Sunday, December 11, 2011

MF Global

Here is a 23-min summary of the MF Global case: Capital Account of 12/08/11 from RT (first 23 minutes). What is your bank or broker doing?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whose gold bar is it?

The referenced article is a must read for all GLD holders and even for physical gold holders. Too many financial institutions perform unethical and illegal operations. MF Global brings to daylight some of the problems arising through rehypothecation in the paper and physical gold market. The article "The Gold "Rehypothecation" Unwind Begins: HSBC Sues MF Global Over Disputed Ownership Of Physical Gold" comes to the conclusion that even allocated physical gold held in customers' names by mayor financial institutions is at risk. Is it time to take the metal home?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Re-hypothecation

A new word we need to learn: re-hypothecation. Hypothecation is when a borrower pledges collateral to secure a debt. Rehypothecation, in short, means lending of property lent to one, but of whom one is not the owner. The biggest misuse of re-hypothecation might be the current MF Global scandal. Read this article to see how large and established financial institutions break the law or use loopholes to enrich themselves and have the unaware customers pick up the losses when the bets fail: MF Global and the great Wall St re-hypothecation scandal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

‘D-Day’ Near For GLD

If you own GLD or think about investing in GLD it is a smart idea to read these two articles first:


According to the author Jeff Nielson of the article, "D" can stand for "Default"-Day or "Destruction"-Day. He is wrong about the date when D-Day will occur (he suggested 11/11/11), but his warnings are food for thought nevertheless.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Our Daily Poison

The autor Marie Monique Robin of the highly acclaimed full-length documental "The World according to Monsanto" has released a new work, again a full-length documental entitled "Notre Poison quotidien" ("Our Daily Poison"). The English trailer is available here. The full version is available in French (Notre Poison quotidien), in German (Unser t├Ąglich Gift - Wenn Essen krank macht) and with Spanish subtitles (Nuestro Veneno Cotidiano). Since "The World according to Monsanto" was such an excellent piece of work and investigation, I am very much looking forward to this new documentary released in January 2011. It will be another must-see documental!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Debt Simplified

These are some numbers from the US, but one can easily replace it with numbers from Greece, Italy, Spain, Zimbabwe, ... It is pretty clear that we are not addressing the problem, we are not even grasping it. (The $38.5 trillion number budget cut figure seems to refer to the budget cut deal that averted a US government shutdown in April 2011.)  (Source)

Some stats about the US government:

  • U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000 
  • Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000 
  • New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000 
  • National debt: $14,271,000,000,000 
  • Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000 


Now, remove 8 zeroes and pretend it’s a household budget:

  • Annual family income: $21,700 
  • Money the family spent: $38,200 
  • New debt on the credit card: $16,500 
  • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710 
  • Total budget cuts: $385
Any questions?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Energy Conservation

I just stumbled across this link on energy conservation. It is a very long list on energy conservation ideas, simple actions and DIY projects for your home. It has a lot of information on a single page. There is something here for everyone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Going in Circles

When do you think the following text was written?

Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with surprise moves.
The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.



Why are the people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.
Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.



It was written some 2400 years ago by Lao Tse in his book Tao Te Ching. The two segments of text were taken from chapter 57 and 75. As we see history constantly repeats itself.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Earthships

Earthships are a form of sustainable housing construction pioneered by Michael Reynolds, primarily using earth-filled used tires, old glass and water bottles as construction material. This 90-min documentary entitled Garbage Warrior outlines his personal story and shows some marvellous examples of earthships in New Mexico. It is amazing to see his vision in the houses he built more than 30 years ago.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

We are celebrating the 1st month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am impressed. I think it is great that they don't have a list of demands, no list of claims or a single slogan yet. It needs talking, discussing and listening to derive a movement direction in a true participative democratic way. It is great to see them open, inclusive rather than exclusive, restrained rather than impulsive, local yet distributed. In Taoist style their non-action is the best action, the most convincing and moving action.

In "This Rebellion will not Stop" they write: "We have not come to work within the system. We are not pleading with the Congress for electoral reform. We know electoral politics is a farce. We have found another way to be heard and exercise power. We have no faith in the political system or the two major political parties. And we know the corporate press will not amplify our voices which is why we have a press of our own. We know the economy serves the oligarchs. We know that to survive this protest we will have to build non-hierarchical communal systems that care for everyone." So true, Occupy Wall Street must seek sustainable and auto-sufficient paths in order to survive. I certainly feel they understand the problem and the depth thereof. The problems are so profound that there is no single slogan that can express it, no single action that can fix it, no single body that can address it.

Plenty of reasons to get informed about, follow and support the Occupy Wall Street movement around the globe. Here are some starting points:

Follow the Occupation:
But the Occupation must be careful. Some of its methods have been criticized, especially the people's microphone. The biggest thread is being high-jacked. It has happened since the start and the high-jacking attempts will only intensify as the visibility of the Occupation increases. Politicians, CIA, CEOs, etc. all are waiting in line to influence and use the Occupation for its own purposes. Read OWS: Are Mindless Americans Falling Prey to the Collectivist Trap? to get an alternative viewpoint. "To avoid the collectivist trap, participants in OWS events must first learn to read between the lines, or they may unwittingly become party to something completely different to what they thought they had signed up for in the first place." Be watchful, be critical!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gold has Changed

The article "Gold bugs beware - The Gold bubble is finally bursting" in the Financial Times argues that the gold bubble is about to burst. I would agree that gold is in a bubble phase, but I see it as a lesser evil than other forms of investment and wealth protection. What the article does bring to ones attention is that gold today is not what gold was a decade ago. Gold has changed a lot due to the creation of popular ETFs such as GLD. Now gold has become an electronic digit on the computer, it can be bought, sold, repackaged, options taken with the click of the mouse or the stroke of a key. It has turned gold into a speculation. Even those of us who dislike the idea of speculation have to live with this new fact. The burdensome and limiting process of a physical object has become a 0 or 1 sent through the Internet at the speed of electrons. Now its here, now its not. It is bought and sold like any other share thousands of times a day when its value moves a cent up or a cent down. With this in mind we can forget anything we know about gold and forget all the lessons learned from gold in the past. Gold isn't gold anymore. Gold is riskier than ever before and it might bring to light many unexpected surprises. Still what is one going to chose for one's personal pension or long-term nest-egg: dollars, Euros, government bonds, oil, real estate, silver or gold? One option looks worse than the other. The least frightening option might still be precious metals.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Economics of Happiness

Helena Norberg-Hodge produced another documentary. This full-length documentary is entitled "The Economics of Happiness". Another maybe even more appropriate title for this film might have been "How to achieve sustainability through localization". The film talks a lot about globalization, what it has brought us and where it failed. It recommends localization to achieve sustainability and more personal happiness. In the USA happiness peaked in 1956, every years since then the percentage of Americans that considers themselves as happy declined. We are clearly not on the right track. Helena Norberg-Hodge also brings some of her experience from Ladakh and from her previous documentary Ancient Futures into this film. Anyone who wants to be happy should watch the film.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Crisis and Crisis

We are all informed about the financial crisis that we are in. The news outlets are full of this topic. We easily forget that this is not the only crisis we are in. We have to put this financial crisis into perspective. It will make us poorer, but we will not die due to it.

