well. Nevertheless, tree crops are increasingly seen as essential to food security:

Food insecurity is a routine fact of life for many of the world's poorest people, Miranda Spitteler, chief executive of Tree Aid told BBC News.

She said the West needed to recognise the important role trees could play in reducing the need for conventional aid. She also called for support for a local tree-based solution to food shortages.

In an article for the BBC News website's Green Room column, she added: "'Conventional' crops are often not native and require expensive inputs, significant irrigation and land preparation in order to produce a successful harvest. Trees, on the other hand, often survive when other crops fail. Trees provide fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, sepals, even sap, which can be used as food."

"The leaves of Moringa oleifera, which is cultivated across Africa, India and South America, for example, have more beta-carotene than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than milk," the head of Tree Aid wrote.

She said the fight against hunger, especially in drought-hit times, must target those at the epicentre of of world poverty - smallholder farmers in rural Africa. "They need support to adopt agro-forestry techniques, which boost soil fertility and provide tree food crops to supplement nutrition."

Ms Spitteler added: "This approach can increase self-sufficiency for both rural communities and national economies. It can increase environmental security, diversify livelihood options and reduce the vulnerability of poor households to climate change and external shocks."

A paper in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability showed how in Africa planting trees can improve the soil and boost crop yields. These systems are referred to as Tree Fertilizer Systems, and are seen as ways to reduce the necessity of artificial fertilizers for African farmers who often cannot afford them. Certain types of trees fix nitrogen in the soil to boost fertility, much as Smith suggested. The pigeon pea is one tree that is commonly used for this purpose in Africa, for example. The study looked at various types, and came up with other species which were able to play this role. They found that in some instances where rows of trees were planted between rows of crops, the trees were in competition with the crops. To address this, they cut back the trees very low to the ground to keep sunlight falling on the crops:

"We developed a new management system where the trees were cut very low to the ground at the time you are planting the crop so then there was no light competition. The trees go into a dormant state when you cut them like this, so the root system is not competing straight away for the nutrients, so the maize is free to become established. The trees only really start to come out out of the dormant phase when the maize is already tall."

Trees also help "climate proof" arable land. As Smith pointed out, the roots of trees can reach much deeper to find water, and can survive dry period that crops cannot:

One example, Dr Place said, was the use of Faidherbia albida (common names include winter thorn and apple-ring acacia) in West African arable landscapes. "It has a deep penetrating tap root, and it can secure a good water supply even in dry years," he explained. "Generally speaking, tree roots do go much deeper than crop roots, so it is recycling nutrients and water from deeper reaches.There are also studies showing that these roots act as conduits and bring up water to surface root systems (such as those belonging to crops)."

And trees can provide much more than just food. Smith pointed out the destructive nature of cotton on America's landscape. Cotton is a crop which requires a great deal of fresh water which will be in short supply in the coming years. But cloth can also be made from trees:

Cotton is a great fiber to make clothes with, but unfortunately, growing it causes huge environmental problems. It's a crop that uses a lot of water, and most large cotton monocultures are doused in large quantities of pesticides. On top of that, growing cotton requires arable land, so it competes with food crops.

But as the human population of the planet goes up and as hundreds of millions of people get out of abject poverty, they'll require more food and clothes. This leaves us with a big dilemma, unless we can find another source of fibers that doesn't suffer from the downsides associated with cotton...

Ah! But how about cellulose from trees? With it we can make rayon, the modern version of which is pretty much a direct substitute for cotton, except that it is even better adapted to the climate of most developing countries than cotton because it breathes better and it's more absorbant.

And the benefits don't stop there: Cellulose from trees doesn't compete with food crops for arable land. They don't require pesticides, and if the forest is managed with the best sustainable practices, a lot of fiber can be had without damaging the local ecosystem too much.

Even better: The cellulose is just one of the components of wood. You can use the lignin to run a biomass cogeneration power plant that powers the cellulose plant (known more technically as a dissolving pulp plant) and even sell excess power back to the grid, and other sugars from the wood can be turned into all kinds of other useful things in a biorefinery. If done well, it's possible to squeeze a lot of utility out of each tree, which would be a big improvement over most of what we currently do with trees.

It is possible we are on the verge of a new agricultural revolution. Already, there are more and more tree crop products available such as walnut oil, almond flour and hazelnut milk. Increasing use of tree crops promises increased resilience, greater crop yields, more diverse agricultures, greater resilience, and more autonomy for farmers while at the same time helping to repair an atmosphere damaged by excess carbon and preventing erosion and soil depletion. The British Agricultural writer Colin Tudge writes:

"The ancient arts of “agroforestry” are also finding new life—one of the most encouraging of all developments of the modern world. Many kinds of crops and livestock are raised among trees, both in wild forest, and in plantations. In Kerala, South India, cardamoms, related to turmeric and ginger, are traditionally grown as undergrowth in virtually wild forest. On the grander scale, coffee and tea grow best in shade. Throughout the traditional tropics, sheep and cattle which northerners think of as grass-eaters are often raised almost entirely on browse—leaves and branches of trees. The stocking rate can be enormous: up to two cows per hectare among the ubiquitous oil-palm plantations of SE Asia. Cattle are basically woodland animals. Dr Muhammad Ibrahim and his colleagues in Costa Rica have now shown that dairy cows given shade yield up to 30 per cent more than when left to languish in the sun—trees boost yield far more effectively than injections of hormones. But there is more money in hormones. Or at least: the money derived from hormones goes to the shareholders of big companies, while the money from agroforestry should be spread among millions of farmers. No contest. The world's most powerful governments have made themselves answerable to the big companies—and they take pride in this. They call it “realism”. The world's best-paid scientists work for the big companies too. The agrarian, tree-based systems that truly could keep the world habitable have to fight for survival against the massed ranks of the powers-that-be. How ludicrous."

