A Retrospective on the Prospect of a Small Farm Future

I have been a fan of Chris Smaje’s blog A Small Farm Future for a while, and it has changed the way I think about what I do for a living and what we are all doing for our livings.  Smaje’s eclectic but thoughtful posts, and the lively commentary that ensues, provide all the geeky pleasures of a graduate seminar run by a fair-minded yet passionate professor.  Or even more accurately, all of the geeky pleasures of a beer-fueled conversation with a deep-resumed group of agrarian thinkers from around the world.   Continue reading “A Retrospective on the Prospect of a Small Farm Future”

Quite Possibly the Nicest Person on the Internet

This Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for Julian Hoffman, who manages to be – on Twitter @JulianHoffman – a good, kind, humble person.  That is a difficult thing to do in a medium that rewards controversy, snark, and self-aggrandizement.  Julian Hoffman shows it does not have to be that way: that you can be supportive of other writers and Twitter users, that you can post fascinating, subtle photos and video of the natural world, that you can showcase the work of those who are standing up for and nurturing the non-human world and their local communities.   With a following in the thousands, he is successful by any rational, non-toxic definition of success as well, and his internet persona is a welcome tonic to the generally low internet standard of behavior. Continue reading “Quite Possibly the Nicest Person on the Internet”

Election Aftermath

The United States made the right choice after, to paraphrase  Churchill, exhausting all other options.  It would have been nice if we hadn’t gone down the Trump path but perhaps it was necessary to learn some lessons the hard way.  Hopefully he will soon be a distant figure in the rear view window, but before we pull away it would be wise to learn what we can from Trumpism. So here’s my post-election blog.   Continue reading “Election Aftermath”

On the Eve of an Apocalyptic Election

Having already voted by mail in our tiny, over-whelmingly blue state, we wait, with bated breath and knotted stomachs, for the results. 

The results of Tuesday’s elections for the US president will have far-reaching impacts – around the globe and on our individual lives.  The results of the Bush v. Gore election, for instance, led to wars which called my daughter’s father, a helicopter mechanic for the Army National Guard, away to long deployments on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed, I think, to his early death. On a larger scale, the results of that millennial election meant that the US did not exercise its potential for global leadership towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing pollution, as might have happened under Gore.  It is my daughter’s generation that will feel the impact of that election acutely.  Continue reading “On the Eve of an Apocalyptic Election”

Animism Reborn: A Review of Jason Hickel’s Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World

I will begin at the end.  The last sentence in Jason Hickel’s new book is “We have everything to lose and a world to gain.”  We have always had everything to lose, perhaps, but it is only relatively recently that we have, and by “we” I mean we of the so-called First World, drifted so far into a mass delusion that we no longer live in “the world.”  We live off the world, enjoying lifestyles that depend on long supply chains which we barely realize exist.  We have developed elaborate intellectual structures to deny that the world matters or has any standing except as a extraction site or a dump. To mainstream political and economic thinking, the world is not a factor in any discussion of goals and values.  The world as foundational to our being, much less as a full subject with intrinsic value to itself, has no place in mainstream thinking.  It is a resource, a dead corpse on which we feed. This is our Achilles’ heel, our fatal blind spot.  It has been built into our intellectual tradition for millennia.  It is our daunting task to alter that tradition, change the intellectual DNA of our civilization, and re-learn the values and aspirations that animate our daily lives. Jason Hickel’s book is an important contribution to that effort. Continue reading “Animism Reborn: A Review of Jason Hickel’s Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World”


As I was talking on the phone  (about social dynamics!), I observed one of the ranch hands walk across the base-yard and put something into the new chicken run that my brother had made for his motley flock of egg-layer breed roosters the day before.  My brother is indulging a long-suppressed passion for chickens.  I really do not know what he was thinking buying one hundred and fifty rooster chicks even if they were only a dollar a chick.  We sold some but he still has about seventy little roosters left.  It turned out that what  the ranch-hand threw into the baby rooster mosh-pit was a juvenile gamecock.  Which is about like throwing a velociraptor in with some triceratops toddlers.  Or a gladiator in with the peasants. Continue reading “Vignette”

Let’s Not and Say We Did

Here’s a terrific article that seems to have generated quite a bit of attention in the Twitter/social media world.:  COVID-19 Broke the Economy. What if we Don’t Fix It?

A very Latour-ian analogy. Where do we land?  Or more accurately, we are going to land, how do we handle it?  What do we name the place where we land?  How will we behave towards each other?

While I’m citing articles and in case anyone out there is also a Latour-fascinated nerd, here are a couple of secondary pieces: One is constructively critical and useful to synthesize Latour’s complexities, the other is a a bit of a hatchet job of Latour’s whole deal from a traditional leftist perspective.  Also useful, though in my opinion, not entirely fair in its accusations of anti-intellectualism.

The Essential Latour

“It would certainly be a shame to lose too quickly all the benefit of what Covid-19 has revealed to be essential. In the midst of the chaos, of the world crisis that is to come, of the grief and suffering, there is at least one thing that everyone has been able to grasp: something is wrong with the economy.”

“Underneath the capitalists are the workers, and underneath the workers are living things!”

For a quick, painless intro to the relevance of Latour to the moment, he recently did a Guardian interview.  Even better is this essay just translated into English.

Also the Gedankenausstellungen (thought exhibition) “Critical Zones“.

Degrowth & Solidarity

I am planning to attend my first fully digital conference: Degrowth Vienna 2020.  Check it out, it’s free and no long plane ride required!

I’ve been circling around the degrowth concept for some time, ever since being introduced to some of the  leading thinkers on degrowth, most notably  the essential Jason Hickel, by the even-more-essential Chris Smaje and his blog Small Farm Future.    Although I’m  100% on board for getting past the growth paradigm, I have been a bit leery of the implied negativity in the concept of degrowth, when what we need, most desperately, is a positive direction.  I’ve been leery of getting caught up in tearing down the old obsessions, rather than finding a new way to live.  But it is necessary to challenge the old dogma and the concept of degrowth  does call the growth orthodoxy out.  Explicitly.  Manifesto nailed to the door.  Change of paradigm. 

I think it’s time to commit, or least dive deep.  What has helped to convert me is an open letter  posted on Twitter (our current version of the cathedral door)  elucidating five principles of a degrowth approach to rebuilding from the coronavirus breakdown.  The first principle is: Put life at the center of our economy.   That is the positive trajectory that is needed in this moment of danger and possibility, of death and change. And life, not just at the center of our economic systems, but in every little thing we do.  Life at the center.   Perhaps most crucially at the center of our economic systems, but not just there.  At the center, as well, of our arts and our pleasures, of our values and our aspirations.

  Here are the five principles of degrowth per the open letter :

    1. Put life at the center of our economic systems.
    2. Radically reevaluate how much and what work is necessary for a good life for all.
    3. Organize society around the provision of essential goods and services.
    4. Democratize society
    5. Base political and economic systems on the principle of solidarity  

There is a lot to love in those principles.  The sad thing to me is that I have almost no cultural experience of “the principle of solitary.”  American culture has become so thoroughly individualistic and hierarchical that solidarity seems very distant, something dreamt about or heard at third hand.  We have so little vocabulary for working collectively that we are unable to speak, unable to imagine solidarity with each other.  There is only the scrabbling of special interests, of winner-take-all competition, of rat-race politics and business. For that we have words, models, and theories.  In the arts and sciences of solidarity we are beginners with much ground to make up.  Can we learn to believe in each other again?  As never before? Can we, at this late hour, learn to speak solidarity?