What would Sitting Bull do?

SUBHEAD: “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.”

By Winina LADuke on 29 August 2016 for Yes Magazine -

Image above: Standing Rock Sioux and others demonstrating against the Dakota access Pipeline. Still frame from video below.

It’s 2016, and the weight of American corporate interests has come to the Missouri River, the Mother River. This time, instead of the Seventh Cavalry, or the Indian police dispatched to assassinate Sitting Bull, it is Enbridge and Dakota Access Pipeline.

In mid-August, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II was arrested by state police, along with 27 others, for opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the meantime, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple called for more police support.

Every major pipeline project in North America must cross indigenous lands, Indian Country. That is a problem.

The road west of Fargo is rarely taken. In fact, most Americans just fly over North Dakota, never seeing it.

Let me take you there.

My head clears as I drive. My destination is the homeland of the Hunkpapa Oceti, Standing Rock Reservation. It is early evening, the moon full. If you close your eyes, you can remember the 50 million buffalo—the single largest migratory herd in the world. The pounding of their hooves would vibrate the Earth, make the grass grow.

There were once 250 species of grass. Today the buffalo are gone, replaced by 28 million cattle, which require grain, water, and hay. Many of the fields are now in a single GMO crop, full of so many pesticides that the monarch butterflies are dying off. But in my memory, the old world remains.

If you drive long enough, you come to the Missouri River.

Called Mnisose, a great swirling river, by the Lakota, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is breathtaking. “The Missouri River has a fixed place in the history and mythology” of the Lakota and other Indigenous nations of the Northern Plains, author Dakota Goodhouse would explain.

In the time before Sitting Bull, the Missouri River was the epicenter of northern agriculture, the river bed so fertile. The territory was known as the fertile crescent of North America.

That was then, before the treaties that reduced the Lakota land base. But the Missouri remained in the treaty—the last treaty of 1868 used the Missouri as a boundary.

Then came the theft of land by the U.S. government, and the taking of the Black Hills in 1877, in part as retaliation against Sitting Bull’s victory at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In a time prior to Black Lives Matter or Native Lives Matter, great leaders like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were assassinated at the hands of police.

One truth: the Lakota people have survived much.

Forced into the reservation life, the Lakota attempted to stabilize their society, until the dams came. The 1944 Pick Sloan project flooded out the Missouri River tribes, taking the best bottom lands from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, the Lakota and Dakota.

Over 200,000 acres on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations in South Dakota were flooded by the Oahe Dam itself, forcing not only relocation, but a loss of the Lakota world. The GarrisonOahe, and Fort Randall dams created a reservoir that eliminated 90 percent of timber and 75 percent of wildlife on the reservations.
That is how a people are made poor.

Today, well over two thirds of the population of Standing Rock is below the poverty level—and the land and Mother River are what remains, a constant, for the people. That is what is threatened today.
Enbridge and partners are preparing to drill through the riverbed. The pipeline has been permitted in sections from the west and from the east. The northern portion was moved away from the water supply of Bismarck, into the watershed of Standing Rock. That was unfortunate for the Lakota.

Despite Lakota legal and regulatory objections, the Dakota Access Pipeline construction began in May 2016. If finished it will snake through North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, where it will link to a 774-mile pipeline to Nederland, Texas.

More than 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil will pass through the pipeline daily, along with 245,100 metric tons of carbon daily—enough carbon to combust the planet to oblivion.

The pipeline would span 200 water crossings, and in North Dakota alone would pass through 33 historical and archeological sites. Enbridge just bought the Dakota Access pipeline, noting that the proposed Sandpiper route—Minnesota’s 640,000 barrel per day Bakken line—is now three years behind schedule.

In late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Standing Rock claims the project violates federal and treaty law. Standing Rock also filed an intervention at the United Nations, in coordination with the International Indian Treaty Council.

As Chairman Archambault explained in a New York Times story:
“The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe’s cultural heritage, but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a blind eye to our rights. The first draft of the company’s assessment of the planned route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention our tribe.

The Dakota Access pipeline was fast-tracked from Day 1 using the Nationwide Permit No. 12 process, which grants exemption from environmental reviews required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites.

Without closer scrutiny, the proposal breezed through the four state processes.”
In Iowa where work on the pipeline is underway, three fires erupted causing heavy damage to equipment and an estimated $1 million in damages. Investigators suspect arson, according to Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty.

In October 2015, three Iowa farmers sued Dakota Access LLC and the Iowa Utilities Board in an attempt to prevent the use of eminent domain on their properties to construct the pipeline.

The health of the Missouri River has been taken for granted.

Dammed in the Pick Sloan Dam projects, each project increases contamination and reduces her health. Today, the Missouri is the seventh most polluted river in the country. Agricultural run-off and now fracking have contaminated the river. My sister fished a gar out of the river, a giant prehistoric fish, only to find it covered with tumors.

Here’s just one case: In a January 2015 spill, saltwater contamination from a massive pipeline spill reached the Missouri River. In the baffling way of state and federal agencies, North Dakota’s Health Director David Glatt did not expect harm to wildlife or drinking water supplies because the water was diluted. The saying is: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” That is convenient, but not true.

Blacktail Creek and the Little Muddy River were contaminated after nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater with elevated levels of chloride contamination. All was diluted. But then there was that gar fish with the tumors.

There are pipelines everywhere, and fewer than 150 Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline inspectors in the whole country.

And now comes the risk from oil.

The pipeline companies generally discuss a 99 percent safety record, but studies have found that to be grossly inaccurate. A former Scientific American Editor, Trudy Bell, reports that PHMSA data from 2001 to 2011 suggest the average pipeline “has a 57% probability of experiencing a major leak, with consequences over the $l million range in a ten year period.”
Not good odds.

At Standing Rock, as the number of protesters grew from 200 to 2000, state law enforcement decided to put up a safety checkpoint and rerouted traffic on Highway 1806 from Bismarck to Standing Rock, hoping to dissuade people from coming and put the squeeze on Standing Rock’s Prairie Knights Casino, which is served by that road.

We just drove around; the scenic route is beautiful. And as supporters surge in numbers, the casino hotel and restaurants are full.

While North Dakota seeks to punish the Lakota, Chairman Archambault expresses concerns for everyone. From the New York Times:

“I am here to advise anyone that will listen that the Dakota Access Pipeline project is harmful. It will not be just harmful to my people but its intent and construction will harm the water in the Missouri River, which is one of the cleanest and safest river tributaries left in the Unit States. To poison the water is to poison the substance of life.
Everything that moves must have water. How can we talk about and knowingly poison water?”
In the meantime, North Dakota Gov. Dalrymple announced a state of emergency, making additional state resources available “to manage public safety risks associated with the ongoing protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” He may have exceeded his scope of authority and violated civil and human rights to water.

Chairman Archambault’s interpretation:
“Perhaps only in North Dakota, where oil tycoons wine and dine elected officials, and where the governor, Jack Dalrymple, serves as an adviser to the Trump campaign, would state and county governments act as the armed enforcement for corporate interests.”

There are a lot of people at Standing Rock today who remember their history and the long standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973. In fact, some of those in Standing Rock today were there in 1973 at Wounded Knee, a similar battle for dignity and the future of a nation.

I am not sure how badly North Dakota wants this pipeline. If there is to be a battle over the pipeline, it will be here. For a people with nothing else but a land and a river, I would not bet against them.
The great Lakota leader Mathew King once said,
“The only thing sadder than an Indian who is not free, is an Indian who does not remember what it is to be free.”
The Standing Rock protest camp represents that struggle for freedom, and the future of a people. All of us. If I ask the question “What would Sitting Bull do?” —the answer is pretty clear. He would remind me what he said 150 years ago:
 “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.”
The time for that is now.

