Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Saxon Villages of Transylvania: A Mediaeval Model for the Future Eco-Village?

I was prompted by an article in the most recent Ecologist magazine to find out more about these remnant mediaeval villages as a potential model for future farming as I see it.  All the links from the article had the inevitable "coffee-table magazine' look about them- pretty flowers, wild animals you know the sort of thing- triumph of style over substance.
Eventually I came across this report commissioned by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and published way back in 2001

It still has lovely pictures but more importantly it has diagrams, aerial views and descriptive text. The producers of the report have included the inevitable nod to "sensitive tourism" and  "appropriate integration of agricultural technology",  but then this was ten years ago before peak oil awareness and agricultural commodities were at very low prices. The need for "cash earners" was predicated upon the notion that cash is needed to provide the "mod-cons" that must be provided to discourage all the young people from deserting their communities.  I believe that ten years later with agricultural prices rising, peak oil a historical fact a billion hungry people in the world and apparently a change of heart in the E.U. that has until recently sought to destroy the remnants of "peasant farming", this mode of living could suddenly become very attractive to those who formerly might have wished (and been encouraged by politicians) to abandon it for a "better life" in the cities.

I am particularly impressed by the combination of family autonomy in the gardens and arable lands and community co-operation in the use of the common pastures and woodlands. As you will see from the village layout the houses, yards and barns are all very similiar in size indicating a self-imposed egalitarianism in these communities (remember these people were free peasants- not vassals of some feudal lord). I am sure that hundreds of years fighting off Mongol and Saracen hordes built a great sense of community solidarity.

As you know, I pretty much sit firmly in the "doomer" camp when it comes to the notion of sudden vs. gradual collapse.  I have been a long time looking for a model of what I see as a realistic and practical solution to post peak  secure and sustainable living and have found on the one hand a lot of fluffy co-operative idealists (everything is everyones responsibility so no-one does much) and individualistic fortress building survivalists on the other. Here I find inspiration- but sadly I have little confidence in our ability to act in a suitably urgent fashion. Perhaps I need to take a crash-course in Romanian language?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The TPPA is a Traitors Gambit

In reply to   Media Release: Professor Jane Kelsey . Friday, 10 December 2010

“The negotiators themselves say this is not an ordinary free trade agreement."
 “ why are they scared to release the draft text and open it to scrutiny?”

 Absolutely this is not even a free trade agreement or even a treaty in the normal sense as has been understood since the middle ages. The TPPA  promoting itself as a free trade agreement whilst shrouding itself in secrecy is essentially like a pirate ship of old flying a false flag in order to engage its intended victim by deception, that is to say  to secure a binding agreement behind the backs of the citizens of sovereign nations.

 It would not even be true to say this is about the Americans trying to pull a fast one on smaller nations. Essentially the agreement is designed to make international capital the sovereign power within nations with precedence over the elected assemblies that are presently considered to be sovereign. The incumbent leadership of the nations involved are attempting to tie the hands of future generations of elected representatives who may choose to make decisions based on their "national interest" rather than the interest of the worlds elite.

 Arguably, the financial elite see the writing on the wall for the future of their ability to dominate the worlds economic activity. As the global financial bubble deflates, as it is doing right now and will continue to do so at an accellerating pace over the next few years, future governments and communities will need to pursue initiatives of relocalisation that will severely reduce the elites ability to make profit through trade, commerce and industry. The elites plan for the future is to use their present wealth (before it deflates to nothing in the financial meltdown) to capture resources (such as land, water, minerals) and enforce intellectual property rights so as to maintain their wealth and position through "rents" (In the economic sense of the word).

 The TPPA agreement is a "traitors gambit " and should be exposed as such at every possible occasion. John Key, (through his connection to Merrell Lynch an obvious croney of the financial elite)  had to climb down over the Crafar Farms sellout and even coined the populist slogan "Tenants in our own Country", but  as usual the fuzzy glow of that climbdown will be used to blur the greater evil of this TPPA  treachery.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Future Belongs to the Adaptable.

Read this and understand what you need to do to survive the coming economic meltdown.

1- Get out of debt by any means possible.
2- Be liquid- cash or govt. short term bonds will do nicely thanks.
3- Make the effort to produce at least some of what you need for your day-to-day existence yourself.

Reposted abridged from The Automatic Earth

Stoneleigh: As our readers know, we do not provide investment advice. We do not exist to help people make money in the markets, but to help them avoid losing what they have in a deflationary crisis, at a time when almost everyone will lose a great deal. Our position is that being in cash on the sidelines is by far the safest option at this point, and where most people would be better off by far. Those who are still in the markets are playing a very dangerous game. Many of them know this perfectly well, but they can't walk away from the casino. The upside is limited, possibly very limited, and the risks are steadily increasing.

