“The liberals and conservatives and Libertarians

The liberals and conservatives and Libertarians who lament totalitarianism are phonies and hypocrites… You find the same sort of hierarchy and discipline in an office or factory as you do in a prison or a monastery… A worker is a part-time slave. The boss says when to show up, when to leave, and what to do in the meantime. He tells you how much work to do and how fast. He is free to carry his control to humiliating extremes, regulating, if he feels like it, the clothes you wear or how often you go to the bathroom. With a few exceptions he can fire you for any reason, or no reason. He has you spied on by snitches and supervisors, he amasses a dossier on every employee. Talking back is called ‘insubordination,’ just as if a worker is a naughty child, and it not only gets you fired, it disqualifies you for unemployment compensation…The demeaning system of domination I’ve described rules over half the waking hours of a majority of women and the vast majority of men for decades, for most of their lifespans. For certain purposes it’s not too misleading to call our system democracy or capitalism or – better still – industrialism, but its real names are factory fascism and office oligarchy. Anybody who says these people are ‘free’ is lying or stupid.
— Bob Black

Species Extinction & Habitat Destruction Impacts

◾Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land. (Livestock Exchange, 2011)

◾Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction (U.S. EPA, Office of Research and Development, 2004)

◾In all major cattle producing countries, wildlife habitat is being destroyed in order to create cattle pasture — as in the rainforests of Central and South America. The huge cattle population is destroying habitat and using up food and water needed by wildlife. In the United States and Australia, cattle ranching has resulted in the purposeful mass extermination of predator and “nuisance” species (the war on wolves, coyotes, bears, small animals) — it’s a virtual war on wildlife. In Africa, millions of wild animals have died of thirst or starvation after finding their migratory paths blocked by fences built to contain cattle. (mcspotlight.org)

◾Livestock’s presence in vast tracts of land and its demand for feed crops also contribute to biodiversity loss; 15 out of 24 important ecosystem services are assessed as in decline, with livestock identified as the culprit. (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO)

◾Land being converted from tropical forest (a huge carbon sink) to cattle grazing is increasing greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide and worsening climate change. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO)

◾As old growth and primitive forests are cleared to create new pastures for cattle, this has become a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to cattle and livestock grazing. In the Amazon specifically, animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon destruction. (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO)

◾“If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million. The seven billion livestock in the U.S. consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire U.S. population,” reports ecologist David Pimentel of Cornell University (Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dept.)

◾The rain forests of Central American and the Amazon are being burned and cleared to make way for cattle pastures. Since 1960, more than 25 percent of the Central American forests have been lost to beef production, primarily for export to the United States and Europe. It has been estimated that for every quarter-pound fast-food hamburger made from Central American beef, 55 square feet of tropical forest — including 165 pounds of unique species of plants and animals — is destroyed. (Beyond Beef)

◾The world’s 1.3 billion cattle are eroding soil and causing desertification of grasslands. More than 60 percent of the world’s rangelands have been damaged by overgrazing during the past half century. In the United States, cattle have done more to alter the environment of the West than all the highways, dams, strip mines, and power plants built put together. (mcspotlight.org)

◾In addition to the almost ten billion land animals killed in the U.S. each year directly for human consumption, hundreds of thousands of wild animals (prairie dogs, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bears, bison, and others) are exterminated to keep them from interfering with agricultural operations. Similarly, tens of millions of starlings and blackbirds are poisoned each year to keep them from eating animal feed. An even greater threat to wildlife is posed by the destruction of their habitats. Animal agriculture turns hundreds of acres of forest, wetlands, and other habitats into grazing and animal feed cropland. (A Well Fed World, awfw.org)


How civilisation terrorises the Earth

Hawthorn Rising

Mark Boyle is a permaculturalist, an activist and a writer (amongst many other things). One of his most notable achievements was living for 3 years without money (ie he personally had no cash, savings or bank cards), the result of which was a book ‘The Moneyless Man’.

So what led Mark to do this radical act? After his business degree, he moved from Ireland to the UK and worked with an organic food company. During this time he came to realise that “money creates a kind of disconnection between us and our actions”, which in turn led him into his experiment in living without money.

Once the press got hold of his story, there were many who criticised him for the fact that although he personally had no money, people were giving him stuff that initially had to be bought and earned. Those people significantly miss the point about what…

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money & life

Money & Life is an inspirational essay-style documentary

that asks a provocative question:

can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster,

but as a tremendous opportunity?

This cinematic odyssey connects the dots on our current economic pains

and offers a new story of money based on an emerging paradigm

of planetary well-being that understands

all of life as profoundly interconnected.