Video above: Interview with Winona LaDuke on Democracy Now! on Enbridge Corporation pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux territory. From (https://youtu.be/kooD44norew).

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein supports Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16


Neo-peasant farm in Wessex

SUBHEAD: An examination of sustainable yield in England on twenty hectares with twenty residents.

[IB Publisher's note: This article has been updated on September 9th with the addition of Chris Smaje calculations on nutritional yields from the farm he modeled.]

By Chris Smaje on 30 August 2016 for Small Farm Future -

Image above: Photo of the countryside of North Wessex Downs. From (https://fourpointmapping.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/north-wessex-downs-survey/).

[IB Publisher's Note: This article has important information on land area and yields of organic products in the temperate climate of Wessex, England. Metric system measurements are used throughout and will need to be converted for use in the United States (largely because of Ronald Reagan's rejection of modernizing America to the will of rational science. As a result many measurements may not be intuitively understood by readers of this blog. Approximations are:
A litre 'l' is about 2 quarts or a 1/2 gallon.
A millilitre 'ml' is about a fifth of a teaspoon.
A meter 'm' is about a yard.
A square meter 'm2 ' is a about 10 square feet.
A hectare 'ha' is a 1,000 square meters or about 2.5 acres.
A kilogram 'kg' is about 2 pounds.
A tonne 't' is a thousand kilograms, or about 2,000 pounds
A 'tha -1' equals tonnes per hectare, or  about 800 pounds per acre.]

Right, no more faffing around. Without further ado, I’m going to describe the layout of an ‘average’ 10 hectare holding in the Peasant’s Republic of Wessex, circa 2039, as introduced in various preceding posts. The holding, remember, has 10 whole-time equivalent workers, and ten dependents (children/elders).

I’m going to play around with those figures in due course, but let’s stick with them for now – so imagine 10 people doing the work implied in what I outline below. As to what energy sources they’ll have available…well, I’ll come to that when I’m ready.

Please shout out if you don’t like any of the numbers I’m about to throw around

1.The structure of the holding
First, I’m going to take out 3.5% or 3,500m2 of the land area on my 10ha holding for houses, outbuildings and tracks.

Each of the five houses on the holding gets their own 250m2 organic vegetable garden, totalling 0.125ha in all.

There’s just under 1.4ha of cropland, farmed organically, which the residents jointly tend.
There’s about 6ha of grass for grazing, comprising about 5ha of permanent pasture, a 0.5ha orchard with fruit and nut trees and grass in between for grazing (the trees may need some protection), and almost 0.5ha of temporary grass/clover ley in the cropland available for grazing.
There’s about 2.5ha of woodland.

2.The cropland
In a real situation, I think people would grow a pretty wide range of crops, a lot of them minor ones occupying small areas. I don’t see it as my job to lay out in exhaustive detail exactly what all these crops might be, so for this exercise I’m restricting the cropping to a relatively small range of fairly obvious crops. I’m interested in any suggestions for refinements, particularly if they come with reasons as to why it’s important to include them.

In relation to crop yields, I have three sources of data. First, my own data back from the days around 2010/11 when I was young and enthusiastic and I could be bothered to keep meticulous cropping records. Second, I have data in the form of a sneak preview from my friend Rebecca Laughton’s fascinating forthcoming study of small farm productivity in the UK.

And finally, I have data from my copy of the 2011/12 Organic Farm Management Handbook. If I get a few more donations to the website I might splash out on a newer version, and update the figures.

In keeping with my preference to err on the side of under-estimating rather than over-estimating yields, in each case I’ve taken whichever of my three data sources reports the lowest average yield. I think the yield per hectare figures I’m assuming generally are on the low side, but I’d welcome any comments.

Other sources of data I’ve used are further referenced below.

One other point: some people like to stress the yield advantages of backyard scale, labour intensive mixed cropping and might therefore think that the yield data I’m using from commercial-scale single-crop systems underestimates the possibilities. I’ve explained here why I’m a bit sceptical about the claims made for mixed cropping. And in any case, as I’ve just said, I don’t mind underestimating a bit.

Where I have made minor allowance for the benefits of small scale is in the issue of edge. I don’t go with the over-mystical enthusiasm for edge associated with the wilder shores of the permaculture movement, but look at it this way: a square 10ha field has a perimeter of 1,265m.

You could sow wheat in the field while establishing around 300 apple trees around the perimeter with essentially no loss of growing space for the wheat.

A cereal farmer with a large number of 10ha fields isn’t going to do that. But 10 neo-peasants living in a 10ha field probably are. So in that way we can increase the effective growing area of the field using nothing but the magic of human labour and linear planting, so long as we don’t push that logic too far…

OK, so let’s look at what’s in the shared cropland. First up, I’m going to set aside about 350m2 to grow hemp and flax in order to make clothes. Personally I prefer wearing cotton and synthetic fibres and would probably be willing to spend some of my off-farm household income on that if it wasn’t too expensive, but let’s go with the home-grown option.

I’ve taken figures for hemp and flax from Simon Fairlie’s ‘Can Britain feed itself?’1 – it amounts to about 7kg of fibre per person per year.

The rest of the cropland is split into an eight course rotation, each course occupying just under 1,700m2. The rotation I envisage is as follows (though not necessarily in this chronological sequence):
  1. Grass/clover ley (available for ruminant grazing)
  2. Grass/clover ley
  3. Potatoes, split between earlies yielding 6.4 tonnes per hectare (25%) and maincrop yielding 12.7 tha-1 (75%)
  4. A short-straw spring wheat, yielding 3.5 tha-1
  5. A long-straw, traditional variety winter wheat with low fertility requirements, yielding 1.75 tha-1
  6. Legumes, split 50/50 between broad beans for the summer and drying beans for the winter (both 2.5 tha-1)
  7. Vegetables: split between cabbages (75%) yielding 35 tha-1 and swede (25%) yielding 24 tha-1.
  8. Vegetables: a third each of onions (19 tha-1), leeks (11 tha-1) and carrots (35 tha-1)
I’ve grown wheat on small scales from time to time with mixed results – the main problem being that the small-scale sowing and especially harvesting technologies I’ve had available weren’t that great. In a society with a lot of small-scale wheat cultivation, that would probably change.

Wheat’s co-product, straw, would be in high demand around the holding – one reason for growing a traditional long-straw variety, as suggested by Michael under a previous post.

Yield figures for potatoes, wheat and legumes are further corrected for seed input. The other crops aren’t corrected, on the grounds that it’s fairly negligible.

3.The Garden
In the garden, I’m projecting seven crops, though in reality there’d be more:
  1. Espalier apple on the south-facing edge: just over 3 trees on average in each of the 5 gardens, yielding 9kg of apples per tree.
  2. Tomatoes: 30 plants per garden yielding 2kg per plant
  3. Strawberries: about 80m2 yielding 6.3 tha-1
  4. Chard: about 40m2 yielding 30.5 tha-1 (cut and come again)
  5. Courgettes: about 40m2 yielding 40.8 tha-1
  6. Lettuce: about 40m2 yielding 3.3 tha-1
  7. Kale: about 40m2 yielding 35.7 tha-1
Fertility in the garden would come from compost generated from around the site. I’ll write more about fertility in another post.