"So although the things that need doing seem obvious, and good people are working on them, the powers-that-be—governments and the corporates whose interest they serve, and the experts including commercial scientists who advise them—have a quite different agenda. If we, humanity, want life to be agreeable or indeed to continue at all we just have to ignore the pressures from our ostensible leaders, and get on and do things the way they should be done. In short, only popular movements can do what's needed: neither reform (attempting to change the minds of the powers that be), nor revolution (head on collision, which seems bound to lose) but renaissance: building new ways of life in situ, whatever the pressures from on high."

J. Russel Smith would certainly agree:

"Perhaps you think that the creation of a tree-crop agriculture should be the work of state agricultural experiment stations and the United States Department of Agriculture. Theoretically that is true. It is also true that they cannot do it. They cannot get the money for such work. This is a democracy. We are governed by politicians. A politician is a vote getter and not often also a man of vision. Look around you and see if this is not true."

"State experimental stations have, here and there, men who would like to do this kind of work; but the stations are dependent for the money they get on state legislatures, and it should not be forgotten that the first necessity of the legislator is to get elected, and his second concern is to get reelected. In view of these two urgent and even pressing necessities we can see that it is a rare accident when money is to be had for the prolonged task of developing tree crops. Neither by theory nor by practice are we justified in expecting democratic legislation to look far forward in its appropriations save for education and military defense."

"For America tree crops are a new thing, a new idea. No elected legislature can possibly be expected to appropriate regularly for such creative work. Was there a state appropriation or congressional appropriation back of Morse when he created the telegraph, or Edison working wonders with electricity, or Langley working out the theory of flying, or of Orville Wright, the first to make successful flight, or of Lindbergh when he flew from continental mainland to continental mainland? No These things were done with private money urged by an idea. By this means also must come most of the creative work in making a tree-crop agriculture."

NOTE: J. Russell Smith's "Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture" is available on line for free here:

Thanks go out to my Permaculture teacher Mark Shepard for making me aware of the book. His farm is a great example of agroforestry in action.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Is Japan the Future? (part 7)

9. Emptying Our Cups

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring.

The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

"It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted.

"You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup!"

The above story has two lessons. First, we must empty our minds of our preconceived ideas if we are to truly learn. If our minds are filled with notions of limitless growth, we are unable to even consider that there are others ways of organizing an economy.

The second stands as an apt analogy for an economy in general. A cup can only hold so much tea, because of the empty space within it that is waiting to be filled. You can keep pouring tea, but it will be of no benefit – you will not be able to drink more than the cup can hold. Pouring more tea into an already full cup will only waste the tea you have, causing it to spill and making a mess. It should also be noted that constantly filling the cup makes it impossible to drink the tea at all.

So, to return to our question, Is Japan the world's first post-growth society? My answer is, yes, it is. Though the Japanese got there first, we are almost certainly headed for the same place. Currently the world's largest economy is engaging in all the same activities that the world's second largest economy engaged in for the last twenty years to restart growth - tax cuts, stimulus spending, quantitative easing, zero interest rates policies, bank bailouts, all to no avail. Why do we think we will succeed where they failed? Are we somehow an exception? Do we arrogantly assume we are somehow smarter, more innovative or more important? And even if growth on paper restarts, will most of us benefit? Although the recession has “officially” ended, living standards are still falling and society is continuing to come apart at the seams.

The elites who are the beneficiaries of interest repayments will do everything in their power to try and restart growth at all costs. We are already oversupplied with too many goods, too many houses, and too much debt. We are straining the natural world to the breaking point. If authors like Richard Heinberg and Chris Martenson are right, we will not have the vast sums of energy available to keep growing year after year. It is clear that more growth hasn't made us any happier or enhanced our well-being. Our leaders will never voluntarily embrace Degrowth under any circumstances so it is up to us. If we are to build a sustainable society, we will have to build it from the ground up, rather than the top-down. Fortunately, even though our government is on the wrong track, we ourselves can learn valuable lessons from Japan's Edo period for how to arrange a better life:

1. Stop spending. Save your money. Keep your expenses minimal. Pay down debts. The Japanese have wisely concluded that the future will be one of reduced living standards, and have adjusted their behavior accordingly. They refuse to go into debt and buy big-ticket items they cannot afford. They are not impoverished, but rather choose to live frugally. They save their money for a rainy day, knowing that the future in uncertain. In the past, farmers, who lived with the vagaries of nature, behaved like the proverbial ant, not like the grasshopper. See the following article:

2. Think hard about having children. If you do, have no more than two. This is obviously a highly personal decision, and it depends on what your life circumstances are. Surveys show that couples without children are happier than couples with them. The more children you have, the less you can pass down to each one, and the more they must compete for jobs, education, resources, etc. in a shrinking economy. The Japanese are aware of this, and are voluntarily choosing to forego child-rearing as an act of economic survival. Do you really want your children to grow up in poverty or have to go though the trying times ahead?

