Friday, December 5, 2008

Small Is Still Beautiful

This should be familiar to anyone who has read this blog for a while. I have been saying since my first post on Complexity Theory (7/16/08) that we need to start with small, simple systems and build from the bottom up. That post talks about demonstrations about why top down systems don't work and why you can't build large, complex system from scratch.

A second reason for starting small is that emergence doesn't usually happen in a predicable way. The Archdruid, John Michael Greer, in a very recent post points out that most of the grand ecological plans developed in the 1970s have been gathering dust, whereas many of the methods of today (he mentions " intensive gardening, permaculture, most of today’s arsenal of solar energy methods, a range of alternative homebuilding methods, and much more") were improvised. Rather than one grand plan (see my very early post on 'The Answer'--6/28/08), we need many small experiments. Who knows what will work and what won't, but lots of little improvised attempts will serve us better than any huge scheme. (Murph of the Trout Clan Campfire has also written an insightful piece on this.)

A third reason for starting small is that there are forces in this society that are resistant to change, that do not want to see anything succeed that might threaten their dominance. (I'm reminded of the line from Bob Marley's 'I Shot the Sheriff': "Everytime I plant a seed...He said kill them before they grow...") The idea of starting small is to escape notice while our little experiments are vulnerable. I had the image of us as little church mice in the cathedrals of the rich and powerful--staying out of their sight. If peak oil theories are correct, their empire will coming crashing down on it's own, but we need to have alternatives already in place before that. Hopefully, we can start building those alternatives now, and start building small enough not to attract unwanted attention.

And finally, small and simple is easy to understand, easy to be in, easy to know everything about. It is a scale that we can be comfortable with, and learn and grow with. Small is human sized.

Quote of the Day: "...people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small-scale units. If economic thinking cannot grasp this it is useless." - E. F. Schumacher
Word (or phrase) of the day: Biochar
Hero(es) of the day: Peaceful Tomorrows

1 comment:

Erich J. Knight said...

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic

Biochar data base;

The Biochar provisions by Sen.Ken Salazar in the 07 & 08 farm bill,
NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, New Zealand and Australia.

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.