4.The Orchard
In a 0.5 ha orchard, I think there would be space for:
  • 56 apple trees on MM106 rootstocks, producing about 26kg per tree
  • 47 pear trees on Quince A rootstocks, producing about 17kg per tree
  • 58 plum trees on St Julien A rootstocks, producing about 12kg per tree
  • 47 hazel bushes, producing about 3kg per tree
Yield data here is from Harry Baker’s lower estimates in his The Fruit Garden Displayed – an old one, but a good one. Hazel was a key part of the pre-agricultural British diet, and is one of the few realistic sources of non-animal dietary fat in these parts. Perhaps there’s a case for growing more? Then again, our ancestors didn’t have grey squirrels to contend with…

5.Livestock and Meat
(i) Cows
I have little experience of dairying, so I’m a bit uncertain of these figures and would welcome any comments. But the most efficient way of getting useful human food from grass is via a dairy cow, so there will be cows on my holding.

These will be more or less pure grass-fed house cows, not souped up (or at least soya and cerealed-up) champion milkers of the modern kind. They will have preferential access to the clover-rich leys on the cropland and will otherwise be part of a grazing rotation over the permanent pasture.

I’m assuming 1 ha of grazing will feed a cow and her calves over the year, and yield 4,000 litres of milk, plus 90kg of meat per hectare per year from the calf (slaughtered at 2 years, and with some kept as cow replacements after 10 years).

There’d probably be a need for careful pasture management (and maybe occasional reseeding?) to ensure a relatively high-productivity pasture (white clover, perennial ryegrass etc.)

There would be 3 house cows on the holding. About a fifth of their milk would be kept for direct human consumption, which works out at about 300ml per day for each of the 20 people on the holding.

he rest of the milk would be turned into butter and cheese. I’m assuming about half of it will be devoted to butter, with 20 litres of milk producing 1kg of butter (I’m anxious that my neo-peasants have enough fat to eat and to cook with).

And just under a third is devoted to cheese, with 8 litres of milk going into each kg of cheese. The butter and cheese-making processes give the co-products of buttermilk and whey respectively (90l of buttermilk per 100l of milk for butter, and 87l of whey per 100l of milk for cheese). A little bit of this will be eaten directly by the people on the holding, but most of it will be used to feed pigs (see below).

(ii) Sheep
I’m assuming that a hectare of permanent pasture could support 6 ewes plus their lambs (and a ram, or part thereof) year round. I think that’s a pretty low estimate, but it provides a bit of extra margin for the cows.

The sheep would be on just under 3 ha of the permanent pasture, and there would be about 18 ewes in all, each producing 1.5 lambs annually on average. Ewes would be culled on average at five years, with lambs raised to replace them.

On the basis of those assumptions, the sheep would produce 544kg of meat (lamb and mutton) per year, plus some wool and other bits and pieces which would doubtless come in handy. Rotating them around the pasture with the cows would help to keep the worm burden down.

(iii) Pigs
I’ll start with the assumption that I can raise two pigs in the woodland. I know this is cheating a bit, but I’ll have a clearing in the woodland in which I can grow some clover and fodder beet for them. They’ll also get to eat waste material from the gardens and kitchens (there’s no swill ban in the Peasant’s Republic of Wessex).

This is pretty much what I do now, and I reckon I could easily raise two almost-default pigs this way. But I’m worried that my neo-peasants aren’t going to have enough easily available fat, so I’d like to raise some more pigs.

If I reserve all but 5% of the buttermilk and whey from the dairy as pig food, and on the assumption that you have to put about six times more energy into a pig than you get out, I reckon I can raise another four pigs from the dairy.

I think there’ll also be a bit of a surplus of potatoes and beans from the field crops, so I’m going to devote something like 650kg of the potato crop and 150kg of the bean crop to pig food, getting an extra three pigs. And that should give us about 400kg of pig meat per year altogether (I’m assuming smaller, leaner pigs at slaughter than the current commercial norm – killing out at 44kg, which was the weight of my default-raised Tamworths last year).

We should be able to get a good few kilos of lard out of the pig meat (and a little more from the beef) which, together with the butter, will be our cooking fat. Having nine pigs in the woodland may trash the ground a bit, but on the basis of my current pig-keeping experiments I think it’d probably be

OK – the average holding would just be raising weaners during the warmer months, which limits the damage.

(iv) Ducks and/or hens
Personally I prefer ducks to hens – better for eating slugs, the No.1 garden pest in Wessex. Though hens are better with some of the insect pests. And ducks’ waddling is less destructive of the ground than chickens’ scratching.

And since I don’t have a TV or young children, ducks are also better at the slapstick humour otherwise missing from my life. But, ducks or hens, my assumptions are basically the same – I’ll have ten of them, each laying on average 285 eggs per year, and requiring about 10kg of feed a week.

Half of that will come from their foraging free-range – well, not entirely free-range, but probably a lot more free-range than the ‘free-range’ products in the shops. The other half will come from the wheat. Talking of free-range, that reminds me that at some point I need to discuss fencing. But not right now.
At the end of their laying lives I guess I’d put the ducks and/or hens in the pot. But the amount of meat isn’t much to write home about, so I’ll ignore it. Meat hens/ducks of course are an option, but a less efficient one. I’m not including any here.

(v) Geese
There’ll be five geese, to be eaten at Christmas, or solstice, or whatever Dionysian rites there are in 2039 to keep the winter blues at bay. The geese will fight it out with the cows and sheep for grazing during the year.

(vi) Bees
There’ll be bees, helping with pollination as well as providing honey, wax, propolis etc. But I don’t think there’ll be much honey, because they need it more than us and we won’t be poisoning them with sugar. So let us say we’ll have just 10kg each year to put by for a rainy day.

(vii) Fish
Fish are efficient converters of fish-food into human-food, and before we became habituated to sea-fish and salmonids, fishponds were a ubiquitous part of the farmed British landscape. I’m sure that there would be neo-peasant fish farmers in Wessex. But most fish farming systems I’ve seen are high input as well as high output and quite energy/building intensive, so I really have no idea how to make realistic estimates.

Therefore I’m going to ignore farmed fish. Likewise with wild freshwater fish. I’m sure people in Wessex would fish in its lakes and rivers, though with so many people around they’d have to be careful not to fish them all out. So I’m going to leave freshwater fish as another under-exploited margin in my analysis.

Sea-fish, on the other hand, seems like a margin worth exploring, given the historic importance of fishing in Wessex, the hundreds of miles of coastline, and the nutritional excellence of wild fish. But it’s a bit tricky coming up with an estimate of sustainable catch.

And perhaps also thinking about fishing technology in a potentially energy-constrained future – though, more than with most things, perhaps the sun, wind and brine of the maritime environment suggests ways that it could be done using mostly renewable inputs.

I confess that I was fairly ignorant about the UK fishing industry until I obtained a copy of the UK Sea Fisheries Statistics and achieved instant enlightenment. Did you know, for example, that 418,000 tonnes of pelagic fish were landed by UK vessels using demersal trawl/seine gear in 2014? Seriously? Well do try to keep up.

I thought long and hard about how best to convert current catch statistics into something that seemed likely to be sustainable. In the end, I plumped for the simple expedient of limiting the catch to that which is currently brought in by UK boats of under 24m, constituting a mere 25% of their total catch. Allocated out on a per capita basis that gives everyone about 2½kg of fish per year each.

My friend Paul has used a more elaborate methodology, looking at estimated sustainable fish stocks from the European Atlas of the Seas, applying it to fishery zones of the western seaboard and allocating it out accordingly to the people of Wessex.

He comes up with the much larger figure of 36½kg of fish per person per year (doubtless my figures are biased towards the considerably smaller onshore fishery while his include more distant offshore fisheries).

I propose in time-honoured fashion to split the difference, giving my neo-peasants 19½ kg of fish each per year. This, incidentally, is the only source of food they get from off the holding.

(viii) Meat – A Summary
The holding’s pastures drive its meat productivity, particularly through the medium of its dairy cows. So my assumption of 1 cow plus calves per hectare is key.

