“At 8:30 p.m. on 23 March 2020, then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a stay-at-home order effective immediately, backed up by the subsequent regulation three days later. The stated aim was to “flatten the curve” of the rate of infections. So, he launched the slogan “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” and said that the lockdown would be reviewed every three weeks. This was unprecedented and came as a surprise to the public. But a week earlier, on March 17th, the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey wrote to the chancellor Rishi Sunak outlining a similarly unprecedented measure, which would direct tens of billions of pounds directly to large corporations:
“The new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy. It will help businesses across a wide range of sectors to bridge across the economic disruption that is likely to be associated with Covid-19, supporting them in paying salaries, rents and suppliers, even while experiencing severe disruption to cashflows. The Bank will implement the facility on behalf of the Treasury and will put it into place as soon as possible.”
After a two year research project, with an interdisciplinary team, the conclusions I came to on the state of the world, and our near future, are not that relaxing. They will be available in the book Breaking Together, out in May. One of the chapters is already available, preprint, as the matter of food security seems so urgent. [subscribe to this blog to get a link to the full book when it’s out]
That context means I am especially happy to have launched a demonstration organic farm, using an approach called syntropic agroforestry. It does not mean I will definitely escape the impacts of agricultural disruptions and the socio-political ramifications. But it means that at least I am doing something about it that will benefit both people and planet.
As I’ve been writing so much for the forthcoming book, I’d rather garden than write about it, so I asked chatGPT to tell you all about the approach we are taking. The prompt was “Write a summary of many reasons (environmental and social) why syntropic agroforestry is a good idea. Explain why it is helpful to educate and support farmers in Indonesia to do syntropic agroforestry.” ChatGPT responded:
It really is time to do more about food. As most governments aren’t acting, we can look to our own organisations, local councils and groups of neighbours to do more – and build from there. My new paper on the trends driving the breakdown of the global food system explains why. Endorsing the paper, the Contributing Lead Author for the UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, Scott Williams, notes:
“We are conditioned to fear disorientation and seek safety in certainty and solutions regardless of the information available to us. Breaking that protective screen, this paper adds to the weight of analysis that the collapse of food systems and societies more broadly is inevitable. But how we are in relationship with these changes is not fixed even if, as this paper argues, we are stuck. Perhaps what this paper is calling for is the spaciousness to ask new questions, to challenge habits and myths, that may then shift perceptions. Consequently, we could be in relationship differently with the inevitability of collapse, and sense the possibilities that are perceivable with renewed care, compassion and generosity to ourselves and to all life.”
I hope the paper might help inform the evolution of environmental activism. Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell, notes:
Have you ever wondered where the term ‘piggy bank’ came from? Like me, some of you probably saved your spare coins in them when children. I didn’t give it a second thought until I stumbled across an actual living piggy bank in Bali. Midway through a cycling tour, we had stopped in a traditional village, and invited into a family compound. It was the kind where multiple generations all live in small houses next to each other, with a temple at the front, and some animals at the back. That is where I saw pig sty with a half dozen pigs. “The older women here don’t like putting money in a bank, so they buy a pig and feed it as their way to save,” my guide told me. A sensible store of value, I thought, especially with interest rates so low at the time. After the trip, I looked up the origin of the term piggy bank. Some historians guessed the name came from jars being made of a clay that was sometimes called ‘pygg’ in Germany and England, and that was the theory on Wikipedia at the time (it was 2015). But I had seen in the Indonesian national museum a piggy bank that was around 400 years older than when the word pygg was being used in Europe for a type of clay. Maybe I am a bit strange, but the piggy bank origin story had me. I dug deeper to discover that the earliest known pig-shaped money containers date to the 12th century in Indonesia.[i]
Satish Kumar is an elder within the global environmental and peace movements. Founder of the Schumacher College and Resurgence Magazine, he has played a key role in shaping conversations about the roots of the environmental predicament. In a videoed conversation with Professor Jem Bendell, he discusses themes within his new book ‘Radical Love’ and makes connections to the ‘Deep Adaptation’ ethos and movement. Over 50 people joined the discussion and some ask questions towards the end.
Satish describes how humanity has fallen out of love with the world, which is the cause of so much destruction. Topics covered include how to stay open hearted when so much is being destroyed, how loving action does not need to expect to be successful, the role of idealism when realism has failed so badly for so long, the suppression of the divine feminine in culture and religion, and the importance of starting with self love.