The planet is also in a hunger crisis. Right now 925 million people suffer hunger. See the hunger statistics here, most data is from the United Nations. More than 5 million people die each year of hunger. According to UNICEF, nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people.

We should be aware of this and not forget one crisis due to the other. And then there are peak oil, the environmental crisis, social crisis, ... Despite all of this we have plenty of reasons to be happy and appreciative of what we have.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

US worse than Greece

That the US is more in debt than Greece is nothing new, but it rarely makes it into CNN. Also, because of its size and power the destiny of the US and Greece will not be the same. Greece will be torn into shreds while the US has several options not available to Greece due to its dominance of the Dollar currency, the military strength, and political/military control over the oil supply.

The article suggest a new tax plan for the US eliminating the personal and corporate income tax and basing everything on a 17.5% sales tax. The Purple Plans are 5 plans out of which one is the The Purple Tax Plan. The name purple is used as a middle ground for red (Republicans) and blue (Democrats).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gold Mining nationalized in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez nationalized the mining of gold in Venezuela. Private mining becomes illegal. Why? Apparently many poor mine in the rainforest causing income/tax loss to the government while destroying the environment. Read here. At the same time he announced that Venezuela will bring home $11 billion in gold bullion currently held in vaults in various oversea banks such as JP Morgan. Now that is an interesting move. Is the gold market becoming illiquid? Will this cause a run on physical gold? It is easier to control at home in the National Bank of Venezuela than abroad. It could be a safeguard to avoid having it confiscated by other nations or being blackmailed through political sanctions. Either way it seems a smart move. Or it could be a requirement by China, Russia or Brazil to have the gold bullion at home as a security or guarantee for the loans of $30+ billions received from these 3 countries over the last couple of years. Here are some more thoughts on the Why.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Political Philosophy

I started reading the Tao Te Ching, the booklet attributed to Laozi. While reading through this scripture, the foundation of Taoism, I realized the link to today's libertarian political movement. The Tao Te Ching holds clues to how a country should be governed. Vincent Shen writes in the Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy on pp. 359 (Section Laotzi):

Laozi’s political philosophy concerns mostly the art of governing, which, for him, should refer to the dao, follow the dao, and unfold the de of all people and all things. An ideal state is, negatively, a state with no political domination and, positively, a place where people and things can spontaneously unfold their own virtue. The unfolding of the creative abilities or sponta- neous virtues of the people is therefore the greatest wealth of a state. In order to attain this, the ruler should adopt a politics of nonaction (wuwei). This does not mean ruling without any action; rather, it means ruling according to the dao—that is, no particular action or no action of particular interest but universal action, acting for all things; no artificial action but spontaneous action. The politics of nonaction is a politics of nonintervention.

Isn't there a clear correlation? As we know all things are connected. All ideas are recycled and built upon. Often without knowing it we base our thoughts on century old ideas.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gold vs. Oil

Both resources oil and gold are interesting from an investment perspective. Both are natural resources and interesting options in times of change. Oil took quite a nose dive over the last weeks and gold is up by 30% YTD. Why is that? The answer nobody can know for sure but there are certainly many factors ranging from economic growth, economic forecasts, resource discoveries, exploration costs, speculation, global stability, wars to political signals. Here is an interesting up-to-date chart comparing oil to gold. On the chart one can quickly see that the oil to gold ratio has doubled ion just one year (2008 to 2009) and is overall quite volatile.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

GMO losing Effect

Monsanto's genetically modified corn no longer protects against pests. The corn bug has become resistant against the GMO plant. This is one of the first proven cases that biotech GMOs lead to superbugs and superweeds.

Instead of rethinking the issue Monsanto and other companies only take it a step further. Monsanto and Syngenta are now researching how to use a medical breakthrough called RNA interference to, among other things, make crops deadly for insects to eat. If this works, a bug munching on such a plant could ingest genetic code that turns off one of its essential genes. I guess they are creating super GMO leading to a super-super bug in the following phase.

Read the Wall Street Journal article here or here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gold as Safe Haven?

While the article "'Safe Haven' Assets Start to Look Risky" does not have a lot of facts and hard data it gives some common sense perspectives on safe haven investments in current times. It does a light comparison of gold, Swiss Francs and government treasury notes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Eden

The documentary film entitled "Back to Eden" about permaculture in Washington was just released and is available at the Back-to-Eden website. Over decades Paul Gautschi has used and evolved an approach focusing on mulching with newspaper and wood chips. He has great success with this. Visit his site or read this summarizing article.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Doomsday Preppers

Preparing for the uncertain future might become popular. There is already a small percentage of people doing it today to one degree or another. My personal guess would be that some 5% of the population have consciously done some thinking and performed some actions in order to prepare for a period without electricity, scarce water sources, food shortages, civil unrest, and so forth.

Today I stumbled across a National Geographic TV show that might make "prepping" into a fashionable, socially accepted and respected activity. This is an exaggeration, but it will remove some ill stigma from preppers. The TV series is an easy-viewing show called "Doomsday Preppers". Some episodes or snippets from Doomsday Preppers can be found here. They give some ideas and examples of what can be achieved such as a wood-powered car or an old swimming pool converted into a sustainable ecosystem with a thousand fish.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Urgent Warning

This 5-min video appropriately summarizes the state we are in and the direction we should be roughly heading for. Have a look at Ron Paul's urgent warning.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Visualization of US Debt

This is the best graphical and visual representation of 1 million dollar, one billion dollars, 1 trillion dollars and the US debt. Have a look at these images to get an idea of the size of the US debt. No doubt, one picture says more than a thousand words.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stop Spending for a Year

Here is a family that decide not to buy anything (except food) for a year. What a project! A whole family unit working together to execute this plan. It made them happier, more free and social. Imagine it for yourself. More freedom through less buying. Have a look at this video.