Stock market bubbles (and housing bubbles etc) are ponzi schemes. As with all ponzi schemes, only a few manage to cash out, and the majority are those who do so early. Those who do not cash out become the designated empty bag holders, but that empty bag can look awfully attractive at a market top. Trying to catch the top tick, and wring every last ounce of profit out of a collapsing system, is foolish. Most investors who play that game are likely to lose badly.

They may be convinced that they are clever and quick enough to get out before the rest, but the odds are not good. Also, the rules of the game are likely to be changed along the way, so that one would have to be both right and lucky in order to profit. For instance, shorting is likely to be banned at some point, and speculators demonized. There will be opportunities to make a killing, but many more 'opportunities' to lose your shirt.

Capital preservation is essential in a deflation, and the best way to preserve capital at this point is to be liquid. Cash constitutes uncommitted choices, and in a world of uncertainty, one needs to be flexible. There will be plenty of opportunities over the next few years (both to improve circumstances and avoid disaster) that will only be available to the few who still have the options cash provides. It isn't necessary to have a fortune. Even a small amount of cash can go a long way as deflation causes prices to fall.

Those without any cash, or the means to earn some (in what will be a very difficult earning environment), will be at the mercy of whatever the world has to throw at them. Most of us are accustomed to far more choice and self-determination than most people have had in human history, and there would be nothing harder to lose. Nothing is as addictive as freedom.

The best way to approach a major threat with attendant uncertainty is to minimize the consequences of being wrong. If people follow our suggestions then they will have reduced or eliminated debt, will have cash on hand and will have perhaps some control over the essentials of their own existence. In short they will be far more resilient in a world where many families are brittle, with little ability to weather even minor turbulence.

These measures are actually prudent under most circumstances. If one takes such steps and things do not go as badly wrong as we think they will, what is the downside? There may be some opportunity cost, but the result will not be catastrophic. Alternatively, if one does nothing to prepare, on the assumption that the situation is under control when it is not, then being wrong could easily be an unrecoverable disaster.

The rally we are living through has done nothing whatsoever to change the nature of our times. We have lived through the largest credit expansion in human history. Credit expansions create excess claims to underlying real wealth through ponzi finance. When the debt created can no longer be serviced, the bubble will implode and the excess claims will be messily extinguished. This is deflation, and it is inevitable once a bubble has developed. The aftermath of a bubble implosion is generally proportionate to the scale of the excesses that preceded it, hence we can expect the impact to be extremely severe.

Being grounded in positive feedback, deflation builds momentum relatively slowly at first, but later at an increasing pace. When credit contraction reaches a 'critical mass' it can unfold with terrifying speed, and for this reason extreme caution is warranted. It is well possible for the global banking system to seize up in a matter of hours, as it came very close to doing in September 2008. Given the scale of the threat, and how long it can take to extract oneself from an over-leveraged and highly vulnerable position, it is entirely appropriate to convey a sense of urgency. In fact it would be irresponsible of us not to do so.

We are now seeing a firmly established received wisdom that recovery is underway and that the Fed has saved the day with quantitative easing. Bullishness is at an extreme. The psychology of the market is the opposite of what it was at the March 2009 bottom. This represents a large red flag, as sentiment extremes are major indicators of approaching trend changes. It takes time for a position to be widely accepted and internalized, and the greater the extent to which that has happened, the closer one is to a reversal. I think we are close to one, but it really doesn't matter whether the top is this week, next month, or even next year. It is coming soon enough that evasive action is thoroughly warranted now.

In fact several years ago, when we first began warning people, would have been a better time to act. Those who did are now sitting comfortably liquid on the sidelines with little or (preferably) no leverage. They didn't suffer huge loses in the first phase of the credit crunch, which other less lucky people have been using this rally to recover from (and if the less lucky hang on too long they will see even larger losses once the decline resumes). The prudent early movers can sleep at night because they will not be wiped out in a bubble implosion. They may have forgone a certain amount of profit in the meantime, but they have also avoided an enormous amount of risk.

There are many actions one can take to lessen the impact of deflation for family, friends and community. The challenge is reaching enough people who are aware to be able to work together with a group rather than in isolation. The effort is absolutely worth it, as those who prepare will be very much better off in a few years time than those who do not. It can be difficult to convince others, however. It certainly strains relationships when people have widely differing views of the future, hence we work to disseminate the information people need to make informed decisions that will allow them to retain their freedom of action. The future belongs to the adaptable.

There will definitely be hard choices to be made, as we have collectively invested so much in a way of life that cannot continue, and extracting oneself from the resulting structural dependencies can be both difficult and time consuming. Trying to live with a foot in two different worlds during the transition to a more resilient life can initially mean all the work of both, without the many of the benefits of either. This is not an easy path to walk. We wish all our readers the very best of luck in walking it, and we intend to remain your traveling companions.