3. Embrace voluntary simplicity. This movement, with roots in monasticism, advocates being satisfied with what we need rather than what we want. It recognizes that consumption is not a path to happiness, and that leisure, free time, hobbies and human relationships are far more conducive to enjoying life than the endless treadmill of work and consumption. Do not be afraid to reduce expenditure, income and possessions. No one ever spent their last days wishing they had spent more time at work.

4. Live in dense, walkable urban areas. In the days before cars, Japanese cities were full of shops and merchants in close proximity to the people who patronized them. Today, Japanese cities are much the same – with people living in close quarters and goods close at hand. As energy costs rise, this will allow you to get what you need without having to spend time and money running around. It will also allow you to get to know your neighbors. Japanese of the Edo period would eat communally in restaurants, the idea being that cooking for a large group was more efficient and less wasteful than an individual cooking a single meal for himself or herself.

3. Live in a small, compact house. Do not accumulate clutter. The book The Not So Big House started a movement to celebrate small spaces as more aesthetically pleasing than gargantuan houses. They utilize less resources in their construction, preserve open space, and require much less energy to heat and cool. Apartments are more energy-efficient than single-family houses. Books like The Very Small Home by Azby Brown demonstrate the modern Japanese use of small, efficient spaces to provide comfortable and elegant living arrangements.

4. Use public transportation and bicycle whenever possible. Only 50 percent of trips in Japan are taken by automobile, and Japanese automobiles are generally small and fuel-efficient (it is no coincidence that Japanese automakers introduced the gas-electric hybrid). Bicycling has also become much more popular in Japan since the earthquake. While we cannot force politicians to build a high-speed rail network like Japan has, we can use what public transportation is available, like buses and trains. If you can, carpool. If you must have a car, buy a fuel-efficient car like a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight.

5. Plant a garden. Edo (Tokyo) was full of urban gardens. Even city dwellers grew much of their own food. There are many systems to choose from. Japan's highly intensive growing methods have been recreated in the West by people like John Jeavons, whose methods of biointensive gardening produce large amounts of food on small plots of land. Community gardens using raised bed planters are springing up in communities all over the U.S. Systems like permaculture can also be done in urban areas and replenish the soil just like Asian farming methods. Places like rooftops and walls can be turned green through container gardening and espalier. Edible landscaping can turn lawns into food sources. The work of the late Masanobu Fukuoka has been a great inspiration to people all over the world.

6. Compost. While we may not have night soil merchants like Japan had, we can do similar things for ourselves by using composting toilets. Our food and lawn waste can all be composted and returned to the soil instead of thrown away, just as the Japanese did hundreds of years ago. You can also learn to grow green fertilizer as the Japanese did.

7. Conserve water. Edo-period Japanese would often use the sun to heat bath water, and use the same water to make tea and water their garden. Even today in Japan it is not uncommon for bath water to be pumped to washing machines for later use. You can take such measures as using low-flow fixtures and collecting rainwater for gardening.

8. Redefine status. The “He who dies with the most toys wins” ethic so common in America was unknown in Edo period Japan. Rather, the most admired members of society were those who behaved “honorably” and set a good example according to Confucian and Buddhist principles. Waste was considered unseemly. People rose to high status because of their character, not because of their wealth. They did not feel a need to “show off” to impress the neighbors.

6. Eat a healthy diet. The Japanese of the Edo period ate only natural, healthy foods that they could grow themselves. Imported foods were luxuries. Processed foods were unknown, and seafood, vegetables and rice formed the better part of the diet. While you do not have to eat a Japanese diet, you can patronize local farmers and food producers, and eat fresh, whole, unprocessed foods instead of junk food. Local farmers markets and CSAs can connect you with the people producing food locally and responsibly, and keep money in your local community.

7. Celebrate nature. The Japanese love of nature is renowned. Nature was valuable for its own sake, not just for what it could provide by way of products. The Japanese would compose poems about nature, or make lovely ink-brush paintings and woodcuts of natural scenes. The Japanese felt like a part of nature, not apart from it. Anyone visiting a traditional Japanese garden cannot help but be moved by the harmony of its arrangement. Farmers were respected for their contribution to society and farming was a respected way of life.

8. Reuse, repurpose, recycle. The Japanese did not have a word for recycling – it was just a part of daily life. Every item was repaired or reused in some way. For example, the yukata (a light cotton kimono) - was a hand-me down-item, then it was made into diapers, used as floor cloths, and finally, burned for fuel. Find new uses for “end-of-life goods Our own grandparents lived this way not so long ago.

9. Use energy sparingly. Hang wash on the line. Insulate your house and use passive solar energy. Turn off lights and use candles. Burn wood in energy efficient fireplaces. Use space heating. The Edo period Japanese managed to live entirely within their solar budget while maintaining a high standard of living by getting the maximum use from the energy sources they had at hand.

9. Take up crafts. Be as self-sufficient as possible. Japanese of the Edo period often made their own products. If a kimono did not fit, they would rework the fabric themselves. Villagers would often take up a craft like basket weaving or woodworking and trade with their neighbors who also practiced various crafts. The DIY movement celebrates and encourages this behavior in the present day.

