Tuesday, September 13, 2011

dear global economic system: please collapse already.

this week's harvest from the community garden plot
 Every morning these days I get up before dawn, shower, then go downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee, a cup of tea for Gita, and some cups of 'kid chai' for the kids- warm milk with some brown sugar added, in a kid sized 'coffee cup'.  When I went to the fridge this morning to get milk, the one essential ingredient in each beverage, I came up empty.  So, as the sun was coming up, I was driving to the grocery store a few blocks away to get a gallon of milk.

I was pre-caffienated and barely capable of driving at that hour.
  I'm probably more open to suggestion and have fewer mental defenses in that state as well.  So I was really taken aback when I heard this article on MPR (Minnesota Public Radio).  I like MPR and feel like it's one of the best institutions in our state, so it was doubly surprising to hear the following quote at the end of the piece:

"Minnesota has a great wealth of raw materials in the timber that we have here," (a manager at a Northern Minnesota chemical manufacturer)said. "We need to find uses for that resource so that resource does not go to waste. If we don't harvest it and use it, it will get old, it will get disease, it will die."

Think about that.  If we don't find uses (chop down, grind up) for our 'timber resource' (trees) they will 'get disease and die'.

So trees if not consumed for human purposes will only be filled with disease and death, so we'd better get busy using up the trees, and pronto.  Not for our benefit, but theirs.

You wonder how trees got along before we were here to chop them down?

And how wasteful we're being by letting those trees grow instead of turning them into paper, or lumber, or pharmaceuticals (as the article was advocating).

Pity the tree that's able to actually grow to maturity.  What will it ever accomplish?

That stupid article summed up just about everything wrong with the current economic system right now.  And I don't mean to endorse any 'ism'.  Capitalism and Socialism are unfortunately both guilty of thinking in this way.  The focus on human consumption as the basis of either system is the base of the problem.

A reasonable person might look at a tree and realize that by not cutting it now, we're actually building capital- letting it grow taller and stronger for use by future generations.  Creating some of the strong, beautiful hard wood found in the trees that were here when my great-great-great grandparents settled here.  The kind of wood found now only in structures over 100 years old, or at the bottom of lakes and rivers.

By not cutting every tree before maturity and allowing a few to die of old age, we're replenishing the soil, and allowing the species to cycle from pioneer species to climax species in more than just a few isolated 'wilderness' areas overrun with tourists and canoes.

The article focused on the lack of lumber being cut as a result of the housing crash as a sort of disaster- a lost opportunity- all that wood out there just...growing... for what?  We need to start some more McMansions NOW- before it's too late!

The disaster really came when all that lumber was cut for all of the McMansions, so many of which are now in foreclosure and empty.  Inflated houses for inflated egos, now sitting vacant.  THAT is the waste of resources.  Taking useful resources and allocating them (squandering really) based on illusory money which now the Federal Reserve is doing its best to 'presto'~ make it into real money.  By printing more of it.  To cover up all of the financial sins of the last 10 or 15 years.  To postpone the day of reckoning.  To let the consumption go on a bit longer.

Enough already.  Let the system collapse so we can have one based on a sane allocation of resources already.

You see what happens when we follow the current economic model to its logical conclusion.  We're pretty much there right now.  All the fretting over the US debt ceiling and European sovereign debt is academic.  The bottom can fall out quickly or it can dry rot over a generation.  I know which one I think would be preferable.

The cards were already dealt when the credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations became several orders of magnitude larger than the value of all the resources, natural and human, on the planet.

Credit default swaps can buy a luxury car or build a McMansion, but they can't grow a tree, or put a barrel of oil in the ground.

John Michael Greer makes the case at his top-notch blog 'The Archdruid Report' of there being really three economies:  The primary, secondary and tertiary.  The primary being the raw materials and their extraction:  agriculture, mining, and forestry among others.  The secondary would be labor-added and service based goods; construction, retail, medicine.  The tertiary economy consists of manipulating symbols that represent the output of the primary and secondary economies: finance and banking. 

I'm not a believer in druidry, but appreciate his analysis and believe that it helps to better see what our economy has come to.  We've created an economy that is so complex and so abstract that most activity is focused on symbolic tokens that have little relevance to the world we really live in.  And when they do affect the real world, the function is often to skew the behavior of the primary economy- e.g. to encourage the premature cutting of perfectly good trees to build oversized houses that nobody really needs.

That is my soapbox for today.  That felt really good.  Now about the garden. 
little monsters attacking the homemade salsa

 We have tomatoes, both yellow and red coming out of our ears right now.  We also have a fair bit of garlic that I dug and dried in August as well as a good number of hot peppers.

So I chopped up a bunch of tomatoes, garlic and a few hot peppers, added some store-bought purple onions and salt and had some of the most delicious salsa I've had in a good while.  The kids liked it too.  With the purple, green, yellow and red it looked really fruity, so they called it 'fruit salsa'.  And it kind of tasted fruity too.   The 'garden peach' tomatoes are unusually sweet and make a great salsa.  We polished off a big bowl of it in a few days.

'Winter Luxury' pumpkin is a big winner too.  It's a Jung seed that a coworker gave me, and its producing like crazy now.  It has filled in all the gaps in our community garden space and spilled over into the neighbors' plots.  I hope I can harvest them before some neighborhood kids decide to decorate the sidewalks with them.

and summer is officially over when preschool begins
 Time is passing and nothing marks that better than watching kids grow.  Today was the first day of preschool for both of our little ones.  Our son was so proud to be a preschool kid and our daugher was excited to go back.

It's beautiful and a little bit sad to see them taking the step up and away from us.  To see them doing their first 'big kid thing'.  Last year, our daughter's first year, I couldn't hold back the tears.  I didn't expect it.  But seeing my little girl taking that step was tough for a daddy.  A good step, but a reminder that they won't be this little forever.  A reminder to hold them tight and spend as much time with them now while I can.


  1. Still want to say it's summer but boy fall is here. Except July,had pretty good weather. Enjoy the fall, it will be beautiful.

  2. The Menominee Indians have shown that when you cut down trees with genuine concern for the health of the forest, the results are very impressive. For hardwood forests, harvesting individual trees when they first show signs of disease or decay actually is a good way to keep the forest vibrant. But they do it without concern for what the spot price is for that kind of lumber. As an excuse for mindless consumerism, it is a terrible waste.