Monday, July 4, 2011

ECB and Trust

The European Wall Street Journal published this on July 4, 2011:

Some of the European Central Bank's (ECB) notable policy shifts.

  • Jan 2010: ECB President Jean Claude Trichet said that the ECB wouldn't change its collateral rules for the sake of any particular country. In May 2010 it suspends these rules for Greek government bonds.

  • Mar 2010: Mr. Trichet said it wouldn't be appropriate for the IMF to supply assistance for Greece. The IMF later became a a major part of the Greek rescue operation.

  • May 2010: Mr. Trichet said the ECB in its monthly meeting did not discuss whether to buy Greek bonds. Four days later the ECB anounced it would purchase Greek bonds.


It is always the same story. The politicians and political institutions that should stabilize a country change their opinion on a whim and worse, they deny and hide truths up to the moment when it explodes. The WSJ picked the ECB in this example. But I also vividly remember when on a given Friday all Irish politicians denied any rumors of any bankruptcy or collapse, claiming everything is fine, just to announce the following day or the Sunday that the banking system has failed and that they already brokered a deal with the ECB and IMF for a bail out package! How can one play the game if the rules keep changing all the time?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Food Safety

A friend emailed me this link to an article on Mises.org entitled "Restoring the Honor of the Spanish Cucumber". It is a fascinating article how things tend to spiral out of control. It is the story of how a single farmer influenced the food supply of several hundred millions of people, how the situation created by the farmer was misused by the politicians to create new policies in a matter of days, how it allowed politicians to break the rules with nobody complaining, how one country created a special food police in a matter of days, how thousands of people lost their job due to the hype, and how in the end -- as always -- the action of the politicians created a burden of several hundred millions of Euros to the (mostly) European taxpayers. This story shows how everything is intertwined, food, politics, and finance. It is a story of how fast things can collapse in a crisis and how out of proportion "news" can be reported in our times. Nationalistic behavior and propaganda was shown clearly in this incident. Sadly there are real losers in this story as well: the people who died eating contaminated food, their relatives and friends who lost a loved one, the farmers and pickers in many European countries who lost their job, and all the tax payers who have to pay the price to clean up the mess. This case shows the dark side of globalization and centralization.

It seems to be a lot safer and better to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and buy a weekly food basket from the local farmer that you know and trust.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greece

Today is a special day. The Greek government is deciding on whether to accept the austerity conditions demanded by the ECB (European Central Bank) and IMF for receiving the next slice of the bailout credit. I am fortunate to be in Greece and see and "feel" the situation in person. General strikes have been called for yesterday and today. In one city and one town I have seen permanent tent cities in public squares to protest. These tent cities are similar to the ones found in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain. There, in Spanish, the protesters are called "Los Indignados", the indignants, the angry ones. These groups across various European countries have united under the motto "Direct Democracy Now" or "Real Democracy Now". The site of the Greek branch of this European wide movement is www.real-democracy.gr/en.

Graffiti is on the walls in many places and flyers posted on many shop windows. They are expressing the feelings of the average people of the street. Where I have been the general strike was a partial one. I had no problem with the public transport and many shops, if not most, were open. One store used the term "Crisis Prices" instead of "Sales" to attract customers. A Greek friend commented that his salary was lowered 20% and that the politicians are discussing to lower it by 20% for a second time. Gas prices have gone from €0.80 to €1.75, i.e. they have more than doubled in a single year. To be truthful I have to say that I was nervous about the decision of the Greek government. I favored a rejection of the credit conditions, but that in turn could be the trigger to a domino effect across nations and economies.

A Greek friend expressed his view as follows. He sees this as a giant battle between banks and governments. Not only on a Greek scale, but on a global scale. In my mind a picture emerged like a Greek tragedy with elements from the Greek mythology; in my head a picture of two snakes formed, one representing a few elite world bankers, the other snake representing the world's governments. He continued to explain that he sees it as a fight between financial power and the political system. Furthermore he sees it as a sort of pilot project. If the banks win over democracy then they will take the Greek case study and rubber stamp it on other nations worldwide. He sees it as a reference case that will be repeated and replicated in the near future in other countries.

At the end of the day the Greek government accepted the bailout conditions and in my friend's view the political system gave in to the financial powers. My friend was disappointed with the decision. The political system and the Greek people are no more than slaves to the banking system. With the acceptance of the credit slice the problem is not averted, and certainly not solved. Everybody knows that it is just delayed by exactly 3 months until September when the next credit payment is due. So, the whole Greek tragedy will repeat itself shortly. Each time it will be worse. The only question I have is: How often will it repeat itself?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Artificial Photo Synthesis

MIT professor Daniel G. Nocera has researched artificial photo synthesis and already 2 years ago presented his approach as a highly distributed and highly personalized solution to the world's energy problem. In short, he wants to replace power stations of all kinds with small inexpensive photo synthesis solutions installed in your home. Here are his talks given 2 years ago: Dan Nocera: Personalized Energy (22min) and Personalized Energy for 1 (x 6 Billion): A Solution to the Global Energy Challenge (78min). The idea itself is not new, already in 1912 (no type here) -- 100 years ago -- it was suggested as a solution to our energy needs.

I am not expert enough to qualify his research, but his speech and vision are impressive. It promises democratic and clean energy, auto-sufficiency, individual independence, risk avoidance, pollution avoidance and sustainability. With such promises it is certainly worth investment, but it frightens the establishment as it would be the end of the day of utility companies and remove our energy dependency.

D. Nocera now works with the Indian Tata conglomerate to bring the research into the commercial market. There is hope after all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gold Purchases

Who is buying gold? The latest data of state gold purchases and sales have been published by the World Gold Council. This data shows the following countries as leading gold purchasers over the last 10 years:

  • China: some 550 tonnes
  • Russia: some 420 tonnes
  • India: some 200 tonnes
  • Mexico: some 100 tonnes

It is interesting to see that there is no European country, not a single one, that has purchased any significant (5 tonnes or more) amount of gold at any point in time. The US hasn't bought any gold either. India and Mexico have been single one-time purchases. China and Russia are continuously buying mid-sized amounts year by year. Europe as a whole has sold around 3,000 tonnes of gold over the last decade.

Saudi Arabia is listed with a one-time 180 tonnes entry, but as far as I can tell this is not a real purchase but a paper adjustment.