I hope it sounds reasonable. To put it into context, in his ‘restoration agriculture’ system, Mark Shepard proposes to produce just under 20,000 litres of milk and just over 1,200kg of meat from one hectare of his Wisconsin farm2, something that elsewhere I’ve suggested seems implausibly optimisitc3.

Here, I’m proposing to produce 4,000 litres of milk and 168kg of meat from one hectare of a Wessex neo-peasant farm. I guess you could call Wessex the Wisconsin of England, only with a few more people and a few less lakes. And, apparently, a lot less meat and milk.

6.Other Food
It shouldn’t be hard to produce 15kg of fresh shiitake mushrooms on logs cut from the woodland each year.

And it shouldn’t be hard for the kids to harvest 10kg of blackberries from the woodland and hedges, along with 10kg of sea buckthorn berries that will have been strategically planted along one of the holding’s many edges.

In fact, there’s huge scope for growing a lot more in the way of fruit and nuts along these edges, but I’ll leave things at that low level to create another underexploited margin.

I’m not convinced that there’s all that much scope for bushmeat from the holding. I doubt many people will be raising game birds in the Peasant’s Republic of Wessex (there’s no Duchy of Cornwall, remember), so that pretty much leaves us with deer, squirrels, rabbits and pigeons.

Usually, I find it more trouble than it’s worth to go after these creatures, though sometimes either luck or fury at their crop depredations brings some of their meat to my table.

Teenagers with guns around the place can help – though remember there’s 20 people in every 10 hectares, so if you’ve got a rifle make sure you aim it downwards. Anyway, I’m estimating a parsimonious 4kg of bushmeat per holding per year.

Doubtless there’s some scope for collecting wild plants and mushrooms, and for developing invertebrate farming with good input/output ratios (mussels, snails, insects etc.) But again I’m going to leave all that as an unexploited margin.

Well, there you have it. The full dope on the neo-peasant holding. In my next post I’ll plug all of that into my magic spreadsheet to reveal the nutritional consequences of the Wessex way of life.

  1. Fairlie, S. 2007/8. ‘Can Britain feed itself?’ The Land, 4, 18-26.
  1. Shepard, M. 2013. Restoration Agriculture, Acres USA.
  1. http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=704

Nutrition yield in neo-peasant Wessex

SUBHEAD: Quantifying nutritional yield from our Neo-peasant Wessex farm model. Two people per hectare works.

By Chris Smaje on 9 September 2016 for Small Farm Future -

Image above: Painting of English peasants reaping grain by George Clausen. From (http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-english-peasant-art-of-sir-george_9.html).

In my last post I presented a picture of the production on an ‘average’ 10 hectare holding in the future Peasant’s Republic of Wessex. Here I’m going to update that picture slightly in the light of some of the comments I received and then take a look at what sort of diet such a holding would turn out for its inhabitants.

So first the feedback. One general comment I received is that farming is specific: specific to the local soil, the farm’s exact microclimate, and so on – so two different farms are likely to be as similar as ‘chalk and cheese’, to use an appropriately local agricultural cliché.

My response to that is partly to concede the point – here I’m describing a kind of ‘averaged’ or ‘ideal type’ neo-peasant farm, not a blueprint for what any individual farm would necessarily look like in reality.

But my response is also partly to rebut the point: the basic mixed farming package of grass-cereal-legume-ruminant-vegetable-woodland is widely applicable globally, despite numerous local variations.

And the emphasis on local self-provisioning in a neo-peasant world is a further generalising move – the point is not to develop the land to its single most productive specialised use and then create a living from it through extensive monetised trading with other specialists. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.

The point is to aim towards making a generalised living as best we can from the land around us. So I’d guess that a lot of neo-peasant farms probably would approximate quite closely to the ‘average’ farm I’m describing.

Onto some more specific comments. As I mentioned previously, my assumption of one dairy cow plus calves per hectare was a fairly key one.

Eric from North Carolina, who has considerably more dairying experience than me, suggested that it sounded feasible but possibly somewhat on the high side, while conceding that the grazing in Wessex may be rather better than in his location.

I’m going to try to get a bit of local advice on this issue – though it’s complicated by the fact that not many farmers around here raise house cows without concentrates in the diet.

In the meantime, I’m going to split the difference between my estimate and Eric’s and assume around 3,300 litres of milk per hectare. Eric also picked up on an embarrassing over-estimate in my buttermilk calculations, which

I’ve now corrected. The result is that my neo-peasants get not only less milk, butter and cheese than I’d projected but also less pigs (albeit with a bit more buttermilk and whey for direct consumption).

This makes the nutritional turn-out of the whole thing much tighter than it had been. So thanks a bunch, Eric. But seriously, I want this to be as plausible as possible, so I’m genuinely grateful for the scrutiny.

If I need to make good the deficit arising from Eric’s correction (and I think I probably do) it leaves me with some choices about which under-exploited margin to push. There are three options:
  1. More cropland (or more starchy staples within the cropland)
  2. More fruit, nuts etc. by pushing at the productivity of the edges
  3. More pasture, at the expense of woodland
I’ve opted for (3), with a bit of (1) in the form of growing relatively more maincrop over early potatoes (85/15%). So, with my new assumption of five-sixths of a dairy cow plus calves per hectare, to retain our three dairy cows (along with the sheep) we need 6¼ha of permanent pasture (plus a bit of temporary grass from the leys).

That leaves us with 1.9ha or 19% woodland – still a pretty generous margin, I think, given that less than 5% of UK farmland is wooded currently.

Other comments included the suggestion of barley, which I’ve now included at a yield of 2.25tha-1 for hulled grain instead of my long-straw wheat.

And also a suggestion for sugar beet. Not so sure about that one – but I’m providing for Beta vulgaris in the garden, and I don’t doubt that some wily Wessex neo-peasants would experiment with it and probably achieve better productivity with it overall than I’m projecting in my sugarless neo-peasant world. It was also suggested that geese are garden-raiders that are best avoided.

In my limited experience of goose-keeping, it’s harder keeping the fox from the goose than the goose from the garden, but in any case the geese are a fairly insignificant part of the overall system so I’m not proposing to change that.

There were also some interesting discussions about different ruminant species and the virtues of animal versus vegetable oil. I’ll come on to some of those issues in later posts, but I don’t propose to change my overall approach just now. Thanks to everyone who commented.

So now it’s time to look at the nutritional profile of the neo-peasant diet I’ve projected. For the moment, I’m just going to look at the 10 hectare holding with its 20 residents and consider whether the holding can meet their nutritional needs. Later on, I’ll look at the situation in Wessex as a whole, and beyond.

A complete definition of nutritional adequacy would, I suppose, have to look at the full range of dietary sub-components that nutritionists have identified – all the vitamins, all the minerals etc. This starts to get a bit unwieldy, so what I’ve done here is take the two obvious macro-nutrients that people need – energy and protein – and then four other indicator nutrients, namely Vitamin A, Vitamin C, magnesium and iron.

We then need some baseline figures for how much of these nutrients an individual person needs. This varies by age and gender and doubtless other individual metrics, which again complicates analysis. But since I’m assuming a mix of ages and genders on my hypothetical holding, taking an overall average figure is defensible, I think.

Probably the most controversial decision is how much energy an individual needs. Current government recommendations average out at around 2,000 calories per day (that’s 8,373.6 kilojoules to us metricians). Doubtless it could be argued that a neo-peasant working their holding for food will require more energy than the average desk and car-bound modern westerner.

Indeed, I’ve seen it suggested that peasants of yore consumed as many as 4,000 calories per day, though I haven’t seen that substantiated in the research literature – if anyone has a credible reference for it, I’d appreciate a tip-off.

