Miss Representation:

A lot of very important statistics are presented in this film, but I disagree with the prescription. They (seem?) to proscribe the same treatment we’ve heard: “[Oh,] we [just] need more women leaders [within the same system].” We need a better system. That’s what 99% and the arab spring are about. Watch out for Manarchists and Socialists that and “Paternalistic Libertarians” that would “help” “save” you/me/us from “hard decisions” of governance. At the same time, tea party constitutionalists offer even fewer prescriptions and creativity.

Whatever we come up with next needs flexibility and organic. Centralized power structure are always temporary. Lets deliberately strip power out of the equation and build a true permanent and resilient system.

Is anarchism more radical than socialism?


Is anarchism more radical than socialism?

Pat Stack makes the case for revolutionary Marxism rather than anarchism as ‘the way’ of bringing about a better society.

In this article, Mr. Stack argues the same tired rhetoric that a working class revolution is necessary to overthrow the state and direct society for the good of the people.

He also understood that by drawing together large numbers of workers to make profits for them, the capitalists were potentially creating their own gravedigger—a working class that could only move forward if it moved forward collectively.

Workers in the private sector are told to blame workers in the public sector, the low paid to blame those on benefits and the unemployed to blame immigrants.

A consistent minority of workers reject all such fraud.

For Marxists the key to changing the world is the ability of the class conscious minority to win over the vast majority to act in their own interests.

The problem here is that the author seems to think that a sufficient number of people will recognize themselves as working class proletariot if someone simply points it out to them. To me, this seems untrue, but I can’t guarantee it.

The other problem I have with the author’s proposition is the implication that the working class should pick the rules as we reimagine society. It’s as if the working  class’ suffering under the state and capitalism grants them insight into fairness and justice. Does this work in real life? If the kid who has been bullied is suddenly in charge, will the new order be more just?

Anarchism would offer many alternatives, generally focused on localized decision making, but it would not mandate a one-size-fits-all approach. I would offer that we need think more broadly than ‘the working class’ or any other outdated concept. Marx was brilliant, yes, and his ideas for the pattern of capitalism were dead on. But it is time to reach out to normal people. The richest 1 percent of society are the only group that have significantly benefitted from capitalism. Recent ‘tips’ in the market and our ongoing recession

Pat goes on to elaborate upon the role of the state:

While Marxists see the state as an apparatus that acts to protect the class system, anarchists tend to see it as the enemy in and of itself. This can lead to utter confusion.

The father of anarchism, French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, is most famous for stating that “all property is theft”.

But his alternative to the growing power of big capitalist firms was to look to small-scale production linked by a network of exchange of goods and services.

This view of the state leads anarchists to reject not just the capitalist state, but post-revolutionary workers’ states that would be necessary to defend the revolution against its capitalist enemies.

When it comes to questions of leadership, organisation and the state, the superficially attractive appeal of anarchism fails to provide a coherent strategy to change the world.

This closing argument resounds a bit hollow in my ears. In a modern world with all the benefits of technology, society and commerce has tended towards decentralization. In a sufficiently decentralized socio-economic system, it is my belief that we could finally start living and get of the treadmill of struggle after struggle. Institutionalizing a revolution and leaving it in place to root out enemies of the state is a terrifying world.

Maybe its idealistic of me to believe that it is possible to have a society in which I don’t need a big brother to protect me from the demons from which I just shook free. But if I have the option to choose, I know I would rather fight for a society without any oppressors as opposed to handing the keys of power over to a state that promises me it will exercise its power for the good of the people.

Finally, Pat Stack never seems to answer the question posed by his article’s title. “Is anarchism more radical than socialism?” I would offer “Yes, yes it is.” If you take the trouble to dismantle capitalism, why build a new leviathan? Let’s work together and dream up something better than the options of “status quo” or “nanny state.” Large states are either ineffective (United States) or oppressive (China) and in truth, we don’t need them.

Wake Up.

Hello America! Please stop deluding yourself that we are ever going to see economic growth on par with any growth phase since the industrial revolution. Unlimited economic growth is not possible (at least until we no longer depend on oil). Stop expecting corporations to give you a job and stop supporting them. They don’t want to pay you. They just want you to buy the shit they produce. They will be perfectly happy skimming the fat and never creating a single additional job.
The world is flattening and we need to change the paradigm. At least 9% of us are unemployed, more like 1/3 of us in our 20s. How many more of us work shitty jobs we don’t care about? The mall, fast food, selling Ipods, whatever. If it doesn’t fulfill you, find out what does and start doing it in your spare time. Gradually let your spare time take over your life and you will be happier.
Stop acting like the job-seeker in this video:

Economic “Progress”

The following graphs share some pretty interesting insights into what has been happening to our myth of progress.
Here’s a taste: The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades' gains.