It is a telling sign that the US and EU are not purchasing any gold with respect to any future currency decisions the politicians/banks of these countries will make.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bitcoin Hacked

Amazing. The dollar is crashing. The Euro is crashing. And now also the Bitcoin is crashing. But the crashes are for different reasons, and the causes the resulted in the Bitcoin crash are easier to fix. Read this article on the events of this month in Bitcoins entitled "Inside the Mega-Hack of Bitcoin: The Inside Story".

What we learn from these events are:
  • Bitcoin like any other currency is affected by human emotions and speculations. It goes up and down. Its value rises or drops on rumors, politic events and so forth. To this degree the currency does not reflect value but perceptions. Nothing new about this but the drastic rise in value over the last weeks and the following drop has demonstrated it.
  • Bitcoin as a currency is still very young and not yet mature. The key issue currently is that some 90% of all exchange operations are traded on a single exchange. The currency is distributed by design, but currently its exchange is nearly centralized through this near-monopoly of the exchange named Mt. Gox. More companies must come forward and build exchanges so we have a more decentralized and less monopolized exchange infrastructure. This heavily used exchange Mt. Gox was compromised and user login, password and wallet data stolen, misused and later published openly. This is equivalent to a master heist in which a major bank is hacked, online bank account data such as account numbers, user names, and passwords stolen to be used later to login and transfer money. Clearly the exchange Mt. Gox is to blame. They had a poor security set-up.

Let's give it some more time to mature.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beyond Greece

The New York Times as well as the National Herald posted an article entitled "It's Not About Greece Anymore". The content of this article is not surprising and nothing new. The article identifies the fears of the European politicians to let Greece go into bankruptcy as it might cause a bank run in similarly positioned countries like Spain, Portugal, etc. In short, afraid of a melt-down of the European currency or the European Union (several nations have threatened to revert back to their own independent currencies) EU politicians are willing to do about anything to rescue Greece. As always politicians are trying to save their own hide more than anything else and any solution for Greece is only a temporary one.

The article goes on with the authors' suggestion that the Euro must be devalued drastically and then a dramatic political change must take place in order to survive.

What is surprising is the frankness of the article and that it was published in the NYT and National Herald. The writing is not just on the wall. It is in plain view, published by major mainstream newspapers.

Both US and Europe have overspent, gone into massive debts, and despite the crisis since 2008 nobody wants to face the music. We don't want to see and we pretend not to see the root causes and all we do is apply patchwork fixes here and there, billion dollar band aids that will fall off anytime we shake ourselves. What we need is radio and chemotherapy to get rid of the cancer of our times: the bankers and the politicians they have bought.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The End of Money

Franz Hoermann is a professor at the university of economics in Vienna, Austria. Recently he published a book entitled "Das Ende des Geldes". The book is in German and so is most of the available information about Hoermann. There is a good summary TV interview (16 min) he gave after the documentary presentation of "Zeitgeist - Moving Forward".

The title of his book is frequently translated as "The End of Money" or "The Death of Money". He presents some off-the-beaten path ideas of how to eliminate money and suggests a substitute solution that is more just and socially fair. His replacement for money is a new innovative social accounting system based on "units" rewarded for actions valued by society. Each individual receives a base "income" to which he adds more income received for the productive actions he performs. The received units are stored on a credit card like card and can be spent in any store, gifted, traded, etc.

Here is an English translation of an interview given to the Austrian newspaper Der Standard. This article covers several items mentioned in the TV interview. He briefly comments on his view of an unconditional basic income for everyone. Growth and full employment pressures are removed in his proposed system. People have more spare time and more freedom to decide on what they want to work on. This part is similar to concepts presented in the Zeitgeist documentary series.

The Thdrussell blog offers this article which talks about Hoermann's view of money and the currently used double entry accounting system. This article does not go into the suggested money replacement.

On the KeimForm blog is an article with 3 critical comments on the TV interview given after the Zeitgeist presentation.

Here is a 19-page paper of his entitled "Premises and Promises" in which he outlines how he wants to convert today's zero-sum economic "game" into a more cooperative system where everybody can win.

The Guardian points out that -- according to Hoermann -- money is rewarded with money. We don't reward accomplishment in our system, we reward property. The economists Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger proved that modern money – worldwide – is not backed by value. Rather, whenever money is created an equal debt is created with it. The systemic problem arises out of the fact that the debt is loaned at interest. The money for this interest is not created. The money for the interest doesn't exist at all. Hoermann's suggested solution eliminates interest completely and creates a solution that rewards actions rather than possessions (as is the case in today's monetary system).

There are several good ideas in his work. The unjust money creation process has been outlined many times before (e.g. The Money Masters). Money as debt and the impossibility to repay the interest is a well understood theme (e.g. Money as Debt). Money should not be rewarded with money. The rat race is equally absurd. We cannot and we should not achieve full employment. We do not need full employment in today's world. As a joke I saw a graffiti that says "We do not lack money, we just have too many thieves". It is so true, we have enough resources, we just spend them unwisely. The thieves are the bankers and politicians. Given our resources we could all live well without putting in so many hours of inefficient and unproductive work. A basic income as suggested brings many advantages, more so than disadvantages. It removes pressures, crime, oppression, not to mention stress and illnesses. No, his plan is not perfect. No system seems to be ever perfect. But we can cherry-pick. There certainly seems to be less evil and risk in his approach than in today's twisted money game controlled by a few bankers.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Worst Emissions Ever

Mankind is not heading in the right direction. The Guardian published an article entitled "Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink". The article starts with "Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach". The recession has not helped either in reducing emissions. Kyoto, G8 meetings, political campaign promises, ... as one can see it is all just hot air, or shall I say "hot CO2 emissions".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Inside Job

Inside Job is an extremely well made documentary from 2010 that won a series of awards for its content and quality. Interviews with the director Charles Ferguson are on YouTube. It explained the crisis that started showing its effects in 2008 exceptionally well. I loved how the documentary film started, the very first 30 seconds. "Iceland. Population 320,000 inhabitants. GDP $13 billion. Bank losses $100 billion." That first glimpse into the crisis explained it all too well. These 4 partial sentences drove the point home. It made us grasp the issue in a few seconds. 3 tiny local banks borrowed 120 billion dollars. 10 times the size of Iceland's economy. The accounting firm KPMG audited the banks and found nothing wrong. International rating agencies gave them a AAA credit rating. But that all changed in literally an instant. The house of cards collapsed. The full movie can also be found here. Watch it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hybris

I am in a phase of pondering human attributes. I was thinking about greed recently. Another personality trait that I am mulling over is 'hybris' or 'hubris'. Often they seem to go together. Megalomaniacs usually think they can't fail and they are greedy beyond measures while believing they alone deserve it all.