If that 4,000 calorie figure indeed was true, it’s probably worth remembering that peasants of bygone days were typically working in low crop-yield and low fertility situations, producing large surpluses for their social superiors, and probably walking around a lot in between fragmented holdings.

I’m not sure how valid those assumptions would be if applied to the future neo-peasants of Wessex (at least if it all turns out the way I’m construing it here, which it probably won’t). It does of course partly depend on what other energy sources are available on the holding, a point that I’ll address when I get around to it.

But even if those additional sources are minimal, I think a lot of the working time on the silvo-agri-pastoral holding I described in my previous post would involve only minor exertion, though there’d certainly be some tiring days in the course of the year.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that half the people on the holding are basically uninvolved in its day-to-day work and in view of their age profile are likely to have a sub-2,000 calorific requirement.

Anyway, enough of this waffle. You want me to specify a figure for the assumed average daily calorific needs of all the residents on the Wessex neo-peasant holding? You got it – 2,250 calories. Any problems with that, please dial 1-800-DOYOUROWNDARNEDSPREADSHEET.

I’m hoping that the other nutritional targets require less debate. US government recommendations suggest, on average, about 50g of protein a day, 800mg of Vitamin A (RAE), 80mg of Vitamin C, 400mg of magnesium and 12mg of iron. And it doesn’t do to question what the US government recommends.

I’ve converted the crop yields by kilogram reported in my previous post into values for the nutritional indicators outlined above using food composition tables – mostly those provided by the USDA on this handy website, while occasionally using a borrowed copy of McCance and Widdowson’s venerable The Composition of Foods from the 1970s.

The USDA figures are generally a bit lower than McCance and Widdowson, which suits my taste for under-estimation (though perhaps foods now are just genuinely less nutrient dense than in the 1970s?) The results are summarised in Table 1.

The first line shows how much the 10ha holding described in my previous post would produce annually in total for each of the nutritional indicators described above.

The second line shows how much of these various nutrients would be required by the 20 people on the holding annually on the basis of the recommended intake described above. The third line shows the ratio of these two figures to provide an at-a-glance indicator of whether the holding has hit its targets (so, less than one shows target missed, more than one shows target exceeded).

Table 1: Nutrient Productivity on a Wessex Neo-Peasant Holding
Vitamin A
Viitamin C
Produced 75,617 791 29,367 3,635 5,241 125
Required 68,593 364 5,825 582 2,913 87
Ratio 1.10 2.17 5.04 6.24 1.80 1.43

So the answer is…yes the holding does hit its targets, quite comfortably, in all cases, the closest call being with the energy requirement, in which there’s only a 10% surfeit of productivity over need.
Bearing in mind my modest yield assumptions and the many potential margins of productivity that I left unexploited, I think this analysis clearly suggests that it’s not in principle a very difficult thing for people occupying lowland agricultural land in Wessex at a density of about 2 per hectare (or 1 per 1¼ acre) to furnish themselves with their needs.

I probably need to reiterate once again in view of the scoffing that this exercise has already prompted that I’m making no claims here about the ease of creating a future sustainable neo-peasant society along the lines implied in this analysis. What I guess I am claiming is that, so far as we can tell from present circumstances, such a society might in principle be possible.

I’ll conclude this post with a few further breakdowns of the nutritional data. Figure 1 shows the proportionate contribution of the different food types produced on the holding to the energy component of the diet, while Table 2 is a corresponding presentation for the protein component.

Table 2: Energy and protein components of the neo-peasant diet

Proportion of Food Energy Intake (%) Proportion of Protein Intake (%)
Potatoes, wheat & barley 14 10
Legumes 1 2
Vegetables 21 25
Fruit & nuts 10 2
Dairy 27 27
Meat 21 22
Fish 4 9
Other 1 2

The figures show a nice, healthy diet, with most of the macro-nutrients from grass-based meat, dairy and vegetables. Fruit also looms quite large, and starchy staples only provide about 10% of the nutrients. So plenty of room to intensify there, should the need arise.

The other nutritional check to run is what I’m calling Proposition Paul – a suggestion from Paul, a pioneering local neo-peasant here in Wessex, that the peasant diet should aim to get about 16% of its calories from protein (max 20%), about 40% from fat (max 48%), and the rest from carbohydrates, preferably of the complex rather than the simple kind. And it turns out that we hit these targets.

Calories from protein are 16.6% and from fat 40.5%. That leaves 43% from carbohydrates all told, and only 7% from simple carbohydrates.

Well, this neo-peasant lifestyle is a breeze, isn’t it? But of course we haven’t yet looked at how the rest of the good people of Wessex will fare. And lurking menacingly in the background is the dark shadow of Londinium…

This is Human Supremacism

SUBHEAD: The belief in Human Supremacy is morally indefensible and destroys our planet.

By Derrick Jensen on 26 August 2016 for AlterNet.org  -

Image above: Researcher Walter Tschinkel uses molten metal to make casts of intricate harvester ant nests. And it was not just once. It was many times. From (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/harvester-ants-are-restless-enigmatic-architects).

The following is an excerpt from the new book The Myth of Human Supremacy by Derrick Jensen (Seven Stories Press, 2016)
"The modern conservative [and, I would say, the human supremacist] is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." —John Kenneth Galbraith
I’m sitting by a pond, in sunlight that has the slant and color of early fall. Wind blows through the tops of second-growth redwood, cedar, fir, alder, willow. Breezes make their way down to sedges, rushes, grasses, who nod their heads this way and that. Spider silk glistens. A dragonfly floats a few inches above the water, then suddenly climbs to perch atop a rush.

A family of jays talks among themselves.

I smell the unmistakable, slightly sharp scent of redwood duff, and then smell also the equally unmistakable and also slightly sharp, though entirely different, smell of my own animal body.
A small songbird, I don’t know who, hops on two legs just above the waterline. She stops, cocks her head, then pecks at the ground.

Movement catches my eye, and I see a twig of redwood needles fall gently to the ground. It helped the tree. Now it will help the soil.

Someday I am going to die. Someday so are you. Someday both you and I will feed—even more than we do now, through our sloughed skin, through our excretions, through other means—those communities who now feed us.

And right now, amidst all this beauty, all this life, all these others—sedge, willow, dragonfly, redwood, spider, soil, water, sky, wind, clouds—it seems not only ungenerous, but ungrateful to begrudge the present and future gift of my own life to these others without whom neither I nor this place would be who we are, without whom neither I nor this place would even be.

Likewise, in this most beautiful place on Earth—and you do know, don’t you, that each wild and living place on Earth is the most beautiful place on Earth—I can never understand how members of the dominant culture could destroy life on this planet. I can never understand how they could destroy even one place.

Last year someone from Nature [sic] online journal interviewed me by phone. I include the sic because the journal has far more to do with promoting human supremacism—the belief that humans are separate from and superior to everyone else on the planet—than it has to do with the real world.

Here is one of the interviewer’s “questions”:

“Surely nature can only be appreciated by humans. If nature were to cease to exist, nature itself would not notice, as it is not conscious (at least in the case of most animals and plants, with the possible exception of the great apes and cetaceans) and, other than through life’s drive for homeostasis, is indifferent to its own existence. Nature thus only achieves worth through our consciously valuing it.”
At the precise moment he said this to me, I was watching through my window a mother bear lying on her back in the tall grass, her two children playing on her belly, the three of them clearly enjoying each other and the grass and the sunshine. I responded, “How dare you say these others do not appreciate life!” He insisted they don’t.

I asked him if he knew any bears personally. He thought the question absurd.

This is why the world is being murdered.

Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture. A central unquestioned belief of this culture is that humans are superior to and separate from everyone else. Human supremacism is part of the foundation of much of this culture’s religion, science, economics, philosophy, art, epistemology, and so on.

Human supremacism is killing the planet. Human supremacists—at this point, almost everyone in this culture—have shown time and again that the maintenance of their belief in their own superiority, and the entitlement that springs from this belief, are more important to them than the well-being or existences of everyone else.

Indeed, they’ve shown that the maintenance of this self-perception and entitlement are more important than the continuation of life on the planet.

Until this supremacism is questioned and dismantled, the self-perceived entitlement that flows from this supremacism guarantees that every attempt to stop this culture from killing the planet will fail, in great measure because these attempts will be informed and limited by this supremacism, and thus will at best be ways to slightly mitigate harm, with the primary point being to make certain to never in any way question or otherwise endanger the supremacism or entitlement.

In short, people protect what’s important to them, and human supremacists have shown time and again that their sense of superiority and the tangible benefits they receive because of their refusal to perceive others as anything other than inferiors or resources to be exploited is more important to them than not destroying the capacity of this planet to support life, including, ironically, their own.

Especially because human supremacism is killing the planet, but also on its own terms, human supremacism is morally indefensible. It is also intellectually indefensible. Neither of which seems to stop a lot of people from trying to defend it.

The first line of defense of human supremacism is no defense at all, literally. This is true for most forms of supremacism, as unquestioned assumptions form the most common base for any form of bigotry: Of course humans (men, whites, the civilized) are superior, why do you ask?

Or more precisely: How could you possibly ask? Or even more precisely: What the hell are you talking about, you crazy person? Or more precisely yet, an awkward silence while everyone politely forgets you said anything at all.

Think about it: if you were on a bus or in a shopping mall or in a church or in the halls of Congress, and you asked the people around you if they think humans are more intelligent than or are otherwise superior to cows or willows or rivers or mushrooms or stones (“stupid as a box of rocks”), what do you think people would answer?

If you said to them that trees told you they don’t want to be cut down and made into 2x4s, what would happen to your credibility?

Contrast that with the credibility given to those who state publicly that you can have infinite economic (or human population) growth on a finite planet, or who argue that the world consists of resources to be exploited.

If you said to people in this culture that oceans don’t want to be murdered, would these humans listen? If you said that prairie dogs are in no way inferior to (or less intelligent than) humans, and you said this specifically to those humans who have passed laws requiring landowners to kill prairie dogs, would they be more likely to laugh at you or agree with you?

Or do you think they’d be more likely to get mad at you? And just think how mad they’d get if you told them that land doesn’t want to be owned (most especially by them). If you told them there was a choice between electricity from dams and the continued existence of salmon, lampreys, sturgeon, and mussels, which would they choose?

 Why? What are they already choosing?

This is too abstract. Here is human supremacism. Right now in Africa, humans are placing cyanide wastes from gold mines on salt licks and in ponds. This cyanide poisons all who come there, from elephants to lions to hyenas to the vultures who eat the dead. The humans do this in part to dump the mine wastes, but mainly so they can sell the ivory from the murdered elephants.

Right now a human is wrapping endangered ploughshares tortoises in cellophane and cramming them into roller bags to try to smuggle them out of Madagascar and into Asia for the pet trade. There are fewer than 400 of these tortoises left in the wild.

Right now in China, humans keep bears in tiny cages, iron vests around the bears’ abdomens to facilitate the extraction of bile from the bears’ gall bladders. The bears are painfully “milked” daily. The vests also serve to keep the bears from killing themselves by punching themselves in the chest.

Right now there are fewer than 500 Amani flatwing damselflies left in the world. They live along one stream in Tanzania. The rest of their home has been destroyed by human agriculture.

This year has seen a complete collapse of monarch butterfly populations in the United States and Canada. Their homes have been destroyed by agriculture.

Right now humans are plowing under and poisoning prairies. Right now humans are clearcutting forests. Right now humans are erecting mega-dams. Right now because of dams, 25 percent of all rivers no longer reach the ocean.

And most humans couldn’t care less.

Right now the University of Michigan Wolverines football team is hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers. More than 100,000 humans are attending this football game. More than 100,000 humans have attended every Michigan home football game since 1975. There used to be real wolverines in Michigan.

One was sighted there in 2004, the first time in 200 years. That wolverine died in 2010.
More people in Michigan—“The Wolverine State”—care about the Michigan Wolverines football team than care about real wolverines.

This is human supremacism.

 I just got a note from a friend who was visiting her son. She writes, “Yesterday morning when I emptied the compost bucket, the guy next door called out to ask if that was ‘garbage’ I was putting on the pile. I told him it was ‘compost.’ We went back and forth a couple of times.

Then he said, ‘We don’t want no [sic] animals around here. I saw a raccoon out there. There were never any animals around here before.’ What better statement of human supremacism?”

Recently, scientists discovered that some species of mice love to sing. They “fill the air with trills so high-pitched that most humans can’t even hear them.” If “the melody is sweet enough, at least to the ears of a female mouse, the vocalist soon finds himself with a companion.”

Mice, like songbirds, have to be taught how to sing. This is culture, passed from generation to generation. If they aren’t taught, they can’t sing.

So, what is the response by scientists to these mice, who love to sing, who teach each other how to sing, who sing for their lovers, who have been compared to “opera singers”?

Given what the ideology of human supremacism does to people who otherwise seem sane, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the scientists wanted to find out what would happen if they surgically deafened these mice.

And we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the mice could no longer sing their operas, their love songs. The deafened mice could no longer sing at all. Instead, they screamed.

And who could blame them? This is human supremacism.

Or there’s this. Just yesterday I spoke with Con Slobodchikoff, who has been studying prairie dog language for more than thirty years. Through observing prairie dogs non-intrusively in the field, he has learned of the complexity of their language and social lives. But he has done so, he said, without the aid of grants.

Time and again he was told that if he wanted to receive money for his research—and if he wanted to do “real science” instead of “just” observing nature—he would have to capture some prairie dogs, deafen them, and then see how these social creatures with their complex auditory language and communal relationships responded to their loss of hearing. Of course he refused.

Of course he didn’t receive the grants.

This is human supremacism.

And then today I got an email from a botanist friend who has worked for various federal agencies.

His work has included identifying previously unknown species of plants.

He said this work has not been supported by the agencies, because the existence of rare plants would interfere with their management plans, including the mass spraying of herbicides. His discoveries have been made on his own time and on his own dime.

It’s a good thing science is value free, isn’t it?

I told him Slobodchikoff had said to me that the scientific establishment makes it very difficult for people to manifest their love of the world. Slobodchikoff said this as someone who loves the earth very much.

My botanist friend agreed. “Science makes it very hard to love the world. Most scientists want the world to fit nice, clear, linear equations, and anything that doesn’t fit is ignored, unless you can get a publication out of it. Love isn’t a concept that would even come to mind concerning the natural world. The natural world is just a means to an end.

A thing to be dissected, so they can get tenure. I was talking to a local botany professor, about how geology can drive speciation/change, and he was actually surprised to consider anything outside of genetic mechanisms. I was surprised at his surprise: his view just seemed so limited.

A plant to him is an isolated, discrete entity, rather than the expression of the complex interactions and relationships between all the entities/factors in the environment going back 3.5 billion years.”

Or there’s this. I just saw a snuff video of scientists pouring molten aluminum into an anthill to reveal the shape of the tunnels. Then the scientists marveled at the beauty of the shape of the anthill they just massacred to the last ant.

This is human supremacism.

Or there’s this. The air around the world has recently been declared to be as carcinogenic as secondhand smoke.

The leading cause of lung cancer is now industrial pollution.

This is human supremacism.