This is the text of a newsletter sent to people who receive my irregular updates (that go out once or twice a year)
As you registered for my irregular update, a good guess is that you are interested in sustainable development – the concept for social and environmental progress that took off since the 1992 Earth Summit. So, in opening this update (my first since March last year), I’d like to clear up something: sustainable development is a lie. It has been a successful one because it helps middle class professionals earn salaries while pretending that’s for them caring about the world. Not only does all the recent data point to the failure to improve the world by spreading one economic model, but that failure was widely predicted decades ago. People like me ignored such critique because we wanted to believe something else. Why? Not because it was good for wildlife, landscapes and the poor. We wanted to believe because it was convenient with our careers to develop, consumer lifestyles to lead, houses to buy and kids to bring up. Ouch. But I’m tired of the mix of pseudo-concern and pseudo-professionalism that surrounds me in the sustainability field. Fortunately, many of us won’t pretend anymore.
The COP27 climate conference announcement of a new fund, of unknown quantity, for the loss and damage occurring due to climate chaos, means it might appear that politicians and bureaucrats are finally getting real about how bad the situation is. So could they be catching up with the ‘Deep Adapters’? Unfortunately, no fund will ever be able to recompense the loss and damage that is being suffered – and will be suffered – from the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown. No international currency, bank, or payment system will likely survive the extent of disruption when impacts of global heating really kick in. I am just back from my first and last climate conference, and not only experienced it as an exercise in denial but one that is made impenetrable by the numbers of people and resources maintaining it in myriad ways. Even critics of COP27, and climate policies more generally, have their budgets, wages, skills, and status tied to the story of ultimate salvation from climate chaos. A consequence of this denial is not looking at the root causes of our predicament. Which might also be a reason for the denial. So let’s go there…
When Covid broke out in China, one of the policies in some cities was to round up and kill people’s cats, due to a worry that they can carry coronaviruses. Subsequent protests have meant this policy has always been dropped, but only to reappear at various times. In early 2022, officials in the city of Langfangs ordered the killing of all pets of anyone infected with Covid. Again, the policy was dropped after protests (Daily Mail, 2022). Echoing some of that attitude towards pets, yesterday (November 22nd) the Daily Express newspaper ran a story about the UK, with the headline: “Covid horror as estimated over 350,000 cats infected with virus which ‘can be fatal’”. The story itself was about evidence of past non-fatal infections of cats with Covid in Britain. It also mentioned that other forms of coronavirus can be fatal to cats. The story provoked comments such as: “cull all cats” (Daily Express, 2022). The same story soon appeared in other UK newspapers and websites.
Death rates are still above normal in many countries of the world. The medical experts don’t know why. It could be from the long-term complications from past Covid infections, or it could be from the impacts of novel vaccines, or it could be from the delayed treatments due to lockdowns. Or perhaps it is from a mixture of these causes, or even from some other factor altogether. Even writing those two sentences induced in me a feeling of trepidation. I find myself readying for the annoyance or even aggression from some people. Which is odd: people did not behave so stridently on public health issues before 2020. I think the decay in normal scientific dialogue and policy scrutiny is a significant lasting damage from the last few years. It is why I am not going to let it lie. Instead, I hope we can all learn more about why people became so badly informed and aggressive towards others who reached conclusions different to their own. Only then might we avoid making matters worse when future public health crises occur. And if the excess mortality does not return to normal, then we are already within an ongoing health crisis right now.
It is why in this essay I am returning to the scientific facts which prove the medical authoritarian orthodoxy on Covid has been scientifically wrong. Not just wrong in hindsight, but now more widely recognised as wrong by experts and scientists who ignored some of the earlier concerns. This recent science can’t be ignored unless someone is no longer interested in the science on public health.
In the run up to COP27 climate conference, The Economist magazine declared it has become impossible to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many analysts of the relevant science have said as much for a few years. We were dismissed as too negative and so our ideas on what to do were therefore marginalized. Sadly, warming beyond 1.5C means that climate change will become far more damaging to societies. Even worse, due to a range of amplifying feedbacks that are impossible to have certainty about, no one can credibly claim anymore that human actions to cut and drawdown carbon, while still important, will certainly work to stop or reverse the changes. When people take that situation to heart, it can challenge the societies and systems that brought us to this point. For many, it is a fundamentally radicalizing realization. Although The Economist cited my views in one of their articles, rather predictably it didn’t provide space for the kind of criticism of capitalism and the global order that can ensue.
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