Hybris is especially misplaced in areas that deal with the environment and nature. We think we understand it all. We believe our science explains it all. We mess with nature (pesticides, biocides, gene manipulation, nuclear power plants) and we think we can't fail. We should be more humble and understand that there are risks. And often these are risks that are not worth taking. Nuclear power is a good example. Sure it works. But it is more expensive than we are made to believe. We do not understand it all. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl resulted because we did not think of a certain chain of events. And while the crisis was ongoing operators at the plants did not understand the why nor know how to respond or react. It is not worth the risk knowing that there are lower risk alternative energy sources. The same for GM food. It is hubris to think we understand all effects of the production and consumption of GM food over large periods of time. Decades ago we thought we understood it all when we sprayed DDT on wide areas just to ban it later. The list goes on and on. Things we thought we knew, things we thought are explained with our science, just turned out to be different just a few years later.

We must be more humble. Maybe we should read more books from Fukuoka. In his The One-Straw Revolution but also in his other books he speaks about his world view that is based on the idea that we know nothing, that science is too specialized, too focused, too much operating in isolated silos to be able to give us true knowledge. From that he concludes that nature does things better than we can and that by doing less, we harm less and eventually obtain better results.

Naomi Klein gave a talk at TED entitled "Addicted to Risk" arguing for a cautious approach to serious issues such as energy production or global climate control. In her talk she says that Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP, had a plaque on his desk engraved with the following inspirational slogan: “If you knew you could not fail, what would you try?” As we know attitudes like this lead to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The video is here. The text is here. A typical hybris attitude and result.

There are limits to everything. The world's energy, our science, our knowledge, our abilities and our wisdom. Let's start with ourselves, let's be humble and teach humbleness to our kids.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Greed

I often think about greed. What does it mean? Is it learned? Is it conditioned? Is it in our genes? Is it a survival instinct? What role did it play if any in the evolution of mankind? Where does it come from? What are the consequences and direct or indirect effects?

I see it as one of the causes of many social problems and a stumbling block for increased cooperation. Religions even consider it a sin. In the 21st century the social perception of greed does not seem to be very negative. Many of us have some of it in us, I certainly do have my share of it as well.

I was not aware of it, but by chance I stumbled across the US TV series "American Greed". One can watch some episodes here. Wow, I was astonished. The show is scary and entertaining at the same time. What lovely case studies of greed and human behavior surrounding greed. It was not surprising to see that most of the "case studies" shown on American Greed were people that were admired, filling cover pages in magazines and newspapers, awarded with business, social and even philanthropic awards, in shorted respected citizens. They rubbed shoulders with US presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs, and Hollywood stars. Newsweek and Time Magazine presented them to us as role models, people to look up to and imitate, in short our heroes. And usually their fall was rapid, from high flying stardom to fall or prison often in a matter of days or a couple of weeks. Whenever I see an episode or read some similar story in the newspapers I have to think of Enron and WorldCom.

I have no answer to greed, but I do know that enough is enough. How many houses and palaces does one need? How many yachts can one use? How many Bentley's can one drive? For many of us, the term 'greed' should be food for thought and lead to some personal changes.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Resource Economy vs. Freedom

Freedom Force International makes an analysis of the Zeitgeist movies. This analysis boils down to identifying the resource based economy suggested by the Zeitgeist movement as a collective or communist system that is in contrast to the individual freedom. It sees two opposing forces that cannot be unified: resource based economy and freedom. As Freedom Force International is a strict defender of freedom it rejects the Zeitgeist approach.

I am bit like Dustin who wrote a comment on the analysis. I like both freedom and the Zeitgeist vision. Dustin chose the title "The profit motive has to go" (source). The freedom concept is easy to understand. Most people like freedom. Most freedom and libertarian definitions include a phrase like "I have a right to protect myself from harm" (source). The difficult part is being able to see and agree on what actions harm others. My freedom ends where the freedom of the other begins. In order to preserve freedom one must not harm others. In today's world:

  • What happens to the individual who pollutes the air? It could be the neighbor with his lawn mower or a corporation like Shell burning off millions of tons of gases in places like Nigeria.
  • What happens to the individual who pollutes the water? It could be the neighbor who throws a plastic bag into the ocean or a corporation like BP who spills millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.
  • What happens to nuclear reactors? There are clearly risks and many people get harmed (Tokio kids drinking tab water). What happens to the corporations that build and run them?
  • What happens to the corporation who genetically pollute? What happens to genetically modified seeds of corn, soy, wheat, etc. that spread out of control? I have the right not to buy GM food. Fine. But the problem is that GM seeds are carried by wind, birds, trucks, and many other means from place to place and after more than a decade of use of GM seeds, GM seeds show up where one does not suspect them. Ecological farmers have found them on the land. GM corn seeds have been found in far away and insulated valleys in Mexico. Organic food is polluted and tainted by GM crops. Who protects the organic farmer and the consumer of their products from harm?

In the definition of freedom Freedom Force Intl says "one of the primary functions of a just state is to protect each individual from the greed and passion of the majority". I feel that today the vast majority of people needs protection from a few greedy individuals/corporations. Millions get exploited and live in unhealthy conditions exclusively because of the greed of a few driven by the insatiable profit and hoarding motive. Billions of people are being harmed by polluted water, by polluted soil, and by polluted air. This includes all the "developed" world countries like the US and Europe. Just to give an example: We all have plastic molecules in our blood. Pesticides are found in the breast milk in many countries around the globe.

Where is my freedom on all these issues? How do I protect myself from being harmed in respect to these issues?

I believe that many corporations in today's government controlled society have far too many "freedoms". Their "freedom" infringes on my individual freedoms and harms me. Deep sea oil exploration, nuclear energy and GM food all have one thing in common: They carry a very high risk, an unnecessary risk as their output can be achieved through safer means (e.g. energy savings, reduced energy consumption, alternative energy sources, conventional or organic food). They have done and will do harm to people and hence violate personal freedoms. Why are these projects being implemented then? I'd say because of the profit thinking. They exist because of the greed of a few and for the profit of a few.

I see some common ground between freedom and the resource-based economy. I can use both to justify the elimination of pollution (air, water, soil, food, ...). I also see that both "ideologies" are basing themselves on equality. One of the three commandments of freedom is "equality under law" (source). The basic promise of communism (including the Zeitgeist Movement) is equality. Often I feel that special interest groups (governments, corporations) have more rights than I. Both, the implementation of true freedom as well as the resource based economy would eliminate (or at least try to eliminate) these special interest groups.