TPP secret Super Court

SUBHEAD: Financiers will use TPP court to bet on lawsuits against countries, while taxpayers foot the bill.

By David Dayan on 29 August 2016 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Still frame from anti TPP video below. From (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXMJ-_93odY).

A secretive super-court system called ISDS is threatening to blow up President Barack Obama’s highest foreign policy priority.

Investor-state dispute settlement — an integral part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal — allows companies to sue entire countries for costing them money when laws or regulations change. Cases are decided by extrajudicial tribunals composed of three corporate lawyers.

Buzzfeed, in a multi-part investigation launched Sunday, called it “the court that rules the world.”

Although the ISDS process has existed for years, TPP would drastically expand it. The most common criticisms of the system are that it’s secret, that it’s dominated by unaccountable big-firm lawyers, and that global corporations use it to change sovereign laws and undermine regulations. That’s all true.
But here’s what most of the coverage and the critics are missing.

The ISDS system ― which is now written into over 3,000 international trade treaties, including NAFTA ― was designed to solve a specific problem.

When corporations invest abroad, they fear that their factories might be nationalized or their products expropriated by governments that also control the local courts. ISDS is meant to give companies confidence that if a country seizes their accounts or factories, they’ll have a fair, neutral place to appeal.

But instead of helping companies resolve legitimate disputes over seized assets, ISDS has increasingly become a way for rich investors to make money by speculating on lawsuits, winning huge awards and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Here’s how it works: Wealthy financiers with idle cash have purchased companies that are well placed to bring an ISDS claim, seemingly for the sole purpose of using that claim to make a buck. Sometimes, they set up shell corporations to create the plaintiffs to bring ISDS cases.

And some hedge funds and private equity firms bankroll ISDS cases as third parties — just like billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker Media.

It’s the same playbook that hedge funds were following when they bought up Argentine, Puerto Rican and other U.S. housing debt for pennies on the dollar. As The Huffington Post reported in May, the financiers were betting they could use lawsuits and lobbying to influence the political system in favor of the creditors like them and reap huge rewards.

Indeed, the damage of ISDS goes far beyond the money that investors manage to extract from public coffers and extends to the corruption of a political system by investors who buy off scholars, economists and politicians in pursuit of whatever policy outcome leads to a payoff.

And there’s nothing stopping plutocrats with agendas that go beyond profit-making from getting involved ― again the way Thiel did with Gawker. That alone changes the power dynamic: If you’re the government of Thailand, the billionaire you’re negotiating with has one extra threat at his disposal.

If these investors are able to cement ISDS as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the opportunities for hedge funds to do what they’ve already done to Argentina will be endless ― possibly even in cities and states under financial pressure in the U.S., like Detroit and Illinois.

So-called third-party funding of “international arbitration against foreign sovereigns” has been expanding quickly, according to Selvyn Seidel, a pioneer in the litigation finance industry and now CEO of the advisory firm Fulbrook Capital Management.

“You can get an award for billions of dollars when that award would never come out in domestic law,” said Gus van Harten, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. “It’s just a jackpot for speculators.”

Here’s an example. In 2008, the Spanish government, under pressure from the eurozone to cut its budget during the financial crisis, began to reverse generous subsidies for solar energy. Spain reduced support for solar in stages. It changed the definition of its main solar incentive program in 2008, reduced the subsidies through two measures in 2010, placed a moratorium on subsidies for new solar plants in 2011, and added further restrictions in 2013.

Renewable energy activists could only shout into the air. But a group of investors hatched a plan.
Between November 2011 and December 2013, 22 different companies sued Spain in seven different cases over the subsidy changes – not in Spanish courts, but using ISDS.

RREEF, an investment fund subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Bank, and Antin, a private equity firm owned by French bank BNP Paribas, purchased their Spanish solar-thermal power plants in 2011, three years after the country began to roll back subsidies. But when they went to ISDS, they claimed they had expected subsidies to continue — not to continue declining.

“It feels like they acquired [the solar plants] in order to sue,” said Lora Verheecke, a campaigner for Corporate Europe Observatory, a Brussels-based research organization. Those two cases are still pending; a tribunal order allowed the RREEF case to advance in June.

The facts suggest that these investment funds made their purchases based not on the potential success or failure of the business they bought, not out of a concern for climate change and its consequences, but with the expectation that the Spanish government would continue its subsidy rollback, allowing the funds to sue in a special court unavailable to Spanish citizens. (To be fair, HuffPost can’t prove this to a certainty.)

ISDS represented the purpose of the investment ― or, to phrase another way, the use of ISDS was an asset-building strategy. Spain’s renewable energy subsidies have not been restored. Instead, a cash-strapped government is being forced to spend scarce resources defending a decision that was forced upon it.

Spain isn’t the only government defending these sorts of ISDS claims. Poštová Banka of the Czech Republic bought sovereign debt from Greece in early 2010, well after rating agencies had downgraded the nation’s bonds. Two years later, after European leaders forced a restructuring of all Greek government bonds, Poštová and its shareholder, Istrokapital of Cyprus, filed an ISDS claim, contending that the restructuring cost them millions.

Maybe Poštová bought the distressed bonds knowing that it could use arbitration as a fallback. Or maybe it bought the bonds with the intent to sue and gain a favorable return on its money through ISDS.

In several other cases, investors appeared to opportunistically purchase a company that had the ability to file an ISDS claim at exactly the right time.

In 2004, through one of its investment funds, the French bank Société Générale purchased a 50 percent stake in a public-private partnership to distribute electricity in the Dominican Republic. The purchase included intermediary companies from California, Delaware, Nevada and the Cayman Islands, and the corporate structure is nearly impossible to ascertain.

Because of the complex structure, the listed purchase price was only $2 U.S. (SocGen explained to arbitrators that it also arranged a “deferred purchase fee”). And the heart of the dispute ― the Dominican Republic’s alleged failure to pay negotiated compensation ― occurred years before SocGen made its purchase, according to the country, which argued SocGen was merely “buying a claim.”

Nonetheless, an ISDS tribunal ruled that “the principal objective of the transaction was the potential profitability of the investment.” It found that the Dominican Republic’s violations were ongoing and, through a settlement, awarded SocGen $26.5 million.

Since Greek and Roman times, the wealthy have placed bets on the outcomes of court cases. Under English common law, financing someone else’s lawsuit, known as champerty, was illegal. But the modern version of that, litigation finance ― which began in Australia in the 1960s ― has spread widely over the past two decades.

Investors seeking higher returns on their savings have looked to courtrooms instead of stocks or bonds, agreeing to bankroll cases and taking a portion of the cash awards if they win.

Third-party funding shields corporations from the upfront costs of litigation, making it easier to sue. Since companies generally don’t have to disclose that they’ve received third-party funding for an ISDS case, and since international arbitration usually proceeds in comparative secrecy, pursuing a claim through ISDS can shield companies from the public criticism that accompanies challenging a law in regular courts.

“You can actually ask for enormous amounts of money without anybody criticizing you,” said Verheecke of Corporate Europe Observatory.

With ISDS permitted under some 3,000 treaties, there are a huge number of opportunities to sue. And “unlike some other legal systems, the default remedy is a cash payment,” said Todd Tucker, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute with a decade of experience researching trade and investment policy. The awards are also uncapped, meaning they can be enormous.

If a corporation sought damages on future profits in perpetuity and the arbitrators agreed, the sovereign would have no recourse. Dozens of cases have resulted in awards of over $100 million, according to a 2016 report from van Harten, the law professor.

Those possibilities have the ISDS claim-financing industry booming. Hedge funds, private equity firms and institutional investors are flocking to fund lawsuits as they would any other speculative asset, according to experts in the field. And the lack of transparency means that lawyers acting as arbitrators or advocates in one case could be unnamed investors in other cases, and nobody would ever know.