Social Mobility


The BBC article asks “Is social mobility good?” It’s a striking question and we often would immediately answer “of course!” However, I think social mobility is often somewhat illusory and social mobility doesn’t necessarily make people happy.

How might people be happy and get what they want without social mobility? There’s some interesting thoughts on how utopian egalitarian societies might look, both in political theory and science fiction, often riffing on anarchist political theory. If everyone has what they need and most of what they want, they don’t need to compete for status or competitive edge. People are free to excel at the things they are best at. We can be driven by pride even when competition is no longer the primary motive. I would argue that the cooperative side of humanity is more potent force of creation than the competitive side. I’d even like to think as capitalism (an incredible system for growth & change) finds itself bound by limited natural capital, our society can begin to seriously imagine a society that is based on zero growth. Capitalism has been an amazing (although often brutal) vector for the human race, leading to many innovations in medicine and technology. However, I think it’s time for other systems to get a shot. Humanity deserves better than it is getting & social mobility seems to be increasingly difficult as profit has become an end rather than a means.

Quivira Carbon Ranch Conference

In November, I was at an awesome conference in Albuquerque, NM. The Quivira Coalition put on their 9th annual conference bringing in some really cool practitioners and scientists primarily from the realm of sustainable ranching. The conference featured philosophies of the “radical center” a group (from what I understand) primarily composed of people who study/manage natural resources. This group has grown tired of prescriptive policies made by

Here are some things I learned/developed a new understanding of:

  • The link between soil carbon & extreme precipitation: Soil carbon can mitigate flood & drought, but flood and drought can destroy soil if not handled well.
  • Tillage is only a small cause of erosion. Over/under-grazing can be a huge contributor. Impervious surfaces & roads.
  • Cool techniques for gathering and spreading water (a big deal in the Southwestern US, where headcuts seem to be swallowing thousands of hectares).
  • Erosion can build sweet spots that are ideal for grass production/cultivation.

Frankly it’s annoying: Vegetarian/Vegan Rhetoric

High and mighty claims of superiority are often annoying. There are great reasons to be vegan/vegetarian, but phrases “eco-friendly” and “earth-based” are really good at pissing me off. It’s not always easy or cheap to be a healthy vegetarian. It’s also often not much more environmentally friendly. This is not any more true for vegans than vegetarians, I believe, dairy is actually a higher carbon food than meat. Home-raised chicken eggs/meat is another story…

The article in our school newspaper that got me started: http://www.collegian.com/index.php/article/2010/10/101910_vegan

Here’s a few quick quotes: “It’s great for us to see colleges really making an effort to make earth-based diets more mainstream.”

“…a lot of students choose veganism because it promotes the humane treatment of animals, and is more eco-friendly.”

My research relates to grass-based livestock production. We study how different management techniques (and forest-grassland conversion) impact soil organic matter levels. Research is by no means clear on the carbon intensity of grass-based livestock products, but I don’t think it has to be.

Humans have evolved eating a variety of foods. People in many parts of the world have very meat-based diets. Other regions, products of land-cultivation generally were available alongside meat and dairy products. Grass-based farming is an important part of traditional agricultural systems. Grasslands build soil organic matter. They are more effective at building organic matter with moderate levels of grazing. (See, Conant, Ecological Applications, 2001: GRASSLAND MANAGEMENT AND CONVERSION INTO GRASSLAND: EFFECTS ON SOIL CARBON) This organic matter is a store of nutrients that is available to future crops years down the road when that grassland is converted into cropland. Traditional fallow/grazing/tilled rotations would usually last 10 years or more, but at least 3 years seem necessary to build any statistically significant amounts of carbon (the largest & easiest to measure component of soil organic matter).

Generally, grasses do not absolutely require animals to stay alive. Animals however, concentrate and redistribute nutrients in plant available forms. This helps plant productivity. Additionally, many crops cannot grow in places that are hilly (yes there are examples in the pacific islands, but these high intensity systems require huge amounts of man-power (sometimes called cultural energy)). Animals however can easily harvest energy by grazing grasses that grow in these areas (recall images of Alpine grassslands of the Austrian Alps, are there cows in this image?.)

I believe these are substantial reasons that animal products can be an important part of a sustainable food system. Obviously I have not talked about feedlot animal production, because there are not many good arguments that feedlot production can be part of an environmentally sustainable food system. Here I am simply addressing hardline arguments that meat/dairy are an unsustainable option, that is without question environmentally worse than veganism.

I have not discussed issues of fertilizers and nutrient pollution here, that’s probably a much bigger topic. Quickly though, I will note that grassland systems can absorb a lot of nutrients from grazers, preventing runoff downstream. The images of cattle standing in rivers pooping is another story where all that we need is some fencing, a minor challenge to sustainability compared to the other challenges we face as a society.