The governments would look quite differently according to the two systems. The freedom movement would reduce the government to a minimum, to only the freedom-protection functions. The Zeitgeist movement would on one hand reduce government, but on the other hand take on new massive roles like resource management and resource distribution.

Ownership also plays a big role. Who is the owner of what? Zeitgeist takes a communist approach. We are one world, one planet, one people, we should use the resources for the good of all, for the good of the common. The freedom movement also talks clearly about ownership and property. But what happens to the resources. Oil created through millenniums is found under the ground of some country whose existence is defined by some lines drawn on a map. That country might only exist for a few decades as political borders have changed frequently in the last century. Does that make the government of this country owner of the oil? I am not so sure. What about an underground lake of oil that stretched into two bordering countries? Who is the owner of the oil? The country who pumps it faster? Who is the owner of the rain water? The owner of the wind? Clouds form over the ocean. The oil was in existence way before countries were created and populated. So, who's the owner? Doesn't it make sense that we are all the owners? Shouldn't we strive for a common solution and a common use?

But what is the bottom line? What's better? Freedom or a resource-based economy? Can we have both? Are they mutually exclusive? I believe that in a complete implementation both movements are incompatible and mutually exclusive. In a society where freedom overrides everything we will not be able to build a resource based economy. The same on the other side. In a society where the common good of the resource based economy overrides everything we will not find full individual freedom. There are some common grounds between these two though as I have indicated above. Both also share some objectives. Both systems want to eliminate the current control held over us by financial institutions, corrupt governments, and industrial exploitation of people around the globe. Since we cannot have both, shall we look for a compromise? But the core values of both movements are unshakable and hence uncompromisable. Sounds like a compromise is out of the question, at least for the hard core defenders of these two "ideologies".

On an emotional level, I feel that the profit thinking often (but not always) goes against the good of the common. I feel that we should seek and would benefit immensely from common solutions. I am also a believer in freedom and choices. Yet, I wonder if in a purely freedom-based system we wouldn't come to a grinding and halting deadlock. Nearly any action we perform does harm to someone. At least in today's world. If you drive a car who harm someone due to air pollution or noise. Nearly all manufacturing processes pollute either air, water or soil. Certainly all agroindustry today pollutes soil and food and thereby harms people and generations to come. In short, all production (energy, food, consumer goods) and all distribution do some harm to someone. In a pure extreme freedom system they would all have to be outlawed. They would all have to be pollution free. Who defines pollution free? How about noise pollution, light pollution, visual impacts and so forth? Oversimplified, when one builds a nuclear facility across the road from my home, it harms me and (according to the freedom laws) I should be able to defend myself from these harms and the governments role should be to defend me as an individual. How does the freedom system avoid this complete system shut down because everything does some harm to someone? I don't know. In reality, countries then used the excuse "for the common good" to allow certain polluting corporations, violating the freedom rules.

The resource based economy would take away our freedom. And the freedom system would shut most of current infrastructure and production facilities down. We are in a dilemma. Neither system is perfect, both systems have their problems. Maybe a compromise is still in order? We use a little bit of this and a little bit of that? Or maybe we implement both systems in parallel and give the people the choice. Do you want to join a) the freedom system or b) the resource-based economy? Of course, the compromise as well as the parallel implementation of both lead to new problems and even more questions. More thinking is needed. Certainly for me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

12 Countries to Go Belly-Up

AdvisorAnalyst.com has released a ranking of the countries most likely to go belly up according to financial risk. Here is the article. Fascinating reading.

Here are the top 12:
  • Italy (1)
  • Belgium (2)
  • France (3)
  • Sweden (4)
  • Germany (5)
  • Hungary (6)
  • Denmark (7)
  • Austria (8)
  • Japan (9)
  • United Kingdom (10)
  • Finland (11)
  • Greece (12)
Notably Spain and Portugal, the PIIGS countries, are not in the Top 12, while Germany - the strongest European motor - is.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Food Prices

About 2 years ago I realized that food has to take a more central role in our life. Certainly I placed food close to the center of my thoughts. Very slowly - at the pace of a turtle - I am taking mini-steps to deal with this. The key reasons for putting more focus and emphasis on food is the continuing erosion of quality of food in the market. Every year, food products are more industrial, more artificial, more polluted, more genetically modified, less transparent in respect to their ingredient list, and so forth. That boils down that we need higher quality food with better nutrition for a better health. Secondly, food has to move more into our focus due to quantitative problems and distribution problems that are foreshadowed. That means we need more local food and more self-grown food. Peak oil will let food production cost rise drastically. Last year food cost has risen 30%. Imagine in a year with little official inflation, food prices have soared. See this article entitled "Will increasing food prices lead to more revolution?". Rich people like us in the "developed" world spend a small percentage on food, and we did not notice the 30% increase. But poor people that spend 50% of the income on food have painfully and instantly noticed.

Peak oil will not only cause food production (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to become more expensive, but also transport costs will increase drastically. Add to that issues like peak phosphorus, peak water, peak arable land, etc. The good way out or at least a form of insurance policy to this upcoming storm is to engage in a more local food economy. In short, it seems to be a good idea to make friends with local farmers, know where to buy fruits or eggs. Join a local food basket service. And lastly, we must grow a little bit of our own food. I took some courses on gardening and food conservation. I always sharpen my ears when I meet people who grow their own food. This year I will also start with a tiny 2 square yard vegetable garden. These are all tiny baby steps. With a 2 square yard garden I will not be able to produce any noticeable amount of food for my family. It will literally be a drop in the bucket. It might be 1% of our family food consumption. Still, 1% is 1%. I also have to look into the future. I will learn a skill, i.e. farming. Maybe next year I can do 2%. Anyhow, it is crystal clear to me that local food supply and home grown food are essential to a sane life style. I recommend container gardening and square foot gardening to everyone. I hope to see green roof tops and back yards that replace lawns with veggie beds in the near future. I would not mind seeing a certain amount of the Cuba-approach around here.

Not everyone will agree with me. Have a look at this OilDrum articles entitled "The Fallacy of Reversibility" that argues that in the future due to peak oil there will be even more industrial, even larger-scale agrobusiness. One can join this opinion or not, but even if we follow this argument, it is clear that the final cost of this even more industrial, even larger agro-business will be carried by the consumer. In short, even in this scenario, or better said, especially in this scenario, the food prices will go up.