Defenders of ISDS argue that the outcome of any case is uncertain and that companies win only about one-quarter of the time. But that’s only the cases that have been publicly identified and it doesn’t include settlements, where the corporation can also extract a monetary award. If funding ISDS suits was really such a bad bet, the industry probably wouldn’t be expanding so quickly.

Fulbrook Capital Management’s primer on the litigation finance industry, updated this year, includes a section entitled “International, the name of the game.” It lists numerous big-city hubs for arbitration: London, New York, Paris, Toronto. About ISDS in particular, the primer reads, “Investment claims against Sovereigns are often subject to Treaty and, within the Treaty, subject to arbitration. This promotes investments. …

While investors are known to shy away from financing claims in ‘third world’ courts, particularly claims against the host court’s sovereign, they view international arbitration in a far more favorable light.”

Between 2009 and 2015, rulings in 16 ISDS cases have noted the existence of third-party funding, according to a report from Jean-Christophe Honlet, a partner at the global law firm Dentons. But the scale of third-party funding for ISDS cases is probably significantly larger than that number suggests.

The International Council for Commercial Arbitration suggests that at least 60 percent of ISDS cases “enquired about (but not necessarily sought or obtained) third-party funding before their cases were lodged.” Just this month, Canadian gold mining company Rusoro won a $1.2 billion claim against Venezuela that was “third-party funded,” according to Global Arbitration Review.

Burford Capital, Bentham IMF and Gerchen Keller are among the biggest litigation finance firms, working closely with these investors and specialized law firms to pursue commercial claims. Burford has publicly stated that it has tested ISDS cases.

While its chief marketing officer, Liz Bigham, would not reveal statistics on how many cases have been funded, she said via email, “Burford is a pioneer in the provision of arbitration finance and has been active in the field for well over a decade.”

She added that “commercial claimants involved in international disputes — as well as the law firms that serve them — see the tremendous benefits of shifting the significant cost and risk of pursuing claims off their own balance sheets.”

British law firm Freshfields is an adviser to Burford, and they have worked together on arbitration claims. Vannin Capital, another litigation funder, recently hired two Freshfields lawyers. The powerhouse law firm is one of the top three for ISDS cases, according to Corporate Europe Observatory.

The financing firms provide clients with a full litigation package at the outset, complete with what treaties to exploit and which law firms to hire. They even recommend arbitrators.

“Loads of law firms actually send alerts to clients,” said Verheecke. The alerts say “this country has just done this. It’s a good opportunity to sue.”

Often, the best country for international investors to sue is one that’s already in trouble. When a country uses emergency economic measures to protect its citizens, investors can argue that those measures conflict with an existing trade treaty. The subsequent flood of lawsuits can further hurt the country’s credit ratings and raise the cost of capital, while undermining its ability to attract future investment.

No country has been sued more in ISDS tribunals than Argentina. Of the 696 ISDS cases in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) database, at least 59 were brought against that one country.

Since late 2001 and early 2002, when it defaulted on international debt and unpegged its currency from the U.S. dollar, Argentina has been forced to pay out $980 million in ISDS awards, in addition to the millions it spent to defend itself in arbitration.

Currently, some 60,000 bondholders are using ISDS to seek higher payouts on the value of Argentine debt. They claim they’re due $1 billion in lost profits because of the damaging effect of Argentine government policies.

Although bondholders are not traditional investors ― in the sense that they don’t actually build factories or sell services in a host country, they too have repeatedly used arbitration to get the highest returns on their debt purchases.

UNCTAD has warned that if those holding bonds that have lost value can access the ISDS back door to sue countries for monetary damages, then no country could ever escape its debt.

Video above: TPP establishes a global Corporate Supreme Court that is above the laws of Nations. From (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXMJ-_93odY).



SUBHEAD: Whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Dillary Clump may utterly cease to matter.

By James Kunstler on 29 August 2016 for Kunstler.com -

Image above: A mashup of Dillary Clump. An image trending on the internet. You'll find it if you look.

Would fate permit it, the election of Hillary Clinton will be the supreme and perhaps terminal act in an Anything-Goes-And-Nothing-Matters society.

Yet, even with the fabulous luck of running against a consummate political oaf, she struggles to get the upper hand, and she may land in the White House with the lowest voter turnout in modern history.

And then her reward in office may be to dodge indictment for four years while the nation crumbles around her. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper but with a cackle.

Imagine the scene following Hillary’s election. In order to salvage the last shred of its credibility, the Federal Reserve raises its overnight funds rate another quarter percent and crashes the last Potemkin semblance of a “recovering” economy, that is, the levitated stock markets.

Tens of millions of retired individuals previously driven into them by zero interest rate policy are wiped out.

Even more gravely, pension funds and insurance companies are destroyed, but not before their troubles trigger derivative contracts with big banks which then explode and expose the inability of counterparties to make good on their ends of the bet.

In a blind panic, the Federal Reserve reverses its policy in December, drops the Fed Funds interest rate back to 25 basis points and announces the grandest new round of “quantitative easing” (money printing) ever, while congress is coerced into voting for the greatest bailout of institutions the world has ever seen, along with a “one time” helicopter drop of a cool trillion dollars in the form of combined tax cuts and “shovel-ready infrastructure projects.”

The media rejoices. The US Dollar tanks. Absolutely nobody wants US treasury bonds, bills, and notes. The pathetic remnant of the American middle class stares into the abyss. (If it looks hard enough, it sees the US government down there.)

We’re now living in the setup for this, treating the election shenanigans so far as just another sordid television entertainment. It’s more than that. It’s an engraved invitation to the worst crisis since the Civil War.

The crisis may even feature events like a civil war with identity groups skirmishing around our already-ruined “flyover” cities just like the factions in Aleppo and Fallujah. Thank the “Progressive” Left for that.

Believe me, history will blame them for chucking the idea of a unifying common culture onto the garbage barge.

And yes, for all our tribulations here in America, the rest of the world will be struggling with its own epic disorders.

It remains to be seen whether they will lead to war as, say, the Chinese ruling party attempts to evade the crash of its own rickety banking system, and the inflamed millions of ruined “investors,” by starting a brawl with Japan over a few meaningless islands in the Pacific.

Could happen. And, oh, is North Korea for real with its right out front nuclear bomb-and-missile program? What does the rest of the world plan to do about that?

You don’t even want to look at the Middle East. The grisly conflicts there of recent decades are just a prelude to what happens when the House of Saud loses its grip on the government. That will happen, and then the big question is whether Aramco can continue to function, or whether the critical parts of it end up damaged beyond repair as competing tribes fight over it.

In any case, the world will begin to notice the salient fact of life in that part of the world: namely, that the Arabian desert, and much of the great band of arid territory on either side of it, cannot support the populations that mushroomed in the nutrient bath of the 20th century oil economy. And they won’t all be able to self-export to Europe either.

Speaking of that interesting region, around the same time Hillary sets up for intensive care in the third floor of the White House, the old order will be swept away across Europe. Farewell Merkel and Monsieur Hollandaise.

Farewell to the squishy Left all over the place. Enter the hard-asses. You’d think if anything might unite that continent it might be the wish to defend secular freedom under the rule of law, but even that remains to be seen.

Yes, the world following 3Q 2016 is looking like one hot mess. If you remember anything, let it be this: the primary mission of your cohort of the human race is managing contraction. The world is getting wider and poorer again and the outcome everywhere will be determined by the success of people to manage their lives locally.

The big things of this world — governments, corporations, institutions — are losing their traction and whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Hillary may utterly cease to matter.