10. Buy for durability rather than cheapness. Consider the long-term costs of what you buy, not just the immediate costs. Many items from the Edo period are still treasured and passed down today. Katana swords are as sharp today as they were hundreds of years ago. Buildings from the period are historical monuments while more modern buildings fade away. Getting many years of use from our belongings saves more money in the long run than buying cheaply-made disposable commodities, and is better for the environment.

11. Support local economies. Patronize local producers. Support regionalism. Know who you do business with. Edo period Japan had a rich "cultural ecology" of local and regional specialties and producers. Today in America, corporations has done their best to wipe out distinct regional character and substitute a homgenous centrally planned culture shaped by advertising. It is up to us us to reactivate our local cutures and economies, whcih existed once and are just hanging on, waiting for a renaissance. Patronize local food producers and encourage regional specialties, whether it be lobsters in Maine, cheese in Wisconsin or wine in California. By patronizing local suppliers, you keep money in your community and increase resilience. The “buy local” movement is an example of this.

12. Engage in your local community. Villages of the Edo period were highly communal affairs. Everyone knew everyone else, and they worked together for the common good. Any number of local organizations need volunteers and support. You can make your “village” wherever you happen to be with likeminded people. the spirit of helping one's neighbor begins with you.

13. Cultivate yourself. Build your character. Make art. The Edo period was a time of intense artistic flowering. People found satisfaction in contemplating nature and acts of creation. Religious practices such as Zen Buddhism sought enlightenment among the art of everyday living. This is a much more effective way to attain satisfaction with life than material aquisition or career climbing. Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, intended his discipline to encompass self-defense, physical culture, and moral behavior. In 1934 he said the following:

Recently in our country, there has been a steadily increasing number of people who dislike work and pursue leisure and extravagance. Almost everywhere individuals and organizations are fighting with resultant loss of energy that is needed for positive action. In order to save them from this situation, a principle of judo, based on the maximum efficiency concept should be applied as one aspect of modern society and as a natural result of the application of the principle of maximum efficiency, a mutual welfare and prosperity is believed to be the only effective way to ease and neutralize the forces among these individuals and organizations.

Other Judo principles include "The most for the least effort," maximum efficiency," and "Overcome by yielding, " all principles that will serve us well in the years ahead.

We are never going to find any lasting solutions to the world’s problems unless we can finally get to “enough.” Our constant need for more will outdo even the most clever solution to our problems. Ultimately, the root of our problem is not having enough. If we had the knowledge and resources we have today with the population we had in 1800, there really wouldn’t be very many problems at all. In other words, so long as we must eternally grow, in industry, consumption, population, we will outrun any solution, no matter how clever or innovative. Only If we discover the value of enough, will we have any attempt at solving our problems, otherwise it is for naught.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is Japan the Future? (part 6)

8. The Great Wave

“Japanese history has entered a new phase…”
Writer Kenzaburo Oe

The eyes of the world turned to Japan on March 10-11 as the nation was devastated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Tens of thousands were dead and missing in the aftermath, and entire towns were flooded and washed away. A 35 foot wave breached the protective sea wall at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing a nuclear emergency that is still ongoing. Because the Japanese have no fossil fuel energy resources of any consequence, they turned to nuclear power as a way keep powering their industrial economy. After the oil shocks of the 1970's, Japan realized the ephemeral nature of Middle Eastern oil supplies, and built 55 nuclear reactors, generating 30 percent of Japan's electrical power.

The disaster in Japan revealed to the world how fragile the global economic system really is, and it's disturbing lack of resilience. Vehicle supply chains all around the world went into a state of chaos. It takes around 3,000 parts to make a car, and if even one of them is unavailable it can stop a car from getting built. Toyota announced it was temporarily shutting down its North American operations due to a lack of part availability. Honda slashed output by half at its North American plants, while Nissan shut all its U.S. and Mexican plants for a week in April. Even Ford Motor Company halted production in its Kentucky plant in the wake of the disaster. Japanese companies specialized in making the highly specialized computer chips that control everything from steering to brakes. Microchip manufacturing is a highly complex process requiring hundreds of discrete steps. That is why another supplier cannot simply step in, or other suppliers cannot simply fill the void. Everything is carefully linked together in a globalized supply chain dependant on cheap energy and political stability. The countries of the world are now like a series of mountain climbers all roped together, if enough lose their grip, they will drag all the others down with them.

Much of the energy infrastructure of northeastern Japan was destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami, including harbors, airports and refineries. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) lost one quarter of its supply capacity because of the disaster, due to the loss of its two Fukushima plants as well as eight conventional power stations. From March 14 onwards, rolling blackouts were extended across Japan's Kanto region. While some of the conventional plants are now back online, it is estimated that such power cuts could continue for years due to the loss of the nuclear facilities.. Shortfalls will become more acute over the summer months as demand for air conditioning peaks. Six of Japan's 28 oil refineries were affected causing fuel rationing beginning on March 12, with the subsequent release of oil stockpiles.

