Friday, January 31, 2014

Permaculture Among The Machines

Desertification;  This destructive force turns once fertile soil into barren wasteland.  What causes desertification?  There are many climatic and situational factors, but we should be concerned about man made causes, one of the largest is overgrazing, where people graze herd animals on a piece of land so much that the plants can't grow back.  Once the plants die, erosion occurs and washes fertile topsoil away, preventing life from returning or nutrient rich topsoil from rebuilding.  Another cause of desertification is clear cut logging, older growth forests can take hundreds of years to return to their original state, if they can regrow at all.

Desertified land is useless for agriculture, settlement or as habitat for wildlife, but can it be restored to it's original state?  According to ecological experts, the answer is yes; Based on various techniques such as stabilizing hill sides, creating water retaining wetlands, shifting grazing habits to stable levels and spreading mulch and other organic material to promote soil formation.  With these and many other methods, desertification can be reversed, but it take initiative, forethought and community will power.

Permaculture is one of the most revolutionary methods for maintaining ecosystems and agricultural land.  It involves creating managed ecosystems that can be tailored for various functions without destroying habitats for animals and plants, one could imagine ultimately creating vast permaculture forest gardens producing huge varieties of fruits, vegetables, nuts and herbs.  Environments could also be created for hunting, this creates the possibility that meat production could shift entirely to the permaculture model, eliminating the factory farming system.  This permaculture free range meat system could serve as a humane alternative to the industrial farms where abuse is rampant, that is until meat can be grown on the molecular level which will eliminate the need to kill animals for meat and leather at all.

There are also other options for plant food production, such as aquaponics, which is a form of hydroponics that incorporates fish into the setup, using them to fertilize the plants.  Ultimately the aquaponic environment can use robotic controlled monitoring to produce maximum growth in the plants.  These aquaponic farms can be stacked vertically meaning greenhouse towers can be built, this could lead to an optimization of farming production as very little land will be needed for food production we can allow most places to return to a forest state.

There is another side to agriculture other than food production, this is the production of biofuels, such as ethanol.  These fuels are right now highly unsustainable, to create fuel, the plants must be grown on land that would otherwise be used to create food, meaning that to increase fuel production you must displace farmland or find new ground for food grain agriculture.  Because of these disadvantages, biofuel is losing out to things like fracking, the tar sands, and ultimately the electric car.

Instead of worrying about biofuels, we have to change our whole notion of extraction and consumption, otherwise permaculture will always be battling against industry.  If civilization moves to mostly solar and all gasoline cars become electric, we will have no need for any kind of fossil fuel except for extraordinary circumstances.  If you factor in nano technology, materials for creating things like solar panels, computers, and even cars can be manufactured on the molecular level from cheap materials, this is the future of manufacturing and it can eliminate ecologically damaging mining while allowing us to create wonders still greater and more elegant than those created thus far.

Another factor for the ecosystem is opening up outer space, when ordinary people can go into space and settle on other worlds, there will inevitably be a migration from earth.  Many will go out seeking the freedom of a new frontier, or to escape from overcrowded cities;  Having this kind of "land" in which to spread has lead to historically beneficial effects upon many societies.  It will also make it far easier to create a stable, environmentally friendly, egalitarian social order that will consist only of those people who want to stay on earth, not those forced to stay.

If everything goes well, humans will need to under take a massive effort to clean up the planet, we need to mine out every landfill and recycle the materiel, we have to dredge the ocean and collect all of the debris in orbit.  Fortunately, we can build robots to do the job!  But cleaning up plastic and beer cans is only half the story, humanity has thousands of disasters waiting to happen, thousands of Fukashima time bombs ticking;  I am of course referring to the nuclear power plants spread across America and across the globe.  The disaster in Japan demonstrates that these technologies are not safe, fundamentally not safe;  And with solar power getting as advanced as it is, who needs this kind of thing any more, really?  So the other side of change must be that lots of dangerous technology that is in use right now has to be decommissioned, hopefully with the advent of more efficient, safe technologies, competition will destroy more risky outdated techniques and cause them to lost public support.

So lots of awesome technology exists that can create great abundance of material and heal the ecological disasters,  but we humans must implement these tools otherwise they will lay unused in the garden shed of the mind.

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