Food is so close to the human heart and soul, there are many things we can live without, but food is not one of them. Instead of outsourcing it to others (agro-business, big chain supermarkets) we should keep this core skill within our family or at least within our community. And on top of that we should mentally prepare for further price hikes,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Collapse

I just watched the full-length 2009 documentary "Collapse". The film is in its entirety an interview of whistleblower Michael Ruppert. The line I liked best is: Von Clausewitz said that war is a continuation of politics by other means. [Michael Ruppert adds that] Politics is a continuation of economics by other means. [at 0:35:00] At the very end Michael Ruppert reaches the spiritual and philosophical conclusion that can be summarized with the belief that the love of money is the root of all evil. The love of money has the potential to exterminate, to render extinct, the entire human race. [at 1:10:00] This is inline with Zeitgeist 3 which wants to create a new humankind, a new society, without money.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Slow Money

NextWorldTv just publishes this article. Just like the "Slow Food" movement suggests a slow, but conscious engagement and consumption of food, "Slow Money" wants to do the same in the financial environment. Woody Tasch, author of "Slow Money" speaks in this half hour interview about a more integral approach to circulating money. NextWorldTv underlined the quote: "Slower, smaller and local does not mean unimportant, provincial and silly." Money, like any other resouece, should be used and enjoyed consciously and sustainably.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Zeitgeist 3

The third documentary of the Zeitgeist series has been released. At the current rhythm director and activist Peter Joseph is producing one every year. Zeitgeist - Moving Forward is available freely. It is revising all the same topics of the previous Zeitgeist movies, with less emphasis on religion and spirituality. The goal remains a bias-less, science-founded, money free society that is using a resource-based economy. Certain individual freedoms will be compromised to accomplish this sustainable planet. But we have heavy restrictions on our freedoms today in the capitalistic society (and others). The 1% of the super-rich can bypass some of the restrictions on freedom, but the middle class and lower have no escape route. I belief that absolute personal freedom is illusionary and unfair. Since freedom ends where injustice begins, it is acceptable to me to seek a society that balances sustainability (isn't sustainability nothing else than the freedom of the future generations?) with current freedoms. Oversimplified, if we want to give future generations the freedom to use some oil, we have to reduce our oil consumption today. It is worth watching. Just like the in previous Zeitgeist documentaries, I remain somewhat sceptical about the dependence on high technology. I believe it to be risky and it as well needs to balances with "low technology", even if it just as an insurance policy. Placing all eggs in the same "hi-tech" basket, is not a wise choice for the basis of the whole planet. Watch it, form your own opinion.

PS: Here is a good critique, or a warning, about the Zeitgeist thoughts by James Corbett called The last Word on Utopia.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

10 Roads to Happiness

Again from YES Magazine is this list of "10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy". The list is simple enough to try a few of these 10 ideas. While they will not guarantee happiness they will not cause any harm either.

Friday, February 18, 2011

51 Ways to Spark a Commons Revolution

Under the title "51 Ways to Spark a Commons Revolution" YES Magazine list dozens of ideas on how we can live, play and work together to make us happier, more self-sufficient and sustainable. 51 ideas to strengthen the commons and to take benefits from them. All of us can find a few points on that list that we can easily and meaningfully integrate into our on lives right now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Peak Oil

WikiLeaks released US Embassy cables that emphasize a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels, that is nearly 40%. This embassy cable caused a whole bunch of reports in various new outlets. The UK Guardian reports "Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on the price". The Oil Drum has a discussion on these cables. What shall we make of that?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Food and Energy

This video is worth watching, because it gets the key message about the relationship between food and energy consumption across in only 3 minutes. It is entitled "Watch your (Fo)odometer". Approximately 20% of all the energy used in the US is spent on food production, food packaging, and food transportation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Age of Stupid

The documentary "The Age of Stupid" has been released in 2008, but I just got to see it now. A trailer is here. The full 90-min documentary can be found here. And "The Making of The Age of Stupid" is online as well. It is a gloomy look back from 2025 to our generation, asking these questions: Why did we not see the coming environmental predicament? Why did we not change direction when we still had the possibility to do so? Why did we not change direction as a global community? For more info go to the official www.ageofstupid.net website. The most memorable scene from the film was when a woman from Nigeria had to wash a fish that she just caught at the shore with laundry detergent because it was covered with crude oil.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

43 Million

According to the latest data (Nov 2010) more than 43 million Americans received food stamps. In other words, more than 14% of the US population draws food stamps. Mind boggling. This is just one more piece in the puzzle showing that the political and social system of the richest nation has failed. It is time to rethink.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

War and Food

This video entitled "The End of Farming in the Fertile Crescent" outlines in 5 minutes the relationship between the Iraqi war and the Iraqi food independence. Now that the US has placed a person from the US agro-business as chief of the Iraqi agriculture, subsidized imported US food (wheat, rice, soy, etc) undermine the local market, local seeds have been destroyed through the war, and saving any left over local seeds has been made illegal. Imported seeds and fertilizers have increased 100s of percent making the local farming cost higher than prices of imported US grains. As a result Iraqi farmers are unable to work the land and the idle land erodes and converts itself into salt flats and desert. A few US corporations gain while Iraqis lose their jobs, income and land fertility. With food dependency achieved, the Iraqis are enslaved not only militarily but also in the food dimension.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Economics of Happiness

Yesterday I turned on the radio and listened to a song. One of the lines was "when you don't know when enough is enough you'll lose everything". I was surprised. It was a deja vu. I have been thinking about this intensively over the last week and had some discussions with friends on this very topic. This is ancient wisdom. Have a look at these quotes:
  • "The secret to happiness is being satisfied with enough" Thomas Aquinas
  • "When there is no desire, all things are at peace" Lao Tse
  • "The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in the capacity to enjoy less." Socrates
  • "Happiness is knowing when 'enough is enough.'" Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk
  • "Rather than make money to live the way you want, figure out how to live the way you want without money." One of my friends
A handful of economists started studying "the economy of happiness". The first book under this title was published in 1906. That's more than a century ago. Very recently a documentary was released under the same title. Wikipedia has an article on "Happiness Economics". Bhutan was probably the first country in the 20th century to introduce a Gross National Happiness index to contrast the standard GNP. Apparently since 1999 they are measure this quantitatively. Having it on a public agenda might have helped bring Bhutan to be considered the 8th most happy nation on our planet. Now other countries have picked up on this (e.g. Thailand) and others are currently discussing its introduction (UK, France).

Mark Anielski has written a more recent book with the title "The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth". He uses a stylized 5-petal flower to visualize 5 factors of happiness or genuine wealth. For more details on what he means by that listen to his 80-min talk.