Japan is the world’s third leading consumer of oil, and is completely dependent on outside resources to fuel its export-led economy. Nuclear energy was once seen as the great white hope of a world facing an uncertain energy future. In 2010 Japan’s Basic Energy Plan called for the construction of nine new nuclear plants and a nuclear export industry. Now, the limitations of such a strategy are clear. A twenty-kilometer radius around the nuclear plant is uninhabitable, and may never by habitable again. 7,872 farms were lost, along with 18,754 fishing vessels. Agricultural products from the region are contaminated, and the seawater off the coast of Fukushima contains 7.5 million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine. Seafood, which has been such an important part of Japanese culture, is under a profound threat. Northern Japan has already undertaken heroic efforts to conserve electricity – 15,000 megawatts have been taken offline by the disaster – greater than the total peak summer demand for all of New York City. The ultimate costs of Fukushima are going to more than cancel out any benefits the power plant generated – a classic case of uneconomic growth. Matt Roney, a researcher for the Earth Policy Institute writes:

The aftermath of the two natural disasters has brought into sharp focus the vulnerability of a nation currently reliant on imports to meet the vast majority of its energy needs. Japan imports all the uranium used to fuel its nuclear reactors, which account for 11 percent of its energy consumption. And Japan is the world’s top importer of both coal and natural gas, which make up 21 percent and 17 percent of its energy use. It is also the third-ranking oil importer. Consumed largely in the transportation sector, oil accounts for 46 percent of Japan’s energy use. The remainder comes from renewable sources, mostly hydropower. Altogether, Japan spends some $160 billion a year importing all of its coal and uranium and virtually all of its oil and natural gas.

Now, wishes for a massive "growth" recovery now seem like cruel mockery - survival is now the paramount issue as the nation waits to see the full extent of the damage at Fukushima Daiichi. The Japanese have now become acutely aware of the high price of growth and industrialization. How will this affect the nation's consciousness? While the Japanese are a resilient people and will rebuild as the did after the Second World War, the gloom-and-doom attitude described in the Times article will only intensify. Will the Japanese listen to the siren song of economic growth, or will they realize they must preserve what they already have? How will a nation that was created during the age of cheap oil 40 years ago rebuild now that oil is over one hundred dollars a barrel? Japans’ twentieth century population boom was entirely fuelled by imported energy. Is population reduction, such as what is already occurring, not what should be happening? Once again, is this the shape of things to come? As Brendan Barrett writes in the Guardian:

These food and bottled water shortages, power cuts, fuel-rationing and breakdowns in just-in-time manufacturing have been anticipated by those who take peak oil seriously. It is almost as if eastern Japan is experiencing a peak oil rehearsal, although other regions of Japan are virtually unaffected. If proponents of peak oil are correct, then the rest of the world may experience something similar within the next 5 to 10 years, and hence it is important that we learn valuable lessons from Japan’s response to the current circumstances.

Can petroleum based civilization continue? If it can’t, isn’t now a good time to rethink our basic assumptions about growth, demographics, economics, social welfare, and prosperity? Who better than Japan to lead the way? Brendan Barrett again:

If Japan is to build back better, then it should perhaps do so by building more resilient, more locally oriented communities in the areas affected by the quake and tsunami, and beyond. In fact, this is a chance to reconsider completely the development path for Japan towards one that is less vulnerable, less reliant upon fossil fuels, and ideally a low carbon society.

It is obvious that Japan can not return to the preindustrial Edo period of two hundred years ago – the population is way too large and it’s not likely that a population used to the fruits of high technology will want to return to living in a preindustrial age. Certainly no one would advocate the rigid feudal social structure, autocracy, or lack of human rights that were also features of this period in modern times. Nor will Japan have to close itself off from the outside world, even if it had the ability to do so. As John Michael Greer points out, “The climax community that emerges after a period of prolonged ecological disruption and the arrival of new biotic assemblages rarely has much in common with the climax community that prevailed before the disruptions began. In the same way, and for most of the same reasons, claims that the deindustrial world will necessarily end up as an exact equivalent of some past society – be that medieval feudalism, tribal hunter-gatherer cultures, or anything else – need to be taken with more than the usual grain of salt.” We do not need to repeat the past - we merely need to learn the appropriate lessons from it. We can then add to it the progess we've made along the way, keeping what is beneficial and discarding what is not.

Rather, what if Japan instead pioneered the way to a more sustainable future while enjoying the fruits of industrial development? What if Japan took from the outside world only what it could not produce internally?. What if Japan advocated local economies and self-sufficiency? What if it pushed energy-efficiency and created a recycling culture? What if it preserved its natural resources and became a low-carbon society? Japan is already a leader in fields like robotics and solar energy. In 2006, Japan produced 39 percent of the solar panels in the world, while the government provided generous subsidies for research and installation. Three Japanese firms – Fuji, Toshiba and Mitsubishi – produce two-thirds of the world’s geothermal turbines, although geothermal currently provides lass than 1 percent of Japan’s energy. The cost of the Fusushima disaster cleanup, currently estimated 152 billion dollars, could have purchased enough geothermal energy to generate 33 gigawatts of electricity - 7 times as much as the nuclear plant's maximum output. If that sum were invested in solar energy, it could produce 41.6 billion killowatt hours, enough solar panels for 7,600,000 homes - 15 percent of the total. Japan’s Kamisu offshore windf farm, only 150 miles from the earthquake epicenter continued to produce power with no incident, and was even asked to step up production in the wake of the disaster. If any of these systems were to fail, they would not produce the massive devestation and loss of life seen during the ongoing nuclear catastrophe. According to Matt Roney:

Located along the tectonically active Pacific Ring of Fire, with nearly 200 volcanoes and some 28,000 hot springs, Japan is one of the world’s most geothermally rich countries. Using conventional technologies, geothermal energy could provide over 80,000 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity -- enough to meet half of the country’s electricity needs. But with the modern enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technology now available, Japan’s geothermal potential could be far greater. To give a sense of the possibilities, a U.S. Geological Survey study of geothermal resources in the United States found that EGS increased estimated U.S. geothermal power potential 13-fold.