The Culture of Ignorance in Academia

grain gain

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” – George Bernard Shaw

I’ll start by making it explicitly clear that this is not an attack on science or the scientific method, far from it; this is a celebration of science and a critique of those who choose to selectively apply rational thought. Although I will focus on those embedded in academia, the arguments apply equally to all individuals who do not eschew the use of non-human animals as far as practicable. My time as a bioscience undergraduate taught me that academia has more than its fair share of unreasonable people—not unlike the general population. Experiencing the biases and ignorance of the majority of my instructors, on everything from ethics to the environment, was the primary contributing factor to my disillusionment as a…

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Origins of the rise of Homo sapiens moniea?

We are becoming a money culture.

John Dewey, 1910

The Stone Money of Yap

If you follow popular economics, or have ever taken a university or college course on the subject, you’ve probably read about the stone money of Yap. Rai are stones hewn into a disc with a hole in the middle. Some are quite enormous, several meters in diameter and up to half a meter thick. They are quite heavy. The rocks are quarried on a nearby island and were conveyed to Yap on rafts or canoes and, later, on European vessels. They are stored outside and usually not moved even when ownership changes. These stones are highly visible stores of wealth usually used in non-subsistence transactions.

Economists like to write about this money as an ultimate example of fiat currency. Milton Friedman wrote a paper about rai when he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. I think this might be a hidden requirement for being an economist: referencing stone money from the Caroline Islands at least once in your career. Sociologists who want to make an argument about the timeless dematerial or virtual nature of money also rely on rai as an empirical example as well… I’d like to examine where all this discussion originates. What are the empirical materials that inform this case, which has taken on the status of a scholarly truism?

A Rai Stone
A photograph of a Rai stone.

If you use Google Scholar to search for information about rai stones, you won’t find very much. There is a small body of specialist research from geologists, archaeologists and anthropologists investigating the quarries on the island of Palau where rai are quarried. This literature is mostly about the stones and quarries: their composition; the age of stones and quarry sites; and technologies and tools used to excavate and shape rai; and changes to these practices arising from contact with Europeans. Scott Fitzpatrick, for example, has been conducting some excellent work along these lines.

In addition to physical anthropology and articles on diving tourism in the Caroline islands, you will also find popular pieces from economists, including that infamous essay by Friedman. Though there are scholars exploring how rai were used, their historical contexts and some really interesting work on Japanese colonialism and the destruction of stone monies in Yap, these works are not cited by economists. The most common references are a book and a report, both of which are superannuated. The book is ‘Island of Stone Money’ by an American anthropologist, William H. Furness III, who is better known as the son of Horace Howard Furness, a Shakespearean scholar. The report is ‘The Stone Money of Yap: A Numismatic Survey’, written by Cora Gillilland and published by the Smithsonian.

From Furness, the same tales are recycled repeatedly. An enormous rai stone lost in transit, but still counted amongst the riches of a local family. The story of an enterprising Irish-American sailor, David O’Keefe, who was ship-wrecked on Yap and saw rai as a business opportunity. His rise to wealth was built by conveying stoneworkers from Yap to Palau in exchange for their labour and various local products. Even the seizure of stones by German colonial officials who wanted their roads repaired is told and re-told. (Furness attributes the ‘pleasantness’ of the islands to ‘benevolent’ German imperialist efforts, but seizing people’s belongings hardly seems well-meaning or kindly.) More recent accounts of rai destroyed by Japanese colonial officials during World War II are of course absent from popular economics, because they hadn’t happened yet when Furness was writing. Gillilland makes some reference to these events, but does not explore them in depth.

If you search on the web in general, rather than using Google Scholar, you might find a radio piece from the gentlemen at the Planet Money podcast, from the National Public Radio. They produced a very short feature about stone money on the island of Yap with anthropologist Scott Fitzpatrick. Yet even this ostensibly modern piece goes back to the same materials: Furness. We even hear the famous tale of a giant rai lying on the bottom of the ocean.

The first of these documents, Island of Stone Money, is a classic example of problematic, colonial anthropology. Furness portrays the people with whom he lived as simple-minded, “primitive” and yet also greedily “acquisitive”. In a sense, Furness is the product of his time. This book was published in 1910, so we can hardly expect a nuanced post-colonial perspective. Yet as I read his relatively smooth prose, I can’t help but hear thinly disguised ethnocentrism. Furness claims it ‘hurt’s one’s feelings to call them savages or even uncivilised’ when he has just used the word ‘primitive’ to describe Yapanese islanders. Four pages later, he says the island of Yap has ‘been known to the civilized world since 1527′, recreating the very dichotomy he disavowed on page 11. Hopefully Furness’ feelings weren’t too badly wounded in writing these disparaging words about Yapanese people.

Continue reading “Origins of the rise of Homo sapiens moniea?”