But back to the core: we need to know when enough is enough. A financial person would put it: we need to know when it is better to reduce spending instead of increasing income (in order to become happier). My friend calls it the dual problem. From a mathematical economics standpoint either approach from the dual sides should lead to a solution. From an isolated viewpoint one can balance a budget by either earning more or spending less. From a more holistic approach taking resource depletion and natural balances into account, it seems obvious that if spending or using less can lead to the same goal (of a balanced budget and a happy life) then this seems not only the preferred but the only true solution to the problem.

Socially we are far behind or far away from accepting this truth. The materially rich are admired, the ones who earn a lot of money are called successful, but the materialistically or monetary humble ones are disrespectfully called cheapskates. It is time to shift our attitude. Why not call the materially rich ones "spendthrifts" and the frugal ones "resource efficient"?

My friend also views the quote "A penny saved is a penny earned" by Ben Franklin equivalent to the above ones. I guess a penny saved can lead to happiness. This brings us (once again) to Voluntary Simplicity and Simple Living. Voluntary simplicity can work beyond the individual. The one fact that all happiness researchers agree is that happiness is relative. In other words, a poor amongst poor is as happy as a rich amongst the rich. Furthermore, a poor amongst poor is happier than a rich amongst the even more rich. If a whole nation or the whole of mankind were to make a step towards a simpler life we would all stay at least equally happy, if not become more happy due to the same factors that individuals attain happiness via simplicity (more spare time, less stress, less worries, less dependencies, more social time, more social ties, etc.).

The reverse is not an option. Voluntary wastefulness as many practice it today will lead us all into ruin, either socially or ecologically. We desperately need an attitude shift, we need to first recognize and accept, then embrace and cheer that less can be more satisfying.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Agroinnovations

Yesterday I stumbled across the www.agroinnovations.com site. Frank Aragona runs both a blog and a podcast. Podcasts are mostly 30-minutes episodes and the corresponding blog entries provide additional textual information as well as videos related to the individual podcast episodes. The podcasts are of extremely high quality. The Agroinnovations podcast is now in its 5th year with more than a 115 episodes published. His interviews include the who-is-who of thinkers in the permaculture, transition, and eco-agriculture movements and related fields. I urge you to browse through his podcast list. You will find interviews with Bill Mollison, Larry Korn, P.A. Yeomans, Rob Hopkins, Paul Stamets, and many more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Money

Money is such a crucial resource in our lives, yet nobody teaches us about money. There are no classes in high school. Most people have no true understanding where money is coming from. An expert on teaching about money is Bill Still. In 1995 he produced the classic documentary on money entitled "The Money Masters". This video is available here and here. He just released for free his updated version published in 2009 entitled "The Secrets of Oz". A must-watch video for anyone. Have a look at Bill's channel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The One Straw Revolution

Mr. Masanobu Fukuoka is one of the key names in the creation of the permaculture movement. He himself would not see it that way. Several countries had a figure stand out in this field. They were visionaries that were decades ahead of their time. In Australia there is Bill Mollisson, in Austria Sepp Holzer and in Japan it was Masanobu Fukuoka. They are legends, rightfully so.

Already in 1975 he wrote the classic book "The One Straw Revolution" sometimes nicknamed "Zen and the Art of Farming". This book is an easy read, just some 100 pages. I had heard and read a lot about him and his techniques. I had some preconceived notion what the book would be about. But it harbored a few surprises for me. His point of view is that we cannot and will not know or understand nature. "When [we] think [we] are beginning to understand nature, [we] can be sure that [we] are on the wrong track." Basically his beliefs are that we cannot truly understand anything. Another key opinion is that he sees nature as something highly connected. Nothing can be seen in isolation. However, our world and society are too complex. He experienced that many scientists came to study his fields but each looked at it only from one very specific angle according to his research speciality. He knew that such a narrow-sighted approach would not lead to insights or results. According to his thoughts it would require scientists, researchers, politicians, artists, poets, philosophers, men of religion, and farmers to gather jointly to talk things over together.

He was on a search of effective farming that is simple. He always asked himself what can I remove from typical agriculture while still keeping it effective. Slowly and with many tries and failures he reduced agriculture to the bare minimum input while not losing and even increasing health and output. In his way of farming external energetic input is at a minimum. He says that putting "doing nothing" into practice is the one thing the farmer should strive to accomplish. The farmer is freed from useless or even countrproductive chores and free to take a midday nap or write poetry.

His method, he calls it no-method, is based on four principles.

  • no cultivation: no plowing or turning of the soil
  • no chemical fertilizers or prepared compost: For fertilizer Mr. Fukuoka grows a leguminous cover of white clover, returns the threshed straw to the fields, and adds a little poultry manure
  • no weeding, no herbicides: Straw mulch, a ground cover of white clover interplanted with the crops, and temporary flooding provide effective weed control in his fields.
  • no pesticides, no chemicals: The sensible approach to disease and insect control is to grow sturdy crops in a healthy environment (rather than weak - often laboratory made - crops optimized for size or color).

I liked this phrase a lot: "Before researchers become researchers, they should become philosophers. They should consider what the human goal is." He certainly views farmers as philosophers. "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." As you can see "The One Straw Revolution" is not only a book on agriculture or permaculture, it is a book on life. "In nature, there is life and death, and nature is joyful. In human society, there is life and death, and people live in sorrow." Isn't it time we change our objectives?

PS: Just found this video "The One Straw Revolution" that brings the book in context with Larry Korn , translator of the book, who worked for the old master for a total of 2.5 years. Here I also found the reference to the web site www.onestrawrevolution.net. More videos and links are to be found there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Awareness Test

Do this awareness test without any cheating. What does tell you about our perception and about what we think we know? Let's walk through life with our eyes wide open.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Monsanto and the US State Department

WikiLeaks reported that the US Ambassador to France planned pain-causing "retaliation" against France over the ban on Monsanto's GMO corn. Need I say more? Who are your friends? Big business? Governments? Nah, there is no difference between these two anymore.

Vive la France.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Start

Today, 1-1-11, is another opportunity for a new start. A TV-like internet channel was opened today that promises to cover these topics with a daily link to a short video:

  • local food production
  • permaculture
  • energy
  • transportation
  • community response
  • co-housing
  • enlightened simplicity
  • and positive transition initiatives of all kinds
Sounds interesting, today in its first "episode" the link was to a 5-min video with Geoff Lawton on a permaculture food forest in Vietnam. The TV-like channel is called "Next World TV". If you subscribe you get one email daily with a link to a relevant video or video segment.