Similarly, Japan’s enormous wind energy potential has hardly been tapped. At the end of 2010 Japan had installed 2,300 megawatts of wind capacity, enough to power 700,000 Japanese homes. The official goals for 2020 and 2030 are 10,000 and 20,000 megawatts, respectively, with the latter capacity equal to 6 percent of Japan’s current electricity consumption. But a 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that Japan’s land-based wind resources could provide half of its electricity. If harnessable offshore wind resources are included, the wind energy potential far exceeds current electricity needs.

Japan’s most ambitious renewable energy goals are those for solar photovoltaics (PV), mostly in rooftop panels. Among the world leaders in installed PV capacity, Japan connected an estimated 900 megawatts to the grid in 2010, bringing its total capacity to more than 3,500 megawatts. By 2020, Japan aims to increase this eightfold, to 28,000 megawatts, with a goal of 53,000 megawatts by 2030. This would be sufficient to power 18 million Japanese homes.

In 2007, experts at the National Institute of Environmental Science published a report in which it argued that Japan can achieve a Low Carbon Society by reducing energy demand by 40-45%. According to the report:

Based on sophisticated modeling, the researchers envisage that energy demand reductions would be associated with the shrinking population, accompanied by measures to more rationally use energy, greater energy conservation and improvements in energy efficiencies.

Big differences are predicted by sector. For instance, in the industrial sector, restructuring and the introduction of energy saving technologies are expected to reduce energy demand by 20-40%. In the passenger transportation sector, new measures to promote better land use and improvements in energy efficiency are expected to cut energy demand by 80%.

In the freight transportation sector demand is expected to fall by 60 to 70% thanks to more effective logistics management and improvements in the energy efficiency of vehicles. Similar benefits, in the region of 50% reductions, are anticipated in the household sector due to re-building, better insulation and energy saving appliances.

Writing in the Guardian, author and environmental campaigner Bill McKibben gives a picture of what such efforts might entail:

The other possibility is to try to build down a little: to focus on resilience, on safety. And to do that — here’s the controversial part — instead of focusing on growth. We might decide that the human enterprise (at least in the west) has got big enough, that our appetites need not to grow, but to shrink a little, in order to provide us more margin. What would that mean? Buses and bikes and trains, not SUVs. Local food, with more people on the farm so that muscles replace some of the oil. Having learned that banks are “too big to fail”, we might guess that our food and energy systems fall into that same category.

Imagine, for instance, a nation that got most of its power from rooftop solar panels knitted together in a vast distributed grid. It would take investment to get there – we’d have to divert money from other tasks, slowing some kinds of growth, because solar power is currently more expensive than coal power. We might not have constant access to unlimited power at every second of every day. In the end, though, you’d have not only less carbon in the atmosphere, but also a country far less failure-prone.

And a post on Treehugger also asks the question:

But what, exactly, would a no growth, or steady state economy look like? It's hard to say, because the modern world has never seen one. But among the ideas discussed are shifting the burden of taxation from employment, and toward resource extraction, pollution and waste; encouraging job sharing, part-time employment and flexible hours; promoting cultural pursuits and other non-material consumption; and finding alternative methods of measuring well-being than mere GDP.

Despite the beliefs of modern economists, past economists like Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and even John Maynard Keynes thought that eventually we would reach eventually reach a plateau of no-growth. According to John Michael Greer, “A truly advanced civilization, here or elsewhere, might well have more in common with a climax community: it might use very modest amounts of energy and resources with high efficiency, maximize sustainability, and build for the long term.” We can either fight this inevitability, liquidating our society in a mad attempt to start growth at all costs, or grow into maturity, as a tree or an ecosystem eventually does. The choice is ours.

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Continue to part 7

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Japan the Future? (part 5)

7. Lessons From History

We learn about the sayings and deeds of the men of old in order to entrust ourselves to their wisdom and prevent selfishness. When we throw off our own bias, follow the sayings of the ancients, and confer with other people, matters should go well and without mishap.
-The HAGAKURE, Tokugawa-era Samurai manual

So why did Japan succeed, where other societies failed? Some point out the Japanese reverence for nature. As Ugo Bardi put it, "As far as I understand, the Japanese attitude at that time was as far as possible from that monstrosity that we have today; that of the golem we call "homo economicus" who seriously thinks that a tree is worth nothing unless it is felled." Jared Diamond dismisses this argument, pointing out that economic expansion existed in the early Edo period, and after the Edo period in the twentieth century. Diamond instead looks to other factors, such as:

1) The central government reasonably expected to be in power in the future, and so had an interest in good stewardship.

2) An ethnically and politically uniform society.

3) Internal peace and no outside enemies meant that resources did not need to be devoted to war making, such as horses and guns.

4) Japan's soils and climate allow for rapid tree regrowth.

5) Lack of sheep and goats which have deleterious effects on forests.

6) The abundance of seafood, reducing pressure on cropland, and

7) Generations lived on the same land and passed it down to their descendants, giving them an incentive to manage resources well.

