Monthly Archives: January 2012

Industrial biomimicry

Spencer Beebe spoke at Long Now.

Biomimicry: We don’t copy nature, we are nature.

Our economic system is a part of the ecological system.

Designing a system where our natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a matter of course, not as a matter of conscious altruism. (Paul Hawken)

Design our economy to sustain and protect.

Headline example– forestry management. Cut the way Nature does. Small-scale, don’t take the best trees, leave the snags. In the end, you make more money, produce higher quality wood, more jobs, can have additional revenue via “tourism” or sports/recreation use of the land, and it lasts FOREVER.

Clearcutting gets you more immediate cash value, but kills all future value of the land.

Daniel Janzen– Long term "wilderness" conservation

The wilderness is in quotations because DJ does not believe true wilderness exists, at least not in North America since the megafauna was eated some 9000 years ago…

Daniel Janzen speaking at the Long Now foundation, about his role and vision in/for the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste in Costa Rica. This is a small patch of land which contains as many species as all of North America, and then some, and which covers a number of habitat zones.

His model for conservation is farming. The wild area should be treated and managed as a farm. He starts with the obvious crop: ecotourists, who pay big bucks to visit, and whose dollars represent a larger part of Costa Rica’s income than do all of its other agricultural products combined (and the residents are acutely aware of this). Next, waste management– he had an orange juice company dump their rinds on old clearcut land, in a layer about a meter deep. The mulch killed all the invasive grasses which had corrupted the land, and soon was full of larvea from a local fly species which eats rotting fruit. The birds were also happy, with so many flies to eat. After one year it was a horrid black ooze. After two, it was a rainforest with a rich loamy soil.

His next big idea– biological literacy. By this, he means
1) indexing all life by a fixed michocondrial gene (this is being done, worldwide)
2) Cheap, portable sequencing machines so that you, a tourist in the field, can “drop a leg of the bug” into your box and get the species as well as the encyclopedia/field guide/etc knowledge on this bug. My analagy is it would be like a digital camera.

My final thought on biological literacy links it to Jeremy Rifkin’s Third Industrial revolution. If the first was based on print, and the second on telephone, and the third on peer-to-peer, then would the fourth be biological literacy?

Middle ages

The middle ages were, for most people, a vast improvement over the axial age. The collapse of empire broke the war/bullion/slavery complex. This also lead to increased political stability, and a localization of political power. The abandonment of the cities meant that each agricultural worker has less mouths to feed. Farm productivity also improved. Coinage evaporated, but the law codes imply a fairly strong credit-based market emerged.

Slavery was widely abolished during this period, not to be re-instituted until the colonial age.

A side question– where did all the coins go? In India at least, they went into the temples and were melted down to make statues and gilding. Thus to re-create them, an (evil) emperor would have to melt down holy items. Which some did, of course.

coinage and spirituality.

The concept that spirit and flesh were separate seems to emerge with coinage. A tree is living thing, but can be abstracted as wood, which carpentry can turn into a chair, or some other object. A coin is even more abstract, since it turns metal into a collective promise. All in the community agree to accept it, making it transmutable into anything.

Thus peace and community are not things which emerge spontaniously, but need to be stamped onto our baser material nature, just as divine insignia stamped into a block of metal turn it into money. Yet what is money?

Graeber adds that the revolution in spirituality which coincided with the introduction of coinage was NOT the introduction of the concept of a spiritual realm, but rather the introduction of the material realm.

investment ideas/pick of the week

Two companies:

Weight Watchers (WTW), because of their new points plus system.
Today’s price: 70.36.

Both Smartwater and Selectamark are privately held. Damn.

Market vs human economies

A human economy is an economic system primarily concerned with the creation, destruction, and rearrangement of humans. By contrast, a market economy is primarily concerned with gathering wealth.

Maker economies are a relatively new idea.

An ancient use of “money” is to “buy” a bride.  But this is not an ordinary purchase. Rather, the price paid can be seen as an acknowledgment of an unpayable debt. Only another woman is worth a woman. The same with bloodgeld, which, coincidently, often is about the same as brideprice.

These original forms of money are usually closely linked to items of adornment, the clothes which turn a naked body into a social being.

When a market economy meets a human economy, and esp when the market economy is both militarily superior and needs cheap labour, the human economy is turned into a mechanism to produce slaves, generally via these same unpayable debts.

Theme park Napolean

Another great idea from my neighbors to the south. From The Economist.

Napoleonland. One ride could recreate the 1812 Russian campaign.

At Moscow’s gates, he suggested in a blog, visitors might don skis and glide down snowy battlefields and later across the Berezina river, scene of a disastrous battle, “surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses”.

Theme parks are a French political speciality: Puy du Fou, featuring medieval battles, Vulcania, a scientific park, and Futuroscope, boasting new technology


In early Sumerian society, 3000-2500 bc, women have status roughly equivalent to today. They are well represented in the ranks of all professions, including rulers. Over the next millenia, all this is lost.

War, states, and markets all feed off each other, creating debt, which turns human relationships into commodities. no man wants to see this happen to his women (wife/sister/daughter) and moves to protect them and mark them as not for sale.


Is it the right to do as one will? Our the right to enter into relationships with others?

If the first, then as I own my body, am I my own slave?

Credit vs bullion

Gold can be distinguished from credit by one essential feature. It can be stolen. More seriously, it requires less trust and less commitment. Hard currency predominates in uncertain times.

Graeber describes long cycles which alternate between virtual and metal money.
3500-800 bc. Credit. Early agrarian empires.
800 bc-600 ad. Metal. Axial age, the rise of coinage.
600-1450 ad. Credit. Middle ages.
1450-1971. Metal. Capitalist empires.