To Diamond's points, I would add several of my own:

1) A monetary system not based around debt and interest repayments, hence no imperative to grow or crash.

2) A tightly regarded social order which minimized social climbing, wealth accumulation, selfishness and ostentatious displays of wealth which consume resources wastefully. Even the samurai, who lived in the equivalent of a gated community and employed a servant, maintained a substantial edible garden, used minimal heating, recycled paper and considered cushions for his tatami floors a needless extravagance.

3) A strong unified authority, able to regulate markets effectively and use a combination of carrot-and-stick approaches for top-down resource management.

5. Clear separation between the economic and political-decision-making spheres. The shogun and daimyo were hereditary positions, and not dependent on merchants for money or votes, allowing them to act independently rather than support commercial interests.

6. A highly literate culture able to catalogue and communicate knowledge in writing.

7) A Confucian ethic that held farmers and food producers in high regard, rather than the lowest rung of society.

8) Lack of slavery and absentee ownership (as opposed to the hacienda or plantation models employed elsewhere), giving the people who worked the land an incentive to manage it well and improve it.

9.) Villagers worked their own farmland but were taxed collectively, giving incentives to work hard individually and cooperate with their neighbors at the same time.

10) A culture with a sense of common purpose that valued social cohesion and cooperation, rather than conflict and naked ambition.

11) As described above, the development of agricultural practices that produced large amounts of food intensively without depleting the soil.

12) A culture that placed an emphasis on frugality and reuse as socially desirable, rather than as markers of low status.

13.) An economy built abound cottage industries and private land ownership, rather than rent seeking, wages and manufacturing. Items made by hand meant a large number of diverse producers rather than monopolies.

14.) Development of local community economies leading to a thriving internal trade without relying on outside imports.

16.) A high level of craftsmanship - buildings and durable goods were "built to last", rather than to be disposable.

17.) A healthy diet based around rice and seafood, and a lack of western diseases (if you expect a high infant mortality rate, you will have a lot more children).

17) Lack of intense wealth concentration and relative egalitarianism (compare to just about anywhere in Europe at this time). Japan's ruling classes were more interested in setting a moral example and ruling wisely than accumulating wealth. Due to the labor-intensive nature of rice farming, large land holdings were not viable, unlike with wheat farming, so land remained in the hands of small landholders who worked the land themselves. The relatively low status of merchants kept them from achieving too much power, and trade with cultures outside Japan was restricted. This situation started to unravel in the late Tokugawa period, however.

18) Innovative and creative solutions were implemented to utilize resources more efficiently, rather than to increase consumption.

and finally, and most importantly, as we have seen:

19.) Population remained steady. This was no doubt partly to the relatively high status of women (compare to the patriarchal societies of the Middle East). While some may recoil at some of their methods of population control, is it really worse than the starvation of adults that accompanies an overshoot of resources? As antropolgist Marvin Harris, in his book Cows, Pigs Wars and Witches reminds us:

Anyone who finds my reasoning depraved or "uncivilized" should read about eighteenth-centruy England. Gin-soaked mothers by the tens of thousands regularly dropped their babies into the Thames or wrapped them in the clothing of smallpox victims, left them in trash barrels, rolled over on top of them during drunken stupors, and otherwise contrived to shorten their babies' lives by direct or indirect means. In our own times, only an incredible degree of self-righteous pigheadedness prevents us from admitting that infanticide is still being practiced on a cosmic scale in the underdeveloped nations, where first-year infant mortality rates of 250 per 1,000 births are commonplace.

Fortunately, we do not have to resort to such drastic measures today if we use contraception intelligently and empower women.

Despite Diamond’s dismissal, I would still acknowledge as well a difference in philosophy between East and West. Japan's native Shinto is a nature-based religion, while Buddhism emphasizes spiritual enlightenment and "right livelihood" rather than material wealth accumulation. It is worth noting that all during this time, Christianity was banned from Japan (Christians were often crucified), so the Biblical admonition to "Go Forth and multiply, conquer the earth and subdue it" was not a part of Japanese thought at is had been for the Western world since ancient Mesopotamia. Rather, as Azby Brown writes in his book about the Edo period, Just Enough, "The mentality of the time found meaning and satisfaction in a life in which the individual took just enough from the world, and no more," How we think about the world matters.

It is worth contrasting Japan's response to limited resources with what happened on another set of islands on the other side of the Eurasian continent at the exact same time.

England in the 1600's was also hitting severe wood shortages. Medieval England, too, was a proximate solar society, and its mighty forests were ruthlessly exploited since Roman times. Like Japan, England used wood for everything - heating, fuel, fodder, industry, construction. Unlike Japan, the English king did not have as much control over the country's feudal lords (by this time England had established a parliamentary system), and there was a well-defined series of legal property rights. Rather than rationing, apportioning wood was done through a price system in an open market. Deforestation of England's old-growth forests caused these prices to skyrocket, putting tremendous strains on England's domestic economy. England turned to the neighboring island of Ireland for trees in the 1600's, and by 1641, Ireland was nearly completely deforested, a condition that persists to this day (by contrast, modern Japan is still 70 percent forested). England then turned to importing wood from around the Baltic Sea region to procure the type of old-growth trees needed to make ships masts. England's rulers became alarmed at the massive amount of imported wood, fearing it would lead to dependency on other countries for this essential resource - if the wood needed to build warships were not there, England would be vulnerable to invasion (the preceding century had witnessed an invasion attempt by sea from Spain). If England were cut off from those imports it would be helpless. Also, importing wood was bad for the economy - it meant that gold was leaving the country causing trade imbalances and again weakening the country's national security.

England's response was the exact opposite of Japan's - rather than closing itself off from the wider world and turning inward, England embraced the philosophy of mercantilism and turned outward, sailing to every corner of the earth in search of markets and resources. What made this possible was the discovery of the North American continent by Europeans at the end of the 1400's. During the sixteenth century from 1492 - 1600, Spain ruthlessly exploited the American continents bringing back vast resources including gold and silver, making it the richest and most powerful kingdom in Europe. In 1588, it attempted its unsuccessful invasion of England, and after that, the momentum started to shift to northern Europe, who sent out their own seafaring expeditions to the New World. In 1607 and 1614, England established its first North American settlements at Jamestown, Virginia and Bermuda. North America's virgin forests and seemingly boundless natural resources allowed economic expansion to continue at exponential rates. With its fertile soils suitable for European-style farming, mineral resources and forests full of trees, the Americas provided a release valve for overpopulation and resource shortages. Suddenly, the limits to growth were removed, as if by providence.

With its wood shortages solved, the English built a vast navy and sailed all over the face of the earth, establishing colonies wherever it could overpower the locals by force of arms. In addition to colonizing North America and Australia, the English established outposts in the West Indies, southern Africa, the Pacific Islands, southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and managed to gain political control of the entire Indian subcontinent. Where it did not rule directly it established client states, as in China and Central Asia. In this way England was literally able to exploit the resources of literally every continent except Antarctica (there was not much need for ice).

The mercantilism on which the British empire was formed was based on colonialism and a positive balance of trade - raw materials from its colonies all over the world and shipped them back to England where they were manufactured into commodities and sold back to subjects in the colonies. Britain soon overtook Spain as the most powerful nation in Europe and established a global economic empire based on resource exploitation. For example, Britain's North American colonies were forbidden to use their own natural resources in domestic industries by force of law, and tariffs were put in place to subsidize British imports and penalize domestic producers. This system caused friction with the colonialists that eventually spilled out into the Revolutionary War and the birth of the United States. The cheap resources that had once fueled the British empire now gave rise to a new empire, one that also saw the world as a boundless sea of resources waiting to be exploited. These empires laid the foundations for the infinite growth debt-based industrial system that is the central organizing principle of the global economy today.

Mercantilism was only one half of the story. Due to the high price of wood, British industries turned to burning coal instead. It has always been known that coal could be burned as fuel, but it was avoided in favor of wood because coal is so much dirtier and more noxious. It's dirtiness also made it undesirable for industries like smelting and glassmaking where it imparts impurities into the finished product. The English had little choice, however, so they began to turn to coal and burn large quantities of it. Unlike the Japanese islands, the English mainland had vast quantities of high-quality bauxite coal, making it incredibly cheap (Japan had only low-quality seams near Kyushu that were difficult to mine and far from urban centers). A unique feature of English coal is that is located near the ocean, casing the mines to constantly flood with seawater. To fix this problem, the mines had to be constantly pumped to remove the excess water. To accomplish this constant pumping action, in 1714 Newcomen and Savery built pumps powered by a steam engine burning coal. It was realized that steam engines could do more than pump mines clear of water - they could be used to transport the coal by powering ships and railroads. Other inventors like James Watt improved Newcomen's engine and put it to work in all sort of applications. Steam engines could be harnessed to the newly formed factory system that was turning out vast amounts of textiles. When a method was found to smelt iron with coal, the Industrial Revolution took off. The next century saw developments like the internal combustion engine and the harnessing of electricity, all powered by nonrenewable fossil fuels. This combination of mercantilism and industrialism forms the basis of the global economy today (combining, in essence, to form Capitalism).

The contrast with Japan could not be more striking. It is this British history that formed the philosophical cornerstone for today's global economy, and it was against this backdrop of unlimited resource extraction and utilization that our economic and social systems were developed. All of modern economic "science" from Adam Smith onward began at this time, and its world view is still colored by it today. Rather than an environment of conservation and scarcity, it saw an environment of limitless growth, debt, and ruthless exploitation of natural resources, by violence if necessary, as the natural form of economics. Economists who saw the limitations of this, such as Thomas Malthus, were dismissed and ridiculed. Japan, unable to rely on the vast resources of the rest of the world until the twentieth century, was forced to pursue an alternative strategy, one which did not rely on growth, but rather ensuring a high quality of life and using resources sustainably. Unfortunately, those ideas did not form the cornerstone of modern economics. Once Japan adopted "Western" methods of economics and factory production, it too, became an imperial power.

The world of today is far different than the world of the 1600's. The limits of England's strategy are becoming apparent. What works for a country does not work for the planet as a whole. The planet as whole is more like Japan - an island in space with limited and finite resources. The earth cannot turn to "outside exports" to solve our problems this time - Mars has no oil or trees, and it takes four years just to get there. Maybe it's time to set the English strategy aside and take another look at the Edo period as our model for how to move forward with a new set of economics and values. After all, mass industrialization and its concomitant economic growth has only been around for a couple of centuries, about the same length of time as the Edo Period. There is no guarantee it will last forever, either.

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